Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Europa Stamps

Belgium, 1956 (Scott #497)
"Rebuilding Europe"

If you have collected stamps for any period of time you have likely come across Europa stamps. The word Europa is the name "Europe" in Latin.

In 1951, the countries of France, Italy, West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg signed the Treaty of Paris which ultimately led to the creation of the European Community, itself a forerunner of today's European Union.

Those six member nations of the European Community issued a set of stamps in 1956 showing the word "Europa" framed by construction scaffolding, entitled "Rebuilding Europe". The 13 stamps issued by the 6 member nations first issue of Europa stamps.

In 1958, the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administration (with the acronym of CEPT from the French spelling of the name) was formed. Starting in 1960, its members began issuing Europa stamps. In fact, at this point the phrase "Europa/CEPT" is often used to refer to the stamps issued during this time. The addition of CEPT countries caused the number of of countries issuing stamps to jump to 20 from 8 the prior year.

The number of countries associated with Europa stamps has steadily increased, although some countries will skip years. Currently there are over 50 countries issuing Europa stamps.

Bosnia & Herzegovina, 2008
"Letter Writing" Theme

Prior to 1974, with just a few exceptions, all of the Europa stamps had the same design, with simple variations in language, colors, denominations, and country names. Starting that year, Europa stamps were independently designed by each postal administration, but they shared a common theme. Declaring a common theme has been the practice ever since; this year's theme is "Letter Writing".

Most Europa stamps are affordable, with just a small premium added to their denominated value, with a few notable exceptions. The 3-stamp set of Luxembourg, issued in 1956, is expensive, and so is the 1960 Liechtenstein issue. These stamps catalog for hundreds of dollars and are the key stamps in the series.

Europa stamps are fun to collect and a complete collection of them is attainable by most intermediate collectors.

Related Trivia: The grouping of the countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg is designated as Benelux from their first letters of their country names.

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