Postage stamp

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The main components of a stamp:
1. Image
2. Perforations
3. Denomination
4. Country name Nicaragua1 1913.jpg
The main components of a stamp:
1. Image
2. Perforations
3. Denomination
4. Country name

A postage stamp is a small piece of paper issued by a post office, postal administration, or other authorized vendors to customers who pay postage (the cost involved in moving, insuring, or registering mail), who then affix the stamp to the face or address-side of any item of mail—an envelope or other postal cover (e.g., packet, box, mailing cylinder)—that they wish to send. The item is then processed by the postal system, where a postmark or cancellation mark—in modern usage indicating date and point of origin of mailing—is applied to the stamp and its left and right sides to prevent its reuse. The item is then delivered to its addressee.


Always featuring the name of the issuing nation (with the exception of the United Kingdom), a denomination of its value, and often an illustration of persons, events, institutions, or natural realities that symbolize the nation's traditions and values, every stamp is printed on a piece of usually rectangular, but sometimes triangular or otherwise shaped special custom-made paper whose back is either glazed with an adhesive gum or self-adhesive.

Because governments issue stamps of different denominations in unequal numbers and routinely discontinue some lines and introduce others, and because of their illustrations and association with the social and political realities of the time of their issue, they are often prized for their beauty and historical significance by stamp collectors whose study of their history and of mailing systems is called philately. Because collectors often buy stamps from an issuing agency with no intention to use them for postage, the revenues from such purchases and payments of postage can make them a source of net profit to that agency. On 1 May 1840, the Penny Black, the first adhesive postage stamp, was issued in the United Kingdom. Within three years postage stamps were introduced in Switzerland and Brazil, a little later in the United States, and by 1860, they were in 90 countries around the world. [1] The first postage stamps did not need to show the issuing country, so no country name was included on them. Thus the United Kingdom remains the only country in the world to omit its name on postage stamps; the monarch's image signifies the United Kingdom as the country of origin. [2]


Lovrenc Kosir Lovrenc kosir.jpg
Lovrenc Košir
Rowland Hill Rowland Hill photo crop.jpg
Rowland Hill

Throughout modern history, numerous methods were used to indicate that postage had been paid on a mailed item, so several different men have received credit for inventing the postage stamp.

William Dockwra

In 1680, William Dockwra, an English merchant in London, and his partner Robert Murray established the London Penny Post, a mail system that delivered letters and small parcels inside the city of London for the sum of one penny. Confirmation of paid postage was indicated by the use of a hand stamp to frank the mailed item. Though this "stamp" was applied to the letter or parcel itself, rather than to a separate piece of paper, it is considered by many historians to be the world's first postage stamp. [3]

Lovrenc Košir

In 1835, the civil servant Lovrenc Košir from Ljubljana in Austria-Hungary (now Slovenia), suggested the use of "artificially affixed postal tax stamps" [4] using "gepresste Papieroblate" ("pressed paper wafers"), but although civil bureaucrats considered the suggestion in detail, it was not adopted. [5] [6] The 'Papieroblate' were to produce stamps as paper decals so thin as to prevent their reuse. [7]

Rowland Hill

In 1836, Robert Wallace, a Member of (British) Parliament, gave Sir Rowland Hill numerous books and documents about the postal service, which Hill described as a "half hundred weight of material". [8] [9] After a detailed study, on 4 January 1837 Hill submitted a pamphlet entitled Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability, marked "private and confidential", and not released to the general public, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Thomas Spring Rice. [10] The Chancellor summoned Hill to a meeting at which he suggested improvements and changes to be presented in a supplement, which Hill duly produced and submitted on 28 January 1837. [11]

