insights

International agreements create joint issues

March 19, 2001 05:19 PM

  • Joint issue stamps are from two or more countries. The stamps often resemble one another and may be issued on the same day.
  • Although these stamps from Czech Republic, Ireland and Finland all share the same basic design, they are considered part of an omnibus series, rather than joint issues.

By Michael Baadke

A story on page 1 of this issue of Linn's Stamp News tells of a new joint stamp issue from the United States and Sweden to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first awarding of the Nobel Prizes.

Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm, which is where the prizes are awarded each year, so it's natural that Sweden would want to issue a Nobel Prize stamp.Discussions and negotiations between officials of the U.S. Postal Service and Sweden Post over the course of nearly two years eventually resulted in an agreement that both countries would issue Nobel Prize Centenary stamps sharing a similar design.

The United States also has an interest in the Nobel Prize, because Nobel did some of his scientific research in the United States and a large number of Nobel Prize winners have been from the United States.

Both countries could have issued Nobel Prize stamps independent of one another, but by agreeing to create a joint stamp issue, the postal authorities of Sweden and the United States exhibit the type of international cooperation that is characteristic of the spirit of the Nobel Prizes.

Joint issues are the result of a specific agreement between two or more nations to commemorate a person or event with new postage stamps from each country.

The joint issue stamps are usually issued on the same day or within a few days of each other, and often the stamps will share a similar design.

Most frequently only two countries participate in a joint issue, although on occasion joint issues will involve three or more nations.

Prior to the Nobel Prize Centenary joint issue, the United States most recently participated in a joint issue with Ireland in 1999.

Ireland and the United States each issued stamps to mark the great immigration of Irish citizens to the United States during the 1840s. The two stamps are shown together in Figure 1.

Once again, the joint issue was the result of an official agreement between the postal authorities representing the two countries involved.

Such agreements may include officials from one country attending the first-day ceremony for the stamp in the other country, and even sales of both stamps through the sales agencies of the participating countries.

The United States has participated in numerous joint stamp issues with many different countries, including Canada, Mexico, Morocco, Russia and China.

The Nobel Prize joint issue will mark the fourth time that Sweden and the United States have issued stamps jointly.

The previous joint issues with Sweden were the 20¢ Amity and Commerce issue of 1983 (United States Scott 2036, Sweden Scott 1453), the 22¢ Stamp Collecting booklet of 1986 (2198-201, 1585-88) and the 44¢ New Sweden issue of 1988 (C117, 1672).

A complete list of all official U.S. joint issues appears in the box below.

Joint issues are not necessarily exclusive to postage stamps. In 1986 the United States issued a 14¢ postal card to honor Francis Vigo, an Italian-born soldier and patriot of the Revolutionary War. A 450-lira postal card for the same subject and bearing the same design was issued the same day by the postal authorities in Italy.

Just because stamps are joint issues doesn't necessarily mean that the stamps will look a lot alike. Some stamps that are official joint issues may have designs that are considerably different from one another.

That's true, for instance, for the Endangered Species stamps issued in 1996 by the United States and Mexico. Although the topic was the same, the U.S. and Mexican stamps did not resemble each other at all.

The U.S. stamps were issued as a pane of 15 stamps with 15 different designs, each featuring a photograph of the endangered animal and its name.

The Mexican counterpart consists of 24 stamps that together make a large painting that shows dozens of animals. Each stamp shows several creatures and includes their names in small type.

From time to time collectors notice stamps from two or more different countries that commemorate the same subject, and may even resemble each other, but that turn out not to be official joint issues.

Sometimes the similar issues are simply coincidence, or the result of two countries marking the same subject on an appropriate anniversary. If there was no specific agreement between the countries to issue the stamps in unison, then they are not considered to be joint issues.

However, many collectors enjoy discovering stamps of similar design and obtain them to create collections of what may be called "stamp twins."

Sometimes similar stamps are part of what is known as an omnibus issue, when many countries decide to mark a specific theme, either by sharing a similar design or by picturing related subjects. The annual Europa series stamps issued by member countries of PostEurop are an example of this.

Usually these European countries each issue one or two stamps with a subject that fits a specified theme. The stamps from all of these nations are tied together by that theme and the word "Europa" printed on the stamps.

In 2000 many of these nations issued stamps sharing a single design, as shown by the three stamps pictured in Figure 2 from Czech Republic, Ireland and Finland.

Issues such as these are normally considered to be omnibus issues, not joint issues, but collectors of joint issues may find they have an interest in omnibus issues too.

The opening pages of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue include a section titled "Common Design Types" where many omnibus issues are listed and illustrated.

As you might expect, many joint issues involve countries other than the United States. For example, Sweden and China participated in a joint stamp issue in 1997: both countries issued two stamps picturing pheasants.

In the Scott catalog, a note following the listing for each stamp helps the reader understand that it is part of a joint issue. The listing for Sweden Scott 2225-26, the 2-krona Pheasant stamps, concludes with "See China (PRC) Nos. 2763-2764." A corresponding notice appears following the listing for the Chinese stamps.

