Some of the oddest stamps issued throughout the history of the country, before and after its unification, are explained in the book TarekhTawabee al Emirate, the first stamp history book of its kind to be published in the UAE in 2010.
The book's author, Moutaz Mohammed Othman, is also an active member of the Emirates Philatelic Association, which has grown to more than 250 members since it was established by ministerial decree in 1996. (Emirates Philatelic Association has been managed from the main office in Bur Dubai - next to Dubai Museum - which was donated by the Dubai government and became fully independent from Emirates Post in administrative aspects. It is also a member of the Asian Philately Union and the International Philately Federation. Link.
"There were some stamps with nudity, that somehow went uncensored until somebody spotted the in-compatibility of the stamps with Islamic values," said Mr. Othman, who has a collection of semi-nude stamps of Marilyn Monroe that he hasn’t been able to exhibit.
"Before the union it was more chaotic, with each emirate printing its own sets of stamps by commissioning them abroad, like in the UK or US," said Mr. Othman. "And so often the stamps had nothing to do with the actual emirate and were quite irrelevant to local culture."
Images of ancient Greek and Roman statues, religious figures and biblical images, such as Adam and Eve, and depictions of the latest advances in technology, including space ships and metros graced local stamps.
For instance, since space travel was big in the international news, Dubai decided to issue a wide collection of "space stamps" in 1964 in honour of astronauts. Being an important port on the trade routes, Dubai’s stamps were among the most diverse. Costs were about 2 rupees.
Meanwhile, Fujairah used to issue extensive collections of stamps on animals, birds and insects, including mosquitoes and butterflies. Dinosaurs and mammoths were popular, issued up until 1972. Even after the unification, some animal collections continued to be issued due to popularity. Costs were all about 1 riyal, or less.
In general, flowers and insects were frequently used as images. And while those older stamps included indigenous creatures, such as gazelles, sometimes they featured other animals, including the Russian dog Laika, the first living creature sent to space in 1957 as well as exotic animals like tigers and zebras.
The 35th US president, John F Kennedy, was such a popular figure on local stamps that each of the trucial states printed their own version of JFK. In 1964, the year following his assassination, Sharjah printed stamps featuring JFK with the Statue of Liberty.
Another series featured the politician with his family, "Ajman" printed clearly across the bottom. Other figures found on 1960s local stamps included the leader of the US civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr, and the "father of India," Mahatma Gandhi. There were also commemorative stamps issued in 1971, a year after the death of the pan-Arab leader, the Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser.
"After the union, the stamps were more uniform and controlled, with careful images of the rulers and various national events," said Mr. Othman.
Under the UAE appendix, Mr. Othman included a collection from 1980 that was pulled immediately from circulation: it had an illustration of an open Koran on the stamp, and others with the wrong dates and names on it. One stamp misspelled the town of Al Dhaid, as "Al Lazez," which means delicious.
Also the fact that a stamp that once cost less than a dirham is now worth thousands of dirhams, illustrates that perhaps this "geeky" hobby is quite lucrative, not to be so easily dismissed.
In 1972, a Federal Decree established the General Postal Authority under the Ministry of Communications, which issued the first set of stamps bearing the name of the United Arab Emirates in 1973. These stamps expressed the common idea of unity of the seven Emirates under one flag and one logo.