Summoned to give evidence before the Commission for Post Office Enquiry on 13 February 1837, Hill read from the letter he wrote to the Chancellor that included a statement saying that the notation of paid postage could be created... by using a bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp, and covered at the back with a glutinous wash..." [12] [13] This would eventually become the first unambiguous description of a modern adhesive postage stamp (though the term "postage stamp" originated at later date). Shortly afterward, Hill's revision of the booklet, dated 22 February 1837, containing some 28,000 words, incorporating the supplement given to the Chancellor and statements he made to the commission, was published and made available to the general public. Hansard records that on 15 December 1837, Benjamin Hawes asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer "whether it was the intention of the Government to give effect to the recommendation of the Commissioners of the Post-office, contained in their ninth report relating to the reduction of the rates of postage, and the issuing of penny stamps?" [14]

Hill's ideas for postage stamps and charging paid-postage based on weight soon took hold, and were adopted in many countries throughout the world. [1] With the new policy of charging by weight, using envelopes for mailing documents became the norm. Hill's brother Edwin invented a prototype envelope-making machine that folded paper into envelopes quickly enough to match the pace of the growing demand for postage stamps. [15]

Rowland Hill and the reforms he introduced to the United Kingdom postal system appear on several of its commemorative stamps. [15]

James Chalmers

In the 1881 book The Penny Postage Scheme of 1837, Scotsman Patrick Chalmers claimed that his father, James Chalmers, published an essay in August 1834 describing and advocating a postage stamp, but submitted no evidence of the essay's existence. Nevertheless, until he died in 1891, Patrick Chalmers campaigned to have his father recognized as the inventor of the postage stamp. [16]

The first independent evidence for Chalmers' claim is an essay, dated 8 February 1838 and received by the Post Office on 17 February 1838, in which he proposed adhesive postage stamps to the General Post Office. [17] In this approximately 800-word document concerning methods of indicating that postage had been paid on mail he states:

"Therefore, of Mr Hill's plan of a uniform rate of postage... I conceive that the most simple and economical mode... would be by Slips... in the hope that Mr Hill's plan may soon be carried into operation I would suggest that sheets of Stamped Slips should be prepared... then be rubbed over on the back with a strong solution of gum...".

Chalmers' original document is now in the United Kingdom's National Postal Museum.

Since Chalmers used the same postage denominations that Hill had proposed in February 1837, it is clear that he was aware of Hill's proposals, but whether he obtained a copy of Hill's booklet or simply read about it in one or both of the two detailed accounts (25 March 1837 [18] and 20 December 1837 [19] ) published in The Times is unknown. Neither article mentioned "a bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp", so Chalmers could not have known that Hill had made such a proposal. This suggests that either Chalmers had previously read Hill's booklet and was merely elaborating Hill's idea, or he had independently developed the idea of the modern postage stamp.

James Chalmers organized petitions "for a low and uniform rate of postage". The first such petition was presented in the House of Commons on 4 December 1837 (from Montrose). [20] Further petitions organised by him were presented on 1 May 1838 (from Dunbar and Cupar), 14 May 1838 (from the county of Forfar), and 12 June 1839. At this same time, other groups organised petitions and presented them to Parliament. All petitions for consumer-oriented, low-cost, volume-based postal rates followed publication of Hill's proposals.

Other claimants

Other claimants include or have included [21]


The nineteenth century

The Penny Black, the world's first postage stamp. Penny black.jpg
The Penny Black, the world's first postage stamp.

Postage stamps have facilitated the delivery of mail since the 1840s. Before then, ink and hand-stamps (hence the word 'stamp'), usually made from wood or cork, were often used to frank the mail and confirm the payment of postage. The first adhesive postage stamp, commonly referred to as the Penny Black, was issued in the United Kingdom in 1840. The invention of the stamp was part of an attempt to improve the postal system in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, [22] which, in the early 19th century, was in disarray and rife with corruption. [23] There are varying accounts of the inventor or inventors of the stamp. [24]

Before the introduction of postage stamps, mail in the United Kingdom was paid for by the recipient, a system that was associated with an irresolvable problem: the costs of delivering mail were not recoverable by the postal service when recipients were unable or unwilling to pay for delivered items, and senders had no incentive to restrict the number, size, or weight of items sent, whether or not they would ultimately be paid for. [25] The postage stamp resolved this issue in a simple and elegant manner, with the additional benefit of room for an element of beauty to be introduced. Concurrently with the first stamps, the United Kingdom offered wrappers for mail. Later related inventions include postal stationery such as prepaid-postage envelopes, post cards, lettercards, aerogrammes, postage meters, and, more recently, specialty boxes and envelopes provided free to the customer by the United States Postal Service for priority or express mailing.

