Mysterious Bicycle Stamp


(Click on any image for hi-res version)

Described as:
Mysterious Bicycle Stamp, Bicycle Tax or Inspection stamp, Japan Bicycle Tax or Inspection stamp, Japan Bicycle Registration Stamp, India Bicycle registration stamp, India Bicycle messenger stamp, Old Asia Local Khyber Pass-Hindukush Bicycle Express(!), Private Bicycle post stamp, Local bicycle post stamp, India 1890 Local Cycle Courier Indus River Area To Amu Darya Valley, Local post cycle courier stamp, bicycle express stamp, bicycle pedal stamp, etc.



If all you want to see is the catalog, it starts about half-way down the page - scroll down past the text.

If you just want the answer (What are these stamps?), read on.

When I first created this page, I believed - based on what I had been told - these were size labels for boxes of bicycle pedals. The main problem with that idea for me is the small size of the numerals. Wouldn't you want the key information to stand out more?

More recently I believed, based on the exchanges below, that these stamps are from India, and were used by a bicycle messenger service there.

But lately, considering how few of the examples I have seen have any sort of cancel, and the fact that the stamps have no currency indicator (yen, rupee, etc.), and no brand or company name, and that none has been found on any sort of mail, I have started to doubt that.

I even wrote to Linn's (6/29/2020 issue) and published a brief version of this page there, but the only replies I got were from collectors as puzzled as I am.

One Linn's reader, though, collector Karen Fraser, suggests they are revenue stamps, since some of them are on paper watermarked with a symbol that occurs in the design of the stamps. Watermarks are expensive to produce, and imply security paper. So they could have been used to pay a tax on bicycle parts.

That strikes me as an important insight, which had not occurred to me - watermarks are not used casually.

If you want to know what collectors think about the origin and use of these stamps, keep reading.


Way back in 1990 I acquired a collection of Cinderella stamps through a philatelic auction. It was advertised as an "old- time collection of poster stamps and other Cinderellas", and comprised mostly early 20th century German material, plus assorted U.S., British, and miscellaneous other items, including the item shown above, which had a label stating "Chinese (private) bicycle post - $100". I set the bicycle stamp aside, as I have a friend who had asked me to keep an eye out for stamps with bicycles, for a friend of hers who is an ardent bicycle rider. She declined the item, as the purported value was more than she could afford. I forgot about it.

Then sometime in 2004 I stumbled on a "weird stamps" web blog (now defunct) with a stamp resembling mine, though no additional information about it. The consensus of the contributors was that its origin had never been determined. The image rang a bell, though, and I started looking through my philatelic library. Eventually I found a series of items in issues 26 though 30 (published 1987-1990) of "ATALAYA," a bi-annual magazine (in English) devoted to Cinderellas, published by Christer Brunström of Sweden. I subscribed for a short period in the late 1990's, and ordered all the back issues he had at that time. Mr. Brunström's readers had contributed information revealing that their were four "denominations" of the stamp - 4, 5, 6, and 7 - in red, green, and blue, and that the "6" occurred both with and without the large numeral in the top right corner. Most significant, however, was the information from a collector in England (a member of the Bicycle Stamp Club), who said that he owned the remains of a box which had contained a pair of rubber bicycle pedals, with a dark green example of the bicycle stamp stuck to the cover. The collector dated his find in the 1938-1950 era, and believed the origin to be India, as Indian companies produced bicycle products for the British market at that time.

I emailed the collectors named on the "weird stamps" page, one of whom sent me the e-dress of Norman Batho, who had originated the inquiries in ATALAYA(!) None of them had learned anything new, but Mr. Batho sent me high-res scans of all the stamps he owned. The "weird stamps" site is no longer active, so I decided to create this web page, in hopes it will generate further information.

Based on all the above, then, the theory at that time was that these stamps were used by an Indian manufacturer of bicycle pedals, as size labels on its boxes. That seemed plausible, but with only the one box to go on, certainly not conclusive.

