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Philately is the study of revenue or postage stamps. This includes the design, production, and uses of stamps after they are issued. A postage stamp is evidence of pre-paying a fee for postal services. Postal history is the study of postal systems of the past. It includes the study of rates charged, routes followed, and special handling of letters.

Stamp collecting is the collecting of postage stamps and related objects, such as covers (envelopes, postcards or parcels with stamps affixed). 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.

Selected article

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Letter sheets are items of postal stationery issued by a postal authority. A letter sheet is a piece of paper that can be folded, usually sealed, most often with sealing wax in the 18th and 19th century, and mailed without the use of an envelope that only became popular in the late 19th century.

The first postal stationery item issued by a government is thought to be the coat of arms of Venice on a 1608 lettersheet. Part of Rowland Hill's postal reforms in the United Kingdom were the introduction of prepaid lettersheets and envelopes in 1840 designed by the artist William Mulready, whose name is always associated with these lettersheets and envelopes. Aerograms are a mid-20th century development of the letter sheet.

Selected image

Stamp GB-Penny Black first day cover.jpg

This is a very scarce use of the world's first postage stamp, the Penny Black, used on first day of valid use, May 6, 1840, tied by red Maltese Cross cancellation on folded cover to Warwickshire, brown "C MY-6 1840" first day datestamp on backflap verifies date of use. This was sold as lot 1018 at Robert Siegal's 2006 Rarities of the World auction for $45,000.

Selected biography

Benjamin K. Miller.jpg

Benjamin Kurtz Miller (1857-1928) was a Milwaukee attorney who donated the first complete collection of U.S. stamps ever assembled to the New York Public Library in 1925. Great rarities and philatelic items in the Benjamin Miller Collection are the One-Cent Z Grill (two copies known), the rarest of all U.S. stamps.

Miller started late in life at the age of 61 when he bought one of the famous Inverted Jenny stamps in 1918. By the early 1920s, Miller was on the way to his ultimate achievement: collecting one of every U.S. postage stamp in the Scott catalogue of his day. He collected many varieties such as, color shades, frauds and forgeries, fresh unused stamps, and varied cancellations.

The collection was displayed at the library for more than 50 years. However it was locked away after a theft of some items in 1977. Even though a bulk of the collection was recovered it did not come back on display until recently; some of the collection was at the National Postal Museum in 2006 and 2007.

Things you can do

There is a discussion about getting more people involved in Philately on Wikipedia. Join the discussion and share your thoughts here.

WikiProject Philately organizes the development of articles relating to philately. The collaboration focuses on one article at a time until they can proudly put that article up as a featured article candidate. This will last until they have run through a pool of "featurable" articles, then they will use a time-based system.

Currently there is one philatelic featured article, if you can help with another candidate, please do so.

For those who want to skip ahead to the smaller articles, the WikiProject also maintains a list of articles in need of improvement or that need to be started. There are also many red inked topics that need to be started on the list of philatelic topics page.

Postage stamps of Ireland is a Cscr-featured.svg Featured article
British Library Philatelic Collections, Postal codes in Canada, Pony Express, and 2009 Royal Mail industrial disputes are Symbol support vote.svg Good articles

Did you know...

... that the first Penny Post was established in London in 1680 by William Dockwra nearly 200 years before the better known Uniform Penny Post that was part of the postal reforms of 1839 and 1840 in Great Britain.

... that Czesław Słania (1921-2005) is the most prolific stamp engraver, with more than 1,000 post stamps for 28 postal administrations?

... that a forerunner is a postage stamp used during the time period before a region or territory issues stamps of its own?

... that the Royal Philatelic Society is the oldest philatelic society in the world, founded in London in 1869?

... that Marcophily is the specialised study and collection of postmarks, cancellations and postal markings applied by hand or machine on mail?

... that throughout U.S. history, different types of mail bags have been called mail pouch, mail sack, mail satchel, catcher pouch, mochila saddle mailbag, and portmanteau depending on form, function, place and time?

... that Non-denominated postage are postage stamps that do not show a monetary value on the face?

... that the Daguin machine was a cancelling machine first used in post offices in Paris in 1884?

... that the first airmail of the United States was a personal letter from George Washington carried on an aerial balloon flight from Philadelphia by Jean Pierre Blanchard?

Stamp of the month


The Penny Black was the world's first official adhesive postage stamp, issued by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on May 1, 1840, for use from May 6.

The idea of an adhesive stamp to indicate prepayment of postage was part of Rowland Hill's 1837 proposal to reform the British postal system. A companion idea which Hill disclosed on February 13, 1837 at a government inquiry was that of a separate sheet which folded to form an enclosure or envelope for carrying letters. At that time postage was charged by the sheet and distance involved and the inquiry Hill noted that the stamp idea might obviate the envelope.

Selected bibliography

Williams, Louis N., & Williams, Maurice (1990). Fundamentals of Philately {revised ed.). American Philatelic Society. ISBN 0-9335-8013-4.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)

Hornung, Otto (1970). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Stamp Collecting. Hamlyn. ISBN 0-600-01797-4.

Stuart Rossiter & John Fowler (1991). World History Stamp Atlas (reprint ed.). pub: Black Cat. ISBN 0-7481-0309-0.

New articles

3 September 2016 Post Office Act 1908

Expanded articles

13 Nov. 2014 Inverted Jenny –
23 Oct. 2013 Trans-Mississippi Issue –


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