History & Reference - Coney's Stamps



01474 Stamp Collecting

Boy Scout Stamp Collecting Badge

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The History of Collecting Stamps!

Collecting things, from the most common to the most unusual, represents a true passion for many people, irrelevant to age and social class. The invention of the stamp as a means of paying for postal services set the basis for a new collecting trend, philately, which seems to have more and more followers with time.

Once called the hobby of presidents and kings, and was considered a rich man's pastime. In reality, stamp collectors range in age and background, and they can be found everywhere. They do tend to share common characteristics such as patience, a keen eye for detail, and an organized and methodical nature but not all collectors can be lumped so neatly into a single pigeon hole. Philatelists, above all, enjoy finding, identifying, and categorizing stamps. In addition, some stamp collectors develop an artistic spirit, as they learn to appreciate the artistic value of stamps. Some of the most famous painters and engravers of the past century have been responsible for the depictions on thousands of stamps. As such, many stamps are literally small works of art.

Stamps also carry significant educational value. A stamp is like a historical snapshot through which students can broaden their geographic and scientific knowledge, learn about great personalities of the past, and discuss global developments. An infinite number of people, places, and objects have been depicted on these small and sticky pieces of paper. Stamps have showcased an endless list of subjects and human achievements-history, art, religion, tradition, geography, animals, plants, medicine, bridges, buildings, and anything else related to life on earth.

Although private stamps and postmaster provisional stamps were produced for a variety of purposes and a number of years before, the birth of officially sanctioned postage adhesive stamp occurred in Great Britain during the year 1840 followed by the US in 1847.  

The birth of these stamps was closely, if not immediately followed by the birth of Stamp Collecting. The study of postage stamps, which is also known as philately was derived from the Greek word phileo that means I love and the word ateleia meaning free of charges.

Early collectors did not actually realize just how valuable they would become. 1841 brought the first advertisement for collectors in the London Times. With the variety of postage stamps available in the 1860s, children everywhere began collecting stamps from their parent’s mail. AS these children grew to adulthood, they continued collecting stamps making it their hobby.

The first US stamps that were issued for commemorative stamps, which were designed to remember and honor the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus was during 1893, while a few of those stamps are extremely valuable today. Commemorative stamps proved very popular with the public and gave the hobby a tremendous boost.

During the great depression stamp collecting saw another boost.  It was a fun and inexpensive way to pass the time.  This is also why it appeals to children who grow into collecting adults.  Stamps were easily accessible on the mail and new issues could be had for a few cents.

As collecting grew, so did the value of certain stamps. During the 20’s and 30’s collectors started to stockpile used and mint stamps in the hope that the values would increase greatly. A few did but many did not which is why so many stamps of that period can still be found in mint condition for reasonable prices.

During the 40’s and 50’s the US increased production of commemorative stamps.  Each decade after has seen more varieties available.  This has concerned some collectors as a flood of new stamps is being produced every year.  
Many changes have taken place over the years from manufacturing and printing processes, colors, formats… etc.  The links on this page will take you to articles exploring many of the innovations and interesting facets of stamps and stamp collecting.

Also see:
Main Directory of Articles
The Future of Stamp Collecting