Mongolia LOVES Elvis!

Mongolia is the land of the mighty Khans, Genghis  and Kublai. Formerly it was the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous empire in the history of the world. Elvis is the once, current and future King of Rock and Roll. I love them both honestly and un-ironically. Yet somehow, seeing the two of them together doesn’t sit quite right for me. (Click the pics for larger sizes. It’s totally worth it!)

Mongolia Loves Elvis

Funny, I don’t remember Elvis’ trip to Mongolia!

It could be that the Mongolians truly celebrate cultural diversity and Elvis is an important cultural figure to them. Given that Elvis’ music would have been suppressed by the Communist government until the 90s, I’m not sure how that could be. It seems like the great Mongolian guitarist Enh-Manlai would be a much more fitting subject for such an homage as this series of stamps and souvenir sheets.

Elvis in Love

Elvis’s heart burned bright, even as a child…

Here’s the thing. Mongolia realized a long time ago that they could be making money off stamps. Not from their own people (even today, 20% of the population lives on less than $1.20 a day), but from foreign collectors. So, while Mongolia was a Communist country, closely aligned to the Soviet Union and suppressing Western thought amongst it’s citizens, it was also issuing stamp after stamp celebrating the US Space program (and cats, dinosaurs, and other collector-popular topicals).

Nuclear Elvis

Forget the babe. Notice that Elvis is escaping a nuclear explosion in a flying British hot rod while Giant Elvis plays on…

So none of these stamps have ever graced the surface of a letter sent by a Mongolian, or have seen the inside of a Mongolian post office. Most likely they were all sold straight to Western collectors.

Elvis is Everywhere

It’s the guitar-penis-motorcycyle-rocket that does it for me!

Of course, I’m probably biased about this. Growing up in the US of A, my philatelic obsession during my grade school years was with US commemoratives. These celebrate our important historic events, our cultural, political and military heroes, and other things that are, or should be, important to us as US citizens. When Edgar Allen Poe is on a US stamp, for example, he’s there because he’s one of the most important literary figures in US history. It’s hard to picture a cabal of postal workers saying, “If we put Poe on a stamp, those Poe fans will buy millions. MILLIONS!”

It just seems to me that putting something on a stamp just to get people to buy it is really tacky. Something only a fallen empire or a country that’s hard up for cash would do.

Oh yeah, right…

We're all Mongolians

A sign of a postal system in trouble.

Wow. That’s almost as cheesy as the Mongolian Elvis Celebration! It’s a fine line, really. Elvis is a significant figure in musical history who deserves to be commemorated, on the one hand. On the other hand, there’s a difference between commemoration and exploitation in order to sell a product. Star Wars, the original 1977 movie, changed filmmaking forever. It is a significant cultural event. Darth Maul and Princess Amadalla aren’t part of the event. This stamp sheet doesn’t commemorate the historical event. It’s an advertisement for the Star Wars marketing empire, and it exists strictly because Star Wars fans will buy it.

It embarrasses me that my own country is now engaging in such practices. But I guess I’d rather see the postal service survive…

2 comments to Mongolia LOVES Elvis!

  • Would love to have some stamps with Genghis Khan on them. Do the standard stamps in Mongolia include a pic of him?

  • Indeed there are! To spite the Elvis stamps, Mongolia celebrates much of its own rich history and cultural heritage on its stamps, making it one of the more fun countries to collect. They even issued a Genghis Khan stamp on real silk!

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