United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) is uniquely privileged to issue stamps along with postal authorities of host countries by the Universal Postal Authority (UPU). The other entities issuing stamps are either a country or a territory. UN offices that issue stamps are located in New York, Geneva, and Vienna. The first stamps were issued October 24th, 1951 in New York and were built around the theme “People’s of the World.” This and the ones with the theme of “UN Headquarters Building” and “Peace, Justice, Security” formed the first three issues. These were all definitive issues and in keeping with the true United Nations spirit affordable at 1c, 1.5c, and 3c denominations.
The primary purpose was for UN official correspondence originating from their offices. They can be used for private correspondence too with the caveats being:
- Only stamps denominated in the host country currency may be used at that country’s United Nations office. i.e., a stamp denominated in Swiss Francs cannot be used in the offices in Vienna where the currency is in Euros.
- The stamps cannot be used in mailings outside of UN offices.
- Express Mail and Priority mail are unavailable for private mailings.
- Private mailings are limited to 100 pieces.
Significant time and money is spent on the design and quality control of UN stamps making these extremely high quality stamps with an aesthetic appeal. Sheer volume accounts for the majority of UN stamps sporting only a trivial catalog value. Early issues (50’s – 70’s) sold in the millions. Collector interest sagged from the late 70’s as UN issues were deemed similar to CTO stamps – issued in the millions with only a small percentage used for postage because of the restrictions. Consequently, sale of many issues in the 80’s and 90’s were well below the one million mark. UNPA reacted by reducing the printings of issues (roughly 500,000) and hiking instead the number of issues in a given year. This series of events caused older UN stamps catalog for a lower value compared to recent issues – another unique fact!
Issues with Significant Philatelic Interest:
The first UN issue with a significant catalog value is the 1954 UN NY Scott #29 3c Orange-Brown mother and child (Human Rights Issue) that catalogs for $12 for a mint copy and $5 for the used. Issue #30 which catalogs for a much lower value is along the same theme and together they form the mother and child set. This set can be acquired easily for about $5 in mint condition:
Among the stamps issued in the first twenty years, the most valuable issue is the UN NY Scott #38 10th anniversary souvenir sheet that catalogs for well over $100 for a mint copy. Used or FDC versions of the same set catalogs for one-tenth of that value. Nevertheless, in the world of serious philately, these are considered “very affordable”:
One significant issue from the 1980s with higher standing is the vast flags set issued in sets of 8 to 16 stamps at a time for a total of 192 stamps (originally 168 scattered between Scott Numbers 325 & 569). Although huge with the combined catalog value exceeding $200, the series can be acquired through eBay for around $50:
Philatelic themes also have an appreciative audience with the Pacific 1997 Earth Summit Souvenir Sheet (UN NY Scott # 708a) with the stamp expo inscription in the border cataloging at $25. The 1997 “Tribute to Philately” issue (UN NY Scott# 714 & 715) is another issue under the philatelic theme but they catalog for far less. Anniversary issues are again an extremely affordable popular theme.
United Nations (UN) stamps have unique characteristics placing them in a well recognized area of collecting:
- The designs and quality are graceful making for a good showing.
- For the most part, affordability makes them suitable for new collectors in the philatelic world.
- As they sell at a significant discount to face value, they are a frugal alternative for those residing near a UN office.
Last Updated: 07/2011.