On the Trail of Tarzan Postage Stamps

John "Bridge" Martin

Originally appeared at ERB-LIST, April 27, 2008
Click Images Below for FULL SIZE PICTURES

There are many kinds of E.R.B. collectibles -- books, tapes, toys...and even postage stamps! Yes, a number of nations have issued stamp sheets devoted to or including stamps related to Tarzan. That hasn't happened in the U.S. yet, but there are some U.S. Tarzan postal collectibles in the form of special envelopes (covers), sometimes with Tarzan- or ERB-related pictorial postmarks.

I enjoy finding and collecting these, and the other day I went to the Olympia (Washington) Philatelic Society Stamp show to see what I could find.

I took along a few albums with postal covers I have made so others could see them. This included my album of Tarzan covers, which has homemade covers I have made, homemade covers others have sent me, and a very few professionally made covers, since there aren't a lot of professionally made Tarzan covers out there.

Probably the one people see most is the Johnny Weissmuller cover from the Kings of Sport series. This was originally intended as a series of about 100, but it didn't go over well and it ended up with just 15 in the series. The Johnny Weissmuller cover, which pictures him bare-chested on the envelope, with several smaller illustrations showing him behaving as Tarzan, is No. 7 in the series. The Kings of Sport series each included an info sheet inside the envelope. The cover has a six-cent flag stamp and a three-cent Anniversary of Motion Pictures stamp and was canceled June 2, 1975, in Windber, Pa., which used to be the "official" birth day and place of Mr. Weissmuller until it eventually became known that he came from the Romania region.

His true birthplace has been honored more recently on an actual stamp issued by Romania and with associated postal covers.

The Johnny Weissmuller Kings of Sport cover occasionally shows up on ebay and the Romanian covers are there regularly, too, usually in the buy-it-now section at the end of the regular listings. I had really good service dealing with the Romanian sellers, at least with the ones who take Paypal.

Another "professional" cover I have is a kind of flyer on yellow paper which includes the Postal Service logo, so I assume it was something printed up by the post office in Rochester, Indiana, several years ago, when that post office issued a special cancellation honoring the 70th anniversary of the first Tarzan movie. The cancellation itself has an illustration of Elmo Lincoln and is dated Jan. 27, 1988. I picked this up on ebay a few years ago and it's the only one I've ever seen for sale, although I imagine that there must be more of them "out there." I'm sure the reason the Rochester, Indiana, post office thought up the idea of having this special cancellation was because Mr. Lincoln was born there on Feb. 6, 1889.

The cancellation is over a 22-cent stamp of the Alaskan brown bear. That stamp came from a sheet of 50 wild animal stamps the post office had issued back then, each of the 50 stamps showing a different wild animal from the North American continent.

Another professional cover I have is one that many of you probably have in your collections, a large, yellow-brown envelope printed by the Tarzana Chamber of Commerce showing the St. John illustration of Tarzan and the Golden Lion. These were originally issued by the chamber to tie in with a Sept. 14, 1990, cancellation with shows "TARZAN" in large, St. John-style lettering. The one I have has that cancel plus a more recent cancel featuring the face of Tarzan as done by Hogarth. That was issued in connection with the Dum Dum in 1999.

I really treasure all of the handmade Tarzan covers I have, too, as many of them are unique, and one-of-a-kind. And, the addition of an official postal cancellation makes them somewhat "professional" as well!

I've displayed many of these in the pages of ERBapa over the past few years.

Recently, on ERBlist, I included a link showing the Tarzan stamp issued in 2006 by Austria. This stamp honors the Tarzan motorcycle which was built in Austria and the motorcycle stamp, in turn, honors our real Tarzan. The most recent cover I've acquired is one from Austria which was the first day of issue for this stamp, and that cover -- along with one I made myself using that stamp -- are shown with this article. The cover I made use the Austria stamp alongside one of the motorcycle stamps the U.S. Postal Service issued last year, and postmarked with the First Day of Issue cancel for the U.S. stamps. The artwork is a photo of a Kawasaki motorcycle leaning up against a city limits sign in Tarzan, Texas. I ran across this photo on the internet, and added a Disney's Tarzan sticker of the ape-man astride a hog...er, log.

At the stamp show I showed the Austria cover to a couple of dealers who deal in foreign stamps, but their selection of stamps from Austria was rather small, and I wasn't able to pick up any extra copies of that stamp, let alone any more covers!!