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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China - Russia Imperial Registered Handpaint 1c Postcard 1909 Heaven Temple SetGb. Qv, Sg 129, £1 Brown Lilac. Superb Vere Street Cds. Very Fine Used.1935 Silver Jubilee Set Of 3 Imprint Blocks Of 4 On Fdc Addressed To KgvWw, China Prc, 4000+ Stamps Hinged In An Old Battered Harris Citation AlbumChina Old Postcard Registered Mail Chinese Mariage Chengchow To Belgium 1909 !!Great Britain Victoria 10s Greenish-grey Sg 128 'st Enoch Square' Cds (n1095)Prc China 1967 Poems Of Chairman Mao Sc# 967/80 W7 Unused1867-83 £1 Brown-lilac Sg129 Specimen Superb Mint Sg Cat £6,000+++Drbobstamps Prc China Scott #1518 Mnh Full Og Vf Rare Souvenir SheetUs/ww, China, 1000's & 1000's Of Stamps Hinged In A 14 Volume Minkus Master GlobWw, China(-1955), 1000's Of Stamps Hinged In 3 Scott International AlbumsGb. Qv, Sg 136, £1 Brown Lilac. Rare Wmk: Large Anchor. Lymington Cds. Prc China 1964 Peonies Block Sc# 767/82 S61 UnusedSg 320 £1 Deep Green. Superb Used Cancelled With A Crisp Guernsey Cds May 1913..Great Britain Gb 1840 2d Blue Fine Used Maltese Cross Imperf Stamp AGreat Britain 1840 2d Blue (sg 5) '1844 Town Cancel' Four Margins (n1143)Korea Old Classic Stamps + Modern Stamps Great Lot / Accumulation Prc China 1968 Long Live Chairman Mao's Revolutionary Line Sc# 982/90 W5 Unused1913 £1 Green Seahorse (sg 403) Cat Value £3,000 Fine L.h.m. (n1218)Great Britain 1913 £1 Green Seahorse Sg 403 Fine Used And Scarce (n1349)1876-86 Japan Koban Sc 63 12s Sg 107e Nh Cat $403Great Britain 1934 Re-engraved Seahorse Set 3v Sg 450/452 Unmounted (n1109)China Old Large Cover Manchukuo Goverment Japan !!Greece, 117-128, Unused, Complete 1896 Olympics Set Of StampsRare 1905 Victoria Australia 2 Pound Blue Os Perfin Stamp , Cto UsedMnh Prc China Stamp W3 Sc957-59 Set Of 3 Vf Drbobstamps Prc China Scott #1541 Mnh Full Og Vf With Gold Overprint Fresh SheetGb. Kevii, Sg 320, £1 Deep Green. Superb Guernsey Cds. Drbobstamps Prc China Scott #620-627 Used StampsCkstamps: Us Stamps Scott#241 $1 Columbian 1893 Mint Lh Gum Disturbed 2014 $110032) Gb - Qv 1840 2d Blue Pl.1, Sg5, Superb Used 4 Margin Copy, Red Maltese CrossRussia Soviet Union (1) Beautiful Mnh Collection In Kabe AlbumGreat Britain 1884 £1 Brown Lilac (sg 185) 'spacefiller' Used (n995)Gb. Qv, Sg 212, £1 Green. Dublin Sorting Office Cds. Very Fine Used.China-very Rare-1943 Wwii-airmail-cover-50c Provincial Surchg-to-nigeria-frwd UkNystamps Us Stamp # 630 Mint Og Nh $600Great Britain Victoria £1 Brown-lilac Sg 129, Glasgow C.d.s. Fine-used (n1147)Russia Stamps 1935-san Francisco Flight-sc#c68 - Mlhog (with Certificate!) 1876-92 Japan Old Koban Sc 65 20s Sg 89 Nh Cat $2581871 Japan Dragon Series Pl I Sc 2a 100m Sg 11 Ngai Cat $7661871 Japan Dragon Series Pl I Sc 1b 48m Sg 9 Ngai Cat $484France - Lot Of 3 Classic Stamps Yv # 6, 40, 41 W/ Certificate C435Us 1893 Nh Columbian Issues With Shades Thru $1 #241 Cat $47,000Mnh Prc China Stamp C94 Sc620-27 Mei Lanfang Set Of 8 OgImperf! Mnh Prc China Stamp S60b Golden Hair Money 4 Sets With Imprint! RareSiam Thailand Old + Modern Stamps Great Lot / Accumulation Russia Group Of 146 Early Mint & Used Souvenir Sheets Nice!!1878 Japan Old Koban Sc 71 50s Sg 99 Nh Cat $363France 1849-1969 Beautiful Luxe Davo Album With Nice Collection.Gb Qv Penny Black 1840 Plate 7 Ph Bright Vermilion Maltese Cross Sg 2 (specas44)Mnh Prc China Stamp T1 Unfolded Block Of 8 With Imprint. Vf Great Britain 1888 £1 Brown Lilac Sg 186 Wmk Orbs. Rare Cat Value £4,250 (n1324)Pr China 1976 Cover With Sc1067-1075(n4 Complete) Shanghai To Tokyo Älterer Nachlass - Posten Vr - China In Bananenkiste.Gb Qv Two Pence Deep Blue 1840 Plate 2 Ri Black Maltese Cross Sg 4 Ds7 Vfu China Old W Some Stamps 5 Cover China 1897 2c On 3c Red Revenue Sg 93 Mint Stuck On Old Album Page See CommentsSg 413 10/- Pale Blue Unmounted Mint Sg Spec N70(4) Weak Bottom Left...Gb. Kevii, Sg 266, £1 Dull Blue Green. Lombard Street Cds. Fine Used.Great Britain 1888 £1 Brown Lilac (sg 186) Fine-used (n996)

