Thomas Tapling’s stamp collection



2015-06-26 10:27:14

Thomas Tapling’s stamp collection was formed in the 19th century. It was, for a time, one of the two greatest stamp collections in the world and included examples of almost all issues of stamps and postal stationery.

Thomas Tapling

Tapling was born in Dulwich, London in 1855. His interest in rare postage stamps began at school in Harrow, UK. He joined The Philatelic Society which had only recently been founded recently in 1870 or 1871.

Thomas studied at Cambridge and planned to be a barrister, before being called to assist with his father’s carpets and furniture business, which by then had made the Tapling family rich.

Careers as a Conservative MP, as a member of the Standing Committee on Trade, and narrowly missing a change to play cricket in India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) followed. Tapling died from pleurisy in 1891, aged just 35.

Silver Tapling medal

Following his death, The Philatelic Society created the silver Tapling medal, awarded to the person who writes the best paper in The London Philatelist. Tapling was also listed as one of the society’s 'Fathers of Philately' in the 1921 Roll of Distinguished Philatelists.

British Library exhibition

Tapling's stamp collection was donated to the British Library after his death. It remains the only 19th century collection to still be intact. Although it is considered too large to display all at one time.

Notable stamps

Mauritius 'Post Office' stamps

Among Tapling’s most famous acquisitions were two examples of the world famous Mauritius 'Post Office' stamps: a 1d orange on a cover and a 2d blue – the rare first printed stamps of the tiny island.

The latter was the result of a swap with Count Philipp von Ferrary.

Other notable specimens

Also among the rare stamps owned by Tapling were:

  • a Zurich 1843 4 rappen unique strip of five
  • Western Australia 1854-55 4d blue, with frame inversion error
  • two examples of an 1854-5 Indian blue and red stamp with the heads inverted
  • a mis-coloured blue 1851 Spanish stamp (1 of 3 in existence)
  • two 2 cent Hawaiian stamps known as 'Missionaries'.


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