Symbol of both Paris and France, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most visited monument in the world. Millions of tourists ascend the Tower each year (about 7 million in 2008), and, many of them take advantage of the visit, to purchase and send some souvenir postcards. Since the summer of 2009 they can also use a special variable value stamp dedicated to the emblematic monument. A great La Poste initiative that most visitors recognise and appreciate - with a smile.

Introduction. Background

To write and send a postcard from any of the levels of the Eiffel Tower has been, throughout its history, one of the most popular experiences with visitors. Many postal and philatelic products, postal markings and special postmarks, and illustrated labels related to the Tower and its different commemorative events, have been produced and used since its opening in May 1889. Undoubtedly, a great theme for collecting.

From 1950 to 1974, the souvenir shops installed at different levels of the Eiffel Tower used franking machines for the postcards. Over the years, the meter or mechanical postage has included different designs and texts, printed in red, showing the evolution of the monument, such as the installation of a television antenna, in 1957, on the top.

In 1980, the Ville de Paris -the owner of the monument- gave an operating concession, for the Tower, of 25 years to the Société Nouvelle de l'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SNTE), which launched an ambitious restoration project.
Work on the first floor was completed in July 1982. On this level, the SNTE offered a rent free space of 40 m2 to La Poste, for the installation of the first post office at the Eiffel Tower (called Paris 7 - Annexe 2).
In November 1982, this post office started, permanently, to use an interesting illustrated date postmark Paris - Tour Eiffel, which was used on all mail handled by this post office. Over the following years they introduced up to 4 different permanent illustrated postmarks, with variations in the design, as well as other temporary postmarks used for the different commemorative events.

In 2005, the city granted the concession to operate the Tower to a company, the
Société d'exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE). Following this change, the new management company started to charge a rent (15,000 EUR per year) to La Poste, which finally decided to close the post office in late 2008, because it was unprofitable under the new conditions.
The announcement of this prestigious post office closure caused much criticism and protests, and it was even raised in the French Senate.

The new issue Paris Tour Eiffel

However, since both SETE and La Poste were interested in maintaining a postal service in the Tower, it was finally decided to reopen a new post office on the ground floor, in the south pillar. Because of its location, and with free access from the square below the monument, the new post office is not only accessible to Tower visitors, but also to anyone passing through the Tower.

After the refurbishment, the small post office reopened on June 8th 2009. It has a usable area of 9 m2 divided into 2 sections, separated by a metal roller blind. One part of the post office is open to coincide with the opening hours of the Eiffel Tower, and is fitted with 2 self-service machines - a prefranked envelopes vending machine, and an IER - LISA 2 postal kiosk, where visitors can buy variable value stamps for the postage of (mainly) tourist postcards.

In the afternoon, a La Poste employee comes to the post office to pick up the mail, and postmark the postal pieces with the illustrated postmark.

Then, and for a few hours, the rest of the post office is open, and the employee provides some basic postal services to visitors, as well as selling philatelic products.

And a good move by La Poste. Coinciding with the reopening of the new post office, they released a new vignette d'affranchissement with a design related to the Eiffel Tower, which is only available from the thermal printing IER - LISA 2 machine, installed in the post office.

As usual in this type of issue, the labels were manufactured by Phil@poste using 4-colour offset printing on self-adhesive thermal paper and which incorporates a phosphorescent vertical strip at each edge of the design. The ATM size is 80 x 30 mm.

After abuse by some 'collectors' during the first weeks, the post office official limited the number of stamps to be bought by collectors, to 10, and the LISA machine was reprogrammed at the end of June 2009, so that it was no longer possible to issue ATMs with values of less than 0.51 EUR, the current national rate for economy mail.
At the same time, they introduced a new wider postage rate program, according to the tariff in use since March 2nd 2009. With this new program, postal users can obtain ATMs with up to 12 different texts or imprints, as well as face value stamps. For international mail the new postage rates distinguish between shipments of documents or merchandise, and offers ATMs for registered mail, with an acknowledgment of receipt. In fact, La Poste intends that, in all its post offices, all letters and cards, plus registered mail shipments, are franked through the self-service vending machines (see picture below).

The 12 imprints or shipment types that can be obtained with the new program, in the first weight step, are:
- For domestic mail: 0,51 EUR ECOPLI (economic mail up to 20 g.) - 0,56 EUR LETTRE PRIORITAIRE (high-priority domestic mail up to 20 g.) - 1,50 EUR MINI MAX (high-priority shipping option for small packets, up to 2 cm. thick and weighing up to 1 kilo) - R L1 4,36 EUR AR - R L2 4,96 EUR AR - R L3 5,86 EUR AR (3 options for registered mail -R-, with acknowledgement of receipt -AR-. The codes L1, L2 and L3 are for 3 registered options, with compensation of 16, 153 and 458 EUR, respectively).

- For international mail (postage rates for shipments to the European Union and Switzerland): 0,70 EUR INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENT PRIORITAIRE (high-priority mail up to 20 g., documents) - 3,50 EUR INTERNATIONAL MARCHANDISE PRIORITAIRE (high priority mail up to 200 g., merchandises) - 6,00 EUR INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENT PRIORITAIRE R1 AR - 7,00 EUR INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENT PRIORITAIRE R2 AR - 8,80 EUR INTERNATIONAL MARCHANDISE PRIORITAIRE R1 AR - 9,80 EUR INTERNATIONAL MARCHANDISE PRIORITAIRE R2 AR (4 options for international registered mail, with acknowledgement of receipt -AR-. The codes R1 and R2 are for 2 registered options, with compensation of 45 and 150 EUR, respectively).

Inland economic mail - ECOPLI Inland priority mail - LETTRE PRIORITAIRE
International priority mail
Inland priority mail - Small parcels
Maximum card - Paris Tour Eiffel

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This page was created in August 2009
and last updated:  15.09.09 . English edition rewritten by S. Goodman (12.9.2009)