As the founder of modern Ukrainian literature; a writer of stirring poetry and prose; an artist, and an outspoken critic of social and national oppression; Shevchenko has been honoured philatelically throughout the world. And one of the most popular subjects among Ukraine stamp collectors, if not the all-time favourite, is Taras Shevchenko.
The Shevchenko Museum’s collection comprises 80 pages of stamps, envelopes, and commemorative postal cancellations. It begins with a 1921 stamp (the first with a Shevchenko portrait) printed in Vienna for the then Ukrainian National Republic (UNR). Five pages are devoted to this period and many more pages to independent Ukraine.
The largest number of stamps relating to Taras Shevchenko was issued during Soviet times. Included in the collection are stamps and envelopes marking the 125th and 150th anniversaries of his birth and the centenary of his death. A series is devoted to Shevchenko monuments, including statues and buildings. Other sets are devoted to his portraits and to Shevchenko the poet and the artist. Except for a few of the earliest issues, all are produced in glorious colour.
It stands to reason that Shevchenko would be depicted on modern Ukrainian stamps, and he has appeared in five issues so far. Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Austria have also honoured Shevchenko with stamp issues, but remarkably, so has Paraguay. The story behind Paraguay's Shevchenko issue is unusual, to say the least.
In 1971, the Ukrainian diaspora in Argentina raised funds to erect a Shevchenko monument in Buenos Aires and even designed a stamp commemorating the special event. However, try as they might, Ukrainian representatives could not get the Argentine postal authorities to agree to a release. Incredibly, postal officials in neighboring Paraguay were persuaded to produce an airmail souvenir sheet (a stamp with a large commemorative border) showing not only a Shevchenko portrait, but part of the new monument in Argentina.
In 2014, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Taras Shevchenko's birth, Canada Post printed a limited-edition Shevchenko stamp, commissioned by the Shevchenko Museum in Toronto.
Collecting Shevchenko memorabilia is not limited to stamps. The Soviet Union, and later independent Ukraine, issued dozens of commemorative envelopes with the poet’s image, or monuments, or buildings named after him. They also issued commemorative coins featuring Shevchenko, many of which the museum possesses. Collectors often try to source cancelled envelopes (called covers) from the dozens of towns in Ukraine named for Shevchenko.