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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index


Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 4, p2 (Oct 1976).

Copyright notice

The Postal History of Andorra (Part 4)

By D. W. Tanner

The Spanish Postal Service in Andorra

On the 1st January 1928 the Spanish Postal Service in Andorra was officially inaugurated by the Head of Posts, Don Antonio Garcia-Diego y Lerma, acting as the delegate of the General Director of Posts of Spain. The Organisation consisted of the following:-

A Head Post Office at Andorra la Vella.
Six postal agencies, situated at Canillo; Encamp; Les Escaldes; Sant Julia de Loria; La Massana; Ordino.
Seven postmen to carry on the service inside the country.
A motor service connecting the capital with Encamp which was as far as the motor road extended at the time.

The official appointed as Head Postmaster of Andorra was a Spanish postal employee, Don Filemon Lopez y Lopez (who retained this position until his retirement in 1956) but the remaining personnel were inhabitants of Andorra.

The postal tariffs in force in Spain applied, with the notable exception that the ordinary internal mail was exempted from postage. While such mail had always circulated free of charge, the taking over by Spain of the internal service on this same "post free" basis instead of leaving it in the hands of the General Council, effectively blocked the Council from re-entering the postal scene by such means as instituting a small charge for the internal mail and issuing local Andorran stamps for use thereon. Such ideas have, nonetheless, been put forward on a number of occasions, one being found in a book of a semi official character published in 1946 by the then Secretary of the General Council, whose suggestion was that with the consent of the Co-Princes the authorisation of the Universal Postal Union should be obtained for the creation and international recognition of an Andorran stamp of 10 centimes, of limited issue but renewable, for obligatory fee on internal mail and also on mail to foreign countries, the proceeds to go to the Andorran exchequer. (1)

The official correspondence from the Andorran authorities to official sources on Spanish territory was also exempted from postage, as was the correspondence from the ecclesiastical authorities, the Church having usually enjoyed the privilege of freedom from postage in Spain.

The stamps put into use when the service commenced were those of the then current series in Spain, of the 1922-1930 issue bearing the effigy of King Alfonso XIII, plus the 1 centimo value of 1920 and the 20c express stamp of 1925. These stamps remained valid for use in Andorra after the specially overprinted ones of the same series were issued on 28th March 1928, thus covers are to be found bearing a mixed franking of overprinted and unoverprinted stamps.

Two additional postal agencies were later opened, at Soldeu on 2nd September 1928 and Santa Coloma on the 8th October. The Soldeu office was closed on 30th June 1933 but the remaining eight offices have continued to function up to the present time. In 1973 authorisation was received from Madrid for the opening of a new office at Soldeu and an additional agency at Pas de la Casa, but these are still not fully operational apparently owing to problems connected with premises and staff. Mail posted in the boxes placed in these two localities receives an appropriate postmark, applied at Andorra la Vella but other postal business cannot be conducted for lack of an agent on the spot.

No official figures appear to have been published regarding the amount of mail handled by the service, but that the volume of postal business was initially very small is confirmed in the already quoted article by Sr. Jose Ma. Francis Alonso, who states:-

"The Spanish Posts of Andorra established all kinds of postal services including newspaper subscriptions as nearly all the press received in Andorra was in the Spanish language.

During the first months the Spanish Posts received and sent very few letters and a few registered items, as well as some exceedingly scarce money orders. Subsequently, however, the service developed considerably." (2)

The service must have operated at a considerable loss at the beginning, especially in view of the fact that there were no special stamps to attract the attention of philatelists. Even when the overprinted series appeared little philatelic interest was aroused, no advance notification having been given of the date of issue, and for some time due to a shortage of supplies the stamps were not on sale at the philatelic counter in Madrid, neither would the Office at Andorra la Vella handle requests from dealers for quantities.

The Hispano-French Postal agreement

In the "Gaceta de Madrid" of the 7th August 1930 was published the text of the Hispano-French Agreement on Postal Relations with the Valleys of Andorra. A translation of this appeared in the "Stamp Collectors' Fortnightly" of 28th September 1935 and is as follows:-

"Illustrious Sir: His Majesty the King (whom God preserve) agreeing with the proposal made by this General Directorate and with the prior knowledge and expressed approval of the Illustrious Bishop of Urgel, Co-Prince of the Valleys of Andorra, has seen it well to authorise you to sign in the name of the Spanish Administration the definite articles of the Hispano-French agreement relative to the co-participation in and execution of the postal service in the said Valleys.

