Stamp Issues - Frequently Asked Questions
Keywords: Colonial or territorial
issues - Europa stamps
- Joint issues - Mixed
FDC's - Omnibus series - Se-tenant joint issues (formerly Siamese
issues) - "True" joint issues
- Twin issues - United
What is a joint
Joint issues are stamps issued by at least two countries
on the basis of a common event, usually at the same date
(if technically possible) and sometimes with the same design.
Postal administration cooperation is required.
What is a "true"
joint issue ?
This is probably the most difficult question to answer.
Of course some of the issues which are reported in the catalogue
are at the limit of the above definition for joint issues.
Definitely omnibus series and colonial issues are not joint
issues if they are produced from the same printer. But stamps
using the same design issued at the same date are not necessarily
joint issues, unless this specification is well documented
by the postal administrations from all involved countries,
or a mixed document (all stamps with FDC's cancellation
on the same cover) can be provided as proof. I must admit
that these proofs have not yet been found for all reported
What is a twin
Twin issues are a special case of joint stamp issues
were design are identical and the release date is the same
for all countries involved.
What is a se-tenant joint issue ?
A se-tenant joint issue (formerly called siamese issue) is a special case of twin issue in which
either the stamps from both countries are physically (se-tenant
or within the same miniature sheet) linked together (this
happened only two dozen times up to now) or the case where only
one stamp is issued but this stamp bears the name of both
countries (only two exemples known).
Can stamps released at the same date by
two different countries but with a different design be considered
as joint issues ?
Of course, yes. However, same date of issue is not enough.
Some stamps are released to celebrate for exemple an anniversary
(stamp issued on the birthday), which does not mean that
all involved postal administrations have decided to do it
jointly. This can even happen with stamps with the same
design, where, for example, the picture representing the
hero may be taken from the same source without concertation.
How many days can separate the date of
release with an issue still to be considered as a twin issue
Usually twin issues are released on the same day. It
may however differ in some cases. The policy of France for
example is to release the new stamps always on a Monday,
but collectors are able to buy these stamps at special places
(usually two or three) the Saturday and the Sunday before,
days on which these stamps get a pre-issue first day cancellation.
So at least two dates can be considered as first day cancellation
in France (Saturday and Monday). It happens that with joint
issues the partner country does not want to change its release
day. So mixed cards can be obtained only on Monday or the
two dates on these mixed cards are slightly different.
For technical reasons it happen also that some stamps in
one country are released with delay. Actually with a difference
in dates of more than 10 days, the issue cannot be considered
anymore as a twin issue.
Is there a way to differentiate joint
issues released at the same date but with different designs
from stamps released at different dates but with the same design
It is always possible to do this differentiation. It
was proposed to give the name "concerted joint issues" to
stamps with the same design (which may happen accidently)
issued at different dates and the name "parallel joint issues"
to stamps issued at the same date but with different designs.
However, we have to take care about "accidental" same design,
i.e. same design used because taken from a common original
reference (i.e. only one portrait of Cristofer Colombus
is existing). Therefore this distinction is not used to
avoid too complicated subdivisions.
Can I limit my collection to twin issues
Of course, yes. Everybody is free to collect what he
wants. There are today enough twin issues that were released
worldwide and can themselves lead to a nice collection limited
on sub topics. Most of the collectors specialized in joint
issues collect stamps with the same design, but almost all
do not keep colonial or omnibus series. Others limit their
collection to topics or countries (e.g. only European countries).
What are omnibus
The countries belonging to the Commonwealth used to release
at the same date identical stamps for which only the name
of the country and sometimes the postal values were different.
These stamps produced between the year 30's to 50's were
called omnibus series. This denomination applied later to
stamps released by other countries such as former colonial
dependencies for which it was less expensive to base their
stamp program on a common design (French, Dutch or Portugiese
former colonies for example). Today, some small countries
using the same stamp printing house (House of Questa, Crown
Agents, ...) can be proposed to enter in a large series
(stamps with the same frame design) involving dozen of countries
which are not necessarily politically linked. These stamps
are also considered as omnibus series. These stamps are
reported here, but without details, because they cannot
be considered as true joint issues. On the contrary Europa
CEPT stamps with the same design and the same date of issue
for the major part of the countries are considered as true
twin issues. This happened only between 1956 and 1973, in
1984 and more recently in 2000.
What are mixed
A mixed cover is a document bearing all joint stamps
issued by all involved countries and those stamps respectively
first day cancelled. It can also be a postal card or a leaflet
issued by the postal administration or any other document
as long as stamps and cancellations are present. This document
is actually the proof that it happens to be a joint issue.
Of course, a collection can be limited to mixed covers.
The term dual covers is also used when only two countries
Do maxi-cards with joint issues exist
Yes, but only the recent issues have been produced as
such. Mixed joint issue maxi-cards are even more rare, due
to the fact that on a postal card there is only little space
left for two stamps with cancellations. Again, this is a
very nice collection to start now !
How many countries are usually involved
in a joint issue ?
Usually two, sometimes three countries are involved in
a joint stamp issue. When higher than five, one has to check
carefully if there is a political link between those countries
(colonies for example) or if this series was not produced
at one single place (omnibus series), before defining this
set of stamps as joint issues.
