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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Patient stamp collectors can earn big returnsCNBC.com, April 18th
The Moshers are not alone in profiting from stamps as an investment. Bill Bergstrom of the Tustin, Calif., auction house H.R. Harmer, GPN, has witnessed a growing interest in stamp collecting. "In general, stamps are in that tangible asset class...Read more
Terrorist Complains Israeli Prison Harmed His Stamp CollectionArutz Sheva, April 18th
"I have resumed my hobby of stamp collecting with enthusiasm, to make up for what I lost during my time in prison," he told the paper. "I'm proud of the stamps I collected in prison, but it was difficult for me to pursue [my] hobby in prison, because...Read more
Annual stamp collector show set for WestlandHometownlife.com, April 11th
Thirty-eight dealers from nine states and Canada will sell stamps, covers, cachet covers and supplies for stamp collectors, at the 45th annual Plymouth Show, sponsored by the West Suburban Stamp Club (WSSC). Show hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday, ...Read more
Drug Collecting Is The Millennial's Stamp CollectingFusion, April 7th
Sigmund Freud (naturally) ascribed collecting tendencies to traumatic toilet times (thanks Freud) and stated that people collect as a way to “regain control” by reclaiming physical possessions that represent bowel movements in childhood. In "To Have...Read more
Stamp collecting transcends time for Lakewood Ranch familyBradenton Herald, April 5th
Sy Bricker uses a pair of stamp tongs to gingerly holds a 19th-century Ben Franklin 1 cent definitive stamp. According to Bricker, these stamps were used to pay for postage which was calculated on distance, as opposed to the flat rate first-class...Read more
Stamps, collectors tell storiesThe Spokesman Review, March 27th
They measure on average just 3/4 of an inch, but what stories they tell – and so do the people who collect them. Since 1934, members of the Inland Empire Philatelic Society have been meeting to swap stamp stories and share their collections. At a...Read more
Stamp collecting: Truly, frankly, deeplyThe Independent, March 25th
It's easy to caricature stamp collectors as qualifying among the world's nerdiest freaks: paper-stroking weirdos, really. But the world of stamps is also about passion, beauty and delight. This week, Sotheby's announced plans to bring to auction the...Read more
Hill collector puts his stamp on 'hobby of kings'Chestnut Hill Local (blog), March 21st
Harvey Fleegler, a Lafayette Hill resident and former president of the Chestnut Hill-Germantown Stamp Club, has cultivated a love of stamp collecting since his early years. (Photo by Raymond W. Holman, Jr., raymondwholmanjrphoto.wordpress.com)...Read more