The postage stamp afforded convenience for both the mailer and postal officials, more effectively recovered costs for the postal service, and ultimately resulted in a better, faster postal system. With the conveniences stamps offered, their use resulted in greatly increased mailings during the 19th and 20th centuries. [26] Postage stamps during this era were the most popular way of paying for mail; however, by the end of the 20th century were rapidly being eclipsed by the use of metered postage and bulk mailing by businesses. [27] [28]

As postage stamps with their engraved imagery began to appear on a widespread basis, historians and collectors began to take notice. [29] The study of postage stamps and their use is referred to as philately. Stamp collecting can be both a hobby and a form of historical study and reference, as government-issued postage stamps and their mailing systems have always been involved with the history of nations. [30] [31]

Although a number of people laid claim to the concept of the postage stamp, it is well documented that stamps were first introduced in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 1 May 1840 as a part of postal reforms promoted by Sir Rowland Hill. [1] With its introduction, the postage fee was paid by the sender and not the recipient, though it was still possible to send mail without prepaying. From when the first postage stamps were used, postmarks were applied to prevent the stamps being used again. [32] [33]

The first stamp, the "Penny black", became available for purchase 1 May 1840, to be valid as of 6 May 1840. Two days later, 8 May 1840, the Two penny blue was introduced. The Penny black was sufficient for a letter less than half an ounce to be sent anywhere within the United Kingdom. Both stamps included an engraving of the young Queen Victoria, without perforations, as the first stamps were separated from their sheets by cutting them with scissors.

The first stamps did not need to show the issuing country, so no country name was included on them. The United Kingdom remains the only country to omit its name on postage stamps, [2] [34] using the reigning monarch's head as country identification. Following the introduction of the postage stamp in the United Kingdom, prepaid postage considerably increased the number of letters mailed. Before 1839, the number of letters sent in the United Kingdom was typically 76 million. By 1850, this increased five-fold to 350 million, continuing to grow rapidly [26] until the end of the 20th century when newer methods of indicating the payment of postage reduced the use of stamps.

Other countries soon followed the United Kingdom with their own stamps. [1] The Canton of Zürich in Switzerland issued the Zurich 4 and 6 rappen on 1 March 1843. Although the Penny black could be used to send a letter less than half an ounce anywhere within the United Kingdom, the Swiss did not initially adopt that system, instead continuing to calculate mail rates based on distance to be delivered. Brazil issued the Bull's Eye stamp on 1 August 1843. Using the same printer used for the Penny black, Brazil opted for an abstract design instead of the portrait of Emperor Pedro II, so his image would not be disfigured by a postmark.

In 1845, some postmasters in the United States issued their own stamps, but it was not until 1847 that the first official United States stamps were issued: 5 and 10 cent issues depicting Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. A few other countries issued stamps in the late 1840s. The famous Mauritius "Post Office" stamps were issued by Mauritius in September 1847. Many others, such as India, started their use in the 1850s, and by the 1860s most countries issued stamps.

