AKTSIZNAYA MARKA: The online tax stamps collection of Andrey Vasiunin

If you live in a European, African, Asian or South American country, and are a smoker or know smokers, you may have noticed fancy little labels stuck onto the cigarette boxes or other tobacco products you encounter. Attached like a stamp on an envelope but with the ornate designs and security features of paper money, these little slips of intricacy are neither truly stamps or banknotes.

They are in fact cigarette and tobacco tax stamps, a method of collecting taxes by governments. While most countries and territories levy tax on goods such as tobacco and alcohol – the so-called ‘sin taxes’ due to the health implications of using these products – only some issue these special stamps which are attached to the packets by manufacturers in their factories. They are a really elaborate way of saying “Yes, I paid up the tax on my products”. Tax stamps also help tax officials and consumers distinguish the real deal from counterfeit, and often very dangerous, tobacco products. The stamps also act as a quality seal, positioned on the packaging in such a way that opening the box or pouch breaks apart the stamp, so a whole, undamaged stamp means a fresh and non-tampered pack of 20.

 

Most tax stamps are issued by national governments, who usually delegate the task of printing millions of stamps to their finance ministries or tax boards, depending on the administration. According to Professional Security Magazine Online, more than 140 billion tobacco and alcohol stamps are produced annually by more than 150 different national and state agencies. As tax agencies tackle an increasing tobacco smuggling and counterfeiting industry and the resulting need to safeguard tax revenues, they have made their stamps more and more complex, including hard-to-forge features such as holograms, machine-readable elements, UV and infra-red printing, complicated patterns and other security features. These attempts to thwart Ben and his cross-Channel smuggling band of chums flogging cheap ciggies at the local pub have had the added effect of making tax stamps more attractive as a collector’s item

Tax stamps have been around since the 19th century, but most people pay little attention to them. Nevertheless a community of collectors have grown around the humble and official-looking stickers, also known as banderoles or excise stamps. While nowhere near as popular as its cousin, postage stamp collecting, many have come to appreciate the hobby and of course, the beauty and collectible nature of these items. Indeed, early 20th century tax stamps from the United States’ Internal Revenue government body and 19th century European issues can fetch more than £5,000 on auction sites among dedicated hobbyists and investors in collectibles.

Andrey Vasiunin, a resident of Russia’s capital Moscow and the guitar and keyboard player of doom metal band Armaga, is probably the closest thing to a celebrity in the tax stamp collecting universe. A Korolev-born father of one who graduated in economics from the G.V. Plekhanov REA educational institute, Vasiunin caught the ‘collecting bug’ early on in his childhood, gathering up collections of badges, toys and wrappers in his school days. He even built up a fine dossier of the phrase “I love you” in various languages. Then in 2001, while lounging around on a fine and warm July summer’s day in his garden, smoking a cigarette, Vasiunin noticed the tax stamp perched nonchalantly on his smokes. His curiosity piqued, he admired the colourful patterns of the stamp’s design and became hooked. He peeled off the stamp and tucked it into his wallet.

It was this chance counter with a Russian ‘aktsiznaya marka’ or excise stamp, that would be the first step in Andrey Vasiunin’s ascendancy to become one of the leading lights of the hobby. He undertook a trip to the Czech Republic, where he encountered a different breed of tax stamp. Further intrigued, Vasiunin filched the Czech versions too, straight into his wallet. He then chanced upon Italian and French examples affixed to the pages of a friend’s notebook. Soon word of Vasiunin’s new and unorthodox hobby began to circulate among his friends, and tax stamps from across the globe started filling up his wallet. His addiction to tax stamps became so insatiable that he spent a day at a customs depot, going through cigarette packets being shipped in from the rest of Europe and removing their stamps for his collection.

As the Internet became established in Vasiunin’s home country, he decided to embrace the new technology, placing his stamp collection online for the world to see. In 2005, he created a website, akciza.narod.ru. Written bilingually in Russian and English and featuring scanned images of his prized specimens, Vasiunin’s one-stop tax stamp gallery on the Information Superhighway became the world’s first and currently only one of two such websites dedicated to tax stamps for tobacco and alcohol. Within a period of seven years, Vasiunin acquired nearly 600 stamps and cigarette seals from a hundred countries, many donated by good friends and fellow hobbyists who he met online.

