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 Old Postcard Canton Hong Kong Ipo To Crefeld Germany 1900 !!Japan Specialized: Scott #222a U Complete Sheet Of 20 On Cover See Scans Cv$500+Gb Kg V 1913 £1 Deep Green Seahorses Waterlow Sg 403 (spec.n72[2]) VfuSg 5 2d Blue Plate 1 Lettered Ga Superb Used With A Red Maltese Cross 4 Fine...Great Britain Victoria £5 Orange Sg 137 Cat Value £4,750 Fine-used (s1008)China (prc) 1967 Thoughts Of Mao Set Of 11 Stamps Sg #2343-53 MnhBox File Containing Stamps, Covers, Auction Lots, Collections, Mini Sheets Etc[/si50] Siam Thailand 1899 "reject Die" Scott#74 Used Very Rare!!! Used In KoratRussia 1935 Moscow-san Franciso 1r On 10k Surch (sc C68) Mnh $3,250Large Collection Of China Chinese Vintage Stamps **must-see** 33 PhotosChina Russia Old Cover Chefoo To Seine France 1902 !!Imperial Russia. Sc. 1. Cv $60,000.00+.expertized. Mint Appearance. Stamp EmpireDt. Reich Nothilfe Block 1933 Mnh Signed Cv $ 9,100.-[/si45] Siam Thailand 1899 "reject Die" Scott#73 Used Very Rare!!! Used In KoratSg 5 2d Blue Plate 1 Lettered K.h. Very Fine Used Red Maltese Cross...Us Stamp:#r135b 2c 1871-72 3rd Issue Revenue Inverted Error StampJapan Zeppelin Flight Uprated Postal Card Sieger #31a To Los Angeles $$$$$G.b. 1840 Used 2d Blue With Red Maltese CrossMr Fancy Cancel 65 Civil War Patriotic President Lincoln And His Cabinet RareChina Imperial Red Revenue Large 4c On 3c Sg 90 Sc 82 Chan 89Ckstamps : Us Stamps Scott#c15 $2.60 Airmail Graf Zeppelin 1930 Used 2014 Cv$600China ,1949,tientsin Censored Airmail Cover Via Sibiria To Austria(255) Very Fine Lightly Cancelled Qv Penny Black (sg2) T-f Plate 71898 Us Trans-mississippi Exposition Issue $1 Sc 292 Never Hinged Cat $35001930 Us Zeppelin. $2.60 Sc C15 . Never Hinged. Cat $9751898 Us Trans-mississippi $2 Sc 293 Never Hinged Cat $6000Sg 438 £1 Puc Very Fine Used, Part Cds, Well Centred, Full PerfsOld Cigar Box Full Of Pre 1945 Stamps - M & U - Vast - Many 1000sChina Imperial Dowager Stamp Sc# 16, 17, 18, 19, All Mint Hinged Og VfChina Prc Registered Airmail Censored CoverGreat Britain 1902 Edward Vii £1 Deep Green Sg 266 Fine L.h.m. (s989)Old Sweet Box Full Of Mint Pre 1945 Stamps - Vast - Many 1000sChina 1897 Icp 2c Coiling Dragon Corner Block Of 9 With Small Printing Flaw Mnh[/si41] Siam Thailand 1899 "reject Die" Scott#72 Used Very Rare!!! Used In KoratChina 1878 Large Dragon, Scott 1, Mint Never Hinged With Original Gum, Vf1917-19 Us Error 5c Sc 505 Never Hinged Cat $625[/si21] Siam Thailand 1885 "1 Tical" Surcharge - Type I Cat.value:70,000 BathsChina Imperial 1897 Red Revenue 2c Surcharged UnusedGb 1882 Used 5/- Rose Plate 4 Sg134 Cat £4200[/si01] Siam Thailand 1907 Fiscal Overprint Postage 40 Baht Variety "oval Stop"Noblespirit~no Reserve~(fre)~ Impressive 7x China Small Dragons Selection Huge CRare 1932 Australia Set Of Sydney Harbour Bridge Stamps Cto Full GumGreat Britain 1913 Waterlow 10s Indigo Seahorse Sg 402 Fine L.h.m. (s988)Us Stamp:#r102 P3 $200 1862-71 Revenue Plate Proof Inida On Card $1,400[/si25] Siam Thailand 1899 "reject Die" Scott#70 Used Very Rare!!!!!!!!!![/si10] Siam Thailand 1883 Scott#4 Used With Cancel Bangkok/unpaid - Rrr1840 (aug) 1d Black (sg 3) On Cover To London, Fine Black Mx (s1000)China ,1949,tientsin Censored Airmail Cover Via Sibiria To Austria IChina Imperial Red Revenue Small 2c On 3c Sg 93 Sc 79 Chan 84France Beautiful Recent Mnh Collection In Big StockbookNystamps Pr China Stamp # 1573 Mint Og Nh $350Ckstamps : Us Old Stamps Scott #141 15c 1870 Mint H/og 2014 Cv $7500 W/pf Cert.Great Britain 1883 10s Ultramarine Sg 183 Very Fine Used (s990)Dealer Liquidation - India Se-tenant Stamps Pairs Mnh 22 Different Waterbird EtcGreat Britain 1883 9d Green Sg 195 Very Fine Used (s967)Gb 1865 Used 9d Straw W/margin Sg98 Cat £550 Superb CancelNystamps Poland Stamps Gb Qv 1867 9d. Pale Straw Plate 4 Oh Watermark Spray Sg 110 (spec J96[2]) MnhVery Rare 1886 South Australia 5 Pound Brown Postage & Revenue Stamp Used1909 Us Coil 10c Sc 356 Never Hinged Cat $8500

