After 80 years, Vatican stamps and coin producers are changing office

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Since 1940, the Vatican has had its very own Philatelic and Numismatic Office, occupied with selling exclusively-made stamps and coins produced annually for the smallest state in the world, the Holy See. 

While the stamps are not printed behind the Vatican walls, there is a process involved in creating each one. The director of the Philatelic and Numismatic Office, explains this starts inside the Vatican City State.

Director, Philatelic and Numismatic Office
For each stamp, the first step is looking for an image relating to the chosen theme. After you have chosen an image, which may be an artistic image or one created by an artist specifically for the theme, it is scanned here by the graphic studio inside the office. Then words are written over the stamp for the particular occasion from the computer.

After that is finished, the product is sent to a printing house, where one test is done before all the stamps are printed. 

Some of the stamps picture saints, or remember martyrs who have given their life for the faith. Others mark important years for the Church or special moments for the pope. 

While the stamps originated in 1852, the coins are even older. The money, particularly for the Vatican and for the Pontifical State date back to the beginning of the 700s. Their creation process is only slightly different than that of the stamps.

Director, Philatelic and Numismatic Office
“Once the design is drawn, the artist must make a chalk model from this drawing. It's a sort of sculpture, 2 mm thick that models in plaster the design that was on the paper. Once the plaster is authorized it is preserved in the Italian department that produces our coins. Then, in a very technical procedure, the plaster model is stamped and then from there, turned into a coin.”

Over the years, the coins and medallions from past popes have been preserved in the Vatican, as well as the specially-made annual coins. Mauro confirmed collectors took an even greater interest when Italy's lira currency was changed to euro in 2002. 

Director, Philatelic and Numismatic Office
“The collections are a bit different, although it is true that many stamp collectors also collect coins and vice versa. They often go alongside one another. The difference is coin collectors are usually a bit more attentive to history and culture.”

Collectors also tend to be more regional. The Vatican explained the countries who are most invested in the coins and stamps are Italy and Germany. 

Yet, sales seem to be booming in general, with interest from all over. Each year, more than 9,000,000 euros are earned from the total sales.

But starting in 2020, after 80 years of work in the same office, they are being divided in a new Vatican reorganization process. Now, there will be three offices, instead of the one.

Philatelic and Numismatic Office
“A new law was made by the State that changes the distribution in this sector. For this a State department has been established which will create the coins. The stamps were moved to the Vatican post office and the final department that has been established will deal with philatelic and numismatic marketing and sales.”

With this change, they hope to increase production, keep sales up and continue to focus on keeping the Vatican's collection of stamps and coins religious, yet able to cater to all. It's another way of transmitting the faith, even if through the smallest stamp on the outside of a letter. 

Melissa Butz

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