Perforation of postage stamps began in January 1854. [35] The first officially perforated stamps were issued in February 1854. Stamps from Henry Archer's perforation trials were issued in the last few months of 1850; during the 1851 parliamentary session [35] at the House of Commons of the United Kingdom; and finally in 1853/54 after the United Kingdom government paid Archer £4,000 for his machine and the patent. [35]

The Universal Postal Union, established in 1874, prescribed that nations shall only issue postage stamps according to the quantity of real use, and no living persons shall be taken as subjects. The latter rule lost its significance after World War I. [36]

The twentieth and twenty-first century

The US Mail postage stamp of Marshal C. G. E. Mannerheim from 1961 Mannerheim on US stamp, Champion of Liberty.jpg
The US Mail postage stamp of Marshal C. G. E. Mannerheim from 1961

After World War II, it became customary in some countries, especially small Arab nations, to issue postage stamps en masse as it was realized how profitable that was. [36]

During the 21st century, the amount of mail — and the use of postage stamps, accordingly — has reduced in the world because of electronic mail and other technological innovations. Iceland has already announced that it will not issue new stamps anymore because the sales have decreased and there are enough stamps in the stock. [36]


When the first postage stamps were issued in the 1840s, they followed an almost identical standard in shape, size and general subject matter. They were rectangular in shape. They bore the images of Queens, Presidents and other political figures. They also depicted the denomination of the postage-paid, and with the exception of the United Kingdom, [note 1] depicted the name of the country from which issued. [note 2] Nearly all early postage stamps depict images of national leaders only.

Soon after the introduction of the postage stamp, other subjects and designs began to appear. Some designs were welcome, others widely criticized. For example, in 1869, the United States Post Office broke tradition of depicting presidents or other famous historical figures, instead using other subjects including a train, and horse.(See: 1869 Pictorial Issue.) The change was greeted with general disapproval, and sometimes harsh criticism from the American public. [38] [39]


Rows of perforations in a sheet of postage stamps. Perforations US1940 issues-2c.jpg
Rows of perforations in a sheet of postage stamps.
The Penny Red, 1854 issue. The first officially perforated postage stamp. Stamp UK Penny Red pl148.jpg
The Penny Red, 1854 issue. The first officially perforated postage stamp.
The first officially perforated United States stamp (1857). Washington 1857 1st perf-3c.jpg
The first officially perforated United States stamp (1857).

Perforations are small holes made between individual postage stamps on a sheet of stamps, [40] facilitating separation of a desired number of stamps. The resulting frame-like, rippled edge surrounding the separated stamp defines a characteristic meme for the appearance of a postage stamp.

In the first decade of postage stamps' existence (depending on the country), stamps were issued without perforations. Scissors or other cutting mechanisms were required to separate a desired number of stamps from a full sheet. If cutting tools were not used, individual stamps were torn off. This is evidenced by the ragged edges of surviving examples. Mechanically separating stamps from a sheet proved an inconvenience for postal clerks and businesses, both dealing with large numbers of individual stamps on a daily basis. By 1850, methods such as rouletting wheels were being devised in efforts of making stamp separation more convenient, and less time-consuming. [41]

The United Kingdom was the first country to issue postage stamps with perforations. The first machine specifically designed to perforate sheets of postage stamps was invented in London by Henry Archer, an Irish landowner and railroad man from Dublin, Ireland. [42] The 1850 Penny Red [41] [43] [44] was the first stamp to be perforated during trial course of Archer's perforating machine. After a period of trial and error and modifications of Archer's invention, new machines based on the principles pioneered by Archer were purchased and in 1854 the United Kingdom postal authorities started continuously issuing perforated postage stamps in the Penny Red and all subsequent designs.

