he idea of the United Nations issuing its own stamps was first proposed by Argentina in 1947.
An agreement with the United States postal authorities was reached in 1951 and it stipulated that the stamps be denominated in United States currency, and used only at UN Headquarters.
The first United Nations stamps were issued in U.S. dollar denominations on United Nations Day, 24 October, in 1951. The stamps were an immediate success and sold out within days.
Similar postal agreements were reached with the Swiss and Austrian postal authorities.
On 11 December 1968 , an agreement between the United Nations and the Swiss Postal Telephone and Telegraph Enterprise enabled the Geneva office of UNPA to issue the first UN stamps in Swiss francs on 4 October 1969 .
A similar agreement with the Austrian government on 28 June 1979 enabled the Vienna office of UNPA to issue the first UN stamps in Austrian schillings on 24 August 1979 .
Human rights, the environment, endangered species and peace are all subjects of universal concern to the peoples of the world. They are also subjects which the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) has promoted on its stamps.
Because United Nations stamps reflect the work of the world Organization, the stamps extend beyond the boundaries of philately to draw attention to significant world problems and to serve as a reminder of the UN’s commitment to its goals.
The United Nations is the only organization in the world which is neither a country nor a territory that is permitted to issue postage stamps. It is also the only postal authority to issue stamps in three different currencies, namely U.S. dollars, Swiss francs and Euro.
United Nations stamps are miniature works of art, which have won international design awards. They are created by artists from around the world, and printed in different countries by the finest security printers.
Stamp collectors appreciate United Nations stamps not only for their innovative designs and universal themes, but also because it is still possible to collect every United Nations stamp ever issued. Since its creation in 1951, UNPA has issued over one thousand stamps.
UN stamps have illustrated the aims and achievements of the United Nations and its family of organizations.
Some of the stamps celebrate a goal achieved, as exemplified in the 1991 Namibia: A New Nation – A Trust Fulfilled stamp issue, which celebrated the birth of Namibia . Other themes, such as the 2003 Fight AIDS Worldwide issue, are a sober reminder of global problems that continue to afflict people everywhere. The stamps also commemorate significant events in the life of the international Organization, such as the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations in 1995.
Recent issues have been concerned with our environment, world peace and the promise of a better world. As the environment has become increasingly threatened, nations of the world have realized that the problems, as well as the solutions, are global. Thus the United Nations, through many of its subsidiary bodies, has made protection of the environment a priority. The current Endangered Species stamp series, with its beautiful illustrations of 12 endangered species each year, calls attention to this plight.
United Nations stamps are issued simultaneously at UN offices in New York , Geneva and Vienna . Each issue carries a related design theme, with different denominations for each office. The stamps are available from UNPA offices in person or by mail, and from stamp dealers. They are valid for postage when used on mail from the UN offices in New York , Geneva and Vienna .
Under its guidelines, the United Nations Postal Administration is confined to selling mint stamps and postal stationery. Usually six new commemorative issues are released each year and remain on sale for 12 months only. After that date, any remaining stocks are destroyed. Commemorative stamps are so named because they commemorate a certain theme. They are never reprinted, even if they are sold out before the end of the 12-month sale period. Definitive stamps have an indefinite sale period and carry denominations necessary for general postal needs. Definitive stamps can be reprinted as necessary.
UN stamps are printed all over the world by security printers, both government printing offices and private security printing firms. UN stamps are produced under the same security controls used for the printing of bank notes. Collectors appreciate the high quality of the stamps, which undergo many quality controls and are screened by UNPA for any flaws. This makes the UN one of the highest-quality producers of stamps among postal administrations.