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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

There Are Five New Smells in the Post Office

The Swiss had chocolate, the Brazilians had burnt wood and Hong Kong had tea. They were all postage stamps to the ordinary eye, but to the nose they were something different -- because they have a smell.

Russia joined the list of countries that have issued stamps that pong this week when its inaugural odorous marki were released under the "Gifts of Nature" series. Five circular stamps -- strawberries, a pear, a melon, two apples and a pineapple -- can be bought for 5 rubles each at most post offices nationwide.

Special scented gum on the reverse side provides the scent on the 630,000 stamps released. For collectors, the stamps aren't of particular importance except for the first-day covers postmarked Wednesday, the day the stamps were issued.

But even if in the philatelist's world they may not be as exciting as the jasmine tea-scented stamps from Norfolk Island, the stamps are a first for Russia and post offices on Wednesday sold more than 20,000 -- about 20 percent more than on normal issue days, post officials said Thursday.

But the stamps will be worth nothing, at least in the nearest future, stamp collectors said.

"New issues are aimed at the younger collector," said Trevor Pateman, a British philatelist who specializes in Russian and Eastern European stamps.

Stamp shops often buy these kind of new issues back from collectors at 70 percent to 80 percent of their face value and then use them for their own ordinary post, he said.

Marka, the company that has been printing Russian stamps since the country issued the first 10-kopek stamp in 1858, is as pleased as punch with the fruity scents.

"Nobody has done fruit before," said Marka deputy director Vadim Bekhterev. "And this is harvest time. It seems right."

The fruit series is one of 12 that are released every year. Russia has about 70 different series in circulation, including Russian history and the regions of Russia. The previous series, released last month, featured mushrooms, and the next will be a special Russian-Iranian collection about endangered wildlife and nature in the Caspian Sea.

The newest stamps do smell fairly similar to the fruit they portray, although if sniffed in a row they begin to smell much alike -- something between fruit-flavored chewing gum and soap.

Licking the stamp, however, only induces the familiar flavor known as the-back-of-the-stamp flavor.

Other countries arguably have produced more imaginative scents. The most well-known is the Swiss stamp produced for the 100th anniversary of the Swiss Association of Chocolate Manufacturers in 2001, which both looks and smells like chocolate. Britain issued a stamp smelling of eucalyptus in 1996 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine.

In 1999, Brazil opted for the smell of burnt wood on their stamps to raise awareness for forest-fire prevention.