Welcome readers to todays offering from The Philatelist. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. We have a stamp today that demonstrates something that has happened quite a bit in stamp history. The politics of a place can change much faster that the stamps issued.
This is a strange stamp. The stamp originally celebrates newspapers, in particular the party newspaper of the San Marino Fascist party. Given the subject matter, I am amazed they were not just thrown away when the politics changed. Instead an overprint is added making the stamp a celebration of an officially declared stamp day. Has anyone seen two more divergent captions on the same stamp. It was a common issue in San Marino in 1943. There was another stamp to celebrate 20 years of fascist rule that when that rule came to an end right before the stamp came out a lower case d was added to the stamp making it celebrate the end of 20 years of fascist rule.
The stamp today is issue A38, a 50 centessimi stamp issued by the city state of San Marino on July 1st. 1943. It is part of a two stamp issue honoring the newspapers of San Marino. The stamp is worth 25 cents in it’s mint condition according to the Scott catalog. It must be a common stamp to have such a low value and San Marino stamps have always been mainly produced for philatelists. With what was going on at the time of issue and the crazy overprint, The Philatelist finds this stamp seriously undervalued.
San Marino is a small, mountainous, landlocked city state that chose not to join Italy when a central government formed the Italian empire around 1870. Instead it continued to govern itself on principles derived from the Roman Republic. One aspect of this is that it has two heads of state at a time. It is one of the wealthiest places in the world per capita with finance and tourism being at the center of the economy. It is one of the only places where postage stamps are an important product.
During the two world wars in the 20th century, San Marino’s independence from Italy was most threatened. In World War I, San Marino announced herself neutral. Italy was angered and assumed San Marino would become a hotbed of Austrian spies. In frustration San Marino’s phone service was cut off. In World War II, despite San Marino’s fascist government, the country again declared it’s neutrality. Over and over. First the New York Times declared San Marino declared war on Britain. Not true. In July 1944, the British bombed San Marino assuming the Germans occupying surrounding Italy had entered San Marino. Not true. Then the battle for Italy came close to San Marino and the Germans entered San Marino to control a road and so to have artillery observers on the mountain. Units of the Indian army fighting with the British army pushed the Germans out after a battle and quickly left.
The politics changed in San Marino in an instant. Two days after Mussolini left power, the San Marino fascist party was deposed. In 1945, San Marino became the first country to freely elect a communist government. The Roman system stayed in effect through both extremes.
Well my drink is empty, and so it is time to open up the conversation in the below comment section. Was San Marino right to go ahead with this stamp after the government changed? Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.