By Rick Miller
Finding a good working definition for a joint stamp issue is harder than you might think. Many of the standard philatelic references, including the reference section of Linn's web site, do not provide one.
Neither do the Standard Handbook of Stamp Collecting by Richard McP. Cabeen,Fundamentals of Philately by L.N. Williams and All About Stamps by Wayne L. Youngblood.
But Michael Baadke, in the recently published Linn's Complete Stamp Collecting Basics, comes to the rescue with this definition: "An officially sanctioned stamp or postal stationery issue by two or more countries to commemorate the same subject. Joint issues are often stamps bearing similar designs issued on the same day by both countries."
The qualifier "often" in the second sentence of the definition is important, because many joint-issue stamps have different designs and many were not issued on the same day.
Some collectors might consider the Crown and Heraldic Flowers of the United Kingdom stamps issued by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in 1851 as the first joint issue. The 3-penny red stamp, New Brunswick Scott 1, and the 3-penny bright blue Nova Scotia stamp (2) are shown in Figure 1.
Most collectors would consider these stamps to be "stamp twins," not a joint issue. Stamp twins are stamps with similar designs that were not issued as a result of a formal agreement between postal authorities to commemorate the same subject.
Although they are not listed as such by the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, the first joint-issue stamps are probably the Balkan Entente stamps issued in 1937-38 by Greece (412), Romania (470-71), Turkey (785-86) and Yugoslavia (140-41).
The Balkan Entente, signed Feb. 9, 1934, was an interwar collective security pact intended to protect the signatories from Bulgarian or Albanian revanchism or aggression.
Although they all commemorate the same subject, the stamps were not all issued on the same date. Turkey and Yugoslavia each issued two stamps Oct. 29, 1937, Greece issued a single stamp Feb. 8, 1938, and Romania issued two stamps Feb. 10, 1938.
All of the stamps share a similar design showing the coats of arms of Yugoslavia, Greece, Romania and Turkey, but the order in which the coats of arms are shown varies. Each country shows its own coat of arms at the left on the top of the stack.
The Greek 6-drachma blue stamp, Romanian 7.50-lei ultramarine stamp, Turkish
8-kurush carmine stamp and Yugoslavian 3-dinar peacock green stamp are shown in Figure 2. A second joint issue for the same subject was issued by all four countries in 1940: Greece 425-26, Romania 504-505, Turkey 846-27 and Yugoslavia 155-58.
The first United States joint-issue stamp was issued June 26, 1959. The 4¢ St. Lawrence Seaway stamp (1131) was a joint issue with Canada, which issued a 5¢ stamp (387) with the same design on the same day. The stamps commemorate the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway on that date.
Notes in the Scott catalog following the listings for both stamps, say that the stamps are a joint issue and give a cross reference to the catalog numbers.
The Scott catalog provides this information for many joint stamp issues after World War II.
All U.S. joint issues through 2001 are listed in the book Linn's Complete Stamp Collecting Basics.
The most recent U.S. joint issue is the 34¢ Nobel Prize Centenary stamp (3504), issued March 22, 2001, along with a similar stamp of Sweden. The Swedish 8-krona stamp (2415a) is shown in Figure 3.
The United States has another joint issue with Sweden planned for 2005, for actress Greta Garbo, and a U.S. joint issue with Canada is planned for the 2006 stamp program.
Many stamps that have the same or similar designs or that commemorate the same subject have been issued by colonial powers and their colonies. Such stamps are considered to be colonial stamp twins rather than joint issues because of the governmental connection between the colonial power and the colonies. The stamps are often definitive rather than commemorative in nature.
Colonial stamp-twin sets include the Kaiser's Yacht Hohenzollern stamps issued for the German colonies; the Crown Colonies and Crown Agents Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V definitive stamps issued for some British colonies; some of the stamps of Denmark and Greenland, such as the 1992 Royal Silver Wedding Anniversary stamps; the King Carlos and Ceres definitive stamps issued by Portugal and many of its colonies; and the King William, Numeral, Queen Wilhelmina and Queen Juliana definitive stamps and a number of commemoratives issued by Netherlands and its colonies.
A 1-mark carmine Kaiser's Yacht Hohenzollern stamp (German New Guinea 16) is shown in Figure 4.
Omnibus issues are either joint stamp issues or colonial issues released by several (usually five or more) postal administrations to commemorate a common subject.
The original omnibus issues are the 1898 Vasco da Gama stamps and postal stationery (issued by Portugal for itself and its colonies) and the 1935 George V Silver Jubilee stamps (issued by an agent for many British Commonwealth members). Both have common designs, with only the name of the country or colony and the denomination and currency being different.
A Timorese 24-avo bister Vasco da Gama stamp (52), from the world's first omnibus issue produced for Portugal and its colonies, is shown in Figure 5. A 24¢ olive-green Windsor Castle and King George V stamp (Newfoundland 229) from the Silver Jubilee omnibus issue is shown in Figure 6.
The basis of an omnibus issue is that it is planned and that there is an overseeing authority: Portugal in 1898, Crown Agents in 1935. For Europa issues, the authorities are the joint postal conferences of the European national postal administrations.
The omnibus issue was originally a British Commonwealth phenomenon, and the Stanley Gibbons British Commonwealth Catalogue has a British Commonwealth Omnibus Issues section that defines each issue.
Sometimes the postal administrations producing an omnibus issue are linked by a colonial relationship or by having their stamps produced by the same agent, such as the Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corp. of New York City, but this is not a requirement.
The Europa stamp issues, commemorating the theme of European unity, began in 1956 with Europa stamps issued by Belgium, France, Germany, Italy Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The scope of European unity has grown considerably since then. A total of 55 postal administrations participated in the 2000 Europa omnibus issue.
The French 15-franc rose and rose-lake Rebuilding Europe Allegory stamp (805) in the first Europa omnibus issue is shown in Figure 7.
The Scott catalog illustrates the stamp designs of some omnibus issues in the Common Design Types section at the front of the catalog. The stamps illustrated in this section are not shown in the country listings of the individual countries. A note with the listings for these stamps refers the user back to the Common Design Types section to see what the stamp design looks like.
Not all omnibus issues are illustrated in the Common Design Type section. This section is limited to the omnibus issues of Europa, Portugal and Colonies, France and the French Community, and the British Commonwealth.
Within the Scott catalog listings are some references to other omnibus issues, such as the 1956 Northern Countries stamps picturing whooper swans that were issued by Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. A Danish 30-ore rose-red Whooper Swans stamp (361) from the Northern Countries omnibus issue is shown in Figure 8.
Other omnibus issues, such as the Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations omnibus coordinated by the Universal Postal Union in 2001-02, are not noted as such in the Scott catalog.
At least 63 postal administrations participated in this omnibus issue. For at least one stamp in the set, most of countries used the same design showing four children of different races standing on the earth and communicating by various means. The number of stamps in the set and the dates of issue vary from postal administration to postal administration.
The Georgian 40-tetri stamp (287) from the Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations omnibus issue is shown in Figure 9.