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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Letter-writing contest marks Philately Day celebrations at Head Post OfficeChandigarh Tribune, October 13th
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Communications-related stamps intrigue collectorRio Rancho Observer, October 12th
He and Jenny share more than their love for stamps: They met when Jenny, born in Grants Pass, Ore., was a junior at Sandia High School, got married before her senior year, and moved to Tucson, where she completed high school and Paul was working for ...Read more
Stamp clubFrederick News Post (subscription), October 6th
Today's the 68-year-old Strube knows who Key was and he knows a lot about stamps. An avid stamp collector, he was one of the initial members of the Frederick Stamp Club which was founded in 1999. He has been president of the club the last three years...Read more
Sarnia Stamp Club dates back to the 1950sSarnia Observer, October 3rd
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Charlie Brown Christmas Forever stamps kick-off National Stamp Collecting ...Gwinnettdailypost.com, September 30th
December marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most popular holiday TV classics of all time — A Charlie Brown Christmas. To celebrate the holiday season and launch October as National Stamp Collecting Month, the U.S. Postal Service is dedicating...Read more
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The Star Wars Stamp Collection from Royal Mail is officially a thing. While Star Wars fans and stamp collectors are two different grades of geek, these special stickies are going to be hard for both camps to resist. The Star War stamps will come in 12...Read more