Arago: Commemoratives


Vatican City's commemorative stamp program changed radically between 1963 and 1978. Traditional subjects-birth and death anniversaries of famous saints, views of Vatican City-were joined by issues celebrating current events and the Church's presence in the world.

The first pope ever to fly in an airplane and the first to leave Italy in more than 150 years, Paul VI's historic voyages abroad were commemorated simultaneously with Vatican stamps: Jerusalem, New York, and Bombay (1964); Fatima (1967); Bogota (1968); Uganda (1969); and Australia and the Philippines (1970).

In 1964, the Holy See was accredited to the United Nations as a 'permanent observer.' This led to the Vatican's enthusiastic philatelic participation in various UN-led campaigns, including the Freedom from Hunger Campaign (1963), Save the Nubian Monuments appeal (1964), International Year Against Racism (1971), UNESCO Campaign to Save Venice (1972), International Year of the Book (1973, stamps issued 1972), International Year of the Woman (1975), and World Telecommunications Day (1978).

In 1965, the medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri became the first individual other than a pope or saint honored with a Vatican stamp issue. This paved the way for later series for the architect Bramante (1972), the astronomer Copernicus (1973), and the artists Titian (1976) and Peter Paul Rubens (1977).

Unfortunately, the expanded program turned-off more collectors than it attracted. While some enjoyed the multiplicity of topics, others looked askance at the escalating quantities printed. The average print run for new issues under Pius XII had been 400,000 copies. This had doubled under John XXIII; now, under Paul VI, it quintupled to 2,000,000. The apex was reached in 1966, when 6,000,000 sets of the Millennium of Polish Christianity stamps were printed. The philatelic market for new issues was saturated, and on three occasions vast quantities of unsold remainders were burned by Poste Vaticane. The damage to Vatican City's popularity among stamp collectors was not repaired until the 1980s, when they returned to more conservative issuing policies.

Additional Records
  • Overview
  • 15 lire Pope Paul VI single
  • 40 lire Arms of Pope Paul VI single
  • 115 lire Pope Paul VI single
  • 200 lire Arms of Pope Paul VI single
  • 30 lire St. Cyril single
  • 70 lire Map of Hungary, Movavia and Poland single
  • 150 lire St. Methodius single
  • 10 lire African Nativity Scene single
  • 40 lire African Nativity Scene single
  • 100 lire African Nativity Scene single
  • 15 lire Pope Paul VI single

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