As postal authorities look for new ways to make their stamps attention-getting or innovative, collectors have found some unusual joint-issue twists.

The countries of San Marino and Italy, for example, produced a small pane in 1994 that contained two stamps, one from each country to mark the 900th anniversary of the Basilica of St. Mark. Each stamp could be used for postage only in the country named on the stamp.

There are even examples when the two issuing countries jointly issued one stamp with both country names on it. Figure 3 shows a single 1995 stamp issued by both Switzerland and Liechtenstein to celebrate the 75th anniversary of a postal treaty between the two nations.

The denomination "60" on the stamp refers to 60 centimes in Switzerland and 60 rappen in Liechtenstein. In this case, the single stamp could be used for postage in either country.

Scott Publishing Co. manufactures album pages specifically for United States official joint issues. Each page has spaces for the U.S. stamp and for the corresponding foreign stamp.

For more information about Scott album pages, contact Scott Publishing Co., Box 828, Sidney, OH 45365, or call Scott product information at 800-572-6885.

United States joint issues

Issue date

Subject

U.S. Scott No.

Country

Scott No.

Designs

6/26/1959 4¢ St. Lawrence Seaway

1131

Canada

387

similar

9/16/1960 4¢ Mexican Independence

1157

---

---

---

9/15/1960 [same]

---

Mexico

910

similar

8/28/1965 5¢ Florida Settlement

1271

Spain

1312

similar

7/15/1975 10¢ Apollo-Soyuz

1569-70 (2)

Russia

4339-40

similar

6/1/1976 13¢ U.S. Independence

1690

Canada

691

similar

8/4/1977 13¢ Peace Bridge

1721

Canada

737

different

10/13/1980 40¢ Philip Mazzei

C98

---

---

---

10/18/1980 [same]

---

Italy

1439

different

10/13/1981 18¢, 20¢ James Hoban

1935-36 (2)

---

---

---

9/29/1981 [same]

---

Ireland

504

similar

4/20/1982 20¢ Diplomatic Recognition

2003

Netherlands

640-41

similar

3/24/1983 20¢ Amity and Commerce

2036

Sweden

1453

similar

4/29/1983 20¢ German Immigration

2040

---

---

---

5/5/1983 [same]

 

Germany

1397

similar

9/2/1983 20¢ Treaty of Paris

2052

France

1899

different

6/6/1984 20¢ John McCormack

2090

Ireland

594

similar

6/26/1984 20¢ St. Lawrence Seaway

2091

Canada

1015

similar

1/23/1986 22¢ Stamp Collecting

2198-201 (4)

Sweden

1585-88

similar

5/24/1986 14¢ Francis Vigo

UX111

Italy

---

similar

7/4/1986 22¢ Statue of Liberty

2224

France

2014

similar

7/17/1987 22¢ Friendship/Morocco

2349

---

---

---

7/22/1987 [same]

---

Morocco

642

similar

1/26/1988 22¢ Australian Bicentennial

2370

Australia

1052

similar

3/29/1988 44¢ New Sweden

C117

Sweden

1672

similar

[same] [same]

---

Finland

768

similar

7/14/1989 45¢ French Revolution

C120

France

2145a

different

1989 [same]

---

France

2143-45

different

9/28/1990 25¢ Micronesia

2506

Micronesia

124-26

similar

9/28/1990 25¢ Marshall Islands

2507

Marshall Is.

381

similar

10/3/1990 25¢ Sea Creatures

2508-11 (4)

Russia

5933-36

similar

2/22/1991 50¢ Switzerland Anniversary

2532

Switzerland

888

similar

5/22/1991 29¢ William Saroyan

2538

Russia

6002

similar

4/24/1992 29¢ Voyages of Columbus

2620-23 (4)

Italy

1877-80

similar

5/22/1992 (various) Columbian reprints

2624-29 (16)

Italy

1883-88

similar

[same] [same]

---

Portugal

1918-23

similar

[same] [same]

---

Spain

2677-82

similar

5/29/1992 29¢ Space Accomplishments

2631-34 (4)

Russia

6080-83

similar

3/24/1993 29¢ Grace Kelly

2749

Monaco

1851

similar

10/9/1994 29¢ Cranes

2867-68 (2)

China

2528-29

similar

9/29/1995 32¢ Republic of Palau

2999

---

---

---

10/1/1995 [same]

---

Palau

377-78

similar

10/2/1996 32¢ Endangered Species

3105 (15)

Mexico

1995

different

10/22/1996 32¢ Hanukkah

3118

Israel

1289

similar

4/16/1998 32¢ Cinco de Mayo

3203

Mexico

2066

similar

2/26/1999 33¢ Irish Immigration

3286

Ireland

1168

similar

3/22/2001 34¢ Nobel Prize Centenary

to come

Sweden

to come

similar

Joint issues of the United States and other countries that did not take place on the same day are listed with the foreign issue information on the line immediately following the U.S. issue information. The 1986 Francis Vigo issue is a postal card for both the United States and Italy. All other listings are regular issue or airmail postage stamps.