Vatican City: The Vatican sold 100,000 sets of special stamps only made when there is no pope. A total of 200,000 such sets of stamps were printed.
The special stamps may only be used during the period that the Holy See is vacant.
For the first time since the Vatican began issuing the special stamps in 1939, they were available on the first day the Holy See fell vacant — March 1 — after Benedict XVI stepped down Feb 28.
Benedict was the first pontiff to abdicate in nearly 600 years. The Holy See normally only falls vacant on the death of a pontiff.
During the vacancy period, people can buy the stamps just as they are, or with a red post office cancellation mark on them, bearing the date of the beginning of the vacant see.
The stamps cost the same as regular Vatican postal stamps which come in four denominations.
The image on the stamps depicts an angel holding an umbrella and a set of crossed keys, the coat of arms for the Holy See during the Sede Vacante.
They have been designed by an Italian, Daniela Longo.
“The value to collectors of the stamps, depends on how long there is a vacant see as well as the number of stamps printed and how they are distributed,” said Romano Mauro, head of the Vatican’s stamps and coins department.
The Vatican post office also sold special envelopes which included the stamps and the cancellation mark.
It is also issuing issuing two kinds of coins, which will be available June 3.
A two euro coin designed by Italian sculptor Patrizio Daniele is being made which can be used in Europe. In addition, a five euro silver coin and a 10 euro gold coin will be produced, designed respectively by Mariangela Crisciotti and Maria Grazia Urbani.