Postage stamps and postal history of Vatican City

Last updated
1929 Vatican City postage stamp featuring the image of Pope Pius XI 1929VaticanStamp.jpg
1929 Vatican City postage stamp featuring the image of Pope Pius XI

The Vatican post office has operated its own postal service and issued its own postage stamps since 1929.

Postage stamp small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage

A postage stamp is a small piece of paper issued by a post office, postal administration, or other authorized vendors to customers who pay postage, who then affix the stamp to the face or address-side of any item of mail—an envelope or other postal cover —that they wish to send. The item is then processed by the postal system, where a postmark or cancellation mark—in modern usage indicating date and point of origin of mailing—is applied to the stamp and its left and right sides to prevent its reuse. The item is then delivered to its addressee.


The postal history of Vatican City begins shortly after its official foundation on 11 February 1929. Two days later, the Vatican post office began operating with supplies and equipment donated by the Italian government. Vatican City became a member of the Universal Postal Union on 1 June, [1] and then on 29 July Vatican City and Italy signed a postal agreement, going into effect on 1 August, providing for the routing of its mail through Rome. [2]

Postal history aspect of history

Postal history is the study of postal systems and how they operate and, or, the study of the use of postage stamps and covers and associated postal artifacts illustrating historical episodes in the development of postal systems. The term is attributed to Robson Lowe, a professional philatelist, stamp dealer and stamp auctioneer, who made the first organised study of the subject in the 1930s and described philatelists as "students of science", but postal historians as "students of humanity". More precisely, philatelists describe postal history as the study of rates, routes, markings, and means.

Vatican City Independent city-state within Rome, Italy

Vatican City, officially Vatican City State, is an independent city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. Established with the Lateran Treaty (1929), it is distinct from yet under "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction" of the Holy See. With an area of 44 hectares, and a population of about 1,000, it is the smallest sovereign state in the world by both area and population.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Italian Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. The country covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and shares open land borders with France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian Sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.

First stamps

The first of August also saw the issuance of the first Vatican stamps (Italian stamps were used previously), in the "Conciliation" definitive series of 15 values. The low values, 5 to 75 centesmi, depicted the heraldic arms, while the higher values (80 centesmi to 10 lira) featured a full-face portrait of the reigning Pope Pius XI. [3]

Pope Pius XI 20th-century Catholic pope

Pope Pius XI, born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, was head of the Catholic Church from 6 February 1922 to his death in 1939. He was the first sovereign of Vatican City from its creation as an independent state on 11 February 1929. He took as his papal motto, "Pax Christi in Regno Christi," translated "The Peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ."

On 1 April 1933, the Vatican issued its first semi-postal stamps, a set of four marking the 24th Holy Year. On 31 May of the same year, the "Gardens and Medallions" definitives were issued. While the lowest value still depicted the coat of arms, higher values included views of the gardens and of St Peter's.

Semi-postal stamp

A semi-postal stamp or semipostal stamp, also known as a charity stamp, is a postage stamp issued to raise money for a particular purpose and sold at a premium over the postal value. Typically the stamp shows two denominations separated by a plus sign, but in many cases the only denomination shown is for the postage rate, and the postal customer simply pays the higher price when purchasing the stamps.

On 18 February 1939, just a little over Pius XI's death on 10 February, the arms stamps of 1929 were overprinted "SEDE VACANTE / MCMXXXIX". They remained valid until 3 March, the day after the election of Pope Pius XII.


An overprint is an additional layer of text or graphics added to the face of a postage stamp, banknote or postal stationery after it has been printed. Post offices most often use overprints for internal administrative purposes such as accounting but they are also employed in public mail. The most well-recognized varieties are commemorative overprints which are produced for their public appeal and command significant interest in the field of philately.

Pope Pius XII 260th Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Pius XII, born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, was head of the Catholic Church from 2 March 1939 to his death. Before his election to the papacy, he served as secretary of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, papal nuncio to Germany, and Cardinal Secretary of State, in which capacity he worked to conclude treaties with European and Latin American nations, most notably the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany.


