The origins of the Republic’s postal history are as far off as they are illustrious. It all began with a measure adopted by the Prince and Sovereign Council on the 7th of October 1607, which nominated a Postman whose duty was to go to Rimini to pick up incoming mail and leave any to be fowarded, in order to guarantee the population of San Marino contact with the outside world.

Thus began an organised public service for use by both the State authorities and the ordinary citizen, however, nobody was exempt from payment, not even the Captains Regent − the Heads of State. It should be noted that at that time the job of transferring mail was carried out all over Europe by private couriers, something which could only be afforded by the ruling classes and the Pope; “….the less well-off had to make their own arrangements”, writes Franco Filanci, “entrusting their message to a pilgrim, a monk, a ship’s captain..."

San Marino was therefore the first state in the world to dream up and launch a public postal service with no aim of creating income for the coffers of the State. And so it was that in the winter of 1607-1608 the first Postman, a certain Giulio Franchini, began his yo- yoing between Pianello (the Piazza in front of the Palazzo Pubblico) and Rimini post station; initially once a week then twice and even more often, always on foot and in any weather!

To collect mail destined for Rimini a box was installed under the portico of the Domus Communis Magna while, to be transported, the correspondence was put inside a special satchel.

And for over two centuries the Postman’s remuneration consisted of a small salary – a cause for periodic complaints – supplemented by one Baiocco coin as tax on every incoming letter, plus a pair of shoes and every now and again, a cloak.

In the wake of the improvements wrought by the French, in 1826 San Marino felt it opportune to adopt a service that was less haphazard than the simple Postman, and so on the 7th of December, the Prince and Sovereign Council decided to, “ ….set up a post office which, for such a delicate affair seems a safer and more regular method than that practiced to date... ”. In the beginning it limited itself to promoting the Postman to Postal Official, conceding him a corner of the Palazzo Pubblico, but then, in 1833, to prevent any slip-ups, a proper Post Office was built next to the Palazzo, with its very own Director, whose task was to collect and sort the correspondence. He was also equipped with the first San Marino stamp: a ‘Franking’, used to indicate to the Director of the Post at Rimini that the sender had already paid the amount necessary to frank the letter… Meanwhile, the keys to the satchel were kept exclusively by the Directors of the San Marino and Rimini offices.

The opening of the office was just the beginning of San Marino’s postal innovations. When, in November of 1834 the Postman died, instead of a new one being elected his son took his place, also with an eye to “….providing him with some means to help the impecunious state of his rather large family….” while soon after, following the entreaties of his mother, he was even assigned a horse.

The year 1840 saw the Rowland Hill reform in Great Britain, with a uniform postal fee and the adoption of paper postage stamps − the famous ‘Penny Black’.

San Marino already had a uniform fee, so in the following years it limited itself to complying with the papal model by using stamps showing the tiara of the Pope, finding itself in an enclave within the Church state; then, later on, at the end of 1859, when the Romagnas became part of the Sardinian states, it changed to using stamps showing Vittorio Emanuele II. It should be emphasised that the people of San Marino who franked the correspondence did not see these stamps since they were applied at the post office in Rimini.

In 1862, following the signing of the agreement of ‘friendship and good neighbourliness’ with Italy, the Post Office Director felt it incumbent upon him to indicate the place of origin on outgoing correspondence (as envisaged by the Italian postal regulations), at long last introducing a stamp that read ‘San Marino’; this was not dated however, seeing that it was imprinted with a date stamp at Rimini.

From the 1st of January 1863, when the Italian postal reform came into force, which obliged prior franking, San Marino was forced to furnish itself with Italian stamps, beside which had to be placed a mark indicating the provenance (San Marino). These were subsequently cancelled at Rimini with a date stamp; these examples are known as ‘precursors’ and are extremely valuable in philatelic circles.

The first Postal Agreement signed on the 7th of February 1865 between San Marino and the Kingdom of Italy stipulated that, “the Government of the Republic admits for the time being the use of Italian stamps in its territory”, upon which the Italian State conceded a premium of 20%; as a consequence, San Marino had to step into line with the Italian regulations and postal services but, as Filanci writes, “...it also did everything possible to differentiate itself: the date stamp, although similar to the Italian ones, read in full “REPUBLIC OF SAN MARINO”, and used blue ink, the colour of the San Marino flag – which the Italian postal regulations had forbidden since it corroded the stamps.

Not many years had passed when, in 1875, San Marino took the decision to “ ….not continue to avail itself of stamps from another State for postal correspondence... ” and began negotiations with the Italian Officina Carte Valori (official government printing works) to create its own.

