This interesting article originally appeared in a booklet entitled “United Nations Postage Stamps” published by the United Nations Department of Public Information, New York in 1956.

During 1951, invitations to submit bids were issued to the world’s security printers by the United Nations Purchase Division, and contracts were awarded for the printing of the first regular issue of United Nations stamps. Invitations to submit bids for the printing of each of the two commemorative stamps to be issued during 1952 were sent out that year. Beginning in 1953, however, printing contracts were awarded for an entire year’s printing program. Thomas de la Rue and Co., Ltd., of London, received the United Nations printing contracts for 1953, 1954, 1956 and 1957, and Waterlow and Sons, also of London, received the contract for 1955.

Type of Paper Used
The paper used by the de la Rue firm for United Nations stamps is “British-made paper furnished with 25 per cent rag, 35 per cent esparto and 40 per cent bleached chemical wood.” Its weight is 61 grams per square meter.

The paper used by Enschedé and Sons is a special type of stamp paper, which is suitable for steel engraving. Its fibre composition is chemical wood pulp of a very high purity and great strength, and its weight is 80 grams per square meter. This paper, produced by the famous Dutch Gelderland paper mills at Nijmegen, has no distinguishing characteristics such as watermarks.

Waterlow and Sons, in the production of stamps for the United Nations, uses a paper comprising 25 per cent rag, 30 per cent wood and 45 per cent esparto, the weight being 63 grams per square meter.

Method of Perforation
The method of perforation used by both de la Rue and Waterlow and Sons is by a comb block perforating die. The die perforates one row at u time while the paper moves through the machine. The perforating lines run off the edge of the sheet as the completely perforated sheets leave the machine.

The method used by Enschede and Sons is the so-called comb perforation method. If the sheet of stamps is larger in size than the length of the perforation comb, the perforation does not go through to the edge of the sheet. The sheet goes through the perforating machins, jumping at each movement exactly the length of one stamp. The sheets are trimmed after perforating in order to enable the perforation to go through to the edge of the sheet. Prior to the 1952 United Nations Day issue, no stamp was perforated all the way to the edges of the margins on all sides of the sheet. While this stamp was so perforated, the 1952 Human Rights Day stamp was not. All stamps from 1953 on have been perforated to the edges of the margins on all sides of the sheet. Perfoiations on the original printings of the first regular issue of United Nations stamps varied in the extent to which they ran into the margins on the sides and at the bottom. It is not possible, therefore, to give a standard ruling on the method of perforation for any one issue.

Above: Sheets of United Nations stamps of the first regular issue, 1951, passing through the comb perforating machine.

Sheet Markings and Control Numbers
The dots and crosses on each sheet used by de la Rue “help the operator obtain good register between the point and the perforation.”

In the steelplate printing machine used by Enschedk and Sons two little dots are printed on each sheet simultaneously with the stamps. These dots are later punched by hand, so that the sheets can be fitted on two needles mounted on the perforation machine. As the needles are part of the perforation machine, the register between the perforation and the stamps is thus assured.

The various markings noticed by customers of the firm are the “markings of the supervising officers of the Post Office, under whose control the stamps have been printed.” Each official of this body, the firm explains, has his own marking clipper, similar to those used by a railroad conductor. Each sheet is clipped on being counted. “The background of this all goes back a long time ago, and has been introduced to avoid the possibilities of fraud,” the explanation says. “The markings are applied further to all proofs made, which means that not a single proof can be made without being accounted for by the Controller of the Post Office.” Such a strict supervision through the years, the firm asserts, has proved “absolutely necessary and of great value.”

Waterlow and Sons marks sheets produced by them with cutting lines in all four comers of each pane, and with a needling dot left and right for perforation register.

All United Nations stamps are steel engraved by the so-called intaglio process. This involves the pressing of the paper against a plate, and the drawing of the ink out of the cuts made in the plate. The various shades thus produced result from the depth of the cut. The United Nations flag stamps of the first regular issue, however, were printed by a combination of this process and that of photogravure. The inner part of the stamp was reproduced by the gravure process, while the frame resulted from a subsequent operation – that of steel engraving.

True plate numbers, 1A or 1B, appear only on the Universal Postal Union issue of 1953 and the International Telecommunication Union issue of 1956. Instead of plate numbers, all sheets of United Nations stamps bear marginal inscriptions in four positions on each sheet. Control numbers, too, from 001 to 100 appear on all sheets of stamps up to and including the International Civil Aviation Organization stamp of 1955. Beginning with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization stamp of 1955, the United Nations Postal Administration initiated a new policy whereby no control numbers appear on any sheets of stamps.

Descriptions of United Nations Stamps

“Peoples of the World”

Description of design
The horizontal vignette shows a rou of five persons, representing  the rincipal races of mankind, liberated from the chains of bon CFa ge and looking toward the United Nations emblem rising over a peaceful and prosperous landscape. The text “United Nations’ 1×1 the five official lan uages, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish, borders the stamp.

Design submitted for the first regular issue of United Nations stamps, 1951. In modified form this motif was used on the “Peoples of the World” stamp.

Marginal Inscriptions
These bear the United Nations seal and the text “First UN Issue 1951” and appear twice at the top and twice at the bottom of each sheet.

Printed by
Thomas de la Rue and Co., Ltd., of London, England, on pre-gummed paper from 100-subject, curved intaglio plates and cut into post office panes of 50 stamps each after perforating.

O. C. Meronti, United Kingdom

Vignette: J. C. Evans, Frame and Lettering: A. B. Crossett

1¢ maroon.
Issued 24 October 1951
Initial printing: 5,000,000
10¢ sepia Issued 16 November 1951
Initial printing: 1,000,000
Reprinted December 1954 100,000
Reprinted February 1957 300,000
Perforated: 13 horizontally and 12½ vertically

SIZE OF DIE: 3″ X 2″
SIZE OF STAMP: 30.4 rnm. x 24 mm.

PLATE MAKING STARTED: 1¢- 27 August 1951; 10¢-28 August 1951
PLATES TO PRESS: 1¢-31 August 1951; 10¢-6 September 1951
FIRST DELIVERY TO UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK: 1¢-7 September 1951; 10¢-13 September 1951

The first reprint of the 10¢ stamp shows the control numbers on the upper right hand corner of the sheets, rather than on the lower right hand comer. The second and third reprints carry no control numbers. All reprints are perforated through the margins.