Recent News: Stamps

Source: Google News

Stamp collectors gather for South Fayette convention
Tribune-Review, November 7th

Mary Pickford. Dorothy Lamour. These are pieces of history. There's stories in here.” The envelopes and postcards collected over the years by Hoffman, 55, was one of 37 exhibits at the Philatelic Society of Pittsburgh's annual stamp show at the South...Read more

In digital age, stamp collecting still makes its mark
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NEW YORK - On the centennial anniversary of the annual American Stamp Dealers' Association, hundreds of philatelists - people who study and collect stamps--flocked to a hotel hall in midtown Manhattan littered with dozens of booths. Each table proudly ...Read more

USPS's New Batman Stamps Are Raising the Ire of Traditional Stamp Collectors
IGN, October 19th

By Rachel Paxton-GillilanWhile the limited-edition Forever stamps featuring Batman are selling well, traditional stamp collectors believe the Caped Crusader represents everything ruining the stamp program. The controversy arises from Batman's 75th ...Read more

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On Oct. 9 the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a much-publicized collection of limited-edition stamps featuring Batman. The release, which was timed to coincide with National Stamp Collecting Month, was the latest in a partnership with Warner Bros. (TWX...Read more

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Even avid collectors will tell you: Stamp collecting is not the flashiest of hobbies. It isn't trendy. It rewards patience and persistence, teaching those who embrace it about everything from ancient history to modern graphic design. And that's exactly...Read more

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Richard Rizzo, director of the stamp outreach program at the International Society of Worldwide Stamp Collectors, fields requests from thousands of young collectors, schoolteachers, scout troops and youth stamp clubs. He also receives grateful emails...Read more

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Two stamp collecting clubs are joining forces in an attempt to reignite interest in the hobby. The Maidenhead and District Philatelic Society and the Windsor and District Philatelic Society will come together to offer afternoon meets alongside those...Read more

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The process of stamp collecting is almost as old as the stamp itself. There have been documented cases of meetings of stamp collectors taking place as early as 1841, and advertisements placed by like-minded individuals who enjoyed stamp collecting in...Read more