My own opinion now is that the stamps were either postage for a package delivery service, or revenue stamps to pay a tax on bicycle parts, which would explain the one on a box of bicycle pedals.

The next section of this page is the history of discoveries and opinions from 2011 to date.

Following that is a table that lists (with illustrations) all the known "denominations," colors, and types of the stamps. Some of the color images were contributed by Mr. Batho, while the B&W ones are reproduced (with permission) from ATALAYA, and many more have been acquired from eBay and other collectors, all of whom are credited.

If any viewer can supply scans of designs or colors not shown here, or further information concerning the origin and use of these stamps, please email the author of this page at


March 24, 2011
On March 15, 2011, I saw an eBay auction for the TYPE 1 small "6" stamp described thus:

Light used with faint ink residue.

I wrote and asked the seller (ozphila) what he knew about the stamp.

He replied as follows:

Sold similar few years for about $15.00 USD. Purchased by India Ebay customer and he mentioned that up north in Afghanistan/Pakistan/India they had lots of bicycle deliveries by local runner and also lot of buses parcel posts ... this was listed in the stamps international magazines in the late 60s in U.K. Cheers OZ.

So for what it's worth, I am adding that here. The item sold for AU $69.90 (US $70.63)!

BTW, on 2/22/2011 a copy of the red large "6" stamp sold on eBay for the opening bid of $7 - it was described simply "BYCYCLE POST" [sic].

December 10, 2014

Aranya Dutta Choudhury alerted me to an item on eBay, described
That's pretty specific!

But Aranya added "I have not found this reference in any old gazette of India."

It has a "denomination" of 15 - a new find!
I have added it to the catalog below. (It sold for $23.50)
I have emailed the seller ("avrolle" of Rhône-Alpes, France) and hope he/she can provide more info. Stay tuned.

February 4, 2016

"Arnoldt", a bicycle stamp collector from Germany, alerted me to several items on eBay, described
Bicycle Tax or Inspection stamp Japan?
all from seller alphaomegaphilately - they have been added below. I have emailed the seller to see if they can add anything.

February 10, 2016

"Bindu" from eBay seller alphaomegaphilately replied to my inquiry as follows:

The stamps came to me in a lot from the estate of Jim Czyl, a famous cinderella collector. It was a lot of 100 bulging binders with stock pages.There were no notes. Some of the binders contained a single country or entity. Some had several countries in a binder arranged alphabetically. Jim Cyzl was quite knowledgeable & was considered an expert on cinderellas of all types. He put these in the J file & not in the India file. I presumed they were from Japan as I have seen similar inspection labels of Japan before for other products. I still have that stock page. It contained some similar looking non bicycle stamps also. I'll send you a scan of the page. The other labels might have a clue as to their origin.

Below is the scan - note the square stamps at top, which definitely look related, but no bicycle, and no numerals.
The design *could* represent a bicycle wheel, with spokes and a central sprocket.
The last stamp, "Uganda", is clearly unrelated.

Click for enlarged version.

February 15, 2016

Bicycle stamp collector Arnoldt sent me the following comment by another eBay seller "drjoeo" who was offering an example of the "red large 6" -

There is much debate about the origin and value of the stamp. The dealer I purchased the stamp from for $20 said that it was used in India and he was led to believe it had to do w/ licensing the cycle. The stamp has a watermark or cancelled paper depression which resembles the cancel on the 7 value in the Alphabetilately site. Take care, Dr Joe

LATER the same day - I just came across an old deck of "bicycle" playing cards, and noted an interesting similarity of the design on their backs to these stamps.
Coincidence? Just my imagination? Three variations below - You be the judge.

Click for enlarged version.

3/6/2016 - Arnoldt (aka Bike Max) sent these images from "the 5th issue (autumn 1988) of "Bicycle stamps" - the club magazine of the Bicycle Stamps Club."


