LOCATION: On the southern slope of the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain
AREA: 179 sq. mi.
Population: 72,766 (1 July 1996)
GOVERNMENT: Constitutional Coprincipality
CAPITAL: Andorra la Vella
FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: 1928
100 Centimos = 1 Peseta/100 Centimes = 1 Franc (1928-2002)
100 Cents = 1 Euro (2002-date)
Andorra is a co-principality that had been jointly administered by France and the Spanish bishop of Urgell since 1278. In 1993, Andorra became a constitutional coprincipality, governed by its own parliament. It is the sixth smallest country in Europe with an area of just 181 square miles (468 square kilometers). The capital city of Andorra la Vella is the highest in Europe, sitting at an elevation of 3,356 feet (1,023 meters) above sea level. Stamps are issued by both France and Spain for use in the principality with Correos of Spain and La Poste of France operating side by side. The Spanish post boxes are red and French ones are yellow. However the postal code system, introduced in July 2004, has a different format from those of either Spain or France, consisting of the letters “AD”, followed by three digits.
Andorra was created under a charter granted by King Charles the Great (Charlemagne) in return for the Andorran people fighting against the Moors with Overlordship of the territory by the Count of Urgell. In A.D. 988, the Andorran valleys were given to the Diocese of Urgell in exchange for land in Cerdanya. The Bishop of Urgell, based in Seu d’Urgell, has owned Andorra since then. The principality was given its territory and political form in 1278 with the signing of the first paréage which provided that Andorra’s sovereignty be shared between the count of Foix (whose title would eventually be transferred to the French head of state) and the Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia.
With the passage of time the co-title to Andorra passed to the kings of Navarre. After Henry of Navarre became King Henry IV of France, he issued an edict in 1607 that established the head of the French state and the Bishop of Urgell as co-princes of Andorra. In 1812–13 the First French Empire annexed Catalonia and divided it in four départements, with Andorra being made part of the district of Puigcerdà (département of Sègre).
The first postal route serving Andorra seems to have been established in 1837 with couriers conveying mail between Urgell and Aix during the Carlist War in northern Spain. Due to the difficulties in direct communication between Andorra and France, the mountain passes being frequently snowbound in the months from autumn until late spring, the Andorrans always depended on Seu d’Urgell to conduct the bulk of their business, postal or otherwise and that city was their principal point of communication with the outside world, including with their northern neighbor.
In 1877, an Andorra subject, Tomàs Rossell y Moles, was appointed postmaster and sold postage stamps of both France and Spain to be affixed on outgoing mail according to its destination. Mail bearing French stamps were postmarked at Porté and Spanish mail received the Seu d’Urgell postmark. Then, as now, mail destined for internal Andorran destinations were always conveyed free of charge, requiring no stamps of any kind.
At the Universal Postal Union Congress held in Paris in 1878, it was declared that that Andorra was a subordinate of the Spanish postal service although it would be another fifty years before that postal service was actually organized. France ignored the UPU stipulation and established a rudimentary postal service between Porté and Andorra la Vella in 1887, consisting of two postmen travelling by foot. A French courier service inaugurated in 1892 continued to operate, virtually unaltered until 1931 when the present postal service came into being.
Andorra declared war on Imperial Germany during World War I, but did not actually take part in the fighting. It remained in an official state of belligerency until 1958 as it was not included in the Treaty of Versailles.
A Ministerial Decree dated 31st October 1927, created the Spanish Postal Administration of Andorra la Vella, empowering it to take all steps necessary to introduce a full postal service in the country. On 1st January 1928 post offices were opened throughout the principality and the postal service was officially inaugurated. At its inauguration, the Spanish Postal Administration consisted of the Head Post Office at Andorra la Vella and six sub-post offices at Canillo, Encamp, Les Escaldes, Sant Julia de Loria, La Massana, and Ordino. Seven postmen – all Andorran residents – were hired to carry on the service within the country, while the Head Postmaster – Don Filemon Lopez y Lopez – was a Spanish postal employee.
The Spanish Administration commenced with the usage of the then current series of Spain – the 1922-1930 issue portraying the portrait of King Alfonso XIII. Overprints of this same set of stamps, plus the 1 centimo value of 1920 and the 20c express stamp of 1925, were released on 28 March 1928 with the unoverprinted values remaining valid. This, it is possible to find covers bearing mixed frankings of both overprinted and unoverprinted stamps.
Two additional sub-post offices were opened later in the year, at Soldeu on 2 September and Santa Coloma on 8 October. The name of Andorra first appeared as in integral part of the stamp design with the release of the second series of stamps in 1929.
Interestingly enough, Andorrans were somewhat displeased over the seizure of their postal services by the Spanish and subsequent protests led to the eventual signing of a Hispano-French agreement concerning the dual handling of the posts on 30 June 1930. The agreement went into effect on 1 August 1930 and the French Postal Administration of Andorra was officially inaugurated on 16 June 1931 with a Head Office at Andorra la Vella and Postal Agencies at Soldeu, Canillo, Encamp, Sant Julia de Loria, La Massana, and Ordino. No changes took place in this list of post offices until the 1st January 1967 when an additional agency was opened at Pas de la Casa, on the Franco-Andorran frontier, a sizeable settlement having developed here as a tourism and winter sports center.
In 1931, the French Administration of Andorra used twenty-two overprinted French stamps from 1900-29. Like the Spanish Administration, France only used overprinted stamps for the first set; with the second set of stamps issued, the name of the country was part of the design of the stamp.
In 1933 France occupied Andorra following social unrest which occurred before elections. On 12 July 1934 adventurer Boris Skossyreff issued a proclamation in Urgell, declaring himself “Boris I, King of Andorra”, simultaneously declaring war on the Bishop of Urgell. He was arrested by the Spanish authorities on 20 July and ultimately expelled from Spain.
From 1936 until 1940 a French military detachment was garrisoned in Andorra to secure the Principality against against disruption from the Spanish Civil War and Francoist Spain. Francoist troops reached the Andorran border in the later stages of the war. During World War II, Andorra remained neutral and was an important smuggling route between Vichy France and Spain.
Andorra’s tourism services an estimated 10.2 million visitors annually. It is not a member of the European Union, but the Euro is the de facto currency. It has been a member of the United Nations since 1993. The population of Andorra in 2014 was estimated at 85,458 and has grown from 5,000 in 1900. As of December 2014, the people of Andorra have the highest life expectancy in the world – 81 years.
The 2009 Scott Catalogue for the Spanish Administration of Andorra lists 330 general issue stamps, four air mail and five special delivery stamps. It should be noted that the majority of the Spanish Andorra stamps issued until about 1950 are poorly centered and that well-centered examples will sell for approximately twice the value listed in the catalogue. The French Administration is a somewhat heavier stamp issuer with a total of 728 — broken down as 656 general issues, one semi-postal, eight air mail stamps, 62 postage due, and one newspaper stamp. Most stamps of French Andorra issued from 1961 onwards also exist in unlisted imperforate and small presentation sheet varieties. My collection currently holds six of the French Administration stamps and four of the Spanish releases.