During the 19th and 20th centuries, the ubiquity of postage stamps turned stamp collecting into an international phenomenon, making stamps the world’s most popular collectible. Today, though, as the interest in philately has waned, more enthusiasts are willing to part with entire collections of stamps from around the world.

When global postal service was expanded and standardized in the mid-19th century, many postage systems realized that limited-edition designs could create added revenue, as middle-class hobbyists purchased them for their growing collections. The Victorian Era stamp-collecting craze was lent an air of respectability by many royal figures who started their own collections, including King George V and Queen Elizabeth the II of Great Britain, King Farouk I of Egypt, and Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Other celebrity collectors like Franklin D. Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and Charlie Chaplin added to the hype.

Stamp collecting peaked in the years after World War II, though the prices of rare stamps continue to rise. Today, discerning collectors focus on mint-condition stamps, as well as stamps from particularly desirable regions, like early British and French colonial stamps. As with other antiquities from China, the market for Chinese stamp collections also continues to grow.

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First shown in 2008 to celebrate the Smithsonian National Postal Museum's 15th anniversary, Alphabetilately is esse… [read review or visit site]

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