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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10 Prized Celebrity Collections Worth More Than $15000Huffington Post, November 24th
The Federal Reserve Chair and her husband, Berkeley economist George Akerlof, have a stamp collection valued between $15,001 and $50,000, according to a Fed financial disclosure. While the actual contents of the collection are unknown, the stamps ...Read more
The stamp of a collectorHindu Business Line, November 15th
“Anybody can collect stamps. G Balakrishna Das, President of the South India Philatelists' Association (SIPA) has a similar opinion on the hobby: “Making a collection need not require money; you must have patience and perseverance, which makes it perfect...Read more
NY Family Accused For False Food Stamp Collection and Bank Fraud, May ...Food World News, November 14th
Some of the arrested family members include Yehuda Rubin, 29, and his father, Irving Rubin, 58, Irving Rubin's wife, son, three brothers and five in-laws, who all pleaded not guilty for the bank fraud and false statement, charges on food stamp collection...Read more
Stamp collectors gather for South Fayette conventionTribune-Review, November 7th
Mary Pickford. Dorothy Lamour. These are pieces of history. There's stories in here.” The envelopes and postcards collected over the years by Hoffman, 55, was one of 37 exhibits at the Philatelic Society of Pittsburgh's annual stamp show at the South...Read more
Stamp-collecting thriller opens Friday at NOVABillings Gazette, November 5th
A thriller that exposes the criminal underworld of stamp collecting opens Friday at NOVA Center for the Performing Arts. No, that's no typo. “Mauritius” is a thriller about stamp collecting, pitting two half-sisters against each other. The play...Read more
Moray man turned from stamp collecting to child pornAberdeen Press and Journal, November 1st
A stamp collector who was caught with more than 300,000 child porn images on his computer was jailed for four and a half years yesterday. Moray man Paul Hirst, 59, was arrested after police officers discovered a total of 306,978 images and 3,471 videos ...Read more
In digital age, stamp collecting still makes its markCBS News, October 27th
NEW YORK - On the centennial anniversary of the annual American Stamp Dealers' Association, hundreds of philatelists - people who study and collect stamps--flocked to a hotel hall in midtown Manhattan littered with dozens of booths. Each table proudly ...Read more
5 reasons why your kid should collect stampsThe Southern, October 26th
This photo provided by the Postal History Foundation shows a young girl with a stamp participating in the Youth Education thru Stamps Program in Tuscon, Ariz. Stamp collecting rewards patience and persistence, teaching those who embrace it about ...Read more