Postage Stamps of Italy

by Tony Clayton

The Republic of Italy

1991 Basketball Issue <<-- : -->> Columbus Miniature Sheets
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Priority Post

The Italian Post Office introduced a Priority Post Service in June 1999 at a rate of 1200 lire equivalent to €0.62). A self-adhesive stamp was issued for this purpose, either in sheets of 40, or in sheets of 28 with a blue label inscribed POSTA PRIORITARIA/Priority Mail. The labels were also available in sheets of 76. The correct use was for the stamp to be placed at the top right of the envelope, and the label at the top left. However, as the label was directly below the stamp as sold, it was often left in that position.

The first stamp was printed in black and gold by typography, with a central three-dimensional P in a circle printed by a silk-screen process (serigrafia). The backing paper was rouletted so that individual stamps could be separated for sale to the public.

In common with the later issues the adhesive is not water soluble, and while it is possible to remove the stamp from the paper using lighter fuel or other solvents, used copies of these stamps are best collected on piece. Unlike the normal practice with definitive issues, the printer’s imprint included the date.

1200 lire

1200 lire, First Issue of Priority Post, 1999
Sassone 2419

The following January a revised design with a cream central background was issued, to be followed in April 2001 with a third design in a modified typeface and enlarged central motif. The printer’s imprint and date were centred, and the designer’s name removed. The attached label was modified at the same time.

1200 lire

1200 lire, Second Issue of Priority Post, 2000
Sassone 2448

1200 lire

1200 lire, Third Issue of Priority Post, 2001
Sassone 2530

On the introduction of the euro in 2002, six values were issued on the 2nd January, namely €0.62, €0.77, €1.00, €1.24, €1.86, and €4.13, differing in the central background colour. These all have the imprint I.P.Z.S. · ROMA ·2002.

1.86e 2002

1.86 euro, 2002
Sassone 2600

The €0.62 stamp was also issued in booklets of four stamps, where the stamps cannot be individually separated as the backing paper is not rouletted. This contained a useful table of rates valid at that time, from which it is clear that the €1.00 stamp was simply a make-up value.


Booklet of €0.62 stamps, 2002
Sassone Libretti 24

The following year the status of the printers changed, and the same six denominations were reissued using a revised imprint in the form I.P.Z.S. S.p.A. - ROMA - 2003

1.00e 2003

1.00 euro, 2003
Sassone 2673c

4.13e 2003

4.13 euro, 2003
Sassone 2673f

In 2004 the basic rate was reduced to €0.60, so, allowing for changes of the rates for heavier items, a new set of four values was issued dated 2004, namely €0.60, €0.80, €1.40, and €1.50, followed by a late re-issue of the €1.00 also dated 2004.

During the course of the year the printing method was changed to rotary gravure in sheets of 40 including the label. The matrix of surrounding self-adhesive paper was no longer removed with the introduction of this new printing method.

Two new values, €2.00 and €2.20, were issued in this form, along with three previously issued values, €0.60, €0.80, and €1.40. What is strange is that the €1.00 came out dated 2004 in typography after the issue of these five gravure denominations.

0.60e 2004

0.60 euro, typography, 2004
Sassone 2731

0.60e 2004

4.13 euro, gravure, 2003
Sassone 2747

The two types can be readily distinguished as the coloured background and central P are smoother. Nonetheless, the use of a magnifying glass confirms the difference, as shown in the figure below, with the screening of the typographed stamp (on the left) absent in the gravure issue:


Left: typographed; Right: gravure
Sassone 2731

2005 saw the issue of four values dated with that year: €0.60, €0.62, €0.80 and €1.50, even though the 0.80€ was not issued until May the following year.

0.60e 2005

0.60 euro, 2005
Sassone 2843

0.62e 2005

0.62 euro, 2005
Sassone 2844

0.80e 2005

0.80 euro, 2005
Sassone 2845

1.50e 2005

1.50 euro, 2005
Sassone 2846

The last year in which one would have expected these stamps to be issued was 2006, as on the 20th May the service was merged with the ordinary post at the basic rate of €0.60.  Prior to the cessation of the separate service, denominations of €0.60 and €1.40 were issued with the date of 2006 in sheets of 40 with the label as before.

0.60e 2006

0.60 euro, 2006
Sassone 2893a

1.40e 2006

1.40 euro, 2006
Sassone 2894

After the cessation of the separate service, these two stamps were re-issued in the form of sheets of 40 both without the label and also without the date in the printer's imprint.


0.60 euro, undated
Sassone 2932a


1.40 euro, undated
Marginal example. Sassone 2932c

Since then, Poste Italiane has issued further denominations in this form without the date in the imprint and without the blue label. The €1.50 came out in 2007.


1.50 euro, undated
Sassone 2932d

Three further values (€0.80, €2.00 and a new denomination of €2.20) were issued in the same format during 2008.

It has always seemed odd that it was deemed necessary to have a separate label to indicate the service when such a distinctive stamp was used for the purpose. However, commemoratives were also issued in the Postaprioritaria denominations, and these were sold by Post Offices and the Philatelic Bureau with a separate label.

For reasons best known to them, the Italian Philatelic Bureau did not recognise all these variations in their New Issue service, and consequently it is quite difficult to acquire all the issues, with some becoming relatively expensive. Indeed, Stanley Gibbons have omitted many of them from their latest catalogue.

I acknowledge the following sources:  Sassone Volume 1 2013 and Stanley Gibbons Part 8 8th Edition

1991 Basketball Issue <<-- : -->> Columbus Miniature Sheets
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Posta Prioritaria
Copyright reserved by the author, Tony Clayton
v3 23rd April 2015
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