The Birth of United Nations Stamps
Excerpts from the 1968 book by Emery Kelen:
"Stamps Tell The Story of The United Nations":
Stamps tell the story... and what a story these "little pieces of paper" can tell! Stamp collections are ever-changing encyclopedias where one can learn about other countries, their people, their products, and their customs. They are a continuing current of knowledge, enchanting to the eye and enriching to the mind.
The United Nations is the only international body which issues its own postage stamps. This has always been the prerogative of national governments. The authority to issue stamps, recognized and accepted by all member states, carries with it an inherent obligation to "tell the story" of the United Nations and its activities. Since 1951, more than 55 million pieces of mail with United Nations stamps have carried the message of peace and hope for a better world.
The proposal that the United Nations should have its own postal service was first made in 1947. It was an idea of the representative of Argentina. But it was not until 1951 that the first UN postage stamps were issued.
Because the UN is an international organization, its stamp must bear symbols that will be recognized universally. Besides the beauty of the design, the UN Design Committee must consider the political implications of any symbolism used. Naturally none of them can stand for anything contrary to the standards and principles of the United Nations, nor can they represent any one culture, religion, or race.
It was the Design Committee's suggestion that the official five languages - Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish - should be used on as many of the stamps as possible. This was the origin of the "five-language border" which has become characteristic of UN stamps.
On March 28, 1951, the United Nations signed with the United States a postal agreement, revised in 1952, by which the UN Post Office Station in Headquarters building is operated by the United States Post Office Department on behalf of the United Nations.