1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Philately

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PHILATELY (Gr. φίλος, loving, and ἀτελής, free of tax), the study and collection of postage-stamps and other marks of prepayment issued by post-offices. The fancy for collecting postage-stamps began a short time after the issue of the first British penny and two-penny stamps in 1840 (see Post and Postal Service). Dr Gray, an official of the British Museum, began collecting them soon after their appearance, and an advertisement in an issue of The Times of 1841 asks for gifts of cancelled stamps for a young lady. In 1842 the new hobby was ridiculed in Punch. It was not until about 1860, however, that stamp collecting began to be systematically carried on with full regard to such minutiae as the different kinds of paper, water-marks, perforation, shade of colour and distinctive outline. About 1862 a teacher in Paris directed that foreign stamps should be collected and pasted upon the pages of his pupils' atlases and geographies according to countries, and this may have been the first form of the systematic classification of stamps in a collection. Of existing collections the oldest were begun between 1853 and 1860, by which year French collectors had assumed especial prominence. Professional dealers now made their appearance, and in 1861 philatelic literature, now of vast extent, was inaugurated by the publication in Strasburg of a catalogue of stamps issued up to that time. The Paris collectors were the first to classify stamps, measure them by the gauge, note the water-marks and separate the distinct issues of each country. Collecting with due regard to the relationship of different issues is called plating. The first English catalogue was issued in 1862, followed in December of the same year by The Stamp Collector's Review and Monthly Advertiser, published in Liverpool, the first philatelic periodical, the second, The Stamp Collector's Magazine, appearing in 1863. In 1863 also appeared Le Timbre-Poste, a Brussels journal. Up to 1910 over 800 philatelic periodicals had appeared.

Although small bodies of enthusiasts had banded together in England, France and the United States for the study and collection of postage-stamps as early as 1865, it was not until 1869 that the first great club, the Philatelic Society of London, still the most important in the world, was founded. Other societies in Great Britain are the Junior Philatelic of London, and those of Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Leith. The leading society in America is the American Philatelic Association; in France the Société française de timbrologie; in Germany the Internationaler Philatelisten-Verein. More than 400 such organizations are now in existence, the majority of them in the United States and Germany. At a philatelic congress, held in London in 1910, the formation of a universal union of philatelic societies "to discourage unnecessary or speculative issues" was considered.

Not only the stamps themselves were collected, but "entires," i.e. postcards, envelopes with the stamps still adhering, &c. Marks of prepayment at last became so numerous that, about 1880, specialists began to appear, who restricted their collections to the stamps of some particular country or continent, or to postcards or newspaper-wrappers alone. The most extensive and valuable stamp collection in the world, that of Baron P. von Ferrary of Paris, was begun about 1865. This collection, which cost its owner at least £250,000, contains a cancelled and an uncancelled specimen of each stamp. The next greatest collection is that bequeathed to the British nation in 1891 by T. K. Tapling, M.P., now in the British Museum. Among other important collections may be mentioned those in the German Postal Museum in Berlin, of King George V. of England, W. B. Avery, H. J. Duveen and the earl of Crawford. The largest sum realized for an entire collection was £27,500, which was paid for that of M. P. Castle, consisting of European stamps only. The value of a stamp depends partly upon its age, but much more upon its rarity, which again is dependent upon the number of the particular stamps originally issued. Most stamps have a quoted value, but some possess a conventional value only, such as those of which only one or two specimens are known to exist; for instance, the one-cent stamp of the 1856 issue of British Guiana (one known copy); the Italian 15 centesimi stamp of 1865 converted by an overprint into 20 centesimi (one copy); the Cape of Good Hope triangular, printed by mistake on paper intended for stamps of other colonies (four copies); and the 2 cent stamps of the earliest issue of British Guiana (ten copies). The best known of the very rare stamps are the 1d. and 2d. "Post-Office" Mauritius, for which higher prices have been paid than for any other stamps, although 23 copies are known to exist out of the 1000 issued. For a line specimen of these Mauritius stamps £2000 has been offered. Two of them have been sold for £2400. Philatelic exhibitions such as those held in London in 1890 and 1897 and in Manchester in 1909 have proved popular.

"Reprints" are reimpressions, taken from the original plates, of obsolete stamps, and have a much smaller value than specimens of the original issue. Forgeries of the rarer stamps are common but are easily detected. Modern postage-stamp albums are often beautiful specimens of the printer's art, reproductions of every known stamp being given in the original colours.

See W. J. Hardy and E. D. Bacon, The Stamp Collector (London, 1898); Oliver Firth, Postage Stamps and Their Collection, (1897); F. J. Melville, A B C of Stamp Collecting (1903); Calman and Collin, Catalogue for Advanced Collectors (New York, 1902); Hastings E. Wright and A. B. Creeke, History of the Adhesive Stamps of the British Isles (London, 1899); J. K. Tiffany, Stamp Collector's Library Companion (Chicago, 1889); Luff, The Postage Stamps of the United States (New York, 1902); W. E. Daniells, History of British Postmarks (London, 1898); L. Salefranque, Le Timbre à travers l'histoire (Rouen, 1890); R. Senf, Illustrierter Postwerthzeichenkatalog (Leipzig, annually); Krotzsch, Permanentes Handbuch der Postfreimarkenkunde (Leipzig, annually); periodicals: The London Philatelist (monthly); Illustrierte Briefmarken-Zeitung (Leipzig).