1894 - Modern Games Founded
1896 - I Olympiad - Athens
1900 - II Olympiad - Paris
1904 - III Olympiad - St. Louis
1906 - Intercalated Games - Athens
1908 - IV Olympiad - London
1912 - V Olympiad - Stockholm
1913 - Berlin prepares for 1916 games
1914 - 20th Anniversary of Rebirth of Games
1916 - VI Olympiad - Berlin
1920 - VII Olympiad - Antwerp
1924 - VIII Olympiad - Paris
      - Post Cards
1928 - IX Olympiad - Amsterdam
1932 - X Olympiad - Los Angeles
1936 - XI Olympiad - Berlin
1940 - XII Olympiad - Tokyo
      - XII Olympiad - Helsinki
      - New Zealand Centennial Games
1944 - XIII Olympiad - London
      - German POW Games
1948 - XIV Olympiad - London

1940 - XII Olympiad - Tokyo

Official poster for the 1940 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo

CLICK HERE for the text from the DuBois catalog about the cancelled Games of 1940 and 1944.

The 1940 Olympic Games were originally scheduled to be held in Japan, but Japan's war with China, and opposition from both within and without the country led Japan to withdraw in mid-1938. Finland was then awarded the Games.

Japan had already made significant preparations, including the selection of designs for posters and seals. The first 9 labels below were official designs that were actually produced. All are scarce.

Click on image below to open an enlarged version in a separate window/tab
Click on the DuBois number beneath the image to display technical data about that label.

DuBois listing:

Label Nos. 1 to 6, which follow, all have Olympic rings and the text "XII OLYMPIAD TOKYO 1940"


DuBois listing:

A rectangular label: "XII OLYMPIAD TOKYO 1940"; Text is black; above it, in usual multicolors, are the Olympic rings; 48x27mm, 57x33mm (overall), imperforate

Not much of a description - What color is the paper? Is there a border? Might be a matchbox label?

1940-J- 2

DuBois listing:

2. Flag of Japan, red & white, in center, in front of Olympic rings; text below. Three border-lines around edge of this oval-shaped label. 29x45mm, imperf, die cut, blue ... $53.00


DuBois listing:

3. Blue outline of a mountain, above rings in their usual multicolors. Text, below, and border line are black on this round label. 39mm diameter, imperf, die cut ... $40.00




1952 - XV Olympiad - Helsinki
1956 - XVI Olympiad - Melbourne
      - XVI Olympiad - Stockholm
1960 - XVII Olympiad - Rome
1964 - XVIII Olympiad - Tokyo

1924 - I Winter Games - Chamonix
1928 - II Winter Games - St Moritz
1932 - III Winter Games - Lake Placid
1936 - IV Winter Games - Garmisch-Partenkirchen
1940 - V Winter Games - Sapporo
      - V Winter Games - St Moritz
      - V Winter Games - Garmisch-Partenkirchen
1944 - V Winter Games - Cortina d'Ampezzo
1948 - V Winter Games - St Moritz
1952 - VI Winter Games - Oslo
1956 - VII Winter Games - Cortina d'Ampezzo
1960 - VIII Winter Games - Squaw Valley
1964 - IX Winter Games - Innsbruck

      - Workers' Olympics

1940-J- 4

DuBois listing:

4. A stylized cherry blossom, in pink & yellow, with rings in their usual multicolors, superimposed above blossom. 33.5x48mm, imperf, black text, gray background ... $39.00

1940-J- 5

DuBois listing:

5. Blooming cherry tree, on left; a pagoda, on right; text & rings above. 40x61 mm, imperf, multicolored ... $44.00

Label above used on cover

DuBois listing:

6. A bridge with a mountain and rings in background; text below. 40x61mm, imperf, multicolored ... $40.00

1940-J- 7

DuBois listing:

7. An Esperanto Matchbox Label: In the left half: A green star in shadowy terrain, further below are Olympic rings and "2600" with Japanese writing. In the right half: "Lernt learn Laren Eder Imparate l' Apprenez l' Aprended el (Japanese text) ESPERANTO" 100x55mm, imperf, multicolored ... Rare

(text: "Learn" in 8 languages - "Esperanto")

(Note red "2600" in lower left = 1940 in Japanese Imperial Year system.)

