Belgium : World's Fair, Brussels ‑ United Nations Issue


Issue date: 17/04/1958



Groundmarshaller guiding an aircraft, stylized aircraft, oceanic-navigation station ship, world’s fair emblem and text INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION ORGANIZATION. The designer’s name (J VAN NOTEN followed by DEL) and the engraver’s name (H DECUYPER followed by SC) are written vertically at bottom-left and bottom right respectively.                               



As customary for most Belgian stamps at that time, a limited number of imperforate presentation proofs were prepared. Un-gummed, in issue colour, each proof has a 5.75 mm individual black control number printed on the reverse of the stamp.



Belgium has provided the philatelic world with some of the most seldom seen specialized material. For most 20th century issues and almost all from 1930, imperforates have been prepared in the original colours and distributed only to high government officials. Stamps up to 1950 were sold gummed or ungummed, as issued, sometimes with a script Specimen overprint. After 1950, all Belgium imperforates were issued ungummed with an individual number printed on the reverse of each stamp. Each of these imperforates is then unique. The Belgian post issued only 300 imperforates as gifts to VIP's. The Belgian King receives a block of 10, high-ranking ministers a block of 4 and the rest a single stamp. Philatelic magazines and catalogues highlight the rarity of these stamps.



Minister Proof in Black. Impression in black from the master dies, with the embossed seal of the Minister of Communications, Postal Administration.


Printed for almost all issues since 1929 are MINISTER PROOFS in black. Each of these proofs is printed individually from the original plates in black on special 14 cm by 14 cm glossy paper, with a raised Ministry of Posts seal in the margin. This issue had offered such proofs.


Full sheet of 30 stamps with printing date at the lower left and control number at the lower right.


First Day Covers, Éditions Rodan, Brussels, showing the two types of cancels in use during the exhibition. The following text Editions Rodan - Bruxelles is printed on the side flap of the covers.

The complete set of 16 stamps was issued on six Rodan first day covers, numbered as follows: P. 61, P. 61a, P. 61b, P. 61c, P. 61d, and P. 61e; as there were two different cancels, the total number of covers in this series amounts to twelve, with different colours in the cachet. The cover flap, with the inscription Éditions Rodan – Bruxelles, is on the left side.

In addition, some of the covers show a vertical blue line on the right side.

A Post Horn is shown on the following covers. The post horn is a valveless cylindrical brass instrument with a cupped mouthpiece. Usually, the instrument has a circular shape or is rolled up with three turns of the tube, although sometimes it can also be straight. From the earliest days of the mounted post rider, the instrument was used by postal couriers and stagecoaches to signal their arrival and departure, before other types of signalling communications (like radio or telegraph). It was also used to act as a warning for other coaches on the road to clear the way and give them priority or have a fresh horse ready, as mail coaches travelled at high speeds. Hence, post horns are frequently used as iconography to represent postal services. 















First Day Cover, United Nations red cachet. The 16 stamps of this issue are displayed on 5 covers.


First Day Cover, United Nations blue (airmail) cachet. The third cover shows the following imprint: FIRST DAY COVER in Brown/Gold. The 16 stamps of this issue are displayed on 5 covers.




First Day Cover released on the United Nations Day at the exhibition, i.e., on 26 June 1958. The 16 stamps of this issue are displayed on 6 covers. Design by Lucien de Roeck who was also the designer of the emblem of the Brussels World Fair (five-pointed star). Éditions Rodan.


First Day Cover on Official Headquarters cachet.


Official First Day Cover with vertical plum inscription on the left margin. The 16 stamps of this issue are displayed on 5 covers, each with a different colour for the cachet.






Registered First Day Cover.


Maximum card with the United Nations emblem at the exhibition.


Art Craft First Day Cover showing the US Pavilion at the exhibition.


United Nations First Day Cover (Front and Back) with Slogan Cancel “Visit UN Pavilion Brussels 1958”.



Service covers: the United Nations at the Brussels Exhibition.



Service cover: the United Nations at the Brussels Exhibition with the 16 stamps of this issue.


 Imprint (i.e., return address) found on the back of some covers.








Registered cover sent from the UN pavilion at the Exhibition.


Registered cover with the official first day cancel.


First Day Cover with the poster stamp (designed by Jacques Richez), i.e., official logo label issued by the Organizing Committee for the 1958 Brussels world fair. The two different cancels are depicted.



Two service covers sent on United Nations Day at the Universal Exhibition celebrated on 26 June 1958 (as shown by the cancel). Front and back pictures.





Background: This stamp pertains to a 6-stamp airmail set. As part of this issue, Belgium also released ten regular stamps for the Brussels World Fair, also known as the Brussels Universal and International Exhibition; so, the issue consists of a total of 16 stamps (see here below), issued for the purpose of financing the UN pavilion during the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair (held from 17 April to 19 October 1958, called Expo 58). See more information on this exhibition by clicking on the following link: 1958 World’s Fair - Brussels, Belgium.



Registered cover with the 16 stamps of the issue:


The emblem of the Brussels World Fair (Expo 58) was an off-centred five-pointed star, representing the 5 continents, with the tower of the Brussels’s City Hall in its centre, the earth and the numerals 58. Each branch of the star represents a continent. Lucien de Roeck, Belgium won the competition to design the logo for the exhibition.

