Rarely have we devoted an article either on the web, or in our publication, to a subject not related to variable value stamps - our field of study , but some ideas merit it ...

On October 30th 2007, Unipost, the main private operator of the postal sector in Spain, launched the first set of 4 self-adhesive stamps – the Unisellos. These are a new product used for the prepayment of their mail distribution services, and are therefore authentic postal stamps.

It is not necessary to emphasize the special significance of this initiative both at a philatelic level and for the postal history of Spain.
Although it is not the first time in which a private postal company has issued stamps for the franking of the shipments posted within its own postal system (remember the temporary issues – shown right - made by IFCC - International First Class Courier or those of TNT Spain which were issued in some tourist areas and used mainly for franking of postcards to some European countries), the new Unisellos by Unipost are for domestic shipments and can only be used for the franking of letters of different weights, within the collection and delivery area of their own company.  

Current Spanish Postal Law states that the issue of stamps, in all their variations, will be proposed by the operator in charge of the universal postal service (currently Correos in Spain) and approved, jointly, by the Fomento and Economía y Hacienda Ministries. In addition, following a ministerial resolution, the stamps could only be manufactured by the Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre.
Until the complete European postal liberalization, originally expected by 2009 and later delayed until 2011 by the pressures of some countries like Spain, Correos continues to have the monopoly of distribution, for national and international shipments below 50 g, the most common items, which is the reason why the Unisellos can only be used for local mail and, in general, those circulating exclusively inside the Unipost network. Correos already have announced they will ‘return to sender’ all items arriving at their distribution centres, which have been franked with non legal stamps ...

The first set of Unisellos is doubly special. Because they are semi-postal stamps, the face value includes a surcharge, (a charity donation), allocated to the projects of the 3 main NGOs (Non governmental organisations) in Spain: The Cruz Roja (Red Cross), Intermón Oxfam and Médicos Sin Fronteras. These are the Unisellos Solidarios' (the ‘Caring Unisellos’). It’s a great idea to introduce this new product, with the launch date having been well chosen, with Christmas just around the corner.

The issue of semi-postal stamps is not usual in Spain. The idea comes from the German postal administration, an organisation which issues a number of semi-postal stamps each year. It is worthy of note that Deutsche Post owns nearly 38% of the Unipost capital.
The Unisellos have been manufactured by the Bundesdruckerei Berlin, the German company, (well known to many philatelists), which specialises in security printing and which was originally state owned, and then privatized in 2000 .

The Unisellos Solidarios set is composed of 4 self-adhesive perforated stamps, sized 35 x 45 mm. 2 of the stamps each have a face value of 25 + 10 cent. for the postage of items up to 20 g., whilst the other 2 each have a face value of 35 + 14 cent., for shipments between 20 and 50 g.
They are devoted to different events and activities affecting the world-wide population, and inspire this caring project: Refugiados (Refugees), Migraciones (Migrations), Cooperación (Cooperation) and Solidaridad (Solidarity).
The designer is Diego Feijóo, who has already created different projects for Médicos Sin Fronteras, through manipulation of a world-wide planisphere.

The Unisellos solidarios are sold in boxes, size 90 x 90 x 45 mm, and come in rolls of 500 stamps on white waxed paper, 40 mm wide, with a spacing of 2.5 mm between stamps.
There are 2 different boxes. One includes the 2 stamps (25 + 10 cent.) Refugees and Migrations, and the other, the 2 stamps (35 + 14 cent.) Cooperation and Solidarity. In both cases the 2 designs are repeated consecutively on the rolls.

In total 1,500 boxes have been manufactured of the 25 + 10 cent. stamps (375,000 stamps with each design) and 500 boxes of the 35 + 14 cent. stamps (125,000 of each design).

A pre-printed number appears on the back of the waxed paper on every 5th stamp, indicating the quantity of stamps remaining in the box, a characteristic reminiscent of the Klüssendorf ATM issues. The first stamp appearing when opening the box has number 500, and the last that appears almost at the end is 5.

Associated with the Unisellos Solidarios issue, Unipost prepared its 2 first commemorative postmarks; one a hand cancellation, for the first day of circulation, and the other a mechanical postmark in orange, (the Unipost corporate colour), with the text Unisello Solidario 2007.
The pictures show letters circulated with the Unisellos solidarios, with the Unipost postal sorting / zip code and details of the 2 commemorative postmarks.

The Unisellos are conceived as a new prepaid postal product for the main Unipost customers, such as large companies, small and medium business, as well as for collecting.
In addition to the boxes with 500 stamps, folders or packs have been prepared for collectors which include the 4 stamps (cut out by hand from the rolls) and placed into stamp mounts, along with an explanatory text for the issue.

This is a really interesting initiative that draws on the recent experiences of other private postal company issues -mainly in Germany-, and which have a great impact on modern postal history that already is being rolled out in Spain with the soon-to-be liberalization of the postal services.

And no, they are neither ATMs nor variable value stamps ...
at least not at the moment !

Update December 2007. Following a resolution by the Ministerio de Fomento, the Government department in charge of overseeing postal activities in Spain, it has been decided that the distribution of the Unisellos be stopped. Unipost indicated that it will appeal this decision and will ask for the necessary authority to continue with new stamp issues in the future.

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This page was created in November 2007 and last updated:  20.12.07 . English edition rewritten by S. Goodman (13.12.07)