The 10th anniversary commemorated by the United Nations


In 1947, the Delegation of Argentina to the United Nations (UN) initiated the idea for the UN issuing its own stamps. Further to that, Resolution 454(V) was adopted unanimously on 16 November 1950 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, which requested the Secretary General to proceed with the necessary arrangements for the establishment of the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) as at 1 January 1951.


United Nations New York

First stamp issued

on 24 October 1951

(Peoples of the World)

The postal agreement between the UN and the Post Office Department of the United States, where the UN Headquarters were located, was signed on 28 March 1951, so that the UN could start issuing postage stamps for its own use; it stipulated that the stamps be denominated in United States currency and used only at UN Headquarters. The UN postal service was inaugurated on 24 October 1951, i.e. on United Nations Day; the first UN stamps went on sale on that day. It is recalled that the UN officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, upon ratification of the Charter by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States, and by a majority of signatories.


Similar postal agreements were later 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 the UNPA to issue the first UN stamps in Swiss francs on 4 October 1969. An 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.


Design submitted by Hubert Woyty-Wimmer

With the founding of the UNPA, a truly unique institution was born because the UN was, and still is, the only organization in the world, which, although neither a country nor a territory, is permitted to issue postage stamps and have a worldwide coverage. Note that the Ordre de Malte started to issue stamps on 15 November 1966; its mail can be addressed only to a limited number of countries. The UNPA also became the only postal authority that issues stamps in three different currencies, namely United States dollars, Swiss francs, and Austrian schillings (now Euros). Since its inception, the UNPA has always operated with a dual mandate: first, to disseminate information on the activities and achievements of the UN and its Specialized Agencies through the medium of postage stamps, and second, to generate revenue for the UN.


As the UN anticipated issuing postage stamps with designs illustrating or symbolizing the aims or activities of the various Specialized Agencies, Member States of the UN were requested to submit names of outstanding stamp designers and artists who would be willing to participate in a competition for designs. Hence, 185 artists were invited on 10 July 1952 to an international design competition. Among the 67 suggestions received from 32 countries, the design submitted by Hubert Woyty-Wimmer of the printer Thomas de la Rue, United Kingdom, was selected and found suitable to depict the International Civil Aviation Organization’s activities through a stamp.


Design submitted
by Karl Lohse

On 10 February 1953, ICAO was requested to provide comments on the above design before the UN would give its final approval. Reservations were expressed by ICAO about the initials of the Organization, which should be displayed in the two forms ICAO/OACI (the latter acronym applying both to French and Spanish, while the first applies in English only); about the condensation trails surrounding the globe; and about the military or rocket-like profile of the aircraft, more suited to illustrate science fiction than portraying civil aviation. At that time, ICAO staff member Karl Lohse, Chief, Aeronautical Charts Section, suggested alternative sketches; one these was based on the early emblem.


When the UN stamp programme for 1955 was established, it was found necessary once again to solicit the artists who had responded to the 1952 invitation. The issuance of stamps honouring the 10th anniversary of ICAO’s activities was suggested by the UNPA for February 1955, as their stamp programme already comprised two issues on fixed dates in the second part of that year, i.e. on UN day (24 October) and Human Rights Day (10 December, which is the anniversary day of the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948).


Design submitted

by James Berry

On 9 July 1954, ten designs were submitted to ICAO for a recommendation on the order of preference; among these, the eminent stamp artist James Berry, New Zealand, submitted a hand-drawn design (in black, grey, white and cream); this design was not selected. Although ranked third by ICAO, the design submitted by Angel Medina Medina, Uruguay, was eventually selected by the UN Interdepartmental Policy Committee as the most suitable for the ICAO commemorative stamp issue in two denominations, i.e. three and eight cents, to be issued on 9 February 1955 celebrating the tenth anniversary of the interim Agreement and first PICAO meeting. The two commemorative stamps Scott #31-32 became classic stamps for further featuring of stamps of other countries (stamp-on-stamp).


In its early days, the UNPA awarded stamp-printing contracts for an entire year. For the year 1955, Waterlow & Sons, United Kingdom, was awarded the contract. When the company withdrew from the stamp-printing business in the 1960s, it started selling its archives. Specimens of the eight-cent ICAO issue appeared on the market; these specimens (approximately 400 pairs) are in green (whereas the regular issue was deep carmine), have a small punch hole and are overprinted in black WATERLOW & SONS LIMITED SPECIMEN. Because of their rarity, the retail price of these specimens rose quickly.


United Nations New York – Set of 2 stamps with margins, and green specimen


Over fifty different first day covers were issued with the UN stamps, either officially by the UN or by private designers. Several of those covers are shown hereafter; the cachet makers are provided whenever identified.


