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.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Alphabetilately

Alphabetilately

First shown in 2008 to celebrate the Smithsonian National Postal Museum's 15th anniversary, Alphabetilately is esse… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

China Prc 1980 Monkey T46 1586 Mnh PerfectPr China 1960 S38 Goldfish Imp Mnh Sc#506-517China Prc 1967 Poems Of Mao W7 Complet Set 14 Stamps Mnh Perfect1867-83 10/- Grey-green Sg128 Superb Gracechurch Street CdsCkstamps : Us Stamps Scott#39 90c Blue 1860 Washington Unused Regum 2014 Cv$3000China - Huge Collection Of Mint Part Sheets 1930s To Late 1940sChina Prc 1971 50th Anniv Of Communist Party Complet Set 1065/1075 Mnh PerfectChina Old Registered Mail Cover Peking !!Great Britain 1840 Penny Black, 4 Margins Fine-used, Red Maltese Cross (a888)China Prc 1979 Souvenir Sheet Study Science 1518 Mnh PerfectCkstamps : Us Stamps Scott#c15 $2.6 Airmail Graf Zeppelin 1930 Mint Lh Og Cv$575China Prc 1977-81 Rare Presentation Book With Mnh Stamps & The Red MonkeyGreat Britain 1840 Penny Black (sg 2) 4 Margins, Fine-used (a1109)China 1967 1968 Mao Tse - Toung Collection Revolutionary Theater MnhNystamps Us Stamp # 31 Used $1390Great Britain 1878 £1 Brown-lilac Sg 129 Cat Value £4,500 Fine-used (a1222)Large Box Full Of Stamps, Cllctns, Covers, Auction Lots, Packs Etc,[a15507] Germany 1931 Zeppelin Good Rare Airmail Set Very Fine Used Value $1500Australian Pre-decimal Collection 1913 - 1965 On Seven Seas Pages Cv - $10,000Pr China 1963 S57 Hwang Shan Complete Set Blk4 Cto Sc#716-731Nystamps Japan Stamp # 154 Mint With Gum $800China Prc 1978 Souvenir Sheet T28 Horses Mnh PerfectGreat Britain Queen Victoria 10s Value Sg 128 Glasgow C.d.s. (a1157)U.s. #28 Scarce Used - 5c Red Brown ($1,240)Gb 1847-54 1s Green Embossed (sg 55) Cut Square, Fine-used (a897)1840 Great Britain Cover, Sc# 1, Penny Black With Sheet Border With InscriptionsNystamps German States Bavaria Stamps # 1 Used $2000Japan 1916 10s Ceremonial Headband Sg191 Fine Mint Cat £800 +Rare India 1948 Mahatma Gandhi Fdc . Extremely Rare .Sg 212 £1 Green Fine Used With A Crisp Upright Middlesbrough Cds & Box1840 (sept) Penny Black Cover London To Doncaster Entire With Letter (a937)++ Great Britain Machin Collection 1970-2009 In Sg Album ++China Prc 1974 Industrial Products Complet Set 1211/1214 Mnh PerfectGb 1840 Used 2d Deep Full Blue Sg4 Cat £1150 Four Margins Red MalteseGreat Britain, Cv $4800, 33 Unused Group Of Bk4 & Larger & Pairs Comprises Pl #7China Stamp Prc T46 Geng Shen Year Monkey Stamp 1980 Scott #1586 Tl375Ckstamps : Us Stamps Scott#c14 $1.3 Airmail Graf Zeppelin 1930 Mint H Og Cv$400China Prc 1980 Souvenir Sheet Lotus 1617 Mnh PerfectChina Prc 1965’ S73 Jinggangshan Mountain Complete Set Mnh OgChina Old Postcard Prisoners Post Bando Japan To Canton 1919 !!U.s. #46 Scarce Unused - 30c Orange, Reprint ($3,000)Gb 1847-54 10d Brown Embossed (sg 57) Cut Square, Fine-used (a898)1928 Melbourne Sheet Australia 2 Sheets++ Unique Piece Vf Mnh B7.36 Start $0.99Very Nice Penny Black Stamp On Cover - 1840Japan 1914 Registered Cover Front, 1 Yen X5, 8s X2, Official SealsRussia. Airmail. Sc. C68b. Sk 420ka, Cv $6000+. San-fransico Over. On Cover1918 10s Dull Grey Blue Seahorse (sg 417) Fine L.h.m. (a1017)Nystamps France Stamp # C15 Mint Og Nh $17001914-15 United States Panama-pacific. 10c Scott 404. Hinged. Cat $725Nystamps Us Stamp # 1 Used $900 Blue Town Cancel Magenta Pen CancelChina 1885-88 Small Dragon Perf 12 Set Of 3 Hinged Mint1911-13 10s Blue Sg 319 'guernsey' C.d.s. (somerset House Printing) (a893)China 1968 Mao Tse - Toung 1759/61 Revolutionary Theater Mnh1941 Guernsey Occupation Registered Cover With 5 X Bisects To Jersey (a942)Us Washington Franklins 1917-19 Thru $2, $5 #523, #479 Nh Cat $7,800Great Britain 1929 Puc £1 Black Unmounted Mint (a1159)1902-03 United States Regular. $1 Scott 311. Never Hinged. Cat $1900Nystamps France Stamp # 226 Mint Og H $1100 Sheet Of 41932 5/- Harbour Bridge Rare 72800 Printed "gem" Centred Superb "mint" "gem"!China Prc 1978 Souvenir Sheet Art And Craft 1433 Mnh Perfect

Recent News: Stamps

Source: Google News

Help America's letter carriers stamp out hunger on May 10
Youngstown Vindicator, April 17th

So each year on the second Saturday in May, letter carriers across the country collect nonperishable food donations from our customers. These donations go directly to local food pantries and churches to provide food to people in the Youngstown/Warren ...Read more

Four Lanes stamp collector raises over £17000 for charity
West Briton, April 17th

"These days fewer and fewer people use the postal system because of postage rates going up and the increasing use of e-mails, but I'll keep on doing this for as long as there are stamps to collect. "All new and used stamps are extremely helpful to us...Read more

Annual stamp collector show set for Westland
Hometownlife.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 Collecting
Fusion, 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 family
Bradenton 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 stories
The 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

Forget Bacon or Van Dyck – this tiny stamp will make collectors go wild
The Guardian, March 26th

It is not after all a surprise that stamps are collectible. Do any children still collect stamps? It was considered a respectable pre-adolescent occupation in the 1970s, but nowadays is probably confined to adults. It has always been associated with...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