PHOTO MOMENT: From Russia with…cigarette tax stamps!

Vijay Shah

Today’s photo moment is dedicated to the humble cigarette tax stamp.

Cigarette tax stamps, also known as excise stamps, tobacco stamps, mini-banknotes and banderols, are special stamps issued by nation-states for the indication of payment of excise duties or governmental taxes on cigarettes and tobacco. Similar stamps are also used for alcoholic products. The stamps are important for the fact that they show that the manufacturer of the product has paid all the relevant financial duties and taxes to sell tobacco products, which are of course taxed due to the harm they can cause to human health. 

Tax stamps are highly ornate and often packed with the same advanced (and more traditionally-regarded) security features as those found on banknotes, but in a far smaller area of paper. These include holograms, watermarks, fugitive inks, UV printing, microprinting and individualised serial numbering. Depending on the packaging, the tobacco manufacturer uses automated machinery to affix the tax stamp to the package usually on the lid (if it is a ‘flip-top’ box), so when the end consumer purchases the cigarettes and opens the package, the tax stamp is split or torn, which voids the stamp and prevents re-use by fraudsters. Depending on the country, they can be issued by a customs authority, the national Ministry of Finance, or by a special tax board. Many serve as tracking devices with QE or barcodes to keep tabs on their distribution when employed with scanners. Some tax stamps may even carry the cost of each pack or individual cigarette on them, so acting as an elaborate price tag/sticker.

The attractiveness and intricacies of tax stamps make them a great sideline collection for philatelists. They are not anywhere near as popular as postage or revenue stamps, but have a loyal following of collectors.

I have been collecting cigarette and alcohol tax stamps for nearly ten years and have acquired well over 2,500 pieces from all over the world. I would get them from a variety of sources, from auctions on sites like eBay, through to requests from friends, and even peeling them off of empty cigarette packets dumped on the pavement. I have recently began increasing the depth of my collection via online purchases, including from the Delcampe portal, which is tailored for collectors of stamps, coins and banknotes. My collection has a strong emphasis on Eastern Europe and Asia, helped by the large number of people from those areas living here in Newham, east London. Cigarettes are also often brought in from these areas by smugglers or tourists as they are far cheaper than UK cigarettes, which have as much as fifty per cent of their value derived from my country’s excessive sin tax rates.

Both of the photos featured here are thanks to a heavy metal singer/composer/guitarist/keyboard player and longtime tax stamp collector from Korolev, near Moscow in Russia. His name is Andrey Vasyunin and he has probably the most comprehensive collection of tobacco tax stamps and package seals known on the face of the Earth. You can actually view much of his collection on his really well designed site “Tax Stamps Collection of Vasiunin Andrey” ( It is an English-language gallery featuring some of his best examples covering virtually every cigarette stamp issuing nation in the world, past and present.

I recently exchanged one of my stamps with Mr. Vasyunin for ten stamps he had that did not exist in my collection. The stamp I gave away was a rare Malaysian example which was orange-coloured and had the code “T0106” printed on it. In return I received twelve stamps (plus extras from the original 10 offered) including new stamps from Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Estonia and vintage examples from Argentina and Ecuador.

(c) Andrey Vasyunin
(c) Andrey Vasyunin
(c) Andrey Vasyunin
(c) Andrey Vasyunin
(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

The first two photos were made by Andrey, in order to help me out in selecting the stamps from his surplus lots to send to me and allowing me to make a choice. The last picture is of the stamps in the plastic protective sleeve they came in. I found the sleeve so useful that I added two extra stamps I found on cigarette packets recently and a Hungarian tax stamp bought from a collector named Krisztian of Budapest. From now on, this will be my ‘stash place’ for new acquisitions.

If you would like to donate some cigarette or alcohol tax stamps to the Half-Eaten Mind editor’s collection, I will happily accept them for free or in exchange of payment (we can negotiate something). You can reach me at the blog email



5 thoughts on “PHOTO MOMENT: From Russia with…cigarette tax stamps!

  1. EDITOR’S NOTE: An additional amendment was made to the description of Andrey Vasyunin . In addition to being a singer, he also has some other musical roles, which he wished to be included. Many thanks to Mr. Vasiunin for the clarification. Amended 15/12/2013 VS.


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