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”)



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. Kgv. Sg 403, £1 Green. Waterlow. Superb Guernsey Cds. Fine Used.China-rare-1913-cip Coiling Dragons-cover-chenchow-moukden-siberia-to-norwayPrc S-61m Peonies Mint Never HingedChina Stamps Gengshen Year 8fen Og 26/31mmPrc C-94 Imperf Mei Lang Fang Mint Never HingedGb. Qv. Sg 129, £1 Brown Lilac. Very Fine Used.Queen Victoria 1840-41. Sg 2, 5, 8 & 14 Mint Cat £70,000+...P.r.china Stamp T46 Sc#1586 Year Of The Monkey 1980 Mnh + Bonus 11 Stamps YearsNystamps Pr China Stamp # 1518 Mint Og Nh $2250Gb. Qv. Sg 133, £5 Orange. Superb London 1884 Cds. Cat £15000. 1840 Penny Black (plate 6) Cover Good Four Margins With Superb Red Mx1883 Large Dragon Thick Paper 5 Candarins Mint Extremely Fine Chan 9Prc C-106m Mint Never HingedSg 129 £1 Brown-lilac. Superb Used With A Crisp Upright London Dec 18th 1880...Prc T-41m Mint Never HingedVintage Sydney Nsw Postmark Post Office Stamp Letter Franking Roller1878 Large Dragon Thin Paper 3 Candarins Mint Extremely Fine Chan 2Gb 1929 Upu £1 Black Sg438 Fine & Fresh Lightly Mtd Mint Clear White Gum Cv £750China Souveinir Sheet Drunken Beauty 300fen 108*146mm/52*62mm Mnh Og!!!!Kgv Waterlow Seahorse £1 Green. Fine Cds Used. Sg 403. Starts 99p!Momen: Great Britain Stamps #57 Unused 1848 Imperf Qv £11,000 Lot #3076Gb. Qv. Sg 133, £5 Orange. Superb London 1884 Cds. Fine Used.Gb. Qv. 1840, 2d Block. Black Maltese Cross.Sg 133 £5 Orange On Blued Paper Cat £15,000. Good To Fine Used Sunderland Cds...Sg 2 1d Black Pair Plate 2 Lettered D.a-d.b. Fine Used Full Margins Just Clear..Penny Black Plate 1a Stunning Exhibition Quality Very Worn Plate J - FGreat Britain 1883 10s Ultramarine Sg 183 Very Fine Used (m1453)Gb 1856 6d Embossed Cover With Australian "victoria Ship Letter" On Reverse1878 Large Dragon Thin Paper 1 Candarin Mint Extremely Fine Chan 1U.s. #39 Rare Used - 1860 90c Blue ($11,000)Great Britain 1929 Puc £1 Black (sg 438) L.h.m. (j070)Gb Gv Waterlow Seahorse £1 Spec# N72(1) Lh Spec £3500 (sg 403) ($5250)Ckstamps : Us Stamps Scott #12 5c Red Brown Type I Jefferson 1856 Used Cv$700China 1964 Flower Block S61m 782 Peonies MhChina 15 Years Anniversary Stamp J106m Sc796a Mao Mei Lan Fang MnhHolland 1852 Circa Used Study Variety #2 Imperf Stamp Collection Cv £3000 ++Gb Gb Waterlow Seahorse £1 Spec# N72(3) Nh Spec £4800 (sg 404) ($7200)69 Used Pse Cert Graded 85China 1960 Gold Fish Fishes 534/45 506/17 MnhStamps. Thailand (siam) - 1907. Provisional Issue - "postal Fiscals"Nystamps Us Revenue Stamp # R115b Used $1250 Inverted Center Error W/certPenny Black Plate 10 Excellent 4 Margins. Red Mx. GbNystamps Us Stamp # 39 Mint With Gum H $3000Stamps. Thailand (siam) - 1889-91. 8 Overprints #937 China Collection On Album Leaves X46 In Collecta 22-ring AlbumGb Qv - Qeii Mint Stamp Collection In Stockbook ~ High Cat Value ~ 99p Start NrStamps. Thailand (siam) - 1902. Battambong Provisional Overprint - Unused(440) Very Good Lightly Used Qv £1.00 Green (sg212) Dated Ja 13 02Sg 2 1d Black Plate 4 Lettered B.l. A Fresh Mint Example Good Margins...Scott # 292 Us 1898 Trans-mississippi $1 Nh Cat $3500Qv Jubilee £1 Green Sg 212 Fine Used. Excellent Condition. Starts 99p![g12456] Macau 1987 Arts Good Sheet Very Mnh Value $300Stamps. Thailand (siam) - 1944 - Thai Occupation Of Malaya - Complete Unused SetGermany & Area, States, Colonies, Occ & Fantastic Stamp Collection In 13 VolumesGreat Britain Embossed 1/- Block Of Six Used On Piece. 466 Numeral Of LiverpoolChina 1961 #566a Table Tennis Sports Sheet F221 Hb 10 Block 7 MnhU.s. #122 Used Beauty - 1869 90c Lincoln ($2,000)Russia & Soviet Republics Stamp Collection In Scott Specialty Album Thru 1965Nystamps Pr China Stamp # 989 Mint Og Nh $250China Cultural Revolution Stamp W5 Mao All Complete Mnh

