The world’s first adhesive postage stamp was the Penny Black, printed for the British postal service by an American named Jacob Perkins on May 6, 1840. Two days later, a blue two-penny or “Tuppeny blue” stamp came off the Perkins, Bacon & Co. press. Both stamps featured an engraved portrait of Queen Victoria, as would the Penny Red, which replaced the Penny Black in 1841.
Now you might think the Penny Black would be worth a small fortune, but more than 68 million imperforate versions of the stamp were printed, and it’s estimated some 21 billion Penny Reds were produced, none of which were perforated before 1854. If you want rare, go for the Tuppeny blue—only six-and-a-half million of those beauties were printed.
Thanks to their ubiquity, Penny Blacks and Reds are relatively affordable. Less attainable are stamps such as the 1918 Inverted Jenny, a 24-cent U.S. stamp depicting a Curtiss JN...
For many philatelists, these stamps are impossible Holy Grails. More attainable are the countless pieces of postage from the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Australia, and China. Each piece of postage produced by these nations tells a story about their unique histories.
Collectors of U.S. stamps might try for commemorative and special issue stamps, such as a set of all four horizontal Zeppelin stamps, printed between 1930 and 1933, or the set of 10 National Park stamps issued in 1934. Definitives, or regular issue stamps, are also popular—many bear portraits of presidents from Washington to Kennedy, while others depict the likenesses of scientists (Albert Einstein), architects (Frank Lloyd Wright), and playwrights (Eugene O’Neill).
Formal portraits of royalty grace most British stamps, but the imagery gets more picturesque as one moves away from the country’s main islands to current territories such as Gibraltar and former ones like Malta. The rise and fall of the Third Reich can be followed on German stamps, which are littered with swastikas before and during World War II. French stamps frequently honor intellectuals and art expositions, such as the one in 1925 that gave rise to the term Art Deco, while Australian stamps naturally feature numerous depictions of indigenous animals such as the kangaroo and platypus.
Chinese stamps are also steeped in their country’s history. Pre-Mao-era stamps reveal the hyperinflation of the early 1930s, as seen in the 500-yuan stamps of that period. During the Mao era itself, the chairman’s smiling face, as well as compositions celebrating the country’s military might, were common, but there were also stamps meant to encourage exercise, such as the series of 40 stamps printed in 1952, when millions listened to, and exercised along with, a daily radio program promoting fitness.
Interviews & Articles
Like many collectors, I collected when I was a child, and then I became interested again in the ‘90s. I think eBay and other Inter… [more]
I have a stamp collection, but I don’t consider myself a collector. I have a collection of my initials on stamps from Great Britai… [more]
I’ve been a lifelong collector, even as a kid. There are just certain people for whom collecting seems to be part of their nature.… [more]
My father was a stamp collector, and I just took to it. He was perfectly happy to mentor me, so I began collecting at the age of f… [more]
It was a shock to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing when a critic pointed out that the view of "Gatun Locks," which it had engr… [more]
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Stamp collecting big business in AsiaBBC News, May 20th
Stamp collecting may be an age old hobby, but at the elite end of the market it is big business. And it is getting bigger in the Asian region as more investors look for alternative places to preserve their wealth. Rare stamp experts, the UK-based...Read more
Stamped a collector: John's love of philately offers him an education into the ...Sunraysia Daily, May 20th
“I found early interest in reading about stamps and stamp collecting; I learnt about famous people, geography, history, nations of the world and their currencies, flags – it was an interesting subject for a child,” the 70-year-old stamp and coin...Read more
Size: 9¼ x 10½Quill & Quire (blog), May 13th
With The Stamp Collector, illustrated by François Thisdale, Lanthier has succeeded in overcoming these challenges. In measured, precise prose, Lanthier tells the story of a Chinese boy who discovers a discarded postage stamp and realizes he is...Read more
'Stamp out Hunger' drive on track to collect 26000 pounds of food in Northern ...North Adams Transcript, May 12th
NORTH ADAMS -- True to their motto, Northern Berkshire letter carriers would not stop for Saturday's rainy weather, and the area's residents showed their generosity as the 22nd annual "Stamp Out Hunger" food drive gathered more than 23,000 pounds of...Read more
Lucas Johnny a collector as rare as his stamps from pen pal daysThe Borneo Post, May 12th
MIRI: It was the trend of pen pal letter-writing in yesteryears that gave local antique collector Lucas Johnny a boost to continue with his hobby of collecting stamps since his childhood days. He started on stamps since he was seven years old in 1953...Read more
Letters carriers collect food for Stamp Out HungerWLBZ-TV, May 11th
PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- People here in Maine donated generously to the nation's largest single-day food drive. It was the 21st annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive. Letter carriers collected non-perishable food items left on doorsteps across...Read more
Stanley Gibbons boosted by rise in stamp collectingFinancial Times, May 1st
Stanley Gibbons, the stamp and rare coin dealer formed in 1856, has reported a 12 per cent rise in first-quarter revenues as more people across the world have turned to stamp collecting. The group, whose shares are traded on the Alternative Investment...Read more
Shocking US government leaflet tells Mexican immigrants they can collect food ...Daily Mail, April 26th
A Spanish-language leaflet that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided to the Mexican Embassy in Washington advises border-crossing Mexicans that they can collect taxpayer-funded food stamp benefits for their children without admitting that...Read more