Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society

Promoting Ukrainian stamps, coins and other collectibles

Heorhiy Narbut Prize

Termination of the Narbut Prize

A short article announcing the “major new philatelic award” appeared in Ukrainian Philatelist No. 62 (1992), page 112. The piece described the award as follows: “The Narbut Prize will go to the artist(s) selected as having designed the outstanding stamp or stamp set the previous year. This prize will be awarded in conjunction with the Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society (UPNS). The publicity generated by the Narbut Prize should: help popularize Ukrainian philately, bring prestige and recognition to the UPNS,...[and] create and sustain a high artistic standard for Ukrainian stamp designs.”

Balloting first took place in 1993, when society members (and anyone else who wished to participate) voted on what they considered the best-designed stamps of the previous year. Originally, the Prize – a certificate along with a plaque or medal – only included a $100 honorarium. The amount soon grew and over the past decade or so has been $250.

I was delighted to learn that after just a few years the Narbut Prize began to be considered the premier award for Ukraine's philatelic designers. Even though the Ukrainian stamp production firm, Marka Ukrainy (MU), also conducted an annual competition for the best stamp design, it did not have the same cachet as the Narbut Prize. First off, folks did not trust the MU results. (I learned that in some instances folks at MU were told how to vote.) In contrast, the vote counting for the Narbut Prize has always been conducted by an independent and trusted UPNS officer.

Even more important to Ukraine's designers, however, was the prize money. MU's artists were/are paid a niggardly wage. The Narbut Prize honorarium proved a substantial financial boost (in hard currency) to the winners.

Ukraine’s official journal, Filateliia Ukrainy, also took note of the Narbut Prize. Beginning in 2001 and continuing through 2008 (when publication ceased), the publication ran annual translations of the press releases I sent out announcing the Prize winners and runners up. In 2002, on the 10th anniversary of Ukraine's reemergence as a stamp producing country, the journal front cover depicted all of the Narbut Prize winners of the previous decade.

In recent years I have debated with myself over whether or not to continue sponsoring the Narbut Prize. Ukrainian stamp designs have vastly improved since the early 1990s and there no longer seemed to be a need for an award to help stimulate or improve artistic design. The demise of Marka Ukrainy and the other unsettling events that transpired in Ukraine in late 2008 and early 2009 helped convince me that now was probably a good time draw the curtain on this Prize.

Other factors also were taken into consideration. The current financial crisis has impacted me as it has everyone else and costs in both time and money have had to be taken into account. (The Narbut Prize involved more than just the $250 prize money, since delivery and presentation costs upped the annual outlay substantially.)

In conclusion, I am convinced that the Narbut Prize did its part to help popularize Ukrainian philately and improve the overall level of Ukrainian philatelic design. A listing of all Narbut Prize winners from 1993 to 2008 (nineteen in all) appeared in the last issue of Ukrainian Philatelist (No. 100) on page 60.
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