In 2008, Andrey Vasiunin switched web service providers and unveiled a new and heavily upgraded site “Tax Stamps Collection of Vasiunin Andrey” with a more detailed look, customised header graphics and a bigger selection of images drawn from his collection, which now numbers more than 2,000 examples. With its distinctive vintage appearance and interactive gallery of Vasiunin’s collection, scanned in great detail and sorted by geographical region, countries and territories, the site has become a detailed window into this unknown hobby. According to Flag Counter, his e-collection has received more than 9,000 visits from over 6,000 visitors representing 175 countries. The highlight of the ‘Tax Stamps Collection’ is definitely its gallery, with stamps arranged as if though in a high-quality album, like the heavy-duty pricey ones you can find in stamp collector’s hobby outlets. Each image enlarges when clicked on, allowing you to appreciate the full beauty and detail of each of Vasiunin’s stamps. The issues for each territory are arranged in chronological order from oldest to newest. Fellow collectors can also arrange to swap and sell stamps to Andrey, with the website maintaining a guestbook for collectors to introduce themselves and interact with Andrey.

More recently, Vasiunin has branched out into social media, opening a Facebook version of his hit site – www.facebook.com/TaxStamps – where he showcases the latest additions to his collection. The Facebook page has already accrued a small community of nearly 200 fellow collectors.

You can visit Andrey Vasiunin’s site at www.tax-stamps.com

SOURCES/IMAGE CREDITS:

“TAX STAMPS” – Andrey Vasiunin http://www.akciza.narod.ru/index2.html

“About Me” – Andrey Vasiunin, Tax Stamps Collection of Vasiunin Andrey http://www.tax-stamps.com/about

“Collection” – Andrey Vasiunin, Tax Stamps Collection of Vasiunin Andrey http://www.tax-stamps.com/collection

Andrey Vasiunin’s Facebook profile.

Cigarette tax stamps collection, Andrey Vasiunin, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/TaxStamps/

Flag Counter http://flagcounter.com/

“Track and trace” – Professional Security Magazine Online (10 July 2017) http://www.professionalsecurity.co.uk/news/interviews/track-and-trace/

“Armaga” – Spirit of Metal http://www.spirit-of-metal.com/groupe-groupe-Armaga-l-en.html

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VIRTUAL VEXILLOLOGY: Animated world flags with TLDs – the full set

HEM Animated ccTLD Flags Ident pizap.com14318621928841

For our very last article in the Animated ccTLD flags series (a.k.a Virtual Vexillology), you will have the opportunity to see the flags we have featured in the previous articles altogether in one place, along with some examples made for forum users who wish to decline their country of origin when creating their signatures.

It has been a fun and enjoyable series to work on, and it does seem a bit sad to be finally drawing it to a close. This series may be wrapping up, but we are going to do it in true fluttering style. Here are all the flags in alphabetical order of top-level domain. Feast your eyes and enjoy.

P.S. At some point in the future, the Hancki flag icons plus some even smaller flag icons originally from ‘FamFamFam‘ , a website run by British graphic designer and developer Mark James and other sources too, will be added as a page on this blog’s sideline website, HEM Graphics. Don’t click the browser window…or touch the dial!.

A small inspiration for me writing and researching for this series is that at work we often work with ISO codes (which are broadly similar to ccTLDs) when processing data and so it was interesting to see more exciting examples of these shortened country names in use. Sadly since these flags first burst onto the scene in 2008, forums have lost a bit of popularity as social media has become the new outlet for people to air their voices, and the forums that are still be updated now tend to go for the minimalist look, dispensing with embellishments like signature GIFs, userbars, stats and of course these flags. In a way, this is my way of preserving this piece of internet history for the future, should forums no longer use them.

 

 

No flags available under this letter.

 

Previous Articles in the Series

Part 1 – North America

Part 2 – South America

Part 3 – Europe

Part 4 – Africa

Part 5 – Asia

Part 6 – Australasia/Oceania

IMAGE CREDITS:
“Animated fonts 018” – APRENDE INGLÉS CON GIFS ANIMADOS http://clafoti.com/dictionary/A_alf_018.htm
“Pakistan Defence” – Pakistan Defence http://defence.pk/
“RIGS OF RODS” – Rigs of Rods http://www.rigsofrods.com/content/
IPBURGER/IPBurger.com http://ipburger.com/
“Category:Country Flags” – EP.com Wiki/EntropiaPlanets.com/EntropiaPlanets Wiki – Entropia Universe Guides Wiki Info http://www.entropiaplanets.com/wiki/Category:Country_Flags

 

 

PHOTO MOMENT: My Twitter images from this week

Vijay Shah

I have been a very happy bunny this week. I have booked two weeks worth of annual leave from work to recharge my batteries and get away from the corporate stresses and strains, as well as a chance to catch up on some housework and badly needed ‘me time’. So far I have spent a lot of my time off relaxing. I recently headed down to the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford to buy clothes (I was running short on vests!! :/ ). I have helped my sister with her child psychology course…and tomorrow I have to get up early as I and some friends are heading to Thorpe Park by car. So this week has been quiet, busy and crazy so far. Not including the lost hours playing Candy Crush and Criminal Case on my Facebook, or watching James Bond films.

