This article draws on the commentary of three prominent SOSSI members to help answer the question "What is a Scout Stamp?" Each was written in response to "challenges seen and unseen" that might in the author's opinion erode the uniqueness of the Scout Topical area of stamp collecting. These issues and their thoughtful responses remain today for collectors new and old.
W. Arthur McKinney
Mr. McKinney offered in 1965 the following generally accepted
conditions that form the basis for any stamp's acknowledgement
as a Scout stamp:
1. Stamp was issued to commemorate a Scout event.
2. Stamp was issued for use in a Scout activity.
3. Stamp was issued to honor Scouting.
4. Stamp portrayed an individual because he was a Scout or because he was appearing at a Scout event or because he appeared on the stamp in a Scout uniform.
The same criteria would apply also in the case of Girl Scouts or Girl Guides. The one deviation from these conditions has been in the case of the three Mafeking stamps which were included because they represented an important epoch in the beginning of the Scout movement. A related issue might picture any individual who in some way had been in some way related to Scouting, but is not accepted as a Scout on Stamp issue.
Jay L. Rogers
Mr Rogers commented at length in 1977 on what he felt is a Scout Stamp. We have often read as an answer to this question "Each of us must decide for ourselves." That is a correct answer, but to another question, namely: "Which Scout stamps should I collect?" He believed that a Scout stamp can be defined with objectivity and precision. Which of these Scout stamps actually appeal to an individual is the subjective and personal part. What you collect is your own business. What there is to collect is quite independent of what you might choose to collect.
The first requirement for a Scout stamp is that it must be a stamp and that requires it to be issued by a country. If the "stamp" is issued by an entity other than a legitimate country then it is known as a "local", a "propaganda label" a "seal" or a "label". One example: there is simply no country by the name of Nagaland. "Nagaland Scout Stamps" are political propaganda labels and are collectable as such, but NOT as Scout stamps. The "State of Oman" is another non-place for which political propaganda labels with Scout labels have appeared.
On the other hand, Ajman and Manama (now part of the Union of Arab Emirates) as Trucial State & Dependency, issued completely legitimate postage stamps, including a huge quantity of Scout stamps - even if Scotts won't list them.
What of the "Scout" in Scout stamps? A stamp that pictures or mentions Scouts, their activities, badges, or in some way commemorates them, is a Scout stamp. If the stamp isn't in your favorite catalog, if the country doesn't have any Scouts, if the Scouts it does have are not properly affiliated with the World Group, if the country's politics are opposed to yours; none of these alter the fact that it is a Scout stamp. That's objective. What it does alter is whether or not you will want to collect it. That's subjective.
Harry D. Thorsen Jr.
Mr Thorsen warned us that we must be constantly alert to those who would take advantage of our new members by attempting to sell them non-Scout items, as Scout stamps.
From our very beginning of this society, a choice was made to eliminate all other youth stamps. Back in 1951 when a handful of collectors started Y.O.O.S. (Youth Organizations on Stamps) this writer [Harry Thorsen] refused to join. To eliminate communist youth recognition [Pioneers] as opposed to Scouting, he suggested the name "Scouts on Stamps Society."
The very thing that makes our society different from all other kinds of stamp clubs has been our basic acceptance of Scouting as a way of life, living the Scout oath and law, as well as collecting the items of philatelic interest pursued so avidly. Mr Thorsen hoped we can help preserve the heritage of Scouting that is ours!
SOSSI Journal, March 1967, and Volume 25, Number 4, April 1977
Updates and modifications by Keith Larson