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The World Post Day is celebrated on October 9 every year to mark the anniversary of the establishment of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in the year 1874 in Bern, Switzerland. The day is also supported by the United Nations (UN). Actually, the UPU marked the beginning of the global communications revolution which enabled people to write to others all over the world. It was in the year 1969 UPU Congress in Tokyo, Japan that October 9th was first declared the World Post Day. Ever since the occasion has been celebrated the world over to underscore the importance of postal services in the lives of people as well as businesses, not to mention their contribution to the social as well as economic development on a global scale. For the record, nearly 445 billion letters are delivered around the world every year.
Every year the member countries of the UPU are encouraged to stage their own national activities and events to commemorate the occasion. Many a time, this involves an introduction of new postal products and services, issue of special postal stamps, organizing letter writing competitions or open days at mail centres, post offices or postal museums. For example, the Department of Posts in India usually celebrates the World Post Day by observing National Postal Week between October 9 and 15 with the National Postal Day held on October 10 every year. The UPU often comes up with new posters which it distributes for display across the globe. A new poster was recently launched by the UPU for the period 2016-2018. Although, there is no specific World Post Day 2016 theme, the design of the new UPU poster embodies its three strategic pillars viz. innovation, integration and inclusion. A major area of focus pertains to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals which aim to fight poverty and hunger, inequality and injustice, and take appropriate measures to reverse climate change.
Coming back to the UPU posters, it is worth mentioning that these posters have innovative designs to attract the attention of the people to the importance of the postal service. The new poster launched for the 2016-2018 period uses Pantone color inks layered onto superior quality Swiss–made paper to produce innovative gold and blue designs (innovation being one of the strategic pillars) that represents the remaining pillars of integration and inclusion. More than 80 posts across the word have ordered about 70,000 posters in as many as seven languages viz. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian and Chinese. Also, the UPU director General releases an annual message to commemorate the occasion.
Every year around the 9th of October, the Internet gets inundated with World Post Day photographs, World Post Day slogans, World Post Day quotes, etc. that try to create buzz about the event. However, it is our responsibility to spread awareness about the importance of postal services in our everyday lives. So, in keeping up with the spirit of World Post Day, let's have a look at some of the rarest postage stamps released from across the globe.
P.S. This article was originally created on World Post Day 2016!
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The Penny Black, introduced by the Great Britain, happens to be the first adhesive postage stamp in the world. Issued in 1840, it was the brainchild of Rowland Hill who is regarded as the father of postal stamps. The Penny Black bears the profile of the British Queen Victoria. The stamp gets its name from its color and value. Several unused sheets of the Penny Black are kept at the British Postal Museum.
Designed by Melchoir Berry, the Basel Dove happens to be the world's first tri-color stamp. As the name suggest, they were issued in the Canton of Basel in Switzerland. The Basel Dove stamp had to be withdrawn because its blue-crimson-black color scheme didn't go well with the public. These rare, beautiful classical stamps are valued of CHF 18,000 per stamp.
The Hawaii Missionaries are amongst the rarest postage stamps in the world. Issued by the erstwhile Kingdom of Hawaii in 1851, the stamps were available in three denominations: 2 cents, 5 cents and 13 cents. They came to be known as 'Missionaries' because they were basically discovered on the correspondence letters between Missionaries working in Hawaii. All of the stamps were made on blue paper of cheap quality. The 2-cent version is the rarest of the lot as only 15 specimens exist today.
These stamps were issued in the year 1847 when Mauritius used to be a British colony. They were available in two denominations: one penny of orange-red color and two pence of dark blue. The stamps bear the profile of Queen Victoria. The stamp takes its name from the word 'Post Office' that's printed on it. Only 26 specimens of the stamp exist today and are valued at around $4 million.
There are only nine known specimens of the British Penny Red. Such is the antique value of this stamp that Stanley Gibbons was able to sell a copy (despite being in a poor condition) for a whopping £550,000. As per the documented history, the post office decided to destroy the printing plate as it were not satisfied by its quality. But, fortunately, one sheet did get into circulation.
The Edward VII Tyrian Plum happens to be one of the rarest postage stamps from the Great Britain. The stamp was issued as a replacement for the existing two-color two-pence stamp in the year 1910. Although, a total of 24 million stamps were printed, almost all of them were destroyed owing to the king's unexpected demise. Only a few stamps exist but the actual number is not known.
This Chinese stamp, issued during the Cultural Revolution in 1968, is noted for its printing error. Designed by Wang Weisheng, the stamp basically represented the expansion of Communism in China. It featured the map of China in red color but the map of Taiwan, although it was under the Chinese occupation, was not red but white. The stamps were immediately recalled once the error was noticed. Today, they feature amongst the rarest postage stamps.
This United States postage stamp was first issued on May 10, 1918. The cause of its infamy is that the image of the Curtiss JN-4 airplane in the center of the design is actually upside-down. It is arguably the most famous blunder in the history of American philately. Only one pane of 100 Inverted Jenny stamps was ever found which makes the stamp quite rare. A single Inverted Jenny was sold for USD 977,500 at an auction in 2007.
Baden 9 Kreuzer Error happens to be the most valuable German postage stamp. There are just four available copies of it and perhaps that's why the stamps are world famous. These stamps got printed in green color because of an error when actually they were planned to be printed in pink. Out of the 4 copies, one is unused and it was auctioned for 1,314,500 euro on April 3, 2008.
British Guiana 1c magenta is widely regarded as the rarest stamp in the world. In a 2014 auction, a British Guiana 1c magenta stamp fetched a whopping USD 9.5 million. Only one specimen of the stamp is now known to exist. It was issued in limited numbers in 1856 in British Guiana (now Guyana). Perhaps, it is the only major postage stamp ever issued that is missing in Britain's Royal Philatelic Collection. The stamp bears a sailing ship along with the colony's motto which reads 'Damus Petimus Que Vicissim' translating to 'We give and expect in return'. The stamp which has been described as a prized object in several films was discovered by a Scottish schoolboy in the year 1873 among his uncle's letters.