Tuesday, August 11, 2020


Comic Stamp Quiz, Part 1

 What are comic stamps?

They were an extra added feature of some Sunday comic strips, mostly in the 1930s. In addition to the main strip and up to two topper strips, some cartoonists added yet more punch to their pages with comic stamps, which were little cartoon portraits typically printed at about the size of a typical postage stamp. Most simulated stamps, with the perforations along the edges, others play money with character faces, some just put the portraits in plain ol' rectangles. 

Here's a typical comic stamp from a Tillie the Toiler Sunday, an addendum to the Van Swaggers topper strip:

The idea of comic stamps was that kids should cut them out and paste them into stamp albums or scrapbooks, I guess. I don't really get the entertainment value of this, but then I'm not the intended audience. There evidently were kids who did this, because today if you watch the eBay auctions sometimes you'll come across a dusty old collection of comic stamps or play money. 

Much to my surprise, there are even people today who collect them. I was contacted recently by a comic stamp collector who was hoping to get my help IDing some of their more obecure stamps. What I thought would be easy turned out to be anything but. It turns out that many comic stamps don't identify the characters, and often they depict secondary or even short-lived guests in the strips. 

Rather than have all the fun to myself of trying to figure out the comic strip that gave birth to these comic stamps, and the characters they depict, I decided to throw it open to the group as a quiz. And this is not some easily aced gimme, either. So if you can figure any of them out, be sure to post a comment and accept the laurels of an expert comic stamp spotter. 

Here's the first batch. I'm not sure #1 is an actual comic stamp, but the rest appear to be the real thing:


Hello Allen-

Here's my pathetic guesses:

1-The corner of a Post Toasties ad
2-A character from Tim Tyler's Luck(?)
3-A character from Blondie.
4-From Johnnie Round-the-world stamp gallery?
5-A character from Count Screwloose
6,7,8- from Katzenjammer Kids
9-from Captain & the Kids(?)
More questions and a trace of further uninformed speculation from me:

Always wondered about those. Had the impression they were an organized campaign by, at first anyway, one syndicate. They were almost always presented without comment, so I wonder if there any kind of promotion telling kids to look for them and collect them.

Went back to the Popeye reprints and noticed Segar favored play money, larger than the stamps and often featuring gags or words of wisdom. Unlike the other strips I'd seen, there was usually a character commenting on the play money or a mini draw-me thing.

Early in the '30s Segar abandoned the play money in favor of cut-out movies and eventually the Cartoon Club. But years later, Prince Valiant sported collectible-type images on its masthead into the 40s: Always the same portrait of Val on the left, and various characters, objects and scenes on the right. They vanish when the masthead strip vanishes.

Were there other strips that kept the stamp / play money thing going that long, or was Prince Valiant a last stand?
If I recall it right, it was Jimmy Murphy who started the extras like comic stamps, play money and cut-out dolls in Toots & Casper in about 1930 or 1931, and many other Hearst Sunday strips followed suit. The other syndicates may have done similar things, but kind of half-heartedly. There were the dolls, which off-and-on could be seen in non-Hearst girl strips like Dixie Dugan, Jane Arden, or Fritzi Ritz.
The play money could be in other syndicate series. If you've seen 1930's copies of the Sunday Mirror of New York City, you'll notice for years they had play money of their strips, Hearst and non-Hearst, such as Toonerville Folks, that they made themselves, used as space fillers along the bottom of the pages when they couldn't come up with a long,thin ad. (often for "Baby Ruth")

Dick Tracy ran a series of stamps featuring mystery writers. That may be the source of #4, the Edgar Allan Poe stamp (just a guess).
Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]