A new postal agreement of the 2nd of March 1877, opened up an exceedingly favourable way forward for San Marino: it stipulated that “ ...the franking of correspondence from the Republic of San Marino for the Kingdom of Italy….and the franking of correspondence from the Kingdom of Italy for the Republic of San Marino, shall be represented by stamps in use in the respective State.” In short, writes Antonietta Bonelli, “San Marino had decided to proceed with issuing and therefore making use of its own stamps, and this decision answered both the opportunity to fully enjoy one of the prerogatives deriving from the sovereignty of a State, and the necessity to encourage greater and more certain sources of revenue to swell the Republic’s extremely meagre funds.

The first San Marino stamps were issued on the 1st of July 1877 but, due to a delay in delivery by the Italian printing office, did not reach San Marino until the 2nd of July and were not put on sale for a further month. There are 5 values, drawn and engraved by Enrico Repettati, and they were printed by the fledging Officina Carte Valori printing works in Turin (founded in 1866). Each value was printed on sheets of 100 examples and they show the figure for the relevant amount or the Republic’s coat of arms: 2 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 30 cents and 40 cents.

In an era when philately was just starting out and evoked dreams of travels to exotic lands, the Republic of San Marino was not well-known even among European collectors, because of its small number of editions. Not that is until, between 1891 and 1892, a young German trader arrived on Monte Titano in search of new opportunities: his name was Otto Bickel. The first thing he did was to found a specialist magazine entitled ‘San Marino Philatelist’ which immediately publicised the San Marino stamp, whose rarity, due to the low number of issues, attracted speculators who operated in that field. “To satisfy the collectors,” Filanci writes, “ Bickel always made use of considerable numbers of stamps all with perfect centring even if employing cuttings from a book of stamps and some 2-cent fractions.

In just one year, again citing Filanci, Bickel’s activity caused such a rumpus in the sleepy postal life of San Marino, that the 5-cent value suddenly ran out.

While awaiting fresh supplies it was decided to overprint 10,000 30-cent stamps. As luck would have it, in San Marino the only printer’s on hand was Prof. Giuseppe Angeli’s and it was not equipped for such an enterprise: the necessity to use five letter Cs and five figure 5s meant using every available character, even if they were different from one another, and overprinting only half the sheet.

It was enough for Bickel to use these stamps to send out his magazine and the entire run was finished. These are still very valuable and are much sought after. After a succession of overprints designed to cope with the sudden shortfall, ...new supplies of stamps and postcards arrived, and the fact that the colour of the stamps had been changed to bring them into line with the Italian values turned them into an overnight sensation among collectors, while revealing to the San Marino governors just what philately meant.

Also one native of San Marino operated in the field of philately with much sincerity and pluckiness: this was Alfredo Reffi who, in 1855, founded the company he chose to call Antica Casa Filatelica. He traded in postage stamps and printed the first picture postcards showing views of the country at the end of the century.

These too are much sought after, and given their rarity, command high prices. The figure of this San Marino native is of some note therefore, and he can be considered a real pioneer in an activity that would open the floodgates of tourism.

In 1882 San Marino issued the first full cover. The first postage due stamps are from 1897, express stamps from 1907, parcel post stamps from 1928 and the first airmail stamps from 1931.

When Bickel left San Marino in 1894, ” Filanci continues, “at this point the people of San Marino were in a position to carry on alone...” so much so that, on the occasion of the inauguration of the brand new Palazzo for the Prince and Sovereign Council they invited a star of the time, the poet Giosuč Carducci, to give the opening speech, while in the philatelic field they brought to light a series of firsts still without equal: the first issue in the world of a charity stamp, whose profits went to the hospital; the first envelope in the world designed for philatelic use and the only free one for anyone who made an order over ITL500; the largest stamp ever issued, the 5 Lira bustone (a world record yet to be surpassed) and, in the Italian area, the first celebratory issue.

In the ensuing years new agreements were drawn up and new postal services launched; the philatelic issues showed panoramic views of Monte Titano, then major events in the history of San Marino, as well as works which from year to year supported and furthered our ancient Republic’s headway. It was the year 1945 which saw the founding of the Philatelic Office which was given the task of issuing and commercializing the stamps of San Marino. Ever newer themes were proposed involving art, sport, flowers and animals.

Through its stamps, postcards, envelopes and aerograms San Marino has transmitted not only knowledge of the celebrities, events, traditions and institutions of San Marino, but also cultural and more up-to-date themes, from women’s and children’s rights to defence of the environment, from a vocation of intercultural dialogue to peace. And it has often done so in an original and innovative way: as well as the various firsts we have already mentioned, in August 2009 it issued the very first stamps to be viewed in 3D with an equally innovative postal/stereoscopic pack.

