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    

Gb, Jersey/guernsey/isle Of Man/alderney, Large Mnh Mint Stamp Collection In BoxMomen: China Prc Stamps #628 1962 S/s Sheet Mei Lanfang Used $ Lot #7109Gb Stamp Collection Penny Black X 2 2d Blue Maltese Cross Victoria Covers(gb01)Prc – China 1980 Scott #1586 Monkey New Year Stamp Mint Nh Superb [id:b122]Ckstamps : Us Stamps Scott #122 90c Grill Lincoln 1869 Pictorial Used Cv$2100Nystamps Us Stamp # 315 Mint Og H $7251967 China Prc Mao 10 F. Rare Used Stamp No ReserveCkstamps : Us Stamps Scott #39 90c Blue 1857 Unused Part Og Cv$3000 W/pf Cert.Gb 1840-1992 Large Stamp Collection In Album W/ 2x Penny Black, Huge CvWow! Rare 1907 Registered Cover Hankow China To Chicago Usa Via Uss HelenaChina Old Xxl Large Cover Chinese Government Pakhoi Yamchow !!Drbobstamps Us Scott #523 Mint Og Lh Well Centered Stamp 2015 Cat $525China – Prc 1979 Scott #1518 Mint Nh Souvenir Sheet [id:b128]Momen: China Prc Stamps #782 Peonies S/s Sheet Mint Og Nh $ Lot #7209China Old Postcard Chinwang Tao Tangku Shanghai To Bad Koesen Germany 1903 !!1967 China Prc Mao & Lin Piao 8 F. Rare Used Stamp No ReserveLot:11561 Gb Gv Stunning Mint Seahorse Sets With Ireland 1922 Over Prints 3 SGb 1847-54 Embossed Set Of (3) Sg 55, 59 And 61 Cut Square (au108)China Stamp Cover 1969.10.9Prc W-2 Complete Set Mint Never HingedGb Gv 1913 £1 Seahorse Deep Green Ref N72 Sg 403 Cat. £1400Russia 1950 Sc 1518-25/mi 1527-34 Moscow Skysrapers Mnh Cv $620Russia 1933 Sc#518 Perf.9.5 !! Sol.438a Cv6000$+? Stamp Pair Mnhog ? Margin Rare1971/74 China Prc Two Super Rare Set Stamps Mh No ReserveChina 1897 Red Revenue $1 On 3c Hinged MintUs Imperf Sc # 1a 1847 5c Mint H Cat $8750Commonwealth(europe) Large Stamp Collection 4x Album,malta/gibraltar/cyprus (boxCkstamps : Us Stamps Scott #12 5c Red Brown Type I Jefferson 1856 Used Cv$700China Censored Cover Wwii Kukong Sunchung To Canada Feb 1942 2015-1613Momen: China Prc Stamps #1586 T46 Monkey Wipa Fdc Used $ Lot #7208Mint Old China Stamp Sc190-201 Revolution Set Of 12 Momen: China Stamps #84 Red Revenue $1 On 3c Used $3,500 Lot #717721 X Stockbooks - All Containing Stamp CollectionsGreece: Large Collection Of Hermes Heads With Numbers On BackGermany Posthorn 1951 Mnh Cv $ 3,250.-Russia 1951 Sc 1598-1602/mi 1601-5 Volga Dam Mnh Cv $310Momen: China Prc Stamps #1586 Monkey T46 Mint Og Nh $ Lot #7053Ckstamps: Us Stamps Scott #c15 $2.6 Airmail Graf Zeppelin 1930 Mint Lh/og Cv$575Gb 1891 Used £1 Green Sg212 Cat £800 Superb Postmark(37) Very Good 1884 Qv 9d Dull Green Inverted Wmk(sg195wi) Lighty Mounted Mint Germany 19th Century To 1940s In Printed Album, 99p Start, All Pictured1840 (dec) Penny Black Cover London To Cambridge Plate 6 Four Margins (au226)Nystamps Us Stamp # 313 Mint Og H $2250Nystamps Us Stamp # 243 Mint Og Nh $5250Mongolia 1953 Marshall Choibalsan Mm Mnh(13 Stamps)g1490Ckstamps: Us Stamps Scott #c14 $1.3 Airmail Graf Zeppelin 1930 Mint Lh/og Cv$400Gb Qv - Qeii Large Hoard Of Gb Material/accumulation Line-engraved 2 X 1d Black1869 Us Pictorial 6c Sc 115 Hh Cat $2750Us 1893 Columbians Nh Thru $5 #245 Cat $29,750Greece: Large Collection Of Hermes Heads With No Numers On BackChina Old Hand Painted Postcard Chinese Woman Children Peking To Germany 1913 !!Japan 1916 Heir Apparent Nomination Used Set Incl Scarce 10s Ceremonial Hat 1935 Occ. Of Korea Haiju Cover With All Contents Rare Xmas Seal $100 Health BondFrance: Fantastic Nhm 1900-1930 3 Scans Sans Charniere Orphans/mersons EtcItaly Postal History 1929 Ve Iii L.2,65 Tied To Registered Letter / G30518Large Packing Box Full Of Ex Auction Lots, Covers, Collections, Yearbooks EtcLc40332 Hungary 1951 Imperf October 6-14 Rare Good Sheets MnhNystamps Germany & World War Ii Reich Old Stamp Collection AlbumChina Stamps Sc 767-781mnh Og.vf.val $562.00Siam - Thailand / 1914 The King Of Siam Ppc To France (6114)