These two sets of stamps were issued by Belgium in honour of the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies. They were sold by the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) in New York and Geneva, as well as at the post office in the UN pavilion at the world exhibition. The stamps had postage value only for posting from the UN pavilion, where they were cancelled with a UN special postmark; following the close of this post office on 17 October 1958, unsold stamps were destroyed.

The ICAO emblem shown on this stamp is an early-unofficial emblem in use for some time in 1954 and 1955, with longer wings set lower on the globe than on the current emblem. At the opposite left is the correct ICAO emblem.

The blue stamp shown here-above pays tribute to two major achievements of ICAO during the first decade of its lifetime, namely the North Atlantic air navigation infrastructure (see more information on this subject by clicking on: The North Atlantic Ocean Stations Agreement) and the airport communications services (referring to Annex 2 to the Chicago Convention – Rules of the Air). Those successes are illustrated on this stamp by an ocean weather ship and a groundmarshaller.

Recognizing the serious lack of weather observation, air navigation and rescue facilities in the North Atlantic, ICAO sponsored the first meeting (the North Atlantic Regional Air Navigation Meeting) on this subject in London in September 1946 of those nations whose airlines were interested in flying over that North Atlantic Ocean. As a result, 10 states agreed, under ICAO’s Joint Financing Program, to cooperate in the maintenance of 13 ocean weather stations arranged in a pattern designed to provide coverage for the regions’ major air routes. One of those stations, namely Station K (”Kilo”, with 2 ships; the stations were called by the same names, as used in the International Phonetic Alphabet), were initially allotted to Belgium and the Netherlands jointly. In fact, the original agreement providing for 13 stations was never implemented; only 10 of those stations were operated by 25 ships in 1949. In 1954, the number of stations was reduced to 9 with 21 ships to ease the burden of the cost of operation.

Belgium – 7 August 1950 – Inauguration of helicopter airmail services - Sikorsky S-51 and Douglas DC-4 leaving Melsbroeck airport.

Having its origin in recommendations of the Second Air Navigation Conference held in 1955, the third edition of the International Standards and Recommended Practices related to the Rules of the Air (Annex 2) became effective on 15 September 1956. A new set of marshalling signals specifically designed for hovering helicopters were incorporated in the new version. Along with neighbouring countries, Belgium actively pushed for such helicopter signals, as SABENA, the Belgian national airline, started the world’s first international helicopter service on 3 August 1953, when an 8-passenger Sikorsky S-55 helicopter left the new Heliport at Allée Verte in Brussels for Antwerpen and Rotterdam. The signal shown on the stamp means Straight Ahead.

The exceptional geographical position of Belgium explains the fact that the first relatively large-scale test of the use of helicopters was attempted. If a circle 350 km in radius was drawn about Brussels, it would embrace a population of 72 million inhabitants, i.e., the highest concentration of population in the world at that time, with 58 cities of more than 10,000 inhabitants and 25 with more than 200,000 inhabitants. It is to be noted that Belgium had a long practice with helicopters, as the first international helicopter mail service (between Brussels and The Hague, The Netherlands) was started by SABENA as early as 5 November 1947 with a Sikorsky S-51.

More background information on this stamp can be found by clicking on the following link: Belgium UN Stamp: Unusual Design.


Reworking of the Belgian stamp


Photo Credit to Alvin Luong

Alvin Luong completed a BA (Hons.) from the University of Toronto. He creates artworks based on stories of human migration, land, and dialogues from the diasporic working-class communities that he lives and works with. Alvin Luong is interested in why documentation and instructions are created and how they can be interpreted. This set of interests is put into practice through research, performance, moving images, and photography. 

In 2016, he created a performance and lecture script titled: “10 Aircraft Marshalling Moves for Beginners - 10-Minute Daily Routine”. The front page of his document is illustrated with an artwork based on the 1958 Belgian postage stamp dedicated to ICAO and the UN.

This script is a written version of a performance and lecture that originally took place at Blackwood Gallery at the University of Toronto, Mississauga on 17 September 2016, as a part of an art forum. The performance and lecture were conducted in conjunction with a video with the same title.


Advertising with stamps (Excerpt from Linns’ Stamp news 5 June 2023, Vol. 96, No. 4926)

One of the earliest forms of advertising on stamps appeared on the backs of stamps. Self-stick stamps can include advertising on a label that is peeled off the back to use the stamp. Advertisements can also be found on labels that are se-tenant, or side by side, with a stamp. In addition, booklet covers sometimes carry advertisements for products. Postage meter stamps have long been used for advertising purposes. Advertisements can also be found elsewhere in the mail. The Brussels World Fair was the occasion to advertise by sending a stamp letter to help build the brand and save money. The letter, shown below dated 6 May 1958, includes the United States 3¢ stamp promoting the Brussels Universal and International Exhibition held in Belgium. The stamp had been released less than a month earlier, on 17 April 1958 (the opening day of the exhibition). As the letter mentions, there is a connection between stamp and product. The advertiser is James H. Carr Inc. of Washington, D.C., which produced the Kalwall translucent wall panes used in the great bicycle wheel roof of the U.S. pavilion at the Brussels World’s Fair.