1940-J- 8

DuBois listing:

8. "2600" among Japanese text, across top; Olympic rings, across middle; Japanese landscape, below. 27x17mm, perfed, multicolored ... Rare
(Printed in 1939, Japanese Government Savings Bureau)

{What was the significance of "2600" on labels 7 & 8?}

7/4/16 - Philippe Pavard informed us that "2600" is the year 1940 in the Japanese Imperial Year system. Add 660 to the Gregorian year to get the JIY.

HERE is this label used on the cover of a savings account book from the Olympic Committee Saving Association! (Image courtesy of Heiko Volk Auctions)


1940-J- 9

DuBois listing:

9. A round label with an Olympic bell in the center. Japanese print around upper & lower edges, between two circular border lines. (Privately printed for the Osaka Savings Bank - now Kyowa Bank) ... Rare

Credit: Thanks to A. Sekimoto for info on Nos. 8 & 9 (Linn's Stamp News of January 14, 1980)



These are additional approved designs shown in the 1938 Japanese "Report of the Organizing Committee."
No printed examples have been seen, but they *could* exist.


These are legitimate labels that DuBois did not know about.

120mm x 28mm
(thanks to Steve Payne for dimensions)

I think the text at left is Japanese for "Olympic".
I found several eBay listings of these labels, with definititive statements that they are "candy wrappers", and connected with the canceled 1940 Tokyo Games (though they would have been issued several years earlier, since Japan cancelled its commitment in July, 1938.)


The matchbox labels shown here are images supplied mostly by French collector Philippe Pavard, plus some I've found in various places around the www. Aside from the first one, which explicitly mentions 1940 (2600 on the traditional Japanese calendar) and Hokkaido, they could date from as early as 1936, and as late as 1964, but I think most of them were created in connection with the cancelled Tokyo Games of 1940.

Winter sports

#mbl-j01, 2, 3 & 101

Summer sports - these look like they could be part of a set, though the figure in the last one is of a different style.







More summer sports.










(added 6/11/2017)

(added 8/12/2017)

(added 10/09/2017)

The ones below are all ads for tea houses, restaurants, etc.



























#mbl-j45 thru j62

#mbl-j63 thru j87




12/21/16 - The eBay auction where I found this image said it was Japanese, and Olympic - I assume the seller thought it depicted the Olympic torch. But I found out today that this label is Chinese, and the text just says "TORCH MATCHES, Fu Chow Match Factory."
So it has no Olympic connection.




#mbl-j94 thru j100

12/21/16 - I had these on my UNSOLVED MYSTERIES page, because I thought they looked Chinese, but a friend says they are definitely Japanese, from the pre-WWII period when Japanese writing used many Chinese characters (called Kanji) - so they must date from the late 1930's, the preparation for the 1940 Tokyo Games.



No Olympic rings, but the diver and the name are enough for me.

#mbl-j104 and mbl-j105

These two are very similar in layout and color scheme to mbl-j41 and (especially) mbl-j73, but different text. Can anyone translate?


3/18/17 - part of a recent eBay lot - the (Chinese) seller thought it was Japanese or Korean. Stay tuned.








Note similarity to mbl-j49, at right



This is also in the group above, "mbl-j45 thru j62"



#mbl-j125, etc.
Some of these are not Olympic, some are duplicates of labels shown above or below, but some are new. I will not try to separate those, as the number of these matchbox labels has grown tedious.


The first four below are all Japanese, and could date from the late 1930's. All say "OLYMPIC" the first four in Japanese.
The fifth is Korean. The runner is a nice touch.
I consider them all peripheral items.






If you can date any of these labels more accurately, please email me - see bottom of page for address.


(not quite within the limits of this collection, but certainly appealing)

The two items below were listed in a recent Heiko Volk Auction - the first he describes as

"Color. ill. Advertising sticker (79 mm) made of cardboard without gum. Stylis. Oly.-rings / flag / map - From a sock company"

and the second (both sides shown), as "Color. ill. Advertising vignette (84 mm) of a Japanese Menswear Company"

 . . . .  
1940-J-p1 and p2


I found these on the www recently, and wanted to make sure no one thinks they are authentic labels from 1940 -
they are modern fantasies - total fakes.

#1940 Tokyo - FAKES


I am indebted to Robert J DuBois for allowing me to use images and information from his Catalog of Olympic Labels on these web pages.

All text and images are the property of the author. Any errors are his.
REWARD! If you have better or additional information about anything shown or discussed here, please email the author.
Email address at bottom of page. Full credit gladly given - your name, ebay ID, web site...


All text Copyright © 2013, William M. Senkus

Send feedback to:

Created -- 07/27/2013
Revised -- 11/09/2017