Stamp collecting is the collecting of postage stamps and related objects. It is one of the world's most popular hobbies, with estimates of the number of collectors ranging up to 20 million in the United States alone.
Stamp collecting is not the same as philately, which is the study of stamps. A philatelist may, but does not have to, collect stamps. Many casual stamp collectors accumulate stamps for sheer enjoyment and relaxation without worrying about the tiny details. The creation of a large or comprehensive collection, however, may require some philatelic knowledge.
Postage stamps are often collected for their historical value and geographical aspects and they are also collected for the many different subjects that have been depicted on them, ranging from ships, horses, birds, Kings, Queens and Presidents. No matter what your interest, there are almost always stamps that will complement that interest.
Stamp collectors are an important source of income for some countries who create limited runs of elaborate stamps designed mainly to be bought by stamp collectors. The stamps produced by these countries may exceed the postal needs of the countries, but may also feature attractive topical designs that many collectors would like to have in their stamp album.
History of stamp collecting
Postage stamp collecting began at the same time that stamps were first issued by their country, and by 1860 thousands of collectors and stamp dealers were appearing around the world as this new study and hobby spread across Europe, European colonies the United States and other parts of the world.
The first postage stamp, the Penny Black, was issued by Britain in 1840 and pictured a young Queen Victoria. It was produced without perforations (imperforate) and consequently had to be cut from the sheet with scissors in order to be used. While unused examples of the "Penny Black" are quite scarce, used examples are quite common, and may be purchased for $20 to $200, depending upon condition.
People started to collect stamps almost straight away, most notably John Edward Gray who bought penny black stamps on their first day of issue in order to keep them.
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