Philately is the collection and study of postage stamps. Most people would just call it “stamp collecting,” but the hobby includes more than just the “stamp.”
The collection of stamps began after the first stamp was issued in 1840. However, it wasn’t until the end of the nineteenth century that the hobby really took off. Even countries like Germany began to have their own collection. The number of stamps issued grew so large that collectors soon began to specialize rather than attempt to obtain every stamp.
By the mid 1970’s it is estimated that there were between 150 and 250 million collectors around the world.
I can’t recall how I got involved in this hobby or how young I was, but it was probably in the early 1970s. I know that through my youth I had an album and ordered “approvals,” which were stamps you could look at and decide to buy if you wanted.
I continued collecting into my young adult years and then decided to give it all away in one of my minimalist movements. In my thirties I started collecting again and then in my forties gave it all away again for a few dollars.
Now in my sixties, I’ve rebuilt my collection over the last number of years. It’s not much in terms of value, but I enjoy organizing the stamps and trying to fill the empty spaces in my home-made album with new purchases. In a world that is filled with so much you can’t control, placing a stamp on a page in an album provides me with at least the illusion of control.
Stamp collecting has also provided me with an education about countries and history. If a picture is worth a thousand words then a lot of history has been communicated on stamps.