In the United States, the use of postage stamps caught on quickly and became more widespread when on 3 March 1851, the last day of its legislative session, Congress passed the Act of March 3, 1851 (An Act to reduce and modify the Rates of Postage in the United States). [45] Similarly introduced on the last day of the Congressional session four years later, the Act of March 3, 1855 required the prepayment of postage on all mailings. Thereafter, postage stamp use in the United States quickly doubled, and by 1861 had quadrupled. [41]

In 1856, under the direction of Postmaster General James Campbell, Toppan and Carpenter, (commissioned by the United States government to print United States postage stamps through the 1850s) purchased a rotary machine designed to separate stamps, patented in England in 1854 by William and Henry Bemrose, who were printers in Derby, England. [46] The original machine cut slits into the paper rather than punching holes, but the machine was soon modified. [43]

The first stamp issue to be officially perforated, the 3-cent George Washington, was issued by the United States Post Office on 24 February 1857. Between 1857 and 1861, all stamps originally issued between 1851 and 1856 were reissued with perforations. Initial capacity was insufficient to perforate all stamps printed, thus perforated issues used between February and July 1857 are scarce and quite valuable. [47] [48]

Shapes and materials

In addition to the most common rectangular shape, stamps have been issued in geometric (circular, triangular and pentagonal) and irregular shapes. The United States issued its first circular stamp in 2000 as a hologram of the Earth. [49] [50] Sierra Leone and Tonga have issued stamps in the shapes of fruit. Stamps that are printed on sheets are generally separated by perforations, though, more recently, with the advent of gummed stamps that do not have to be moistened prior to affixing them, designs can incorporate smooth edges (although a purely decorative perforated edge is often present).

Stamps are most commonly made from paper designed specifically for them, and are printed in sheets, rolls, or small booklets. Less commonly, postage stamps are made of materials other than paper, such as embossed foil (sometimes of gold). Switzerland made a stamp that contained a bit of lace and one of wood. The United States produced one of plastic. East Germany issued a stamp of synthetic chemicals. In the Netherlands a stamp was made of silver foil. Bhutan issued one with its national anthem on a playable record. [51]

Graphic characteristics

The subjects found on the face of postage stamps are generally what defines a particular stamp issue to the public and are often a reason why they are saved by collectors or history enthusiasts. Graphical subjects found on postage stamps have ranged from the early portrayals of kings, queens and presidents to later depictions of ships, birds and satellites, [39] famous people, [52] historical events, comics, dinosaurs, hobbies (knitting, stamp collecting), sports, holiday themes, and a wealth of other subjects too numerous to list.

Artists, designers, engravers and administrative officials are involved with the choice of subject matter and the method of printing stamps. Early stamp images were almost always produced from an engraving — a design etched into a steel die, which was then hardened and whose impression was transferred to a printing plate. Using an engraved image was deemed a more secure way of printing stamps as it was nearly impossible to counterfeit a finely detailed image with raised lines for anyone but a master engraver. In the mid-20th century, stamp issues produced by other forms of printing began to emerge, such as lithography, photogravure, intaglio and web offset printing. These later printing methods were less expensive and typically produced images of lesser quality.


A Costa Rica Airmail stamp of 1937. Costa Rica Diamond stamp2 1937-2c.jpg
A Costa Rica Airmail stamp of 1937.
Stamps of the Philippine Republic, 1898-1899. Stamps first 1898-99 Stamps FILIPINO.jpg
Stamps of the Philippine Republic, 1898-1899.
The Red Mercury, a rare 1856 newspaper stamp of Austria. Zinnoberroter Merkur.jpg
The Red Mercury, a rare 1856 newspaper stamp of Austria.


Apart from these, there are also Revenue (used to collect taxes or fees on items such as documents, tobacco, alcoholic drinks, hunting licenses and medicines) and Telegraph stamps (for sending telegrams), which fall in a separate category from postage stamps.

First day covers

A philatelic First Day Cover from Abu Dhabi. Abudhabi30mar1964fdc.jpg
A philatelic First Day Cover from Abu Dhabi.

