J. R. R. Tolkien 1892–1973

2 September 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of J. R. R. Tolkien, the British author who had a pivotal influence on the fantasy genre thanks to his novels “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit”. These special stamps were designed by well-known artist John Howe, who lives in Switzerland, and pay tribute to Tolkien’s artistic heritage with four scenes from the iconic works.

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Tolkien stamps

Gentle hills and lush green dotted with little houses: the Shire, a region in Tolkien’s fantasy world Middle-earth, is home to the hobbits. The design of the same name offers a glimpse of its idyllic surroundings from inside the house of Bilbo Baggins, one of the main protagonists. It seems that Gandalf, a wise wizard who fights against evil, is also on a visit to The Shire. Another stamp is dedicated to the dragon Smaug, one of the dark forces of these tales. The fourth design depicts the Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings marking the northern border to the Kingdom of Gondor.

Tolkien’s letters reveal Switzerland to be one source of inspiration for his stories: at the age of 19, he hiked through the Bernese Oberland and Valais – an adventure that helped to influence his works. The scenes depicted on the stamps are from the hand of John Howe, one of the most important illustrators of Tolkien’s works.

Important note

The “J. R. R. Tolkien 1892–1973” special stamps are not part of the official stamp issuing programme and are not included in subscriptions. They will be sent along with Issue 3 from 31 August 2023. Available for order at or in all branches from 2 September 2023. The stamp sheets are also available online or in the six branches with stamp counters as a special edition with a gold postmark – as are the maximum cards.

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About the designer John Howe

Canadian illustrator John Howe was the lead concept artist during production of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” and is also a contributor to the current series “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”. Howe lives in Switzerland with his wife Fataneh, also an artist.

Event in honour of J. R. R. Tolkien

To mark the stamp issue, a day full of surprises awaits you at the Sihlpost building in Zurich on 2 September 2023! Swiss Post is organizing an event for collectors, stamp enthusiasts and fans of J. R. R. Tolkien.


10 a.m. to 3.00 p.m.

  • Photo booth incl. postcard printing
  • Stamps and philatelic products on sale

10.30 a.m.

Stamp presentation incl. interview with John Howe, stamp designer

11 a.m. to 12 noon

Signing session with John Howe

12 noon to 1.30 p.m.

Wheel of fortune with great prizes

1.30 p.m. to 1.45 p.m.

“J.R.R. Tolkien” talk by Bernd Greisinger, Chair of Seryn Ennor (Tolkien Society of Switzerland) and the Greisinger Museum (in German)

2 p.m. to 2.15 p.m.

“Switzerland in Tolkien’s Middle-earth” talk by Martin S. Monsch, author, data scientist and member of Seryn Ennor (in German)

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Tolkien maximum card set
Maximum card set

Stamps & philately
All stamps and philatelic products can be found at

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4 Tolkien special sheets of 4 stamps each
4 special sheets of 4 stamps each

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Philately: from 31.8.2023 to 30.9.2024 or while stocks last

Branches: from 2.9.2023 to 30.9.2024 or while stocks last


Unlimited from 2.9.2023


Offset, 4-colour; Gutenberg AG, Schaan, Principality of Liechtenstein


Stamps: Smaug and The Argonath: 32.6 × 45.3 mm, The Shire and Gandalf: 45.3 × 32.6 mm 

Sheets: Smaug and The Argonath: 135 × 195 mm, The Shire and Gandalf: 195 × 135 mm 2 rows of 2 stamps 


White stamp paper, with optical brightener, self-adhesive, on backing paper, 196 gm2


13 ¼ : 13 ½


John Howe, Neuchâtel