Philately is the study of stamps. It is distinct from, but strongly related to stamp collecting; philatelists may study a wide range of memorabilia related to postal and non-postal stamp-like objects, and some philatelists may not actively own or collect stamps. However, stamp collecting hobbyists can all be considered amateur philatelists, and a huge amount of quality, verified information on stamps and their history comes from both academic and amateur sources. Stamp collecting is one of the most popular hobbies worldwide and has been engaged in by kings, presidents, and millions of others since the first adhesive postage stamp was issued in the 1840s in Great Britain. With such a rich and varied history, there are many different ways to get involved in philately.
History of Philately
The History of Philately: Overview of philatelic history incorporating facts from before the invention of the modern postal stamp, including details from Roman times, the Middle Ages, and far more.
The History of Stamp Collecting: Discussion of the history of philately from Philatelic Tidbits, a respected hobbyist and stamp collecting news website.
More History of Stamp Collecting: Another view of the history of stamp collecting, with a focus on the value of stamps as a commodity and the various reasons why people collect them.
The Penny Black Stamp: Brief history of the first modern adhesive post stamp, the Penny Black stamp from 19th century Great Britain.
Types of Philately
Topical Stamp Collecting: Resource website devoted to “topical” stamp collecting, where philatelists focus on particular stamp themes. Includes a large, alphabetical index of quality websites catering to different stamp collecting themes.
Error Information Newsletter: Informational resource for collectors of misprinted stamps. Offers a guide to the ten major kinds of errors that might occur in the printing of a stamp. Illustrated.
American Air Mail Society: Organization founded in 1923 for aerophilately, the study of airmail, airmail stamps, postal markings, special flights, and other documents and markings related to aerial mail.
FIP Postal Stationery Commission: Postal stationery organization from the Federation Internationale de Philatelie. Focuses on the study, preservation, and exhibition of envelopes, post cards, and other items with an imprinted stamp.
Cinderella Stamp Club: UK-based club formed for the study of all stamp-like objects that were not issued for postal purposes.
The American Revenue Association: Society that explores revenue philately, the study of government stamps used for revenue collection.
The Revenue Society: International organization of revenue philatelists. Includes a variety of exhibits and a hall of fame, and has members from over thirty countries.
Federation Internationale de Philatelie: Commission for Maximaphily: FIP division devoted to maximaphily, the study of special illustrated post cards that include stamps and cancellation marks all within the same theme.
Railroad Stamps: High-quality website by members of a “unit” of the American Topical Association, devoted to collecting all examples of railroads and trains depicted on stamps.
Worldwide Cats on Stamps: Highly illustrated collection of stamps from around the world featuring cats. About 100 countries represented, with multiple large illustrations for each. Also includes approximate value and year of issuance for each stamp.
Ships on Stamps: Another great “unit” webpage sponsored by the American Topical Association. Devoted to collecting, preserving, and educating about all manner of watercraft-related philately.
Organizations and Societies
American Philatelic Society: Official website of the major hobbyist organization in the United States devoted to stamp research and collecting. Hosts a large range of educational resources for new, experienced, and younger philatelists.
American Topical Association: The self-proclaimed largest topical stamp organization in the world, which aims to encourage thematic stamp collecting. In addition to sponsoring “unit” websites for topical collecting, also provides a large number of free articles on philately from the Topical Time magazine.
CartoPhilatelic Society: Devoted to the study and preservation of maps on stamps. Offers news, events, several publications, a variety of projects related to the society’s mission, and more. Associated with both the American Philatelic Society and the American Topical Association.
International Machine Cancel Society: Organization devoted to the study of machines used to cancel postage stamps throughout the ages and their marks. Provides articles and other publications free of charge.
The Collectors’ Club of New York: Philatelic society located in New York. Founded in 1896, it maintains its own fully stocked library and clubhouse in a historic five-story brownstone headquarters on Madison Avenue in New York City.
The Korea Stamp Society: The Korea Stamp Society was founded in 1951 by a small group of Americans who desired to share their mutual interest in Korean philately. A number of them had visited or served in Korea in various civilian or governmental capacities. While there, they acquired an interest in the colorful and often elusive stamps of the country.
Libraries and Museums
National Postal Museum: United States museum of postal history, covering the history of stamps and many other aspects of mail delivery throughout the ages. Site operated in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution.
Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History: Postal history museum with exhibits and informational publications. Operated out of Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts.
Wineburgh Philatelic Research Library: Fully-stocked library with searchable archive and collections located at The University of Texas at Dallas.
Western Philatelic Library: Operated by the Friends of the Western Philatelic Library. Based in Sunnyvale, California. Offers informational resources on stamps and on the collections held by the library.
British Postal Museum and Archive: All about the history of postal mail in Great Britain. Includes some collections and documents that may be viewed online, including detailed information about the Penny Black and other famous British stamps.
The Royal Philatelic Collection: Billed as the most comprehensive collection of British and Commonwealth stamps in the world, the Royal Philatelic Collection is housed at St. James Palace. Information on the history of royal stamp collecting, the holdings of the collection, and efforts toward research and preservation.
British Library Philatelic Collection: Information on the over 50 collections and archives of postal material held by the British Library.
Bath Postal Museum: Variety of events, exhibits, and digital collections from the Postal Museum at Bath, England. Museum founded in 1979.
Worldwide Index of Philately Museums and Archives: Hobbyist index of postal museums, archives, and libraries around the world. Includes resources throughout Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania.
Linn’s Stamp News: Website and archive for “the world’s largest weekly stamp newspaper.” Includes a huge assortment of how-to and reference articles along with other hobbyist resources like a marketplace and newsletter.
International Stamp Collecting News: Brief, timely news releases on developments in stamp collecting from around the world, with a focus on new stamp releases and discoveries about rare stamps.
Stamp Magazine: World’s Rarest Stamps: Feature from a prominent UK stamp collection magazine all about the world’s rarest and most valuable stamps. Same site also includes several free articles and features about collecting sourced from recent editions of the magazine.
Additional Information and Resources
USPS: Stamp Collecting: Resources from the United States Postal Service on stamp collecting and research, including information, further web links, and updates on recent and upcoming stamp releases in the United States.
Online Worldwide Stamps Catalog: Massive index of stamps from around the world, with illustrations and catalog information. Covers over 80,000 stamps from over 150 countries.
Italian Center for Resistance Philately: In addition to providing information on stamp collecting related to Italian anti-fascism and resistance movements in World War II, the ICRP also provides a very handy dictionary of philatelic terms. Full site available in both English and Italian.
Mauritius: Information on a dramatic production centered on a pair of sisters whose mother’s death leave them in joint possession of a collection of rare stamps. The title is derived from the Blue Mauritius, one of the rarest and most valuable of all postal stamps.
Libyan Stamps: Information and illustrations on the stamps of Libya. Archives range from 1985 to 2009.
Famous Portraits on the Stamps of Israel: Lavishly illustrated introduction to the history and meaning of postage stamps in Israel that feature portraiture.
Acorn Philatelics: Stamp auction, and information service based in Australia.
Philately is an exciting and engaging field of study that invites participation from people at all levels. Even the resources listed here can only serve as an introduction to the thousands of clubs, societies, research groups, and archives that deal with philatelic information. From design to distribution and cancellation, each stamp has its own unique history and every postal service continues to build up its unique philatelic history with every new stamp released into circulation. There’s always something new, and always more to discover, in the intriguing world of philately.