The Vatican has acquired a reputation for producing handsome and attractive issues in limited quantities (even today, the average production run for most issues is only between 300,000 and 500,000 stamps). Vatican stamps are produced under the authority of the Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican City State.

Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican City State responsible for issuing Vatican postal stamps and coins

The Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican City State is responsible for issuing Vatican postal stamps and Vatican coins.

Much, but by no means all, of the mail handled by the Vatican is from tourists or official congregations of the Roman Curia. Many Romans, distrustful of the unreliable Italian post office, make weekly trips to the Vatican just to post their important letters. Italian stamps may not be used on Vatican mail nor vice versa. According to the Universal Postal Union, the Vatican post office is "one of the best postal systems in the world" and "more letters are sent each year, per inhabitant, from the Vatican's 00120 postal code than from anywhere else in the world."

See also

References and sources

  1. "Vatican". Member countries. Universal Postal Union . Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  2. Piazza, Daniel. "Pontificate of Pius XI (1922-1939)". Arago: People, Postage and The Post. Smithsonian National Postal Museum . Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  3. "Vatican: 30c Papal Arms single". Arago: People, Postage and The Post. Smithsonian National Postal Museum . Retrieved 11 February 2015.

Further reading

Coordinates: 41°54′15″N12°27′22″E / 41.904290°N 12.456187°E / 41.904290; 12.456187

Related Research Articles

Cancellation (mail) postal marking to deface a stamp and prevent its re-use

A cancellation is a postal marking applied on a postage stamp or postal stationery to deface the stamp and prevent its re-use. Cancellations come in a huge variety of designs, shapes, sizes and colors. Modern cancellations commonly include the date and post office location where the stamps were mailed, in addition to lines or bars designed to cover the stamp itself. The term "postal marking" sometimes is used to refer specifically to the part that contains the date and posting location, although the term often is used interchangeably with "cancellation." The portion of a cancellation that is designed to deface the stamp and does not contain writing is also called the "obliteration" or killer. Some stamps are issued pre-cancelled with a printed or stamped cancellation and do not need to have a cancellation added. Cancellations can affect the value of stamps to collectors, positively or negatively. The cancellations of some countries have been extensively studied by philatelists and many stamp collectors and postal history collectors collect cancellations in addition to the stamps themselves.

Postage stamps and postal history of India

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of India.

This is a list of philatelic topics.

Postage stamps and postal history of Italy

This is an introduction to the postal and philatelic history of Italy.

Cover (philately) outside envelope/cover of mailed item

In philately, the term cover pertains to the outside of an envelope or package with an address, typically with postage stamps that have been cancelled and is a term generally used among stamp and postal history collectors. The term does not include the contents of the letter or package, although they may add interest to the item if still present. Cover collecting plays an important role in postal history as many covers bear stamps, postmarks and other markings along with names and addresses all of which help to place a cover at a given time and place in history.

Postage stamps and postal history of the Far Eastern Republic

The Far Eastern Republic, sometimes called the Chita Republic, existed from April 1920 to November 1922 in the easternmost part of Siberia. It was formed from the Amur, Transbaikal, Kamchatka, Sakhalin, and Primorye regions. In theory, it extended from Lake Baikal to Vladivostok but, in May 1921, the Priamur and Maritime Provinces seceded. Although nominally independent, it was largely controlled by the RSFSR and its main purpose was to be a democratic buffer state between the RSFSR and the territories occupied by Japan during the Russian Civil War to avoid war with Japan. Initially, its capital was Verkhneudinsk, but from October 1920 it was Chita. On 15 November 1922, after the war ended and the Japanese withdrew from Vladivostok, the Far Eastern Republic was annexed by Soviet Russia.