Recent News: Stamps

Source: Google News

Far Cry 4 and Far Cry 4 are incredible video games
SB Nation, May 29th

There is no handier example of this than Destiny, a graphically marvelous celebration of stamp-collecting and errand-running that is one of the worst video games I have ever played. Games like Destiny aren't really about you getting better. They're...Read more

Record food haul for local postal workers
Kingsport Times News, May 29th

“From all appearances, the “Stamp Out Hunger” food-drive sponsored by the letter carriers of our nation's post offices will reach records like was seen in Rogersville and Surgoinsville,” Livesay said. “The total poundage for Surgoinsville this year was...Read more

My uncle's suicide isn't his legacy
ErieTVNews, May 29th

He had a penchant for stamp collecting -- so much so that he ran his own stamp store for a time. He smoked exotic Dunhills from a gold cigarette wallet. His fashion was slightly disheveled, featuring many tucked-in shirts without belts, socks with...Read more

Things to Do on Long Island, May 31 to 6, 2015
New York Times, May 28th

BOHEMIA Connetquot Public Library “Collecting Stamps,” John Pedneault, of the American Philatelic Society, discusses the art of stamp collection. June 4, 7 p.m. Free. “The History of Long Island Railroad Stations,” David Morrison, railroad historian...Read more

Ask Hutch: Wichita club offers answer for lifelong Hutchinson stamp collector
Hutchinson News, May 10th

While there isn't a local group of stamp collectors, Wichita has a stamp collecting club that meets at 6 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of each month, at the Central Branch of the Wichita Public Library, 223 S. Main St. The group has programs...Read more

Postal Workers Collect Food Donations For 'Stamp Out Hunger'
CBS Local, May 9th

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Along with delivering up our mail, letter carriers picked up some packages along their routes Saturday. It's Stamp Out Hunger Day, the largest single-day food drive in the country. Postal workers collected bags of food left by...Read more

Stamp of approval for an avid Sharjah collector
The National, May 4th

Mutaz Osman owns so many stamps and coins he cannot even count them. The 41-year-old operations director of Sharjah Expo Centre, the centrepiece of a planned Expo City in the emirate, started his collection as a child. In 2000, he also started writing ...Read more

Riot Act explores the seedy side of stamp collecting
Jackson Hole News&Guide, April 29th

What do you do when you discover a book of rare stamps following your mother's death? Sell it, or keep it for sentimental reasons? That is the quandary facing two half sisters in the play “Mauritius,” by Theresa Rebeck, which will be performed by the...Read more