Top five Rotary International stamps

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4-88503.jpg Rotart International in the USA
Explore the work of a global organisation by building a collection featuring the humanitarian work of Rotary International.

Explore the work of a global organisation by building a collection featuring the humanitarian work of Rotary International.

With more than 1.25 million members in over 160 countries, Rotary International is an organisation with a truly global reach and influence. Founded in 1905 by attorney Paul P Harris in Chicago, Rotary International (RI) now has 34,000 clubs around the world, whose members meet regularly to provide humanitarian services and ‘advance goodwill and peace around the world’.

Rotary International on stamps is an interesting and challenging theme, which can chart the history of this organisation and its spread around the world, as well as covering the many different campaigns and projects with which RI has been involved over the past 112 years. 

1. The fiftieth anniversary of Rotary International in 1955 saw 27 nations issue stamps on the theme, including a USA 8c blue stamp featuring a globe, the Rotary Wheel and the motto ‘service above self’; and an attractive 30f value from Columbia which incorporated the Rotary Wheel into a globe, again including the ‘service above self’ motif.

2. The year 2005 marked the centenary of RI, and as you might expect, countries around the world issued special stamps to celebrate this landmark. 

Highlights include a five-stamp set from Montserrat, which featured the Rotary Wheel and a number of RI projects; Lesotho stamps showing a group of children whom the organisation had helped; and a Chile centenary stamp featuring eagles flying over a globe. Bolivia's centenary stamp is pictured here, showing RI founder Paul P Harris.

3. The eradication of polio has been a long-term and worldwide campaign for Rotary, beginning in 1979 with a project to immunise six million children in the Philippines.

Since then, polio is now endemic in just three countries around the world (Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan), thanks in part to Rotary’s public awareness and fundraising campaigns.

There have been a number of RI/polio stamps, including Tanzania’s Rotary centenary stamp of 2005, which highlighted the polio campaign, and more recently a 2011 ‘end polio now’ stamp from Serbia, which featured silhouettes of active children, along with the Rotary wheel. This Pakistan stamp from 2000 features the RI’s polio projects.

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4. Rotary conventions, which are often the subjects of stamps, are held in a different city each year and have never been cancelled, even during the two World Wars.

The first such event, hosted by Chicago in 1910, welcomed sixty delagates; nowadays the convention numbers are in the tens of thousands. This year’s convention will be in Atlanta from 10 to 14 June.

Korea, last year’s host country, issued a special stamp, stamp sheets, a commemorative first day cover and a special Rotary postmark featuring the wheel logo, all of which were issued during the conference, held at Goyang Kintex.

5. There are several possibilities for sub themes within this field and one of the most appealing is to collect Rotary stamps which feature a project or cause of personal interest to you. Over the years, the accomplishments of the Rotary’s 1.25 million members have been honoured in many different fields, including health, the eradication of disease, Rotary Club pioneers, inventions and international emergency response.

Another possibility is a collection of Rotary stamps issued by a single country. Although Britain has never issued a stamp on this theme, with stamps from more than 160 different countries, there are plenty of options. This Bermuda stamp celebrates fifty years of the organisation in Bermuda.

Article adapted from an in-depth feature in the April issue of Stamp & Coin Mart, available from our website.