Recent News: Stamps

Source: Google News

GlaxoSmithKline Found Guilty of Bribery in China
Wall Street Journal, September 19th

Legal experts said the Glaxo fine reflects China's aim to stamp out corporate bribery. "China will take a zero-tolerance approach to corruption allegations," said James Zimmerman, the managing partner of the Beijing office of law firm Sheppard Mullin...Read more

US|$100000 Reward for Missing 'Jennies'
New York Times, September 14th

Minutes later — around 9:30 on a September morning in 1955 — a delegation of esteemed philatelists strolled down the row of display cases, looking expectantly for the star item of the collection: a block of four famous 24-cent stamps with the...Read more

Yeovil stamp collectors mark new exhibition - but "doubt that we'll still be ...
Western Gazette, September 12th

STAMP collecting, or philately, is as old as stamps themselves, with the first collectors popping up shortly after the launch of the Penny Black in 1840. Now Yeovil and District Philatelic Society is celebrating its 60th birthday with a new exhibition...Read more

Friends of the A.K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands offer stamp collection ...
Redlands Daily Facts, September 11th

In addition to poetry by Alfred Lord Tennyson and Rudyard Kipling, fiction by Booth Tarkington and Mayne Reid and children's fiction by Gloria Young, there is an item especially for the stamp collector — a stamp book containing numerous stamps from...Read more

Art & Antiques | Stamp collectors' bounty a window into the past
Centre Daily Times, August 23rd

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

Start Stamp Collecting
Lock Haven Express, August 19th

The process of stamp collecting is nearly 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

Otis Barnes stamp collector — plain and simple
The Port Arthur News, August 18th

“I collected stamps when I was a kid, but not too much come to think of. I've been collecting really, sort of serious since 1980,” he said while admiring part of a collection that chronicles history from the time dinosaurs roamed the earth to today's...Read more

Stamp collectors sour on money-making commemoratives
Waterbury Republican American, August 13th

"'Harry Potter' is a perfect example," Ken Martin, executive director of the American Philatelic Society, a nonprofit stamp-collecting foundation that claims 44,000 members. He, at least, doesn't approve of the fictional boy wizard or his British...Read more