Ten Things You Didn’t Know: Philatelic Facts

Do you know what Benjamin Franklin, Charlie Chaplain, Janis Joplin, Queen Victoria, John Lennon, and Amelia Earhart have in common? Stamps. That’s right, postage stamps. The people listed here all either featured (or will soon be featured) on a U.S. postage stamp or were known collectors. Below are more fascinating philatelic (stamps) facts.TenThings_Postage-stamps-and-history
1 Postage stamps themselves aren’t the only piece of postal history garnering collector interest. A metal U.S. postal stamp dispenser, with a porcelain face featuring an image of Uncle Sam, measuring 20 inches by 8 inches by 4 1/2 inches, was expected to fetch between $200 and $400 during Morphy Auctions’ Iowa Gas Auction, Aug. 1.

2 Philately (the study and collection of stamps and postal history) is largely considered the world’s oldest formal collecting hobby, dating back to the mid-1800s. At one time a popular pastime of an estimated 30 million people, it isn’t a rapidly growing collecting area today, but remains steady, according to “Warman’s U.S. Stamps Field Guide, 3rd Ed.”

3 Great Britain issued the first pre-paid postage stamp (the Penny Black) in 1840, and it featured a portrait of Queen Victoria. The United States followed suit seven years later,

Backed encased Franklin 1-cent blue stamp

Two Ayer’s-backed encased Franklin 1-cent blue stamps, one shown at top right, fetched $881 during a Heritage
Auctions sale in September 2013. (Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions)

issuing two ‘first’ postage stamps. One featured President George Washington, pictured on a 10-cent stamp, and Benjamin Franklin, the first U.S. postmaster, on the 5-cent stamp. An unused blue 1-cent Franklin stamp, with proper ornamentation, is valued at around $200,000 in today’s market.

4 Since 1886, the American Philatelic Society (APS) has supported and encouraged stamp collecting. Presently, the APS (www.stamps.org) reports nearly 34,000 people, from 110 countries, are members. The APS schedule of events reveals 219 stamp collecting shows/events occurring during the rest of 2014, and early 2015.

5 Stamp collecting, not unlike numismatics (coin collecting), is a collecting field where errors are a cause for celebration, at least if you’re a collector. The most famous error stamp, the “Inverted Jenny,” was discovered by a collector in Washington, D.C. The blue and red, 24-cent error airmail stamp features the image of an upside-down airplane. As the story goes, during the inaugural flight of the new air mail service, the plane – which was carrying many of the new air mail stamps – flipped over and landed upside down. An original, unused “Inverted Jenny” stamp is valued at $400,000. In 2013, the U.S.P.S. issued souvenir “Inverted Jenny” postage stamps.

6 Some “famous folks” who were known to collect stamps include: Aviator Amelia Earhart, actor/comedian Charlie Chaplin, Queen Elizabeth II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and legendary musician John Lennon.

Postage stamp dispenser

This vintage U.S. postal stamp dispenser carried an estimate of $200 to $400 into a recent auction
hosted by Morphy Auctions. Photo Courtesy Morphy Auctions

7 In 1998, the U.S. Postal Service launched a program aimed at supporting community causes, with a portion of the proceeds from the premium postage stamps donated to charity. The first stamp in this program was a 32-cent Breast Cancer Awareness stamp. Since it was first issued, the stamp has raised $71 million.

8 President Franklin D. Roosevelt was so enamored with postage stamps, he was known to draw rough sketches of the type of commemorative stamps he wanted the U.S. Postal Service to consider issuing.

9 The National Postal Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution museum system, features nearly 20 current and permanent exhibits. The galleries include stamps from around the world, a tribute to mail carriers, the legacy of the Pony Express and Airmail in America, among others.

10 In Elk Mound, Wisconsin, there stands a three-story observation tower built in 1937, dedicated to rural mail carriers of Dunn County. The Dead Mailmen Castle is open to visitors, but with a warning to proceed with caution, as it may be haunted.

Sources: The American Philatelic Society (www.stamps.org), Warman’s U.S. Stamps Field Guide, 3rd Ed. by Maurice D. Wozniak; National Postal Museum (www.postalmuseum.si.edu), RoadsideAmerica.com.


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