UNPA cachet

(see footnote 1)


UN New York Headquarters Official cachet


UN New York service cover

Cachet Craft cachet (Ken Boll design); Douglas DC-3; Magenta and Blue; Initial UN emblem as used for the lapel pin designed for the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO) held in San Francisco in 1945


Velvatone flocked cachet;

Designed by A.W. Dargis; Burgundy and Green

(See footnote 3)

Velvatone flocked cachet;

Designed by A.W. Dargis; Dark-Blue and Green

(See footnote 3)


Velvatone flocked cachet;

Designed by A.W. Dargis; Grey and Green

(See footnote 3)


Velvatone flocked cachet;

Designed by A.W. Dargis; Red and Green

(See footnote 3)

C. Stephen Anderson clear-grey 3-cent cachet (the word Organization is missing)


C. Stephen Anderson dark-grey 3-cent cachet (the word Organization is missing)


C. Stephen Anderson black 3-cent cachet

(the word Organization is missing)

C. Stephen Anderson red 8-cent cachet

(the word Organization is missing)

C. Stephen Anderson black 8-cent cachet

(the word Organization is missing)


Basilisk blue cachet

(see footnote 2)

Basilisk red cachet

(see footnote 2)

ArtCraft cachet; Pictures of meteorological station and communications service; Convair CV-240

ArtCraft cachet; Pictures of meteorological station and communications service; Convair CV-240; Larger hand-stamped postmark


ArtCraft cachet; ICAO Council in Session, on 10th floor of the International Aviation Building, 1080 University Street

ArtCraft cachet; ICAO Council in Session, on 10th floor of the International Aviation Building, 1080 University Street;

Larger hand-stamped postmark


Maximum card (Blue-grey) - Velvetone by Edwin P. Haworth


Maximum card (Dark carmine) - Velvetone by Edwin P. Haworth


Hand-Painted Overseas Mailers Cachet; Aircraft over UN Building in New York and New York city


Hand-Painted Overseas Mailers Cachet; Airport, Patrol activity and Control Tower services at work; Early ICAO emblem


Hand-stamped FIRST DAY COVER

Zenith grey cachet; Designed by C. George Junior III


Zenith red cachet; Designed by C. George Junior III


Postcard; Unknown design



C. George cachet (3-cent); Douglas DC-6; raised print


C. George cachet (8-cent); Douglas DC-6; raised print


C. George cachet; Douglas DC-6; raised print

Day Lowry/Artistocrats cachet; First non-stop transatlantic flight by Charles Lindbergh; Spirit of St. Louis Ryan monoplane


Day Lowry/Artistocrats cachet

Fleetwood raised cachet; Douglas DC-4

Van Dahl General Purpose cachet (Type 3); Crown of covers surrounding the earth centered on North America; Blue and Gold


Pent Arts blue cachet – Convair CV-240

Pent Arts red cachet – Convair CV-240

Maximum card – Design by K.E. Olszewski; Swans before the Storm


Artmaster embossed blue cachet

Artmaster embossed red cachet

Unknown cachet


Unknown cachet - Missing ICAO

Unknown cachet

Souvenir card; Unknown cachet


Souvenir card; Unknown cachet

Maximum card; Painting by Vernon Ward, England; Floating Foam



Kolor Kover cachet (3-cent blue)

Kolor Kover cachet (8-cent red)



Unknown cachet – Reproduction of the 4 designs by Ernest Cornier, Canada made for the exterior doors of the UN General Assembly Building in New York: Allegorical figures of Veritas, Fraternitas, Justitia and Pax.

More information on this cover can be obtained by clicking on the following link: United Nations – Ernest Cormier.


In addition to the above covers with cachets printed in large runs, some designers made their own hand-drawn and painted covers, which are scarce pieces:


Ralph Dyer cachet







Dr. Ross M. Knoble cachets – Great variety in the colors


Herman Maul cachet


(1) Below is a copy of the notice found in the ICAO Bulletin, January/February 1955, showing the First Day Cover.


(2) Note on BASILISK.

The Basilisk Cooperative was formed in the late 1940's in response to the increasing monopoly of the Post Offices of some countries regarding the production of FDCs, i.e. which was the only way to obtain a first day cancel was on an official envelope. The group set up a cooperative network for obtaining the stamps on penciled addressed plain envelopes, and then adding artwork of their own. Initially simple rubber stamps, but later they began to print copies of the stamps as a cachet. This considerably upset the authorities, being both an infringement of copyright, and most seriously in direct breach of criminal law in most countries; several warnings of the danger of the practice were issued via the philatelic press and through the dealers' association. Only 100 covers are produced for each stamp, 00 to 99, and, by implication, there are 100 members to the cooperative. Because of the nature of the cachet, the cachets are always printed after cancellation, usually by offset in one, two, or three colors. The Basilisk logo is normally done using a letterpress block for fine detail.


(3) Note on the Velvatone covers:

Velvatone cachets were produced by August W. Dargis. The design is applied by a silk-screen printing process. Before the ink dries, a "flocking" material is added, which give the design a "fuzzy" look and feel. Dargis produced his first Velvatone cachet in 1951, and continued to make them until shortly before his death in 2001 at age 87.