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Joint Stamp Issues - Frequently Asked Questions

Keywords: Colonial or territorial issues - Europa stamps - Joint issues - Mixed FDC's - Omnibus series - Siamese issues - "True" joint issues - Twin issues - United Nations

What is a joint issue ?

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 issues. What is a twin issue ? 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 siamese issue ? A 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 ten 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 series ? 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 covers ? 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 are involved. 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. Can the 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. Why having 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 ?

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 issues
- 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 date
- 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 Smith.
- the first siamese 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 Vigo.
- 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 siamese postcard or aerogramme....

How many joint issues have been produced so far?
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 siamese 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; 1979:7; 1980:3; 
1981:2; 1982:3; 1983:6; 1984:8; 1985:6; 1986:10; 
1987:5; 1988:11; 1989:8; 1990:12; 1991:6; 1992:13;
1993:11; 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;
2011 (already announced):22. (list updated on Dec 30, 2011)




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