Marking Olympic history through stamps The unique stamp collection of devoted philatelist França Leite

August 4th, 2016

The history of the world's greatest sporting events over the past 120 years can be explored any number of ways. Some rely on books, others relive the spectacle and emotion of the Games on DVD, while many younger Olympic enthusiasts turn to the internet as their resource of choice. The case of Fernando França Leite, an antique dealer from Rio de Janeiro's northern district, however, is quite different. would like to introduce to our readers' attention the unique stamp collection owned by França Leite that reveals the history of one of the brightest sporting events of all times – Olympic Games.

"Stamp collecting has always enriched and strengthened Olympic activities", explains Mr França, whose Olympic-themed collection numbers around 4000 stamps, during an exclusive interview with at his antique shop, where every stamp is carefully protected within a plastic cover for conservation.

The stamps depict a wide range of sports and a wide range of countries - including some of the smaller nations which have traditionally lacked a history of sending large delegations to the Olympics, such as Burundi and Guinea-Bissau in Africa, and Yemen in the Middle East. "Even countries that sometimes don't send any athletes contribute by producing marvellous stamps on the theme", Mr França explains.

"Some countries take the opportunity provided by the Olympic Games to promote their museums, their works of art", he adds, indicating a set of stamps that feature Japanese art alongside the Olympic rings to commemorate the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. "This is why I say that the stamp is instructive: it celebrates sport, of course, but also other subjects".

Mr França singles out the two stamps he considers to be "most precious" from his vast collection: an official one from the London 1948 Games, "considered to be very rare", and one from Berlin 1936, "which is unusual and very difficult to find, and therefore very sought-after by collectors in the area". Russian Stamps issued for Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980

Marking Olympic history through stamps The unique stamp collection of devoted philatelist França Leite

Mr França goes on to explain that he participates in online forums as well as official auctions to acquire his cherished Olympic stamps, supported by information gleaned through a wide network of enthusiasts who constantly share information. And what was it that led him to putting together this collection? "It's the easiest way to showcase the real power of sport. Since stamps are expensive like medals or coins, it's easier to build up a collection like mine; one that today has a historical value".

"Brazil has always made a contribution with its philatelic [stamp-related] output", Mr França continues, showing off stamps commissioned especially for the Olympic Games, such as an envelope and seal for the Moscow 1980 Games, as well as for Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988. Naturally, the Rio 2016 stamps already feature, though he is still building his collection of commemorative R$1 coins produced by the Casa da Moeda do Brasil – the Brazilian national mint. And for those interested in starting their own collection, Olympic stamps will be on sale until at least the end of the year through a partnership between Rio 2016 and the Brazilian port office.

 Russian Stamps issued for Montreal 1976 Olympic Games and Moscow 1980 Olympic Games

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