Philately? If you are a millennial, there is a good chance you used Google to find out that there is a word dedicated to collecting and studying postage stamps.
This same search also paints the picture of a hobby in decline, as younger generations are increasingly preoccupied with their screens and the constant stream of dopamine hits served up by TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and other popular social media platforms.
Two European postal services have looked to capitalize on the popularity of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) in recent years to reinvigorate the philately sector. Cointelegraph caught up with Netherlands’ PostNL and the Austrian Post Office (PostAG) at the Blockchain Expo in Amsterdam to delve into their collaborative effort that has successfully married postage stamps with NFTs.
PostAG philately head Patricia Liebermann and PostNL product manager Sacha van Hoorn are a vivacious duo that has kindled a working friendship that seems to be the backbone of the NFT-powered renaissance of postage stamp collecting in both countries.
Liebermann and van Hoorn at the Crypto Stamp stand during the Blockchain Expo in Amsterdam.
PostAG first explored using NFT postage stamps in 2019 with real-world stamps issued with a digital twin NFT originally minted on the Ethereum blockchain. Over the next two years, Austria’s post office continued the project with near-field communication (NFC) chip functionality introduced in 2021 to further the functionality, verifiability and security of postage stamps.
Reflecting on the dimming interest in philately, Liebermann unpacked the initial idea and its quick uptake some three years ago:
“In 2019, we invented the idea of having a physical stamp combined with an NFT. It was mind-blowing, and we were overwhelmed with all that feedback. And that’s why we said, ‘Okay, there is a target group out there who is interested in this new way of collecting.’”
Van Hoorn’s efforts to continue innovating PostNL’s postage stamp offerings had already explored the use of augmented reality and…