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Philately is the study of revenue or postage stamps. This includes the design, production, and uses of stamps after they are issued. A postage stamp is evidence of pre-paying a fee for postal services. Postal history is the study of postal systems of the past. It includes the study of rates charged, routes followed, and special handling of letters.

Stamp collecting is the collecting of postage stamps and related objects, such as covers (envelopes, postcards or parcels with stamps affixed). It is one of the world's most popular hobbies, with estimates of the number of collectors ranging up to 20 million in the United States alone.

Selected article

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Overprints are postage stamps to which a text (and sometimes graphics) have been applied after their printing. Overprints have been used for several purposes, serving as rate surcharges, commemorations, control marks or the validation of stamps by a new postal administration. Precancels, also, are overprinted stamps.

Some overprints alter or confirm the face value of a stamp. These are commonly produced when some needed types of stamps are unavailable, whether because new shipments have been delayed, because circumstances have changed too quickly to get appropriate new stamps, or simply to use up existing stamps. Surcharging during the German hyperinflation of 1921-1923 is one such example. Many countries have used surcharges when converting to new currencies, for example many Commonwealth countries chose to convert to decimal currency in the late 1960s. Also, some incoming postal administrations have overprinted the stamps of an earlier administration to show the new administration's authority, as happened in Ireland in 1922.

Overprints have been used as commemoratives, as they are a lower-cost alternative to designing and issuing special stamps. The United States, which historically has issued very few overprints, did this in 1928 for issues commemorating Molly Pitcher and the discovery of Hawaii. Overprints applied by an entity other than an official stamp-issuing agency are called "private overprints."

Selected picture

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A magnifying glass is a convex lens which is used to produce a magnified image of an object. The lens is usually mounted in a frame with a handle though other designs are produced. A magnifying glass works by creating a magnified virtual image of an object behind the lens. Stamp collectors frequently use magnifying glasses to inspect their stamps. This photograph shows the magnified image of the Deutsche Post 1 Reichsmark stamp issued on May 12 1946.

Selected biography


Ralph Allen (1693–1764) was a British mine owner, entrepreneur and philanthropist, who became a Post Office clerk in Bath and on February 13, 1712 became its Postmaster and remained so until 1848. He became Mayor of Bath in 1842.

At age twenty-seven Allen received a seven-year contract to control the Cross or Bye Posts that had begun to appear in the seventeenth century; for this he paid £6,000 per year but even though he only broke even he continued. He reformed the postal service by creating a network of postal roads that did not pass through London. It is estimated he saved the Post Office £1,500,000 over a 40 year period having renewed the seven-year contracts until his death.

Prior Park, his Palladian mansion was his home from about 1834 until his death. It was built from Bath Stone from his own Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines and located on a hillside overlooking the city of Bath.

Things you can do

There is a discussion about getting more people involved in Philately on Wikipedia. Join the discussion and share your thoughts here.

WikiProject Philately organizes the development of articles relating to philately. The collaboration focuses on one article at a time until they can proudly put that article up as a featured article candidate. This will last until they have run through a pool of "featurable" articles, then they will use a time-based system.

Currently there is one philatelic featured article, if you can help with another candidate, please do so.

For those who want to skip ahead to the smaller articles, the WikiProject also maintains a list of articles in need of improvement or that need to be started. There are also many red inked topics that need to be started on the list of philatelic topics page.

Postage stamps of Ireland is a Cscr-featured.svg Featured article
British Library Philatelic Collections, Postal codes in Canada, Pony Express, and 2009 Royal Mail industrial disputes are Symbol support vote.svg Good articles

Did you know...

... that the first Penny Post was established in London in 1680 by William Dockwra nearly 200 years before the better known Uniform Penny Post that was part of the postal reforms of 1839 and 1840 in Great Britain.

... that Czesław Słania (1921-2005) is the most prolific stamp engraver, with more than 1,000 post stamps for 28 postal administrations?

... that a forerunner is a postage stamp used during the time period before a region or territory issues stamps of its own?

... that the Royal Philatelic Society is the oldest philatelic society in the world, founded in London in 1869?

... that Marcophily is the specialised study and collection of postmarks, cancellations and postal markings applied by hand or machine on mail?

... that throughout U.S. history, different types of mail bags have been called mail pouch, mail sack, mail satchel, catcher pouch, mochila saddle mailbag, and portmanteau depending on form, function, place and time?

... that Non-denominated postage are postage stamps that do not show a monetary value on the face?

... that the Daguin machine was a cancelling machine first used in post offices in Paris in 1884?

... that the first airmail of the United States was a personal letter from George Washington carried on an aerial balloon flight from Philadelphia by Jean Pierre Blanchard?

Stamp of the month


The Penny Black was the world's first official adhesive postage stamp, issued by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on May 1, 1840, for use from May 6.

The idea of an adhesive stamp to indicate prepayment of postage was part of Rowland Hill's 1837 proposal to reform the British postal system. A companion idea which Hill disclosed on February 13, 1837 at a government inquiry was that of a separate sheet which folded to form an enclosure or envelope for carrying letters. At that time postage was charged by the sheet and distance involved and the inquiry Hill noted that the stamp idea might obviate the envelope.

Selected bibliography

Williams, Louis N., & Williams, Maurice (1990). Fundamentals of Philately {revised ed.). American Philatelic Society. ISBN 0-9335-8013-4. 

Hornung, Otto (1970). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Stamp Collecting. Hamlyn. ISBN 0-600-01797-4. 

Stuart Rossiter & John Fowler (1991). World History Stamp Atlas (reprint ed.). pub: Black Cat. ISBN 0-7481-0309-0. 

New articles

3 September 2016 Post Office Act 1908

Expanded articles

13 Nov. 2014 Inverted Jenny –
23 Oct. 2013 Trans-Mississippi Issue –

Other Portals

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