--- Thanks, Arnoldt.

3/22/16 - On 3/16/16 I received the following message from collector Kimmo Kuikanmäki:
The "cancel" of "7" appears to have two Hindi characters (many other Indian languages use similar characters and may be used here instead of Hindi). If they are, then they are on the bottom half of the cancel and the Latin characters would read NII. Someone who can read Hindi may be able to tell what they stand for. It is likely to mean the same as NII. This cancel seems to support the Indian subcontinent connection.
(Scroll down almost to the bottom of the page to see the "cancel" - on the left side.)

I emailed eBay seller "Bindu," who replied:

They are stylized hindi but not in any of the styles Hindi was written. It reads L Ki. The style looks more Tibetian than anything else but that is a subjective interpretation.

I emailed a couple of other people I thought might know, but no replies from them as yet. Anyone else?

2/27/2017 - NEW FIND - "1" large numeral! New first entry in table, courtesy of eBay seller alphaomegaphilately.

6/11/2017 - NEW FIND - "4" large numeral with "1/2" courtesy of eBay seller quan2363.

6/21/2017 - careful examination of all the images I had on file revealed new types of the "5" large numeral, and "6" large numeral. See below - both TYPE 3s are new to this page.

6/30/2017 - Collector Bob Worcester sent an image of a new find! It is the "5" large numeral TYPE 4 in green - see below. Thanks Bob.

I am having major doubts about the idea that these are stamps for a private post, which so many other people say. Why is it that so few of the ones I have seen have any sort of cancel? Why have none been found on any sort of mail? Shouldn't there be some sort of currency indication, like rupees or yen or cents?

7/04/2017 - NEW FIND?
Among my accumulated images I found what may be a "5" with small numeral, which I have added below. The numeral is obscured by a "cancel" but COULD be a "5" - what do you think?

7/22/18 - eBay seller mhendrickx listed a huge multiple of the Large 5 Type 1 (I think) - ten high by 15 wide! AND it has perforations on three sides, suggesting it was part of an even larger sheet! See below.

1/1/2019 - I sold two of the bicycle stamps from my collection on eBay, and asked the buyer, renowned paraphilately maven and author Charles Kiddle, what he knew about them. He sent me copies of a letter and album page scan sent to HIM back in 2016 by UK collector Brian Sole.

Brian's page contained two entirely NEW STAMPS - an undenominated one, and a "33" - plus varieties of known denominations. I have added those below, with credit to Brian. And yet again, Brian had no new information to add to the saga. The search continues.

Thanks Charles and Brian!

1/28/2019 - major revision of this page. Brian Sole sent better copies of the images I had second-hand from Charles Kiddle, and it turns out the "undenomonated" labels were just the "small six" variety, and too blurry to see the number.

I have deleted the erroneous entries, added some new examples of known varieties, and rearranged the text in general for consistency.

6/20/2019 - ADDED "9" stamp

Our accomplice in Germany, Arnoldt Rehm, alerted us to an eBay item, a new variety with denomination "9!" It has been added below. Thanks, Arnoldt!


HELP SOLVE THIS MYSTERY! All ideas and evidence welcome - send to CLICK HERE



Description Colors Size
(design area)
(scale varies, see dimensions where known)
No denomination

NEW FIND - 2/4/16 - eBay seller alphaomegaphilately - Thanks!

(Sold for $20 - 1/11/16)

I totally missed that the central design is not a bicycle - It's a TRICYCLE! Was someone messing with collectors, or did the company branch out?

The design is clearly related to the others below.

Blue 43.5x32 mm

Central image is of a child's tricycle!

"1" large numeral Red 45x32 mm
"4" large numeral


1/2/19 - New image from Brian Sole - overprint in black, "1/2" in circle.

Red 41x29 mm  
"4" large numeral with diagonal bar and "1/2"

6/11/2017 - New find! Ebay lot from seller quan2363.

