Vatican commemoratives under John XXIII followed closely the precedents set by Pius XII. The most notable innovation was the introduction, in 1959, of annual Christmas stamps. For the first two years, these stamps reproduced paintings by old masters; beginning in 1961, artists around the world were commissioned to create original designs that depicted the classical Nativity scene in different cultural contexts. The 1961 issue featured a Chinese version by Luca Ch'en, 1962 brought an Indian setting designed by Marcus Topno, and 1963 saw a Japanese scene by Maria Theresa Kimiko Koseki.
Pope John XXIII's eightieth birthday was celebrated by a special commemorative issue in 1961, and this tradition has been observed for every pope since. Paul VI's eightieth birthday stamps were issued in 1978, John Paul II's in 2000, and Benedict XVI's in 2007.
The last stamp of John XXIII's reign was a commemorative marking his reception of the Balzan Prize for Peace and Brotherhood Among Peoples, just three weeks before his death from cancer on June 3, 1963.