Visiting the Museum of Stamps and Coins, Monaco: good ambassadors for the Principality
Appraising symbols of the Principality's sovereignty
This remarkable museum, situated in Monaco's Fontvieille Terraces (Terrasses de Fontvieille ), has a wealth of exhibits, which offer fascinating insights into the history of the Principality and of its Princes. The museum dates from 1950, founded by HSH Prince Rainier III.
The first stamp issued by the Principality appeared in 1885, and depicted Prince Charles III. Until that year, Monaco had used French stamps. While special arrangements with the French post office continue to this day, in that postal rates in Monaco are set in unison with those of Metropolitan France, yet exercising the authority to issue its own stamps and coins is one of the various indicators of the Monégasque wish to assert the Principality's sovereignty.
One particularly interesting feature of some Monégasque stamps has been their issue at times in triangular shape, relatively rare in philatelic custom. The visitor may trace methods of stamp production in their different stages, through exhibited items at the museum.
Interestingly, the Principality used Sardinian stamps prior to 1860 (1). Thus, while Monaco benefits from special arrangements with the French post office, yet in the historical period of philately Monaco used French stamps for only a relatively short period. On display at the museum is an envelope bearing a Sardinian stamp and a Monégasque postmark dated 12 April, 1851.
HSH the late Prince Rainier III ruled Monaco from 1949 until 2005, and, exercising a close supervisory role in the design and issue of its postage stamps, strongly held to the view that the Principality's stamps are excellent 'ambassadors' for the country. Today, the image of the ruling monarch, HSH Prince Albert II is issued on some of the Principality's stamps, thus continuing a philatelic tradition of Monaco's stamps being identified closely with its Princes. Thus, to date, the ruling monarchs who have been depicted on the Principality's stamps have been: Charles III (reigned 1856-1889); Albert I (1889-1922); Louis II (1922-1949); Rainier III (1949-2005) and Albert II (2005-).
A similar comment about the 'ambassadorial' value of its stamps could also be said to apply to Monaco's coins. Again, the fact that coins issued at Monaco bear the effigy of its ruling Prince is in itself another important assertion of the Principality's sovereignty.
When neighbouring France changed its currency to the Euro in 2002, Monaco followed suit; instead of the Monégasque franc being at parity with the French franc, the Principality from exercised from then onwards the authority to issue Monégasque Euros. Although Monaco is not a formal member of the European Union, the Principality benefits through treaties from various European Union privileges. Thus, along with the effigies of other Euro-sponsoring countries' monarchs and national symbols, a distinct Monégasque Euro design appears on its own coins, valid throughout the Eurozone.
The first Monaco coin, however, was issued in 1640.
The museum makes available historical literature about the Principality's stamp and coin history. A clear and extensive Online stamp catalogue and mail order system is also maintained.
As expected, I was thoroughly impressed by this high quality museum (and not least because of the exceptionally good mannered staff).
(1) Sardinia, which was a regional power in the mid-19th century, maintained a defence agreement with Monaco.
Also worth seeing
The outstanding visitor attractions in Monaco are too numerous to summerize adequately here. But a few of the attractions in Fontvieille include: the Naval Museum; St. Nicolas's Church; the Princess Grace Rose Garden. In Monaco Town , the world famous Oceanographic Museum attracts many visitors, as does the daily changing of the guard ceremony outside the Prince's Palace.
How to get there: Delta Airlines flies direct from New York to Nice, France (Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur ). Nice airport is a 7-minute helicopter flight from Monaco's heliport (Héliport de Monaco ). There are also bus links from the airport to Monaco. The French railroad company SNCF maintains services to Monaco from Downtown Nice. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may also be of interest
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- Visiting Monaco's monument 'Science discovering the riches of the ocean': navigator Prince Albert I
- Visiting Foix, France: with its Medieval castle of the Co-Princes of Andorra