Vatican City Issues Special Stamps After Papal Resignation

Vatican City, Vatican stampsCall me old fashioned, but when I’m on the road there’s something special about writing a postcard, sticking on some local stamps and sending it to loved ones back home. Receiving mail from overseas is almost as much fun.

I especially like rare stamps from smaller or less frequently traveled countries. Sadly I couldn’t send any postcards from Somaliland because they don’t have a mail service. I was also disappointed that on my recent trip to Iraq we never stopped at a post office.

Luckily you don’t have to go so far to find strange and soon-to-be collectable stamps. The surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has forced Vatican City to issue a special set of stamps.

They are emblazoned with an angel holding the Arms of the Apostolic Camera and the words “Sede Vacante MMXIII” (“Vacant See 2013”). They come in four different denominations of 70 and 85 euro cents, 2 euros, and 2.50 euros.

Stamps for the vacant see are designed shortly after a new Pope takes office and are kept until he dies, to be used for the brief period before the next Pope is elected.

Stamp Magazine reports that since the Vatican started issuing stamps, the Vacant See issues have only been used for a total of 20 days. I suspect this means that franked (used) Vacant See stamps will later become pretty valuable owing to their rarity. So if you’re in Italy, head on over to that little country inside Rome and send out some postcards. Your friends and family will thank you for it a few years from now.

[Photo courtesy Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office]

Customs arrests man for flying with postage stamps

Customs officers are generally our friends. They keep people from boarding the plane with stolen antiquities or live reptiles, but occasionally innocent people get caught in their net.

Stamp collector Markand Dave of India seems to be one of those people.

Mr. Dave tried to board a flight from Sardar Patel International Airport, Ahmedabad, to Frankfurt, Germany, on his way to attend a stamp collecting exhibition in London. In his luggage he had a collection of rare, early Indian stamps. While Mr. Dave is a well-known philatelist and had an invitation to participate in the exhibition, he had forgotten to ask permission from the government to take the stamps out of India and ran afoul of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, which considers rare stamps to be antiquities. He’s due to appear in court on charges of antiquities smuggling.

Mr. Dave is probably not an antiquities smuggler, but as a leading philatelist he should have known better. Collectors should understand the laws that cover their collections and fill out the proper paperwork before they travel.

Besides, he should be thankful he didn’t have his rare stamps stolen by a baggage thief.
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