Philately is a term given to the collection and study of postage stamps and related materials, though it is possible to be a philatelist and not a collector. A survey has show that postage stamp sales generate approximately $7.5 million per year and an estimated 17 million people buy new issues in general or for their collections.
Postage stamps can provide historical information about political events and changing attitudes.
Collectors will often focus their collections on specific areas such as commemorative stamps, airmail stamps or stamps depicting particular images such as bridges or animals.
The world’s first postage stamp
Main article: Penny Black
Postage had previously been paid for by the recipient, a process which was unreliable and expensive. Rowland Hill proposed the idea of a prepaid postage system which led to the creation of the postage stamp.
The only known complete sheets of Penny Black postage stamps are in the British Postal Museum and Archive.
The Penny Black is one of the most sought after postage stamps in the world and blocks of Penny Black stamps can fetch extremely high prices at auction.
The hobby of stamp collecting arose shortly after the introduction of the Penny Black in 1840.
There are two main stories about the origin of postage stamp collecting. The first states that an advert was placed in a newspaper by a young lady who wished to cover the walls of her dressing room with cancelled postage stamps.
The second story claims that Doctor Gray, an official at the British Museum, posted an advert in the Times in 1841 stating that he was looking for postage stamps. By 1860, stamp collecting had become a popular hobby.
The first stamp catalogue was issued in 1861 by Potiquet in France. In 1862, the first publication about philatelic events was published under the title “The Stamp Collector’s Review and Monthly Advertiser”. Today there are over 1500 regular philatelic publications.
The oldest known philatelic society was founded in Paris in 1865 under the name ‘Societe Philateliquell”. The society did not last very long but many others followed including the Royal Philatelic Society in 1869 and the ‘Societe Francause de Timbrologiell’ in 1874.
Postage stamp albums first arose in 1862, the first of which were issued by Justin Lallier, a stamp dealer and bookseller, in Paris. The album contained maps and other information including histories, political systems, population and currency of different countries as well as names and dates of their rulers.
Philately is as popular as ever with many companies such as Stanley Gibbons dedicated entirely to the subject. There are also many long running philatelic associations such as the Royal Philatelic Society and the American Philatelic Society which are dedicated to proving information and support for philatelists.
List of philatelic terms
Main article: List of philatelic terms
List of philatelic themes
Main article: List of philatelic themes
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