By  on April 13, 2010

Germany has an unexpected new player in the fragrance market: the Deutsche Post, or national mail service.

Every January, the German post issues a series of charity postage stamps and this year, the action was given a new twist — of lemon, in one instance, as well as blueberry, strawberry and apple. Functioning on the scratch-and-sniff principle, the fruity stamps release their fragrance only when the sender or addressee rubs a finger over their surface. For those who prefer floral notes, a red rose standard letter stamp with a fragrance to match was introduced in March.

The powers that be — which, in philatelic matters, include the Deutsche Post, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Federal Printing Office — wouldn’t disclose the supplier of the stamps’ microencapsulated fragrant oils. Nor could they say how well they were being received, though one ministry employee suggested another perfumed stamp could find itself on the program next year. Germany issues about 65 special-issue stamps a year.

Bhutan was the first country to go fragrant with its post, introducing a six-motif set of rose-scented stamps in 1973. According to stamp-collecting journals, Bhutan’s stamps were printed on paper that had been impregnated with rose essence. South Korea is said to be the largest producer of scented stamps, starting off with violets and then branching out into lilies, hibiscus, orchids, roses and various endangered plants. Less conventional were Brazil’s forest fire-prevention stamps smelling of burnt wood and a later coffee series, Switzerland’s chocolate stamp, Hong Kong’s jasmine tea series, not to mention stamps smelling of the sea, again from South Korea.

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