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Postcards from Bhutan

PARO, Bhutan — Philatelists long ago gave Bhutan their “stamp of approval.”

In one of those oddities of life, this remote, mostly agrarian society has some of the world's most unusual and highly collectible postage stamps.

Some of Bhutan's stamps are made from steel, silk, even vinyl.

Credit late-American Bert Kerr Todd with guiding the Bhutanese into the stamp-collecting world.

The Todd family repeatedly traveled to Bhutan beginning in the 1950s and befriended the nation's king. When asked by the royal family how to expand their economic base, Todd said “stamps!”

His daughter, Frances Todd Stewart, 10 years old at the time, remembers when her father introduced the world's first “talking stamp” in April 1973.

It's a tiny vinyl record, that when played at 78 rpm, included the Bhutanese national anthem and a brief history of this country.

Stewart says, “Dad could come home, his eyes would sparkle, and he would say, ‘what if we were to create a talking stamp?’ ”

Bhutan was the first nation to make a 3-D stamp. It was Oct. 30, 1967, and the stamps honored America's Apollo astronauts in space.

There was the unusual 1984 stamp that pictured Disney characters, Donald Duck, Goofy and Minnie Mouse crowed in front of a TV. On screen: Mickey Mouse. An odd stamp for a country that didn't get TV until 1999.

Stamp collectors still know Bhutan as one of the world's best places to search out the unusual.

Kerry Sanders / Nbc News

A stamp due out soon will harness that old “talking stamp” idea with modern technology.

Bhutan is releasing a CD stamp. It'll include pictures, music and history. Yes, you can indeed send a letter with this stamp just as you can with all the others.

Oh, and you don't have to lick the CD, or most others, to put it on the envelope.

Bhutan was also the first nation in the world to have self-adhesive stamps. In this small, quiet nation, it made sense: Why lick a stamp with that ugly taste?

Today, almost every nation has followed Bhutan's lead with a self-stick stamp.

Want your own a stamp from Bhutan? Visit bhutanpostagestamps.com.

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