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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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Pigeon post is an obsolete method of sending messages by using homing pigeons. The method was used from antiquity until the early 20th century. The use of' homing pigeons to carry messages is as old as the ancient Persians from whom the art of training the birds probably came. The Greeks conveyed the names of the victors at the Olympic Games to their various cities by this means. Before the telegraph this method of communication had a considerable vogue amongst stockbrokers and financiers. The Dutch government established a civil and military system in Java and Sumatra early in the 19th century, the birds being obtained from Baghdad.

The pigeon post which was in operation while Paris was besieged during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 is probably the most famous. Barely six weeks after the outbreak of hostilities, the Emperor Napoleon III and the French Army of Chalons surrendered at Sedan on September 2, 1870. The normal channels of communication into and out of Paris were interrupted during the four-and-a-half months of the siege. With the encirclement of the city on 18th September, the last overhead telegraph wires were cut the next day, and the secret telegraph cable in the bed of the Seine was located and cut on 27th September. For an assured communication into Paris, the only successful method was by the time-honoured carrier-pigeon, and thousands of messages, official and private, were thus taken into the besieged city. Pigeons were regularly taken out of Paris by balloon. Soon a regular service was in operation, based first at Tours and later at Poitiers. The first despatch was dated 27th September and reached Paris on 1st October, but it was only from 16th October, when an official control was introduced, that a complete record was kept.

Major-General Donald Roderick Cameron, Commandant of the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario from 1888–1896, recommended an international pigeon service for marine search and rescue and military service. A pigeon post between look-out stations at lighthouses on islands and the mainland at the citadel in Halifax, Nova Scotia provided a messenger service from 1891 until it was discontinued in 1895.

Selected image

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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

Rowland Hill - Project Gutenberg etext 13103.jpg

Sir Rowland Hill (1795–1879) was a British teacher and pamphleteer who popularised the concept of penny postage at a rate of a penny per half ounce, without regard to distance. He is usually credited in the UK with originating the basic concepts of the modern postal service.

Hill published his famous pamphlet Post Office Reform: its Importance and Practicability in 1837 in which he called for postage to be prepaid by the sender. Hitherto postage had been paid by the recipient. He suggested the prepayment be proven by prepaid letter sheets or adhesive stamps.

In 1840 his proposals led to the introduction of the world's first postage stamp; the Penny Black.

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

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The Inverted Swan, a 4-pence blue postage stamp issued in 1855 by Western Australia, was one of the world's first invert errors. Technically, it is a "frame invert". In 1854, Western Australia issued its first stamps, featuring the colony's symbol, the Black Swan. The 1d black was engraved in Great Britain by Perkins Bacon while other values, including the 4d blue, were produced in Perth with different frames around the swan design for each value.

In January 1855, additional 4d stamps were needed. When the printing stone was brought out of storage it was found that two of the impressions had been damaged, so they had to be redone. One of the replaced frames was tilted; the other was accidentally redone upside-down. Ninety-seven sheets were printed before the mistake was discovered and corrected, resulting in a total of 388 errors being printed.The errors went unrecognized and unreported for several years and only 15 complete copies, plus a part of a stamp in a strip of three, have survived.

Selected bibliography

Williams, Louis N., & Williams, Maurice (1990). Fundamentals of Philately {revised ed.). American Philatelic Society. ISBN 0-9335-8013-4.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

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 –

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