Postage stamps are first issued on a specific date, often referred to as the First day of issue. A first day cover usually consists of an envelope, a postage stamp and a postmark with the date of the stamp's first day of issue thereon. [57] Starting in the mid-20th century some countries began assigning the first day of issue to a place associated with the subject of the stamp design, such as a specific town or city. [58] There are two basic types of First Day Covers (FDCs) noted by collectors. The first and often most desirable type among advanced collectors is a cover sent through the mail in the course of everyday usage, without the intention of the envelope and stamp ever being retrieved and collected. The second type of FDC is often referred to as "Philatelic", that is, an envelope and stamp sent by someone with the intention of retrieving and collecting the mailed item at a later time and place. The envelope used for this type of FDC often bears a printed design or cachet of its own in correspondence with the stamp's subject and is usually printed well in advance of the first day of issue date. The latter type of FDC is usually far more common, and is usually inexpensive and relatively easy to acquire. Covers that were sent without any secondary purpose are considered non-philatelic and often are much more challenging to find and collect. [57] [58]

Souvenir or miniature sheets

A 1987 Faroe Islands miniature sheet, in which the stamps form a part of a larger image. Faroe stampsheet 153 Hafnia 1987 II - Torshavn, Western Bay.jpg
A 1987 Faroe Islands miniature sheet, in which the stamps form a part of a larger image.

Postage stamps are sometimes issued in souvenir sheets or miniature sheets containing one or a small number of stamps. Souvenir sheets typically include additional artwork or information printed on the selvage, the border surrounding the stamps. Sometimes the stamps make up a greater picture. Some countries, and some issues, are produced as individual stamps as well as sheets.

Stamp collecting

Le Philateliste by Francois Barraud (1929). Francois Barraud - Le Philateliste.jpg
Le Philatéliste by François Barraud (1929).

Stamp collecting is a hobby. Collecting is not the same as philately, which is defined as the study of stamps. The creation of a valuable or comprehensive collection, however, may require some philatelic knowledge.

Stamp collectors are an important source of revenue for some small countries that create limited runs of elaborate stamps designed mainly to be bought by stamp collectors. The stamps produced by these countries may far exceed their postal needs. Hundreds of countries, each producing scores of different stamps each year, resulted in 400,000 different types of stamps in existence by the year 2000. Annual world output averages about 10,000 types.

Some countries authorize the production of postage stamps that have no postal use, [note 3] but are intended instead solely for collectors. Other countries issue large numbers of low denomination stamps that are bundled together in starter packs for new collectors. Official reprints are often printed by companies who have purchased or contracted for those rights and such reprints see no postal use. [59] [60] All of these stamps are often found "canceled to order", meaning they are postmarked without ever having passed through the postal system. Most national post offices produce stamps that would not be produced if there were no collectors, some to a far more prolific degree than others.

Sales of stamps to collectors who do not use them for mailing can result in large profits. Examples of excessive issues have been the stamps produced by Nicholas F. Seebeck and stamps produced for the component states of the United Arab Emirates. Seebeck operated in the 1890s as an agent of Hamilton Bank Note Company. He approached Latin American countries with an offer to produce their entire postage stamp needs for free. In return. he would have exclusive rights to market stamps to collectors. Each year a new issue would be produced, but would expire at the end of the year. This assured Seebeck of a continuing supply of remainders. [59] [60] In the 1960s, printers such as the Barody Stamp Company contracted to produce stamps for the separate Emirates and other countries. The sparse population of the desert states made it wholly unlikely that many of these stamps would ever be used for mailing purposes, and earned them the name of the "sand dune" countries.[ citation needed ]

Famous stamps

The Basel Dove stamp. Basel Dove unused.jpg
The Basel Dove stamp.

See also


  1. When the Universal Postal Union began requiring the name of the country on stamps used in the international mails, the United Kingdom, as traditionally being the first country to issue stamps for postage, never put the country name on their stamps. [37]
  2. Stamps not intended for international mail, such as postage due stamps, do not need to have the country's name.
  3. See, for example, the low value Afghanistan issues of 1964.

Related Research Articles

Philately Study of stamps and postal history and other related items

Philately is the study of postage stamps and postal history. It also refers to the collection, appreciation and research activities on stamps and other philatelic products. Philately involves more than just stamp collecting or the study of postage; it is possible to be a philatelist without owning any stamps. For instance, the stamps being studied may be very rare or reside only in museums.

