The Vatican stamps issued between 1929 and 1934 were all pictorial or portrait definitives, required for the new Vatican postal service. They all bore familiar images, such as the Papal Coat-of-Arms, the Vatican Palace, the Vatican Gardens, St. Peter's Basilica, and portraits of Pope Pius XI.
The thirteen portrait definitive stamps shown above (Sc. #1-13) were issued on August 1, 1929. They are all printed on unwatermarked paper, and they are perforated 14.
The two common designs feature the Vatican Coat-of-Arms and Pope Pius XI. The lower denomination stamps are printed on surface colored paper, and they have a background consisting of rows of the words "POSTE VATICANE" in colorless letters.
Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti (1857-1939) was proclaimed Pope Pius XI on February 6, 1922. He was the first sovereign of Vatican City, from its creation, as an independent state, on February 11, 1929.
He is remembered as the Pope that reigned between the two devastating world wars of the 20th Century. He denounced racism, antisemitism, colonialism, and violent German nationalism, but the Church did not have the power to stop the tragic events that would soon engulf all of Europe.
Pope Pius XI died on February 10, 1939, after a reign of sixteen years. During his interment, an unexpected miracle happened. In the course of excavating space for his tomb in the grotto beneath St. Peter's Basilica, two levels of ancient burial chambers were discovered. The bones recovered from one of those ancient burial chambers were later confirmed to be those of Saint Peter!
The sixteen portrait definitive Vatican stamps shown above (Sc. #19-34) were issued on May 31, 1933. They are all engraved on paper watermarked with the Keys of St. Peter, and they are perforated 14.
The three common designs of the lower denomination stamps feature the Arms of Pope Pius XI, the Vatican Palace and Obelisk, and the Vatican Gardens.
The two common designs of the higher denomination stamps feature the portrait of Pope Pius XI and St. Peter's Basilica, with St. Peter's Square and the Obelisk in the foreground.
The four charity stamps shown above were issued on April 1, 1933 to celebrate Holy Year 1933-1934.
The common design features a Cross and Orb within a large oval, with the Latin inscription "CRUX AVE SPES UNICA", meaning "HAIL TO THE CROSS, OUR ONLY HOPE".
The five Pope Pius XI portrait definitive stamps of 1929 shown above (Sc. #35-40) were re-valued on June 16, 1934.
For anyone contemplating collecting the stamps of the Vatican, this is the most expensive set in Vatican philately. On eBay, mint sets are priced at $750.00 to $1,500.00, depending on whether never hinged or lightly hinged stamps are preferred. For Vatican stamp collectors, once this set is purchased, everything else gets progressively less expensive.
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The 30 C. denomination Papal Coat-of-Arms definitive Vatican stamp of 1929, shown above, was overprinted and re-valued to 25 C. (Sc. #14) on October 1, 1931.