A view on rowing through the years
If you search ‘rowing memorabilia’ online, you are likely to stumble across the impressive website run by Helmut Mensch. It is a virtual catalogue for rowing memorabilia collectors, with more than 5000 articles spanning from stamps, to posters, to coasters. Here is the story behind this collection.
Mensch is a rowing enthusiast. From Germany, he is an active member of a masters eight and a former FISA umpire.
“I like to promote rowing, especially competitive rowing,” Mensch says. “I aim at sport memorabilia collectors and at rowers to who research rowing history and designers who are looking for ideas in order to create rowing posters for regattas, and so on.”
Mensch began collecting over 50 years ago. He contacted dealers that advertised in stamp and collector magazines. “I searched in stamp catalogues for stamps depicting rowing and visited flea markets everywhere. Now it’s much easier to find suitable items via the Internet.”
At the FISA centenary in 1992, Mensch displayed items in 80 large frames. The he built a website where he displays his own personal collection as well as photos of items from collectors around the world. Mensch says he has no special favourites. “Of course, I like eye catching coloured regatta posters or postcards more than black and white stamp postmarks, but if I find a new beermat I’m also quite happy,” he says. The following item, for example, is a beer mat from Great Britain in 2008. It was made by Sharp’s Brewery Doom Bar – the official beer sponsor of the boat race.
The use of rowing to advertise alcohol can also be seen on this champagne label. It was from a 1989 Laurent-Perrier that was destined for the Henley Royal Regatta.
Rowing has been used to advertise everything from champagne to Dutch cheese to French vitamin C. This advertisement dates back to 1953.
Mensch possesses a number of ‘technical faults on stamps’ and ‘errors.’ “Would you believe that Great Britain issued 1986 a stamp showing a starboard rower with a red (= stroke side) sleeve on his oar?” He even established a separate category for these items on his website. Another favourite is the following stamp from Niger depicting a women’s octuplet at the Olympic Games (this is not a category in international or Olympic rowing).
Rowers have been used across various sectors, but it was quite a surprise to find them on this 2008 pin for President Obama’s campaign in the United States of America.
Mensch’s collection is expansive, but he is uncertain about the future. At age 73, Mensch is actively looking for someone to take the reins.
“It would be a pity if the site would vanish when my life (or my health) comes to an end,” Mensch says. “I am looking for somebody who is interested to communicate with me in order to continue this catalogue.”