Furthermore, His Majesty is pleased to authorise you to adopt such arrangements as are required for the application of the said agreement, so as to fix, in mutual accord with the French Administration, the date on which the said agreement shall come into force.

The Royal Order I give you for your information and consequent action. God guard you for many years.

Marse, Director General of Communications."

Madrid,
28th June, 1930.

"The Director General of Communications of Spain on the one part, and the Minister of Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones On the other part, in view of Article 9 (c) of the Convention of the Universal Postal Union confirmed in London on the 28th June 1929, have contracted as follows:-

1. The execution of the postal services in the Valleys of Andorra will be carried on simultaneously by the Administration of posts of Spain and the French Administration of Posts.

2. The Spanish and French Administrations of Posts bind themselves, animated by a feeling of friendship, to work together for their mutual advantage with the object of assuring and perfecting the Postal Service in the Valleys.

3. The Spanish and French Administrations of Posts will establish respectively in the Valleys offices and conveyances useful to the service. The postal organisms thus established will be subject to their respective Metropolitan Administrations on which they will depend exclusively. The Spanish and French Administrations of Posts undertake not to employ any person other than exclusively Andorran, except those officials of their regular establishment.

4. In application of the provisions of Article 3 the Spanish and French Administrations of Posts will transport by the most rapid means that are available for its own sendings, despatches exchanged between Spain and France on the one part, and the offices established in the Valleys on the other part, as also the despatches exchanged between these offices. When one way of communication is temporarily interrupted the conveyance of the despatches shall be effected gratuitously by the Spanish or French Administration by the most convenient practicable way.

5. The different practices of the Postal Service shall be carried out in the Valleys by the Spanish and French Administrations in conformity with their respective regulations and tariffs.

6. The internal tariffs in force respectively in Spain and France shall apply in their relations with the Valleys.

7. The postage stamps used in the Valleys shall be those which are supplied for this purpose by the respective administrations.

8. In the relations between the Valleys and foreign countries the regulations shall be formulated in accordance with the provisions of the agreement of the U.P.U. or the particular agreements in force in each country.

Deliveries proceeding from foreign countries shall be paid either by the Spanish or the French Administration in accordance with the requirements of the sender.

Deliveries proceeding from Spain or France, as also those from countries making use of their agency, shall be paid by the offices dependent on each of the Administrations.

9. Both administrations bind themselves to recognise the freedom of carriage for ordinary correspondence circulating in the interior of the Valleys. This arrangement applies as well as regards the freedom from charge for carriage for official correspondence sent by the authorities of the Valleys destined to other authorities resident in Spanish or French territory.

10. The present administrative agreement shall come into force commencing from the 1st August 1930.

Madrid, 30th June 1930.

The Director General of Communications. Baron de Rio Tovia.
Minister of Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones. A. Mallarme.

The second clause of Article 4 of the agreement was of major importance to the French Administration, direct communication between Andorra and France being interrupted during the long winter season, from about October to May.

The French Postal Service

On the 16th June 1931 the French Postal Service was inaugurated, 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 centre for tourism and winter sports.

The volume of mail handled must have been very small in the early days of the French service, but with the development of the tourist industry over the years increased considerably. In 1945 it was officially stated that some 500 items were despatched and received every day (3) but no up to date figures appear to have been made available.

In 1962 an important change of policy took place when, for the first time, the French Administration issued a commemorative stamp for Andorra. The General Council was quick to sieze upon this surprising departure from the long established policy of issuing only such stamps as were strictly necessary from a purely postal point of view, and took up afresh with the French authorities the question of the postal revenue. Following negotiations an agreement was signed in September 1965 by which 50% of the profits from the French Postal Service are to be paid annually to the General Council, the funds being destined principally for the Andorran Social Security and Pensions Scheme. Thus Andorra at long last receives a share of the Postal revenue and it is to be expected that some similar arrangement will be negotiated with the Spanish authorities, who commenced to issue commemorative stamps in 1972, concerning the revenue from their postal service.

References

(1) "Les Valls d'Andorra", Bonaventura Riberaygua Argelich. 1946.
(2) "Union Postale" Feb. 1960.
(3) "Union Postale", Jul. 1945.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

A more recent account of Andorran postal history up to and including 1931 is available in "Les Services de la Poste Francaise ... a Partir de 16.6.1931" published by CIFA. Available from W. A. Jacques

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Andorran Philatelic Study Circle / Hon. Librarian: E. J. Jewell / apsc@free.fr /
Updated 15 Feb 1998