Why are some colonial
stamps from end of the 19th century (for example German or Italian
colonies) not reported in the catalogue while other such as
stamps from French colonial countries are described ?
One rule defining joint issues says that a common event
or anniversary has to be used for its description. As a
consequence, this rule excludes the (non commemorative)
stamps sold for everyday usage, even in the colonies. These
stamps will therefore be reported (same design) but not
detailed because they cannot be considered as true joint
issues. As examples, all stamps bearing only the portrait
of a king/queen, or the Hohenzollern ship series from the
German colonies are excluded.
Can recent Groenland issues similar to
Denmark stamps be considered as joint issues ?
No, not really. Recent colonial or territorial issues
with the same design issued at the same date could be considered
as sub groups of twin issues and could be named colonial
or territorial twin issues. However, as only one country
decides for issuing both stamps, they cannot be considered
as true joint issues. Again, these issues are reported in
the catalogue, without details but with the mention "Territorial"
or "Colonial". Recent countries involved in such issues
are for example Denmark with Groenland, Portugal with the
Acores and Madeira, the Netherlands with Aruba and the Dutch
Antillas. The case of Australia and Christmas Islands was
reconsidered as well.
United Nations Organization stamps from the three offices New
York, Geneva and Vienna be considered as joint issues ?
Definitely no, even if the design is the same. These
stamps are defined by a single entity (postal administration)
which can alone decide to issue identical stamps or not.
These stamps are just listed for information. However when
another country is also involved (recently with Italy) of
course they have to be included in our lists.
not included all the Europa issues ?
From 1974 on, all stamps issued by the European countries
were issued at different dates and only the topic was defined.
In 1984, one identical design (the European bridge) was
accepted, but issue dates remained spread over 10 months.
So Europa is no more a joint issue. It is to mention here
that the latest common European issue with a same design
was released in year 2000, and most of them at the same
date, therefore this one is considered as a twin issue.
When was the first joint stamp issued
How many joint issues have been produced
This question is difficult to answer because it depends
on how are defined joint issues (see definitions above).
However, one can take the following dates as references:
- how about the New Brunswick - Nova Scotia stamps from
1st September 1851 ? or the 1860 British Columbia and
Vancouver Island stamps ? Those are Territorial joint
- 1867 June 1st, Austro Hungarian precursors. One single
stamp was used in two countries, Austria and Hungary,
which formed initially one empire. Even after separation
of the two countries, these stamps continued to be used
for years. This was possible because the stamp did not
bear the name of any country and the abbreviation of the
currency was the same for both countries.
- the 1938 Entente stamps between Greece, Jugoslavia,
Turkey and Romania must be considered as the first joint
issue although not all of them were produced at the same
- during the same year, France issued the Pierre and Marie
Curie stamps involving all their colonies (France on September
1, 1938, all colonies on October 24). One month later,
Cuba issued also the same stamps in Spanish (23 November)
and Afghanistan issued another stamp on December 23.
- the first true twin issue was planned to be produced
between Great Britain and France. It represented King
George VI and the French President Albert Lebrun. This
issue initially planned for 1939, reported to 1940, was
finally aborted due to the war.
- A twin issue was released by Colombia (3 September)
and Venezuela (24 August) in honour of the poet Andres
Bello and should be considered as the first one, although
the dates of issue differ by almost two weeks. I would
greatly appreciate to find a dual cover.
- 1956 September 15th, the first Europa series involving
6 countries can be considered as the first non colonial
twin issue (same date, same design)
This series was followed one month later (1956 October
30) by the equivalent Norden issue including 5 countries.
- 1958 August 27th, can be considered as the birth date
of the first true twin issue involving two countries:
Australia and New Zealand to celebrate the 30th anniversary
of the flight over the Tasman sea by Sir Charles Kingsford
- the first se-tenant joint stamps were issued by Jugoslavia and
Rumania on April 30th, 1965
- only in 1986 (May 24th), a first twin issue was issued
based on postal stationery, not stamps: USA - Italy, Francesco
- an aerogramme was first involved in a twin issue together
with the stamps released by Switzerland (joint issue with
China) on November 25th, 1998. We are awaiting the first
twin aerogrammes, or even better, a joint postcard or
This question is much more
difficult to answer because it depends again on the definition
of joint issues (see above) and it is increasing every month.
Roughly between 200 and 300 stamps considered as twin issues
have been produced (I will check that figure more carefully),
and probably over 1000 if we consider all non colonial,
non omnibus joint issues.
To give you an idea about the evolution
of joint issues, here are figures about the number of twin, concerted and Se-tenant joint issues
(so same design issues) released in the past years (for each issue about 1 to 4
stamps per country and up to 6 countries involved):
1975:2; 1976:7; 1977:10; 1978:5;
1981:2; 1982:3; 1983:6; 1984:8;
1987:5; 1988:11; 1989:8; 1990:12; 1991:6; 1992:13;
1994:15; 1995:18; 1996:17; 1997:20; 1998:23;
1999:21; 2000:18; 2001:20; 2002:25; 2003:23; 2004:31;
2005:29; 2006:32; 2007:33; 2008:42; 2009:35; 2010:44;
announced):22. (list updated on Dec 30, 2011)