Every stamp has a story


Did you know that more than 150 nations have issued over 1,000 postage stamps honouring Rotary on various occasions. This is the highest tribute paid ever to any organisation by a nation. The first ever Rotary Postage Stamp was issued in Austria to commemorate the 1931 RI Convention at Vienna. A set of six postage stamps were printed and released on this occasion. The greatest interest in Rotary came in 1955 with the issuance of more than 80 stamps by 27 nations. Belgium was the first country to issue Rotary’s 50th anniversary commemorative stamps.

The word ‘philately’ was coined in 1864 by a Frenchman named George Herpin who used two Greek words philos (love of) and atelic (tax free) to indicate that a letter affixed with postage stamps did not have to be paid for by the receiver, and so was tax free for him.


Philately is the study of stamps and a philatelist is a student of stamps. There is a difference between a person who collects stamps at random, and a ­philatelist who studies each stamp, examines its design, looks for errors, flaws and variations in printing, the paper on which it is printed, its watermark, the perforation etc. It is this study and systematic collecting that distinguishes philately from collecting stamps and a philatelist from a collector of stamps.

It is often said that stamp collecting has more benefit than any other hobby. Stamp collecting teaches every subject like History, Art, Culture, Geography, Science, Flora–fauna, Institution-organisation. It is a mental therapy for both the young and the old. It’s an affordable hobby, and an investment that pays off.

06There is a sense of pride and accomplishment in assembling a collection of stamps. The Rotary commemorative stamps were all issued to salute our organisation — what it stands for and what it is striving to do. They are things of beauty, rarity, and compelling interests, not only ­commemrating an international organisation, but also depicting its commitment to service around the world.

Returning to Rotary, RI has 75 fellowship groups interested in different areas. ‘Rotary on Stamps (RoS)’ is one of the most active area of ‘Recreational and Vocational Fellowships.’ Rotary on Stamps is a group of stamp collectors with an interest in the philatelic material commemorating RI, its districts, local clubs and service projects around the world, and it operates in accordance with RI policy.  In one of its publications, RI states: “Rotarians who share common interests in worthwhile recreational or avocational activities are encouraged to associate themselves in groups for the purpose of furthering acquaintance and fellowship.”


In India too Rotary Stamps have been issued; a set of two stamps were issued in 1987 to commemorate the Asia Regional Conference held at New Delhi and Rotary’s Polio ­Immunisation in 1998. India again issued a stamp of ₹ 8 denomination commemorating the Rotary Council on Legislation held at New Delhi on January 12, 1998, and the centennial issue of Rotary services in 2005.

Rotarians were once urged to “write the history of good” individually, through clubs and districts by national efforts; Rotarians over the years have written and illustrated just such a history in postage stamps. Let these messengers stand as a record of accomplishment. For more details visit: http://www.rotaryonstamps.org/

The author is member of Rotary Club of Pataliputra, D 3250.

My journey in Rotary started from Rotaract which I joined in 1974, and in 1977, I was invited to join Rotary under the classification ‘Philately’.

One day I read an interesting article on Rotary on Stamps and its fellowship in The Rotarian magazine. I soon became a member of RoS. RoS publishes a quarterly newsletter. In every RI Convention the RoS sets up its booth, where Rotarians display their collection and interact with each other intimately.

I attended the RoS meeting during my first visit to the RI Convention at Las Vegas in 1986, and have, since then, attended three more conventions at Singapore, Bangkok and the Rotary centennial convention at Birmingham (U K) in 2009.

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