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A Beginner's Resource Guide to Philately

Philately is the study of stamps, and often, the word is also used to describe the hobby of stamp collecting. Studying and collecting stamps have been popular since the late 19th century, when stamps began to be issued en masse. The printing and release of new stamps occurs consistently, so there are always new stamps to study and collect.

The word "philately" comes from the French "philatélie." The word was coined by a French stamp collector who drew from Greek etymology, combining the prefix "phil," meaning "loving," with "ateleia," meaning "exemption from tax." "Ateleia" was the closest term in Greek to describe the concept of stamps, which were originally created to indicate that the cost of mailing a letter had already been paid by the sender and did not need to be paid by the recipient.

Introduction to Stamp Collecting

The National Postal Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institute, offers this comprehensive guide introducing the basics of stamp collecting to new collectors.

Getting Started

The American Philatelic Society provides an in-depth guide to starting a stamp collection. What to collect, how to obtain stamps, needed tools, methods of storing stamps, and tips for identifying stamps are all explained here.

What Is Stamp Collecting?

People of all ages with an interest in art, different cultures, geography, and history enjoy collecting stamps. Postal services began issuing stamps in 1840, and now, they're issued around the globe.

The Origin of Stamp Collecting in America: How Stamp Collecting Came to the United States

The world's oldest stamp collection resides in Dublin, Ireland, and dates back to 1774, although some of these are hand-stamped marks rather than pre-printed stamps.

The Best Way to Organize Your Stamp Collection

Historically, collectors have used paper logs and albums to track their collections. Now, software and apps are available so that collectors can log their collections electronically.

Answers About Stamp Collecting

The United States Postal Service offers an extensive guide with information about beginning a collection.

Mint Condition: How to Take Care of Your Stamp Collection

Stamps, especially antique or fragile stamps, require special care to maintain their integrity and their monetary value.

How to Soak Stamps

Stamps are often attached to envelopes, and knowing how to remove them safely is a crucial philatelist skill.

How to Save Old Stamps and Envelopes

Sometimes, it makes sense to leave a stamp on the envelope to which it is attached. The envelopes sometimes contain a wealth of historical information and can bear postmarks and even DNA.

Why You Need Stock Books to Organize Your Postage Stamp Collection

Stock books are available either as bound books or as loose-leaf pages to add to a ringed notebook. No matter how a collector organizes their stamps, stock books are an essential component of a philately organization system.

The Economics of Philately

Forbes magazine explores the question of if stamp collecting can be profitable as the baby boomer generation retires and eventually dies off.

The Remarkable Story of the World's Rarest Stamp

The world's rarest stamp is an 1856 British Guiana stamp that initially sold for one cent but recently sold for $9.5 million.

Postal Pilgrimage: Ten Great Places for Stamp-Lovers

From the once-a-decade World Stamp Show, which attracts hundreds of thousands of stamp collectors, to Museum of Stamps and Coins in Monaco, stamp collectors have a variety of stamp-related places to visit.

The Canadian Stamp Collection

Every stamp ever issued by the Canadian government is part of a museum exhibition on Canadian philately in Gatineau, Quebec.

Smithsonian's Rare Russian Stamps

The most significant existing collection of pre-Soviet Russian stamps resides in the Smithsonian. The collection gives insight into the culture and history of Russia before the 1917 revolution.

Visiting the Smithsonian National Postal Museum

Stamp collectors enjoy visiting the National Postal Museum, which includes exhibits about the art and design of stamps, information about caring for personal collections, and stamps from around the world.

Let it Be … Philately

This audio report by NPR discusses John Lennon's personal stamp collection, which he began as a boy, and the Smithsonian's acquisition of the collection.

Tech-Savvy Stamp Collectors Energize an Old Hobby

Younger collectors are revolutionizing philately with their use of social media and online marketplaces, and by doing so, they're taking a once-solitary hobby into the public sphere.

Bill Gross Stamp Collection Estimated at $40 Million

How much could a stamp collection be worth? If the collection is one the former philately curator at the Smithsonian called the most significant U.S. stamp collection ever, the answer is $40 million.

The Ten Most Valuable U.S. Stamps

The most valuable U.S. stamps include those with printing errors and stamps that are rare due to their age or because of their impact on history.

In Digital Age, Stamp Collecting Still Makes its Mark

CBS News interviewed multiple philatelists when both hobbyists and professionals met in New York for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Stamp Dealers Association.

The Most Valuable and Rare Stamps in the U.K.

Some of the most valuable stamps in the world were initially issued in the United Kingdom. They include the Plate 77 Penny Red and the Roses error stamp.

The Royal Philatelic Collection

Queen Elizabeth II owns one of the most impressive stamp collections in the world. The collection was started by Prince Alfred, a son of Queen Victoria.

George VI Stamps

King George VI was an avid stamp collector. Many different stamps commemorating his reign were released, and some are quite collectible.

Notable Stamps and Collections

The most valuable stamps in the world were mostly issued between 1840 and 1875. Many famous collections contain rare stamps from this era.