Stamp Collecting Software and Resources
— by Lisa Richards, Educational Outreach Writer
Philately, or stamp collecting, has attracted millions of hobbyists worldwide. The growth of philatelist societies in numerous countries, including Canada, China, Great Britain, and the United States, speaks to its universal appeal.
Frenchman Georges Herpin coined the term "philatélie" in 1864. "Philately" is a portmanteau of the Greek words "philo" and "atelia," which together roughly translate to "love for exemption from taxes," a nod to the purpose of postage stamps, which is to exempt the recipient of mail from paying the postal service fee.
The first philatelic society emerged in London in 1869, about three decades after the inventor of the penny postage system, Sir Rowland Hill, designed the first stamp. This group still exists today as the Royal Philatelic Society. After Britain started the practice of prepaying for mail delivery with postage stamps, other countries followed suit. From there, it didn't take long for philately to catch on internationally. The late 19th century and early 20th century saw the founding of other societies and organizations that promoted the collecting and selling of stamps.
The first stamp bore the image of Queen Victoria. In addition to bearing the images of world leaders, stamps have depicted celebrities, commemorated events, celebrated nature, and reflected the cultural history of a nation. According to the National Postal Museum, "every stamp tells a story." For instance, after Latvia gained independence from Russia in 1918, they had little paper, so they used the backs of German military maps and banknotes to make stamps instead. Those stamps tell a part of Latvian history.
In this way, stamps are a sort of gateway to the world outside your backyard. They are a medium of travel to which everyone has access for little cost.
When philately started, a collector could reasonably gather nearly every type of stamp in the world, but the innumerable stamp options available today make this pursuit near impossible. Most collectors center their collections around a theme, such as plants or holidays, or focus on stamps from one specific country or time period, such as World War II. Anything from plants to planets can appear on postage stamps. Some philatelists even seek out stamp forgeries, considering them deserving works of art. In some cases, the forgeries are as valuable as the originals!
Though often associated with an older population, philately is really a hobby for all ages. Its flexibility and worldwide esteem have gained it the title of "hobby of kings and king of hobbies." Famous philatelists include King George V, Queen Elizabeth II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, musician John Lennon, and aviator Amelia Earhart. Many collectors today started the hobby in their youth, and major philatelic organizations often have youth counterparts or programs.
The Internet has helped make stamp collecting even more accessible so that every day, more and more hobbyists are discovering the joys of this classic pastime. Countless online resources offer tips to guide beginner stamp collectors and connections to philatelic organizations where you can develop your hobby along with other enthusiasts. If you're looking to buy a particular kind of stamp, online dealers sell stamps on any and every topic under the sun. To help you classify and organize your collection, you can download software or purchase kits.
Philately is an easy and fun activity no matter who you are or where you are. All you need to start is a piece of mail with a stamp on it.
Stamp Collecting for Kids