(the citations come from:
- M. Antonietta Bonelli - 1998 - Una Montagna di Francobolli. Published by the Azienda Autonoma di State Filatelica e Numismatica – Rep. of San Marino
- Guide Postali Marini – 2008 - Franco Filanci: Da San Marino una lunga storia di posta, primati e francobolli. Genoa)



The demands of the population and their territory were never such that San Marino needed to found a Mint; indeed there was no advantage in opening a Mint with all its contingent services, technical means and indispensable metals, the cost of which could only be recouped by sufficient currency flow and a banking system able to support a San Marino coinage. Nor was San Marino ever governed by a monarch or squire driven by the ambition to hand down to posterity his or her head or dynastic symbols engraved on coins.(1).

The proposal advanced by certain foreign ‘minters’ who “...tried to come here to strike coins...”, was examined by the Prince and Sovereign Council but bore no fruit (Acts of the C.P.S. book 14 p.121 sitting of 3.1.1608). “It would be re- discussed almost two centuries later: in the minutes of the sitting of the Grand and General Council of the 28th of October 1792 we read that, ‘amongst the many means proposed to improve our free existence was one put forward to erect a Mint in the Republic.’ The proposal was approved but later abandoned.
The only ‘Mint’ operating for the briefest time in the territory of San Marino was one set up on the sly in 1871 by a forger (2).

The problem of ‘striking coins’ was tackled in a systematic way as part of the first Italian- Sammarinese Monetary Agreement of 1862, which stipulated in Art.24 that, “the coins which the Republic believes it will have to mint with time can be legal currency in the Kingdom as long as they comply with the decimal system and have the same content and weight as those of the Kingdom”. And so it was that the first copper coin, worth 5 cents and featuring the Republic’s official coat of arms (the three towers surmounted by a crown and surrounded by a laurel branch and one of oak), came to be issued in 1864 by Milan’s Royal Mint.

The first edition was followed by others at regular intervals (in 1898 the first silver coins) in conformity with clauses contained in subsequent monetary agreements, until that of 1939 with which the Republic of San Marino undertook “ ...not to carry out any new minting of coins of any kind, except for gold coins, and in this case we shall avail ourselves of the services of the Royal Mint”. The Second World War and the ensuing economic crisis temporarily closed the chapter on numismatics, which would not get rolling again until 1972 with fractional coinage possessing, "...in other’s territory, an identical fiat currency and liberating power in relationships between private individuals and the public reserves.” (Art. 3 Italian-Sammarinese Monetary Agreement of 10 September 1971).

Since 1974 gold coins too have been minted again. There have been several series of coins since the very first minting and a gold San Marino coin is still a benchmark of prestige, originality and autonomy, even in the aftermath of the grand occasion of the single European currency.


The Monetary Agreement signed in San Marino on the 29th of November 2000 between the Republic of San Marino and the Italian Republic on behalf of the European Community, established that from the 1st of January 2002, San Marino would be able to issue coins in euro, both fractional coinage and collector’s coins in gold and silver, up to a maximum annual value of 1,944 thousand euro.

The euro coins issued by San Marino are identical to the ones issued by those Member States of the European Community which adopted the euro, as regards the nominal value, fiat currency and technical characteristics, as well as the artistic characteristics of the community and national faces. The artistic characteristics of the national face are communicated beforehand by the Republic of San Marino to the competent EC authorities. Every year, the Republic of San Marino communicates by and no later than the 1st of September, the nominal value of the euro coins, divided into fractional coinage and collector’s coins (in gold and silver) that it intends to issue during the following year. The maximum coinage contingent is subject to a two-yearly revision calculated on the basis of variations in the ISTAT Consumer Price Index over the previous two years.

It is by now an established tradition amongst enthusiasts across the globe to collect philatelic and numismatic editions from San Marino, which are equally sought-after by non-specialists as a souvenir of great artistic merit to recollect a visit to the Republic.

The Medallions

The San Marino Medallions, born without a fuss virtually at the same time as the Republic’s coinage while the philately of San Marino was still in incubation, have seen their themes extended enormously over the years − since 1932 onwards − as well as attracting more and more artists to adorn them (3).

(the citations come from: 1. Gian Luigi Berti , Il sistema monetario e la moneta d’oro a San Marino, San Marino 1997, page 12.
2. Marino Zanotti – Cristoforo Buscarini, Monete e Medaglie Commemorative della Repubblica di San Marino, San Marino 1982, page 10.
3. Marino Zanotti – Cristoforo Buscarini, Monete e Medaglie Commemorative della Repubblica di San Marino, San Marino 1982, page 13.)