Joint issues: when different countries celebrate together

Dec 8, 2014, 12 PM

By Michael Baadke

Joint stamp issues are created when two or more postal administrations enter into an agreement to issue stamps commemorating the same chosen subject.

As an example, Pope John Paul II was born in Poland on May 18, 1920. Poland celebrated his 80th birthday in 2000 by issuing three stamps May 9 (Scott 3520-3522). A very similar set of three stamps was issued by Vatican City on the same day (1153-1155).

This advance planning and agreement between the postal administrations is what identifies this as a joint issue.

In this example, the designs of the stamps in both sets are nearly identical.

All were designed and engraved by Czeslaw Slania and have the same basic design features. The country names and some of the text on each stamp is different.

Less commonly, the designs of the stamps in a joint issue might be quite different.

That's true for the 1977 joint-issue Peace Bridge stamps from Canada and the United States.

The 12¢ stamp from Canada (Scott 737) shows a multicolor lithographed view of one section of the bridge.

The single-color engraved 13¢ U.S. stamp (1721) uses a design that shows more of the bridge, with a dove above it.

In most instances, the two nations collaborate on the design, with each country issuing a stamp or stamps that closely resemble the stamps of the other country.

The Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue and the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers provide guidance in identifying joint issues.

The Scott Standard catalog listing for Poland's 2000 Pope John Paul II Birthday issue, for example, includes a note that reads, "See Vatican City Nos. 1153-1155."

Some countries participate regularly in joint issues, while other countries rarely, if ever, take part in joint issues.

The first joint issue for the United States was in 1959 with Canada to mark the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Since then, the United States has taken part in about 40 joint issues with countries from all over the world.

The table on page 33 provides details of those U.S. joint issues, including the issue dates, Scott catalog numbers for the stamps, and an indication of whether the stamps share similar designs or are quite different.

Not listed on this table is the 2007 International Polar Year issue, a two-stamp souvenir sheet issued by the United States Feb. 21, 2007 (Scott 4123).

This sheet is part of an omnibus issue, where several countries participate in issuing stamps centered around a common theme.

Another form of omnibus issue is the annual Europa stamp issue, which involves dozens of countries from Europe issuing stamps with a prearranged theme each year.

The U.S. International Polar Year souvenir sheet was sold in post offices, but it was also part of a book sold to collectors that included International Polar Year souvenir sheets from seven other countries: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Additional countries issued their own International Polar Year souvenir sheets around the same time, including Bulgaria, Japan and Portugal.

Though the concepts are very similar, omnibus issues involving a lot of different countries are often considered different from joint issues.

Still, collectors interested in joint issues might well find such omnibus issues appealing enough to include in a collection.

Some stamps that appear to be joint issues are simply the result of two countries coincidentally issuing stamps commemorating the same subject at the same time.

Consider, for example, the 34¢ stamp issued Sept. 29, 2001, by the United States to honor physicist Enrico Fermi (Scott 3533).

Italy (where Fermi was born) issued an 800-lire stamp on the same day (Scott 2424), although the design is not the same as that on the U.S. stamp.

The two countries did not collaborate on this issue. They both simply chose the same date — the 100th anniversary of Fermi's birth — to issue their own stamps for the famous scientist.

Again, a collector who enjoys stamps of this sort might choose to add these items to his collection.

Scott Publishing Co. manufactures Specialty Series album pages specifically for U.S. official joint issues.

Each page has space for the U.S. stamp and for the corresponding foreign stamp.

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

The Joint Stamp Issues website online at is also a useful resource for the collector interested in joint-issue stamps.