New stamps pay homage to the Dutch bitterbal

The Hague, 15 June 2020 – The latest stamps in the Typically Dutch series feature the traditional Dutch bitterbal. This round version of the croquette used to be eaten as an accompaniment to a bittertje, a strong alcoholic herbal drink such as gin.

The Typically Dutch - bitterballen issue was designed by graphic designer Edwin van Praet from Total Design in Amsterdam. This issue is the last in the Typically Dutch series that PostNL is publishing this year. Earlier stamps featured the smoked sausage (2 January), carrots (24 February), hagelslag (23 March) and the tompouce (6 April).

‘Spiced meat ragout’

Bitterballen are very popular in both the Netherlands and Belgium. The bitterbal is also known in Surinam and Indonesia, but nowhere else. The first mention of a bitterbal can be found in a dictionary from 1946. In the Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal, the bitterbal is described as a ‘deep-fried ball of spiced meat ragout, with a breaded, crunchy exterior, usually served as a snack with a drink’. Nowadays, vegetarian bitterballen are also widely available.

Spirit of the current times

During the development process for this concept, designer Van Praet initially used stock images. However, this did not work so well because the photographs differed from each other too much in terms of quality and style. For that reason, Total Design decided to call on the specialist food photographers and stylists at the Amsterdam-based agency Scrambled Media. Van Praet: ‘The bitterbal is a true tradition at parties and in cafés. But we wanted to also reflect the spirit of the current times alongside this tradition. That’s why we chose vegetarian bitterballen. You can’t see it from the outside, but it’s true! We endlessly tested the right number of bitterballen to put on the stamp. It was essential not to include too many - it should be possible for one person to eat them all.’

A nod to that tipple

The bitterballen return on the top part of the sheet edge, in larger numbers and displayed on a square dish with a raised rim. A small dish of mustard and some cocktail sticks with the Dutch flag have been added. The designer first considered putting a glass of tipple (that ‘bittertje’) next to it, but the connection between ‘bitter’ and bitterbal had long disappeared. Van Praet: ‘That’s why we used that familiar little container with cocktail sticks instead. The container is made of glass, in a nod to the tipple.’


The Typically Dutch - bitterballen stamp sheet features six identical stamps with ‘Nederland 1’, the denomination for items weighing up to 20g destined for delivery in the Netherlands. The stamps are available as of 15 June 2020 from Bruna shops and online at The stamps can also be ordered by phone from the Collect Club customer service on telephone number +31 (0)88 - 868 99 00. The validity period is indefinite.