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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Revamp for stamp charity collectionDaventry Express, July 25th
A charity stamp project run by a church in Daventry has been given a revamp and a new drop-off point. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been collecting stamps and until recently used the Daventry Express offices as a drop off point...Read more
World War memorabilia bring back memoriesPrince Albert Daily Herald, July 24th
Picking up a Second World War food ration stamp on Thursday, a wave of childhood memories flooded back to Carmen Court resident Jean Harris, 76. ... “We want to just collect them and print them out and have them part of our travelling suitcase.”...Read more
Animal abuse suspect Nicholas Patterson jailed in IowaThe Alexander City Outlook, July 24th
“I needed some time to collect myself and I was grieving. But the reason I am turning myself in now is that I have four kids. I have got to face this and make it right.” Police had reason to believe Patterson was in Nebraska, having tracked usage of a...Read more
Volunteers come to Bellefonte to help stamp collecting organizationWJAC Johnstown, July 21st
BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Dozens of volunteers from as far away as Canada are giving back this week. The American Philatelic Society headquarters in Bellefonte is hosting volunteer week. The stamp collecting organizers tell us volunteers work with different ...Read more
The stamp of passionThe Hindu, July 13th
It's called the king of hobbies and it still has many takers in the age of email and WhatsApp. Kochi is home to thousands of philatelists, or stamp collectors, who eagerly wait for new stamps and collect old and rare stamps as well. “The Philatelic...Read more
Collection has Jose's individual stampThe Dominion Post, July 10th
Some football fans spend thousands travelling to international matches; some stay home and spend their money in sweepstakes, but few celebrate football the way Jose Vattoth does. The Indian immigrant and Newtown resident has almost 2000 football ...Read more
MGTO unveiled stamp collection fun for "Step Out, Experience Macau's ...TravelDailyNews Asia-Pacific, June 29th
MGTO is inviting citizens and visitors to take part in the fun activity of stamp collection for "Step Out, Experience Macau's Communities" during 21 June – 20 September. Citizens and visitors can have their collection cards stamped at designated spots...Read more
Wordsley schoolchildren hand over stamp collection to charityStourbridge News, June 26th
The charity's community fundraising manager, Vicky Ryan, visited the school, which has a resource base for children with severe and profound hearing loss, to collect the stamps and tell the pupils how the charity trains dogs to alert deaf people to...Read more