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-4H biplane flying upside down, of which only 100 are known to exist. Rarer still is the 1847 Mauritius “Post Office” stamp, a British colonial issue whose scarcity and multi-million-dollar prices at auction inspired a Broadway play.
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.
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APS nominates Reinhard to FIP boardLinn's Stamp News, February 11th
According to the FIP, its aims are to promote stamp collecting and philately, maintain friendly relations and friendship among all peoples, establish and maintain close relations with the philatelic trade and postal administrations, and promote...Read more
Painting, sculpting and collectingThe Economist (blog), February 11th
Most of their works are so small that they are kept in stamp albums. They have extraordinary names, for example Chalan the Bilen, Chapunier Biro and Classicum Fruite. The last of these lived simultaneously as a tramp on the London underground and as...Read more
Waterville bookseller nets $50000 in sale of rare stampMainebiz, February 11th
To generate interest in stamp collecting and engage new generations of stamp collectors, the Postmaster General requested that the Postal Service create 100 additional stamp sheets that showed the biplane upright. Seventy of these Un-Inverted Jenny ...Read more
#TBT :: For the Love of 'Lo, a Photo Bible for Polo-Collecting FanaticsThe Hundreds, February 11th
Everybody got their stamp collection. If you were a hard ass from, say, any given Brooklyn project in the late 1980s, there was a slight chance that your stamps were replaced with the finest silks, knits (more often than not, women's knits) and other...Read more
Any 'Super' ads? Stamp collecting; '16's big storiesBoston.com, February 6th
Last Sunday should have been a five-star day for those of us who are sports junkies and gearheads. The Patriots were going to win their way into the Super Bowl and, for once, the game's interminable commercials would be must-viewing to see if one or...Read more
Get your stamp collection reviewed at Ventura seminarVentura County Star, February 5th
Ken and Carolyn Weber, who started the Ventura County Philatelic Society's annual Youth Stamp Fair, are chairing an adult education stamp collecting seminar and stamp collection review and evaluation. The event will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 14 at...Read more
Photos: Evesham stamp collector sticks with hobbyBurlington County Times, February 2nd
Roger Randall was first attracted to stamp collecting when he was an 11-year-old Boy Scout earning a merit badge. Now 75 and vice-president of the Merchantville Stamp Club, he has amassed a collection that fills scores of albums stored in his home and...Read more
Once an Athlete, Mani now Owns 'Olympian' Stamp CollectionThe New Indian Express, January 15th
“The first Olympic stamps were issued by Greece in 1896,” he says. “Then, the host countries started issuing stamps. By the 1940s, most participating countries had joined in.” India's first, however, was in the 1960s, he says. From his Karnataka...Read more