By Janet Klug
If you are reading this you are probably a stamp collector. Perhaps you collect the stamps of a single country, such as the United States or Germany. Maybe you collect stamps from all over the world, but limit this collection to a specific time period.
Some stamp collectors collect thematically, concentrating upon the subject depicted on the stamps, such as rockets, cats or orchids.
Prior to the process of printing a stamp there are often a number of preprinting processes that are done to assure a high quality image. Proofs may be taken from the die that would be used to make a printing plate. Once a plate has been created, a plate proof may be made.
It is sometimes possible to acquire original artwork made when an artist is designing the stamp, such as the unadopted design by Edward Rosewater shown in Figure 1. It was requested in 1897 by the U.S. Post Office Department for the Trans-Mississippi Exposition.
Such items are sought by many collectors.
Stamps can be issued in sheets, panes, souvenir sheets, booklets and coils. If the same design of a stamp is issued in more than one of these formats, many collectors will want each format in their collection. Figure 2 shows stamps in a booklet, a pane, a coil and a souvenir sheet.
As with most things in life, one thing leads to another. An interesting postmark or cancel on a stamp has led many stamp collectors down a new path of collecting postal markings. Once that happens, the collector will start looking for envelopes bearing a stamp and a postmark. The envelope is called a "cover" by collectors because it is a container or cover for the message contained therein.
Some stamp collectors enjoy pursuing mail that has been sent using a special service. Registered mail is an example. Mail that is registered receives a unique number that is recorded at each post office it transits through, leaving a record that allows the mailpiece to be tracked. These days this is done electronically using barcode technology. In years gone by it was done meticulously by hand, and often the letter or parcel would receive a postal marking from each transit post office.
A registered cover sent from Australia to the United States during World War II is shown in Figure 3. The cover was also subjected to censorship and bears a resealing label and handstamp indicating the censorship.
Some business covers bear decorative images or writing used to advertise a product. These, too, are collectable. Many countries have a special postmark to mark the first day a stamp is issued. When the stamp is affixed to an envelope that has a design that reflects the subject of the stamp it becomes a souvenir of a stamp's "birthday" or day of issue.
An illustrated advertising cover and a cacheted first-day cover are shown in Figure 4.
Mail has been carried by numerous methods, beginning with hand-carried letters and progressing through couriers on horseback, mail coaches, sailing vessels, steamboats, rail, motor vehicles, airplanes, rockets and other methods too numerous to mention.
There are collectors who specialize in methods of mail delivery, and organizations devoted to the specialists' interests.
Postal services and mail delivery existed long before there were postage stamps. These stampless letters are also collected.
Envelopes were not in general use in those days, so letters were folded in such a way that the written message was on the inside, the address was on the outside, and the letter was held together with sealing wax or a wax wafer. The letter was taken to a post office where a postal clerk would use a handstamp or a pen to postmark the letter and note how much postage had been paid by the mailer, or needed to be paid by the recipient.
The best part about these stampless letters is that you get to read the letter contained within and learn how people lived a century and a half ago. Stampless covers from the United States, France and Germany are shown in Figure 5.
Stamp collectors are also book collectors. Most of us want to learn more about what it is that we collect. We begin by acquiring stamp catalogs. That leads to magazines and journals about stamps and stamp collecting. Eventually we acquire handbooks, research papers and auction catalogs that pertain to the fields we collect. The next thing you know, the stamp collector has formed an extensive library.
We stamp collectors are also drawn to postal forms, picture postcards, maps, atlases, city directories, photographs and ephemera of all manner and description. What might begin with a few centimeters of postage stamps and a thin album in which to hold them at some point can overtake much of the livable space in one's residence.
Collecting stamps is not just one hobby, it is many hobbies connected by a passion for history, art, geography and the many other elements that draw collectors to stamps.
It is never boring, and it is ever evolving.
blogIn this column in the Aug. 24 issue of Linn’s, I referred to the American Philatelic Research Library in Bellefonte, Pa., as a “gift to stamp collectors.” The BNAPS library and the APRL are two of many libraries available to stamp collectors, and some philatelic libraries are available online. Read More ›
blogIt’s often been said that one of the salutary benefits of collecting stamps is the friendships made along one’s philatelic journey. If I were asked to place a value on the bonds thus forged with collectors in locales near and far, I would be rich beyond measure. A few of these hobby friends I have never met in person. Read More ›
blogToday, Nov. 11, 2015, is Veterans Day. Over the years, a number of United States stamps honoring those who have served in our nation’s armed forces have been issued. Read More ›
blogMy previous blog post focused on a mystery: the apparent indentations of paper clips on United States Purple Heart forever stamps that were used to mail payments to the circulation department of my employer, Amos Media in Sidney, Ohio. Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Denise McCarty discusses Great Britain’s final stamp issue for 2015, a Star Wars prestige booklet, and reveals what is included in its stamp program for 2016.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News managing editor Chad Snee discusses a registered 1967 cover from Qatar that recently sold for almost $1,200 and the latest discovery of an Upright Jenny Invert pane.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman announces that Linn’s has been named official daily publisher of World Stamp Show-NY 2016 and provides an update on the reorganization of the Scott catalogs.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Marty Frankevicz reports on the suspension of Canada Post’s cluster box conversion plan after the election of a new prime minister.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.