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The Popularity On Postage Stamp Collecting

Dec 5, 2007
You may be wondering, "Why do people collect stamps?" Initially, British children saw collecting as a fun game, since stamps were inexpensive to buy and had vivid pictures. These days many people are prompted to collect because a relative passed down the tradition or bought them a souvenir sheet of stamps. Today over 20 million Americans engage in postage stamp collecting, making it one of the most popular type of compilations.

In 1840, Britain introduced the "Penny Black" as the first adhesive postage stamp. Little did they realize that this would set off a postage stamp collecting craze among the youth, otherwise known as "Timbromania" (meaning "stamp madness".) As these little hobbyists aged, they proudly passed their stamp collections down to the next generation and thus a market was born.

The US caught on to this Timbromania in the 1930s, when the first souvenir sheet was printed and the 65-cent "Graf Zeppelin" portrayed a German blimp. During the Great Depression, many stamps were incinerated since few families could afford a book of stamps during this time period, since the cost of one would also pay for a family of four to eat for one week!

It became the misprints that became the most coveted in the world of collecting postage stamps. Most serious collectors will try to seek out a rare stamp resulting from a printing error. For instance, the "Inverted Jenny" is a US postage one from 1918 featuring a photo of a Curtiss JN-4 airplane where the plane was mistakenly printed upside-down!

Only 100 were ever printed and a block of four just sold at an auction for $2.7 Million! The US-made "Benjamin Franklin Z Grill" ones were made with a waffle pattern embossed into the paper supposedly to prevent the ink from running. Only two were printed before they realized this process was impractical. Now one stamp could get as much as $3 Million!

Internationally, collecting postage stamps often equates with big bucks. For example, the "Treskilling Yellow" one from Sweden was misprinted in the wrong color, placing its value at over $2 Million. Historically, Britain's "Penny Black" (the first official adhesive stamp) sold for $200 in the year 2000, and unused went for as much as $3,000!

Or imagine owning the "British Guiana Magenta," a rare stamp with a face value of one cent but an estimated value of $935,000! There is much controversy surrounding this one.

Since there is only one known copy in existence, some say that it was an altered 4-cent one, however these claims were disproved. Others speculate that another copy was discovered but was purchased by Arthur Hind, who owned the original and who quietly destroyed the copy so he wouldn't lose the value. In 1999 a forged copy was found in Bremen, Germany.

Postage stamp collecting is a fun and relatively inexpensive way to collect historical artwork. You may begin by browsing a catalog such as Scott catalog (for US postage stamps), or check out Kenmore Stamp and MysticStamp for stamps online.

If you're looking to seriously collecting stamps as an investment, you should begin your quest at the National Philatelic Society.
About the Author
Mike Selvon has some great stamp collecting articles for the hobbist, where you can find out more on postage stamp collecting. We appreciate your feedback at our stamp collecting values blog.
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