The commemorative postage stamp commemorating a now iconic moment in the Ukrainian resistance earlier this year has sold out in person after dozens of Ukrainians lined up for hours to grab the limited-edition seal.
The stamp, which depicts a Ukrainian special forces fighter defiantly raising his middle finger at a Russian warship, quickly became a collector’s item among Ukrainians and their supporters.
Igor Smelyansky, head of Ukraine’s postal service, confirmed the shortage in a Facebook post on Wednesday, saying the country had sold nearly 700,000 stamps since the project was announced in early March.
Over the past week, Ukrainians have formed long lines, often waiting for hours to purchase the $1.77 and $1.83 versions of the stamp. Stamps have also become apparent sources of money, according to The New York Times, reselling up to $100 each on eBay.
In his Facebook post, Smelyansky thanked the “tens of thousands of people” in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities who came to buy the stamp.
The National Postal Service issued a series of one million stamps, which commemorate the early invasion incident in which Ukrainian border guards on Zmiinyi (Serpent) Island reportedly told Russian troops “Go away fuck off”, after they were asked to surrender.
The 13 Ukrainian soldiers were initially thought to have died after the incident, but they were in fact captured by Russia. They have since been released in a prisoner exchange.
The Russian ship involved in the episode, which appears in the background of the stamp, sank earlier this month after being hit by Ukrainian Neptune missiles, a day after the stamps were officially put on sale.
Smelyansky told the Guardian he came up with the idea for a commemorative stamp at the start of the war. The country’s postal service agency then held a vote to choose one of 20 finalist designs evoking the Snake Island incident, which has become a symbolic moment of Ukrainian resistance in the midst of the war.
In his Wednesday Facebook post, Smelyansky said no more stamps would be printed in order to maintain the value of the item. He asked hopeful collectors not to queue at 5 a.m. Thursday morning “because there won’t be any stamps.”
Smelyansky said he had reserved stamps for 1,500 people who were queuing on Wednesday but unable to complete their purchase, and promised an additional 100,000 stamps would be made available for purchase online starting Friday.
The Ukrainian government said on Twitter that a set of stamps and envelopes signed by both Smelyansky and Roman Gribov, the Snake Island soldier who spoke directly to the Russian attackers, would be auctioned online on Friday.
Natalii Tkachenko, a Ukrainian, told the Guardian she was lucky enough to buy the stamps on the first day they were released.
“It’s a symbol, a message. It reflects our inner patriotism,” she said. “I was born here. I live in this country. They want to destroy us. I’m not going to surrender.”