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
Chicago-based documentary filmmaker Mark Cwiakala grew up surrounded by stamps, yet, he never felt compelled to become a collector… [more]
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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House to consider cuts to food stamps - News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News ...news9.com KWTV, June 19th
By MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press. WASHINGTON (AP) - A wide-ranging farm bill the House is considering would cut food stamps by $2 billion a year and make it more difficult for some people to qualify for the domestic food aid program. Passage of...Read more
G8 summit: David Cameron hails landmark deal to rewrite world rules to stamp ...The Independent, June 18th
But the statement said only that developing countries “should have the information and capacity to collect the taxes owed them”, rather than guaranteeing them automatic access to the information from the start. Mr Cameron insisted that the Lough Erne ...Read more
House to consider cuts to food stampsHilton Head Island Packet, June 18th
WASHINGTON — A wide-ranging farm bill the House is considering would cut food stamps by $2 billion a year and make it more difficult for some people to qualify for the domestic food aid program. Passage of the five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill...Read more
Surveillance helped stop plots against NYSE and New York subway, official saysNBCNews.com (blog), June 18th
The officials appeared before the House Intelligence Committee and answered mostly friendly questions to defend the programs, which collect phone records inside the United States and monitor Internet communications overseas. “I would much rather be...Read more
End of telegram saddens stamp collectorsTimes of India, June 16th
PUNE: A yellowed form with four words 'How mother come sharp' - a telegram sent in 1954 to Bajitpur in then East Pakistan - is the pride of philatelist Pratisad Neurgaonkar's collection of telegraph stamps (stamps meant for prepayment of telegrams) and ...Read more
Stamp collecting is big business in Asia.Telegraph.co.uk, June 11th
Stamp collecting is growing hugely popular in Asia, prompting British dealer Stanley Gibbons to open offices in Hong Kong and Singapore. There are roughly 60 million collectors of rare stamps around the world, with the Far East now accounting for more...Read more
Stamp Collecting: During hard times, some people look to stamp collectingState-Journal.com, June 1st
During the hard financial times of the Great Depression of the 1930s, instead of declining stamp collecting actually went into boom times. This was helped by such famous stamp collecting icons as H.E. Harris & Co. of Boston and the storied stamp...Read more
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