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 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.
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. 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.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 ADVENT OF THE EURO
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 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.