Stamp collecting The collecting of postage stamps and related objects

Stamp collecting is the collecting of postage stamps and related objects. It is related to philately, which is the study of stamps. It has been one of the world's most popular hobbies since the late nineteenth century with the rapid growth of the postal service, as a never-ending stream of new stamps was produced by countries that sought to advertise their distinctiveness through their stamps.

Postmark Marking indicating the date and time that a mailed item was delivered into the care of the postal service

A postmark is a postal marking made on a letter, package, postcard or the like indicating the date and time that the item was delivered into the care of the postal service. Modern postmarks are often applied simultaneously with the cancellation or killer that marks the postage stamp(s) as having been used, and the two terms are often used interchangeably, if incorrectly. Postmarks may be applied by hand or by machines, using methods such as rollers or inkjets, while digital postmarks are a recent innovation. The local post Hawai'i Post had a rubber-stamp postmark, parts of which were hand-painted. At Hideaway Island, Vanuatu, the Underwater Post Office has an embossed postmark.

A first day of issue cover or first day cover (FDC) is a postage stamp on a cover, postal card or stamped envelope franked on the first day the issue is authorized for use within the country or territory of the stamp-issuing authority. Sometimes the issue is made from a temporary or permanent foreign or overseas office. Covers that are postmarked at sea or their next port of call will carry a Paquebot postmark. There will usually be a first day of issue postmark, frequently a pictorial cancellation, indicating the city and date where the item was first issued, and "first day of issue" is often used to refer to this postmark. Depending on the policy of the nation issuing the stamp, official first day postmarks may sometimes be applied to covers weeks or months after the date indicated.

Postal card

Postal cards are postal stationery with an imprinted stamp or indicium signifying the prepayment of postage. They are sold by postal authorities. On January 26, 1869, Dr. Emanuel Herrmann of Austria described the advantages of a Correspondenz Karte. By October 1, 1869 the world's first postal card was produced by Austria-Hungary. They caught on quickly. By the end of 1870, Great Britain, Finland, Switzerland and Württemberg joined the countries issuing postal cards. In the United States, they were first produced in 1873. Some of the forms taken by postal cards include the regular single card which may be commemorative or definitive, attached message-reply cards, airmail postal cards, and official postal cards used for official government business with a "penalty for private use".

Postage stamp separation

For postage stamps, separation is the means by which individual stamps are made easily detachable from each other.

In philately, gum is the substance applied to the back of a stamp to enable it to adhere to a letter or other mailed item. The term is generic, and applies both to traditional types such as gum arabic and to synthetic modern formulations. Gum is a matter of high importance in philately.

Penny Black Worlds first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system

The Penny Black was the world's first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was first issued in the United Kingdom, on 1 May 1840, but was not valid for use until 6 May. The stamp features a profile of Queen Victoria.

Postal stationery Stationery item with imprinted stamp

A piece of postal stationery is a stationery item, such as a stamped envelope, letter sheet, postal card, lettercard, aerogram or wrapper, with an imprinted stamp or inscription indicating that a specific rate of postage or related service has been prepaid. It does not, however, include any postcard without a pre-printed stamp.

Penny Red

The Penny Red was a British postage stamp, issued in 1841. It succeeded the Penny Black and continued as the main type of postage stamp in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until 1879, with only minor changes to the design during that time. The colour was changed from black to red because of difficulty in seeing a cancellation mark on the Penny Black; a black cancel was readily visible on a Penny Red.

Postal history

Postal history is the study of postal systems and how they operate and, or, the study of the use of postage stamps and covers and associated postal artifacts illustrating historical episodes in the development of postal systems. The term is attributed to Robson Lowe, a professional philatelist, stamp dealer and stamp auctioneer, who made the first organised study of the subject in the 1930s and described philatelists as "students of science", but postal historians as "students of humanity". More precisely, philatelists describe postal history as the study of rates, routes, markings, and means.

