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Top 10 questions about stamp collecting (and answers, too!)

What’s the world’s most popular hobby? Millions of enthusiasts around the world will tell you it’s stamp collecting. However, most people know very little about stamps, except that they go on a letter! So here are the answers to the Top 10 questions about stamp collecting:

Where did stamps come from?

Postage stamps were invented in the 19th century in Great Britain. English schoolmaster and government employee Rowland Hill suggested the postage stamp as a means of taxing newspapers and collecting prepaid mail fees based on weight. In 1840, Great Britain issued what has come to be known as the “Penny Black,” the world’s first adhesive postage stamp, showing the image of Queen Victoria portrayed against a black background.

What did we do before stamps?

The person receiving a letter paid for delivery. Back then, it cost a lot to deliver a letter – too much for many people – so when a letter came, they would refuse to pay for it. The post office was providing the service, and getting no money. This is the primary reason that postage stamps came into being.

Who appears on the most U.S. stamps?

George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

How much did the first U.S. stamp cost?

Two were issued in 1847: the one featuring George Washington cost 10 cents, and the one with a picture of Benjamin Franklin cost five cents.

How did stamp collecting start?

Like a lot of new things when first introduced, stamps were quite popular in Great Britain from their launch in 1840. In fact, according to the American Philatelic Society – a great resource for stamp collecting information – a woman placed an ad in the London Times in 1841, asking for help in collecting stamps so she could use them to wallpaper her bedroom! And through the years, stamp collecting has continued to grow in popularity.

What makes a stamp valuable?

Beyond its denomination, or “face value,” for mail delivery, a stamp may be worth more to other stamp collectors based on the number printed and available for purchase, the demand, and its condition.

How can I tell what a stamp is worth?

The price listed in a stamp catalog gives you some idea of how valuable it is.

What is the world’s most valuable stamp?

November 2005 saw a blockbuster stamp trade that established a new world record for the value of a single stamp. Wall Street investment manager Bill Gross traded a plate block of four “Inverted Jenny” 24-cent airmail stamps to Donald Sundman, president of Mystic Stamp Co., for an 1868 1-cent “Z Grill” stamp, one of only two known to exist. Gross had just purchased the block of four at auction the month before for a total price – bid and fees – of $2.9 million. The “Z Grill” gives Gross the only known collection of every U.S. stamp from the 19th century.

Why are there so many stamp designs? Why not have just one with different prices?

First, different designs help postal employees and customers recognize the different values of stamps. For many years, the Universal Postal Union – the United Nations-based organization that negotiates and oversees the exchange of mail around the world – required that stamps be of a particular color to help identify their value.

Second, the United States and many other countries use stamps to pay tribute to great citizens, celebrate natural wonders, recognize important historical events, share cultural icons, and promote worthy causes and social issues.

Who decides what subjects appear on U.S. stamps?

The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC), founded in 1957, makes recommendations on stamp subjects and designs. The committee, whose members represent a wide range of educational, artistic, historical and professional expertise, reviews tens of thousands of stamp subject proposals each year before making its recommendations. The Postmaster General makes the final decision. Only a few dozen stamps are issued annually.

To suggest an idea for a new stamp, write to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, c/o Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service, 1735 North Lynn Street, Suite 5013, Arlington, VA 22209-6432. Submit subjects at least three years in advance of the proposed date of issue to allow sufficient time for consideration and for design and production, if the subject is approved.

To learn more about stamp collecting or check out the latest stamps, visit your local post office or go to shop.usps.com and look under “For Collecting” and “For Education.”

One response to “Top 10 questions about stamp collecting (and answers, too!)”

  1. Shirl Bonnom says:

    How can I find out if any of the stamps I have are worth anything? For example I have the 1941 World War II 50th Anniversary Commemorative Series issued 9-3-91 Phoenix, AZ

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