Governor of Vatican City former government position of Vatican City

The post of Governor of Vatican City was held by Marchese Camillo Serafini from the foundation of the state in 1929 until his death in 1952. No successor was appointed, and the post itself was not mentioned in the Fundamental Law of Vatican City State issued by Pope John Paul II on 26 November 2000, which entered into force on 22 February 2001.

Hawaiian Missionaries (stamps)

The Hawaiian Missionaries are the first postage stamps of the Kingdom of Hawaii, issued in 1851. They came to be known as the "Missionaries" because they were primarily found on the correspondence of missionaries working in the Hawaiian Islands. Only a handful of these stamps have survived to the present day, and so they are amongst the great rarities of philately.

Rail transport in Vatican City railway system, railway company

The Vatican Railway was opened in 1934 to serve Vatican City and its only station, Vatican City. The main rail tracks are standard gauge and 300 metres (0.19 mi) long, with two freight sidings, making it the shortest national railway system in the world. Access to the Italian rail network is over a viaduct to Roma San Pietro railway station, and is guaranteed by the Lateran Treaty dating from 1929. The tracks and station were constructed during the reign of Pope Pius XI, shortly after the treaty.

Postage stamps and postal history of Israel

The postage stamps and postal history of Israel is a survey of the postage stamps issued by the state of Israel, and its postal history, since independence was proclaimed on May 14, 1948. The first postage stamps were issued two days later on May 16, 1948. Pre-1948 postal history is discussed in postage stamps and postal history of Palestine.

Postage stamps and postal history of Estonia

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Estonia. The stamps of Estonia are issued by the postal administration Eesti Post which is the country's only provider of universal postal services.

Postage stamps and postal history of Turkey

The postal history of Turkey and its predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire, dates to the 18th century when foreign countries maintained courier services through their consular offices in the Empire. Although delayed in the development of its own postal service, in 1863 the Ottoman Empire became the second independent country in Asia to issue adhesive postage stamps, and in 1875, it became a founding member of the General Postal Union, soon to become the Universal Postal Union. The Ottoman Empire became the Republic of Turkey in 1923, and in the following years, its postal service became more modernized and efficient and its postage stamps expertly designed and manufactured.

Postage stamps and postal history of Nepal

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Nepal. Nepal has issued postal stamps since 1881.

Postage stamps and postal history of Poland

Poczta Polska, the Polish postal service, was founded in 1558 and postal markings were first introduced in 1764. The three partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795 saw the independent nation of Poland disappear. The postal services in the areas occupied by Germany and Austria were absorbed into those countries' postal services. In 1772 the area occupied by Austria was created into the Kingdom of Galicia, a part of the Austrian Empire. This lasted till 1918. The Duchy of Warsaw was created briefly, between 1807 and 1813, by Napoleon I of France, from Polish lands ceded by the Kingdom of Prussia under the terms of the Treaties of Tilsit. In 1815, following Napoleons’ defeat in 1813, the Congress of Vienna, created Congress Poland out of the Duchy of Warsaw and also established the Free City of Kraków. Congress Poland was placed under the control of Russia and the postal service was given autonomy in 1815. In 1851 the postal service was put under the control of the Russian post office department regional office in St Petersburg. In 1855 control was restored for a while to the Congress Kingdom but following the uprising in 1863 again came under Russian control from 1866 and continued until World War I. In November 1918 the Second Polish Republic was created.

Postage stamps and postal history of Liechtenstein

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Liechtenstein.

Postage stamps and postal history of South Sudan

The Republic of South Sudan became independent on 9 July 2011 from Sudan and issued its first stamps on 13 July 2011. Only almost three months later, on 4 October 2011, did South Sudan become a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Before independence, South Sudan used stamps issued by Sudan. The Directorate of Postal Services of the Ministry of Telecommunication and Postal Services is responsible for postal affairs in South Sudan.

Antarctic Treaty issue

The Antarctic Treaty issue is a postage stamp that was issued by the United States Post Office Department on June 23, 1971. Designed by Howard Koslow, it commemorates the ten-year anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty, and is notable as Koslow's first postage stamp design.