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The Lead-Up to WIPA 2008 – Gloriette

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The occasion for "WIPA 2000" was the "150th anniversary of the first Austrian stamp". It was on 1 June 1850 that the first stamps were issued in Austria, five stamps being issued in Austrian currency, 1, 2, 3, 6 and 9 Kreuzer, and five stamps in Italian currency, 5, 10, 15, 30 and 45 Centesimi, intended for use in the territories in Veneto and Lombardy that belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time.

Austria was not the first country to issue stamps, an honour claimed by England, where the "Penny Black" was issued as the first stamp in the world on 6 May 1840, followed two days later by the equally old but considerably less famous, "Penny Blue".

The first stamps on the continent of Europe were issued in 1843 in the Swiss cantons of Zurich and Geneva, with Brazil following suit in the same year. Austria was the eleventh country to issue stamps.

"WIPA 2000" took place in the Austria Center Vienna from 30 May to 4 June 2000. It was held under the auspices of the FIP (Federation Internationale de Philatelie), while the FEPA (Federation of European Philatelic Associations) acted as patron. This Vienna International Stamp Exhibition comprised all competition classes at the highest international level. In order to counteract the megalomania of the World Exhibitions in recent years, WIPA 2000 was limited to 2,700 frames of one square metre each. The competition showed the best collections in the world. For the first time at a WIPA, collections were also presented in the "open class", capturing the interest of many a visitor. One particular attraction was the "rarities cabinet", while another, but by no means the only one, was the "Bordeaux Letter". This is the only letter bearing both a Red and a Blue Mauritius, and is probably the most expensive philatelic item of all times. However, Austrian rarities were also on display, such as the "Yellow" and "Vermillion" Mercuries, the Lombardy-Veneto counter sheet issues of 1850 and many other world rarities. The official stamp programme of the Austrian Post Office was spread over three years, and the surcharge proceeds made a positive contribution to the WIPA 2000 accounts. The "Basilisk" souvenir block that was given free with the admission ticket was very popular.

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