1. Identical to the "4" large numeral above in main elements (background, central medallion), but with added diagonal bar and "1/2" in bottom left quadrant.
2. Circular watermark? (top left corner, 2nd scan)

Red 40x29 mm
"5" large numeral

4 types - note "5's", handle-bars, background pattern

6/29/2017 - new find! TYPE 4 - many differences: solid background, larger central design, etc.

7/22/18 - eBay seller mhendrickx listed a huge multiple of Type 1 (I think) - ten high by 15 wide! AND it had perforations on three sides, suggesting it was part of an even larger sheet! See below.


At the same time, he listed the item below - which was part of the group owned by Bindu from eBay seller alphaomegaphilately - see my post of February 10, 2016, above. Is that just a coincidence, or are these labels related?

Red, Blue, Green 23.5x19 mm TYPE 1


TYPE 3 a & b
These two are very similar, but not quite identical


"6" small numeral

2 types - note "6's", floral pattern beneath bicycle


NOTE: These are often reported as "No value" or "No denomination" -
There is a six beneath the bicycle!

It is my theory that these were the first ones issued, and the large numerals were added for better legibility.



One collector has a gummed block of 6 (3x2) of "6" with small numeral, red, with straight edge at left.


4/22/22 - Collector John Lyon sent the image at the bottom, a small 6 green with slightly different decorations, so I am calling it TYPE 3.

Red, Green 23.5x19 mm


Also reported:




"6" large numeral

3 types - note "6's", background pattern top left, shape

Red, Blue 23.5x19 mm TYPE 1
2/4/16 - Nice multiple! - eBay seller alphaomegaphilately - Thanks!



"7" large numeral

2 types - note "7's"

Tracing of cancel on second stamp

The labels were on watermarked paper. The design of the watermark is an enlargement of the circular element, which is repeated to form the background in the stamp. The circle is 2mm. Adjacent circles are roughly 10mm apart.



Note "cancel" on "7", type 2, Stamp is red, with blue cancel. The letters at the bottom of the cancel appear to read either "N I I" or "I I N".

Red, Blue23.5x19 mm
41x29 mm



NEW FIND - 6/18/16 - eBay seller mondial-postzegelveiling-deventer, - Thanks!

(Sold for $19 - 6/16/19)

6/27/19 - Size supplied by Arnoldt

eBay auction listing said just "STAMP WITH BICYCLE --UNKNOWN ** MNH --PROOF ? OFFERED AS IS "

I agree, it must be a proof.

I asked the seller for more, he replied just
"I found it in a big lot of revenues and poster stamps. For me totaly unknown."

NOTE THE WATERMARK, which is the same design as the small symbols filling the backgrounds of many of the stamps on this page. It must have some significance - but what?

Blue 31.5x22.5 mm



NEW FIND - 2/4/19 - eBay seller alphaomegaphilately - Thanks!

(Sold for $30 - 1/11/16)

NOTE bicycle chains running horizontally top and bottom!

Red 51x20 mm

"15" large numeral

From an eBay auction, 12/9/2014

Red unknown

"33" large numeral

NEW FIND - 1/2/19
another contribution from Brian Sole.

Red 23x15.5 mm, perf 10.5

If any viewer can supply scans of designs or colors not shown above,
or further information concerning the origin and use of these stamps, please email the author of this page:

ATALAYA is an international magazine devoted to Cinderellas, "dead" country stamps and other philatelic oddities.
It is published twice a year by Christer Brunström in co-operation with the Halmstad Philatelic Society in Sweden.
For a sample copy of Atalaya write to:
Christer Brunström, Kungsgatan 23, 302 45 Halmstad, Sweden and enclose US$3 in cash, or three IRCs.

To contact the publisher via e-mail:

Collectors of bicycles on stamps should consider joining the Bicycle Stamps Club, a study unit of the American Topical Association.

Send feedback to the author: CLICK HERE

Created -- 07/27/2005
Revised -- 04/22/2022