Recent News: Stamps

Source: Google News

Coast Guard celebrates 225 years with postage stamp
NavyTimes.com, August 4th

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago, Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers and the country's first Treasury secretary, had a novel idea: Since the U.S. Navy had been disbanded five years earlier, maybe the country should install 10 cutters...Read more

Man Utd transfer news: Louis van Gaal offers £22m Barcelona star Pedro key ...
Telegraph.co.uk, August 4th

Di Maria, a £59.7m buy from Real Madrid last August, is set to undergo a medical in Qatar before flying to the French capital to rubber-stamp his move. But while Pedro remains a Barcelona player, coach Enrique is hopeful that he can ... But having...Read more

Arnold Scaasi Put an American Stamp on Couture
New York Magazine, August 4th

He is perhaps best remembered for dressing Streisand in a filmy jumpsuit to collect the 1969 Oscar for Funny Girl — a move that caused shock waves at the time. He also provided her wackadoo wardrobe in On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever ...Read more

Why We Must Defend Planned Parenthood
Huffington Post, August 4th

But what they really want is to stamp out our ability to make the most personal, private decisions about our lives. We must make sure that doesn't happen. Wisconsin State Rep. Chris Taylor is the former legislative director for Planned ... We do not...Read more

First-class stamps will cost 49 cents for eight more months, then the price ...
Washington Post (blog), July 30th

The 49-cent stamp has eight more months of life until the U.S. Postal Service has to roll the price back, the effect of a ruling that allows the post office to collect $1.1 billion to cover its recession-related losses. Wednesday's ruling by postal...Read more

The Agenda: Pinckneys launch charity; Mayoral candidates speak out; Sanford ...
Charleston City Paper, July 30th

The family of late pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who would have turned 42 today, say they'll launch a charity foundation in his honor that his wife Jennifer says will be used to continue "answering God's call." Source: Live 5. The September...Read more

Sanford chief of staff leaving to run stamp collectors group
The State (blog), July 27th

English said he is not a stamp collector but will have a chance to use his history degree. The society cited his experience with leading large groups and fundraising. He said he got to know the stamp-collecting group during Sanford's first stint on...Read more

Postal Service's effort to fire up stamp collectors with modern twist on its ...
Omaha World-Herald, July 26th

WASHINGTON — The U.S Postal Service did something unprecedented when it tried to boost stamp sales and fire up excitement about collecting: It reprinted the most famous stamp error in history, known as the Inverted Jenny. Now the agency's watchdog ...Read more