This Day in History… September 15, 1956

EUROPA Stamps

Italy #715-16 from the first issue in 1956.

On September 15, 1956, six nations came together to issue the first EUROPA stamps, a tradition that continues to this day.

The roots of the Europa stamps trace back to 1951 when six nations (Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The ECSC was conceived by French civil servant Jean Monnet in the hopes it would prevent another war between France and Germany.  By creating a common market coal and steel, he hoped to reduce competition between European nations and “make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible.”

Netherlands #368-69 is also from the first 1956 issue.

As early as 1952, members of the ECSC talked about creating a “joint stamp emission” to honor the common interests and objectives of their nations.  Then on September 15, 1956, they issued their first joint stamps.  The design was created by French artist Daniel Gonzague and consisted of a tower created out of the letters EUROPA (the Latin word for Europe).  Between the six countries, a total of 14 stamps were issued that first year.

Germany #934-35 – 1965 Germany stamps.

A year later, on September 16, 1957, the second set of EUROPA stamps was issued.  This time, eight countries participated in issuing 17 stamps.  While they didn’t all share the same design, they all had the same theme – peace and welfare. Another issue followed in 1958, with all stamps carrying the common design of a dove flying above the “E” of EUROPA.

In the summer of 1959, 23 European postal administrations met in Montreaux, Switzerland, and established the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT). Stamps issued after this meeting included the initials “CEPT” on them.  From then until 1973, EUROPA stamps continued to share the same design each year.

Then in 1974, the member nations decided that it would be more enjoyable for collectors if the stamps had different designs. So from that time on, EUROPA stamps were issued with common themes, but different designs.  Over the years, some of these themes have included paintings, handicrafts, famous people, folklore, historic events, inventions, nature conservation, children’s games, and the discovery of America (for the 1992 issue).

Great Britain #1053-55 were issued for the 25th anniversary of CEPT.

Over the years, EUROPA stamps grew in popularity and other nations began to join in the tradition.  In the 1980s there were 35 issuing nations and by the late 1990s, there were 57.  In 1993, CEPT decided to turn its attention on telecommunications, so PostEurop took over the creation of EUROPA stamps.  “CEPT” was longer included on the stamps and the EUROPA logo was updated.

Luxembourg #374-75 from the 1960 issue.

To help keep EUROPA stamps popular among collectors, PostEurop introduced an annual competition in 2002 for the “Best EUROPA stamp.”  Today, EUROPA stamps are some of the most popular worldwide stamps, issued by over 60 different countries.

Item #M10299 – 2008 Jersey stamps with the theme “writing letters.”

Click here for more EUROPA stamps and covers.

Click here to see the EUROPA Hall of Fame and more from the PostEurop website.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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