Tom of Finland stamps

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The stamp sheet

The Tom of Finland stamps are a 2014 issue of three Finnish first class stamps drawn by and celebrating the work of Finnish artist Tom of Finland (born Touko Laaksonen).

Release 2014[edit]

The stamps were announced by the Finnish postal service Itella Posti Oy in April 2014 and were released on September 8.[1][2] They are considered to be the world's first depicting homoerotic art.[3]

According to the Tom of Finland Foundation (TFF), selection of the images for the stamps was coordinated by Solja Järvenpää of Arts Promotion Centre Finland, Susanna Luoto and Durk Dehner of TFF, and Timo Berry of the Finnish design agency BOTH, who designed them.[2][4]

Itella Posti Oy praised the artist's works as having attained iconic status in their genre and had an influence on, for instance, pop culture and fashion.[1] The new Finnish Postal Museum [fi] in Tampere opened with an exhibit of the artist's work and letter exchanges to coincide with the stamps' release.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

Art critic Estelle Lovatt said the stamps were a "great statement"; she and others including Mark Joseph Stern, writer of an LGBTQ blog at Slate, noted that Finland then had not yet legalized same-sex marriage.[3][10][11] In Finland, an online petition called for cancellation of the issue as "[neither] aesthetically beautiful [nor] culturally valuable", and the Christian-owned department store chain Halpa-Halli [fi] refused to stock them.[12][13] The issue of the stamps ran parallel to public debate on legalisation of gay marriage in the same year; a bill for legalisation was approved by the Parliament on 12 December 2014.[14][15]


The postage stamps are the work of Finnish designer Timo Berry and are based on drawings by Touko Laaksonen. As Berry and others pointed out, Tom of Finland's greatest significance is his penchant for strong gay masculinity. Previously homosexuals had been portrayed as foppish, weak or girlish. Laaksonen developed first elements of his style, including a hang for uniforms, during Finland's Continuation War (1941–1944) when German troops were stationed in Helsinki.[16] The issue is a miniature sheet consisting of three first-class self-adhesive stamps:[17] two depict sections of a drawing of a nude man sitting between the legs of another man dressed as a police officer and with a cigarette in his mouth; the other depicts a nude backside with a man's face peering between the two legs.[3][5][6]

International reception[edit]

The Finnish postal service reported a record amount of interest in the stamp issue, including pre-orders from 178 countries.[7][18] Itella planned to produce 200,000 sheets and allows for online orders by overseas buyers.[19] The German Tagesspiegel called the series a Kassenschlager, a world-wide box office success.[20] Most orders came from Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and France.[8] Seth Millstein wrote in Bustle: "The designs aren't quite explicit, but they're worlds more graphic than anything that's ever appeared on a U.S. postage stamp."[5] A writer in the Washington Post called them "pretty risque".[21] A first-day set of the stamps was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London as a "significant addition to objects of LGBTQ culture in the collection".[12]

Vitaly Milonov, an anti-gay Russian politician then on the Saint Petersburg council, called for the stamps to be banned in Russia and for Finns to voluntarily refrain from using them on post to Russia.[11][22][23]

Naked Maja on a 1930 Spanish stamp

First erotic art on stamps?[edit]

According to Dean Shepherd, editor of Gibbons Stamp Monthly, they are probably the first stamps with erotic art of any kind.[24] However, according to Markku Penttinen, development manager with Finland's postal services, as early as the 1950s Finnish stamps showed naked women in the sauna.[25] Both male and female nudity appeared on stamps already in the 19th century. The 1930 Spanish stamps depicting Goya's Naked Maja constituted the first open image of the body of a human woman (as opposed to a Greek goddess) with pubic hair on a stamp and led to scandal then.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nichols, James (15 April 2014). "Tom of Finland Stamps to Be Released in Finland (NSFW)". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Tom of Finland Stamps". Tom of Finland Foundation. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "World's first homoerotic stamps produced in Finland". BBC News. 17 April 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b Kinsella, Eileen (16 April 2014). "Lick Me! Finnish Postal Stamp Honors Tom of Finland's 'Proud Homoeroticism'". Artnet News. Artnet. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Millstein, Seth (15 April 2014). "Finland's Homoerotic Postage Stamps Are Pretty Bold". Bustle. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  6. ^ a b Reynolds, Daniel (14 April 2014). "Finnish Postal Service Will Release Tom of Finland Stamps". The Advocate. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Tom of Finland stamps on sale Monday; Finland's biggest seller ever". Itella Posti Oy. 8 September 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  8. ^ a b Ayoub, Nadine (8 December 2016). "La poste se lance dans l'homoérotisme". ARTE Info. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  9. ^ Niinimäki, Jarmo (2014). "Sealed with a Secret". Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  10. ^ Stern, Mark Joseph (14 April 2014). "Check Out Finland's New Graphic Gay Bondage Stamps". Slate (Outward blog). Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  11. ^ a b Buchanan, Rose Troup (20 October 2014). "Russian politician calls for ban on 'gay propaganda' stamps depicting Finnish erotic artist Tom of Finland". The Independent.
  12. ^ a b "Collections: Tom of Finland stamps". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  13. ^ Pelkonen, Linda (9 September 2014). "Miksi ette myy Tom of Finland -postimerkkejä, Halpa-Halli?" [Why don't you sell Tom of Finland stamps, Halpa-Halli?]. Uusi Suomi (in Finnish). Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  14. ^ "Finlandia, arrivano i francobolli dedicati all'artista gay Tom of Finland" [Finland, Stamps arrive dedicated to the gay artist Tom of Finland]. Corriere della Sera (in Italian). 16 September 2014. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  15. ^ "Kansalaisaloite eduskunnalle avioliittolain, rekisteröidystä parisuhteesta annetun lain ja transseksuaalin sukupuolen vahvistamisesta annetun lain muuttamisesta (KAA 3/2013 vp) - Toinen käsittely" (in Finnish). 12 December 2014. Archived from the original on 20 January 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  16. ^ Dougall, David Mac (13 October 2014). "You've Got Male: Erotic Stamps by Tom of Finland Issued". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  17. ^ "Finnish Postal Service to Showcase Homoerotic Fetish Art on Stamps". Finnbay. 13 April 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Tom of Finland's Homoerotic Stamps Are a Hit". Artnet News. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  19. ^ "Finland's erotic Tom stamps raise temperatures worldwide". Yle Uutiset. 2014-04-17. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  20. ^ "Finnische Briefmarken mit Motiven von Tom of Finland sind weltweit ein Renner" [Finnish stamps with Tom of Finland motifs are a worldwide success]. Der Tagesspiegel (in German). Berlin. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  21. ^ McDonald, Soraya Nadia (14 April 2014). "New Finnish stamps feature homoerotic themes". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  22. ^ Quinn, A. (19 October 2014). "Anti-Gay Russian Lawmaker Milonov Protests Homoerotic Finnish Stamps". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  23. ^ "Russian politician demands ban on Tom of Finland-stamped mail". Itella Posti Oy. 21 October 2014. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  24. ^ Cochrane, Kira (15 April 2014). "Homoerotic artist Tom of Finland gets the official stamp of approval". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  25. ^ "Tom of Finland stamps on sale Monday; Finland's biggest seller ever". Yle Uutiset. 8 September 2014. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  26. ^ Pukas, A. (7 October 2011). "Duchess of Alba: The Royal Cougar". The Daily Express.

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