Having this time off means I can work on my blog. During these kinds of holidays, I aim to release a post on the Half-Eaten Mind once every two days, instead of once/twice per weekend under normal working conditions.  Today I thought I would share with you some of the pictures I have posted on my personal Twitter account. I have been a Tweep only since September last year, but only recently realised how easy it is to post pictures along with a tweet. Well I can be a bit slow off the mark sometimes. At first I have been posting my own taken photographs directly from my smartphone. I usually do this to share any appealing photographs I have taken of landscapes or buildings, as well as images that have some significance to me, or help me tell the story of my life.

Nowadays in addition to that, I have been pulling images from Facebook. I save them in a designated folder on the laptop and then upload them as links on Twitter. It’s incredibly easy. When you compose a new tweet, you just click on the camera icon underneath the space where the tweet is to be written. A window will appear where you choose the image you want, upload, and hey presto. It’s sorted. Easy as that. It can do wonders for your Twitter popularity among your followers. Even the news media accounts I follow do this. Photojournalists, not surprisingly, are heavily reliant on this of media dissemination. I also upload these pictures though to give an insight into my personality. What makes me shocked, what makes me laugh, what makes me ‘me’. I can also appreciate the beauty of an image and I strongly wish to share that with my followers, and now I want to share them with all of you.

Below are the images I have tweeted since I started doing this, along with a reproduction of the accompanying tweet for contextual purposes. If you want to see more, and there will be plenty more, you can follow me on this handle @VShah1984

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy!! 🙂

(7 Jul) Mauritius flag badge pic.twitter.com/StHUqmaeKj
 
(7 Jul) Flag pins Mauritius England – celebrating my dual heritage. pic.twitter.com/5IrJq8ZQM8
(7 Jul) The ‘About’ page of the Half-Eaten Mind blog – old design @halfeatenmind pic.twitter.com/2nT0tqKKnG
 
(7 Jul) Floods in Port Louis in March 2013 – In remembrance to the 11 who didn’t make it. pic.twitter.com/CkuWyV31gx
 
(8 Jul) Well it’s not quite Wednesday yet but you get my drift… pic.twitter.com/g5qAx9XYTS
 
(8 Jul) A puppy encounters a praying mantis (Time to say “aaawwww”) @AnjiShah pic.twitter.com/zauCaaxznm
 
(9 Jul) Awarded to Arjun for spending every hour of every day capping zombies on Call of Duty…. pic.twitter.com/qPbXUUHef5
 
(9 Jul) Rehabilitating inner city gangsters? #nurseryrhymes #gangsters #futureperfect pic.twitter.com/WdazgT0CbC
 
(9 Jul) #opticalillusion #advertising #van #car #itsatrap pic.twitter.com/Mynp62unOl
 
(9 Jul) Don’t make any ‘bomb on board’ jokes! pic.twitter.com/0T0mhFPYTO
 
(9 Jul) A sunny view – the ArcelorMittal hookah pipe and Stratford’s Olympic Stadium @ArcelorMittal #E20 #stratford #skyline
 
(9 Jul) Ram-Sita…Jai Shri Ram! pic.twitter.com/yc5pZ93pH0
 
(9 Jul) A funny way to disguise a juggernaut-level prang on your vehicle. Just be sure to use waterproof marker! pic.twitter.com/wLvZIYKm9Y
 
(9 Jul) I Sverige katter ges gratis inträde till nattklubbar. pic.twitter.com/fF6bZLoD2y
 
(9 Jul) I’m actually trying to shift the beer gut…but still… pic.twitter.com/YifJSDAJ8K
 
(10 Jul) Laziness…it’s not just a skill, It’s an art pic.twitter.com/F3iztCOD3T
 
(10 Jul) Life…. #life #changes #facebook pic.twitter.com/No59axfPI2
 
(10 Jul) The Cat and Lord Buddha. #buddha #nirvana #pets #innerpeace pic.twitter.com/j6hd5aXefV
 
(10 Jul) Now where did I park my Maserati? pic.twitter.com/QMg3eNWztI
 
(11 Jul) Jai Shri Hanumanji… pic.twitter.com/NKWXsAxHpK
 
(11 Jul) …and thy shall wrapped in thine offending bubble wrap and fed to the flames. #hell #BubbleWrap #Annoying pic.twitter.com/H56OnZdtLn
 
(20h) Jai Sri Ganesh. pic.twitter.com/IraQaxwDWo
 
(20h) The downside of the British summer, as expertly explained by our special guest from the Hangover movies. #Summer
 

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