By Peter Yaghmaie
Common design issues have a long history in stamp collecting.
Historically, a motherland issued stamps for its colonies in a commonly designed format. Around the 1950s, stamp agents began to design and produce such issues for their client countries, resulting in large common design issues or omnibuses for British Royal Family events and birthdays.
Common designs have also been used in joint broadcasts between two or more countries or even for problems on a common theme, such as the emblem used by various countries for the Year of International Cooperation in 1965, although in different colors and sizes.
However, the year 2001 saw a common design problem with unprecedented characteristics. Called the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, it was one of the largest jointly designed issues in philatelic history and unusual in that the vast majority of participating stamp issuers were neither colonies nor represented by a central stamp agent who designed and produced the issue. .
The colors and sizes of most of the stamps in this common design issue were also similar.
The idea of a dialogue among civilizations was proposed by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami in 1998, and later that year, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2001 the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations.
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The Iranian Postal Administration proposed the idea of an international stamp design competition to the Universal Postal Union in August 1999.
A total of 28 countries took part in this design competition. Iran, India, Poland and Slovenia were selected as finalists at UPU headquarters in Switzerland.
The winning design for Urska Golob from Slovenia was chosen by the World Association for the Development of Philately at its meeting in October 2000 at the Espana 2000 World Philatelic Exhibition in Madrid, Spain.
The winning design features a children’s drawing of children of four races circling the Earth with communication tools including a letter, phone, parcel, and computer keyboard between them.
The backdrop for the design is a blue sky with white clouds.
Over 60 countries participated in this stamp issue, the vast majority using the winning design. In addition, most countries issued stamps around October 9, 2001, World Post Day. A few countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands Antilles, issued their stamps in 2002 or 2003. Paradoxically, the United Nations Postal Administration did not participate in this joint issue.
Some countries have issued additional stamps showing their own designs, often that country’s entries in the design competition. For example, a stamp from Iran (Scott 2824) depicts the competition finalist.
A few countries, like Portugal (Scott 2444), have used completely other designs instead of the common design.
The large number of stamp issuing entities and the different mintage of each stamp in the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations joint design issue make assembling a complete collection a challenge.
The catalog and / or market value of stamps from some countries are quite high, namely Sudan, Oman and Senegal.
For the specialist, color varieties, perforations and printing errors provide further collection opportunities for this most rare common design problem.