Ever since the launch of the very first postage stamp, the Penny Black, was issued by Great Britain in 1840, stamp collecting started to gather interest. The Penny Black, featuring a young Queen Victoria was produced without perforations which meant it had to be cut from the sheet in order to be used. Today, unused Penny Blacks are a pretty rare stamp find but used examples turn up relatively frequently and fetch sums ranging from £15 to £150 depending on their condition.
After 1840, people started to collect stamps almost immediately and by 1860 there were thousands of collectors appearing around the world as this new phenomenon spread across Europe, the colonies, the US and further afield. Alongside the collectors, stamp dealers also started to emerge in significant numbers to service a growing audience.
As stamp collecting started to grow in stature and the study of stamps became more important, products to support the stamp collecting industry started to emerge such as stamp albums and stamp tools to help mount the stamps. By the early 1880s, Stanley Gibbons, a well known publishing company, gained a foothold in the industry and they remain the world’s most well known rare stamp merchant.
By the 1870s books about stamps and their significance were starting to be written and this fuelled more interest in the subject.
Stamp collecting continued to grow in interest and fast forward to 1910, when King George V took the throne, stamp collecting became even more popular. As a child, the King was an avid collector of stamps and this continued into his adulthood. Over time he amassed a substantial and valuable collection of stamps and as people became aware of his hobby, more and more people took it up.
Another high profile individual who put stamp collecting on the map was US president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt was also an avid collector and because of his and King George V’s influence, the 1930s and 1940s became a boom time for stamp collecting.
Stamp collecting is still popular today, in particular with emerging markets like China where there are millions of stamp collectors investing time and money in the hobby. There are tens of thousands of stamp clubs and stamp dealers across the world and it remains one of the world’s most popular indoor hobbies. Long may it continue!