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By Lee Wen-yi  /  Staff reporter

A person holds an iPhone next to a set of special Republic of China centenary edition Valentine's Day stamps in this photo taken on Jan 13.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

Chunghwa Post may be an old institution, but it is keeping up with modern trends by issuing Valentine's Day stamps.

On Monday, Valentine's Day, Chunghwa Post will issue a set of heart-shaped stamps that incorporate a quick response (QR) matrix barcode that can be scanned to spell out: "I love you."

The first year Chunghwa Post issued Valentine's Day stamps was in 2007 and in the 100th anniversary of the Republic of China, Chunghwa Post is once again releasing special stamps for lovers' day. The stamps come in packs of two, with face values of NT$5 and NT$25, and will be on sale at post offices starting on Monday. The post office says it has printed 660,000 NT$5 and 600,000 NT$25 stamps.

Chen Li-chiung (陳麗瓊), head of Chunghwa Post's department of philately, says the theme of this year's Valentine's stamps is "the code of true love."

The design takes the innovative step of incorporating a high-tech QR code that can be scanned using any mobile phone with a 0.3 megapixel or higher resolution camera. The image can then be read with a decoding program that many smartphones have built in and can be downloaded to others. This will reveal the messages hidden in the code, which are "I love you" and "Happy Valentine's Day" respectively on the NT$25 and NT$5 stamps.

Another unusual feature is that the stamps are in the shape of a love heart, outlined by perforations at the center of a square sheet featuring romantic roses, gifts, love hearts and the word "love," all contributing to the romantic feel.

Chen Shih-ching (陳世清), who runs the Ching Ching philatelic Web site says that although this is the first time Taiwan has issued heart-shaped stamps, the idea is not completely new, as it has been done in France and Slovenia.

Chen feels that the design of the Taiwanese stamps, incorporating black and blobby QR codes, is not as beautiful as the heart-shaped stamps produced by other countries and he points out that not everyone has a mobile phone with a camera that can read the code.

Some collectors are comparing the stamps with Valentine's Day stamps issued in France, complaining that the Taiwanese design is not particularly beautiful. They suggest that Chunghwa Post collect more stamps from overseas for reference and allow members of the public to vote for their favorite among competing designs.

Besides the Valentine's Day stamps, Chunghwa Post has in recent years come up with various innovative designs, including lozenge-shaped stamps, round stamps and others shaped like fans and butterflies. There have also been stamps with 3D embossing and others that look different under different lighting conditions or when viewed from different angles.

These departures from the traditional square or rectangular format with a 2D design have proved quite popular with collectors.

Chen Li-chiung said 20,000 souvenir folders of the firework-themed stamps that were issued on Jan. 1 to mark the first day of the nation's 100th year quickly sold out, as did the first printing of 800,000 100th anniversary stamps, causing many to inquire when new stocks would be made available.

Chen Li-chung says that the New Year issue may be the best stamp the post office has produced in the last 10 years, perhaps coming a close second to a set that the Hong Kong and Austrian post offices issued in 2006, featuring firework displays made by applying crystal fabric.

That would explain why people are already bidding NT$90 online for souvenir sets of four 100th anniversary New Year stamps, whose face value is NT$60, while the going wholesale price is also NT$15 above face value.

SOURCE:FEATURE: Valentine's Day stamps panned by philatelists

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