United Nations Postage Stamps – Part 1

[ All images © ]

The United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) is the official postal agency of the UN. Stamps are simultaneously issued from the three UN offices (New York, Geneva and Vienna) in three different currencies respectively. I have learned the UNPA issued its first stamps for the New York offices in 1951. The idea for UN issued stamps originated in 1947 with then Argentine ambassador and president of the United Nations General Assembly, José Arce (1881–1968), who was himself a philatelist.

Excerpts from the 1968 book by Emery Kelen, Stamps Tell The Story of The United Nations:

The United Nations is the only international body which issues its own postage stamps. This has always been the prerogative of national governments. The authority to issue stamps, recognized and accepted by all member states, carries with it an inherent obligation to “tell the story” of the United Nations and its activities.


Because the UN is an international organization, its stamp must bear symbols that will be recognized universally. Besides the beauty of the design, the UN Design Committee must consider the political implications of any symbolism used. Naturally none of them can stand for anything contrary to the standards and principles of the United Nations, nor can they represent any one culture, religion, or race.

It was the Design Committee’s suggestion that the official five languages—Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish—should be used on as many of the stamps as possible. This was the origin of the “five-language border” which has become characteristic of UN stamps.

–via Rare Stamp Store

The stamps you see above are a small portion of the UN postage stamp windfall I experienced recently. More stamps here, here, and here. So many found their way to me all at once. I was fast taken with many of the vintage stamps’ bold graphic styling and modernist aesthetic. A large number in my possession are New York issues but I also have multiples from Geneva and Vienna as well.

Since my acquisition I have been methodically scanning and organizing the collection and spending an extensive amount of time researching—seeking to discover any information I can dig up about the individual stamps. The latter has proved to be an unsatisfying task to date. There are websites dedicated to the topic of United Nations stamps but not enough of the stamps match my collection and one site in particular is frankly a nightmare to navigate and locate much of anything. This has only spurred me on. I have found dates for many of my stamps but have only found one designer identified up to now which bugs me as I’d like to know who to credit for these beauties. I certainly hope to find more information later in printed publications or otherwise and will update this post accordingly if I do. If you happen to have any information yourself, I’d love to hear from you.

Further information:
World Forum Philatelist – UN Specialists


(Originally published on AQ-V in 2011)