This is a list of philatelic topics.

Postage stamps and postal history of Great Britain History of British post

Postage stamps and postal history of Great Britain surveys postal history from the United Kingdom and the postage stamps issued by that country and its various historical territories until the present day.

Cover (philately)

In philately, the term cover pertains to the outside of an envelope or package with an address, typically with postage stamps that have been cancelled and is a term generally used among stamp and postal history collectors. The term does not include the contents of the letter or package, although they may add interest to the item if still present. Cover collecting plays an important role in postal history as many covers bear stamps, postmarks and other markings along with names and addresses all of which help to place a cover at a given time and place in history.

Philatelic cover

A philatelic cover is an envelope prepared with a stamp(s) and address and sent through the mail delivery system for the purpose of creating a collectible item. Stamp collectors began to send mail to each other and to themselves early on, and philatelic mail is known from the late 19th century onward. While some collectors specialize in philatelic covers, especially first day covers and cacheted covers, others regard them as contrived objects that are not reflective of real-world usage, and often will pay a higher price for a cover that represents genuine commercial use. However, mail sent by stamp collectors is no less a genuine article of postage than is mail sent with no concern of seeing the mailed item again. Philatelic covers include mail from first airmail flight and first day of stamp issues ceremonies. Over the years there have been numerous Expositions where special postmarks are made and where a post office is set up where mail can be sent from on the given date of the Expo'. Like any other genuine item of mail these covers include postage stamps and postmarks of the time period and were processed and delivered by an official postal system. Often a philatelic cover will have more historical significance than randomly mailed covers as philatelic covers are also often mailed from the location on the date of an important or noteworthy event, like an inauguration or a space launch.

Postage stamps and postal history of New Zealand

Postal services in New Zealand have existed since at least 1831, when the Postmaster-General of New South Wales deputed a Bay of Islands merchant to receive and return mail. Governor William Hobson issued an ordinance covering postal matters, although the British government retained control until 1848.

Rowland Hill

Sir Rowland Hill, KCB, FRS was an English teacher, inventor and social reformer. He campaigned for a comprehensive reform of the postal system, based on the concept of Uniform Penny Post and his solution of pre-payment, facilitating the safe, speedy and cheap transfer of letters. Hill later served as a government postal official, and he is usually credited with originating the basic concepts of the modern postal service, including the invention of the postage stamp.

Postage stamps of Ireland Stamps issued by the Republic of Ireland

The postage stamps of Ireland are issued by the postal operator of the independent Irish state. Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland when the world's first postage stamps were issued in 1840. These stamps, and all subsequent British issues, were used in Ireland until the new Irish Government assumed power in 1922. Beginning on 17 February 1922, existing British stamps were overprinted with Irish text to provide some definitives until separate Irish issues became available. Following the overprints, a regular series of definitive stamps was produced by the new Department of Posts and Telegraphs, using domestic designs. These definitives were issued on 6 December 1922; the first was a 2d stamp, depicting a map of Ireland. Since then new images, and additional values as needed, have produced of nine definitive series of different designs.

Letter sheet Postal stationery product

In philatelic terminology a letter sheet, often written lettersheet, is a sheet of paper that can be folded, usually sealed, and mailed without the use of an envelope, or it can also be a similar item of postal stationery issued by a postal authority. Letter sheets derive from the form in which written correspondence was made up before the mid-19th century — letters were written on one or more sheets of paper that were folded and sealed in such a way that the address could be written on the outside.

Imprinted stamp Stamp printed onto a piece of postal stationery

In philately, an imprinted stamp is a stamp printed onto a piece of postal stationery such as a stamped envelope, postal card, letter sheet, letter card, aerogram or wrapper. The printing may be flat upon the surface of the paper, or embossed with a raised relief. An imprinted stamp is also known as unadhesive stamp or indicium.


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