Stamp collecting has ranked as one of the world’s most popular hobbies since the 1840s, when England issued the world’s first pre-paid postage stamps. Other countries, including the United States, soon recognized the convenience of pre-paid stamps and followed England’s example. At the same time, as the tiny pieces of colorful paper bearing artful images became plentiful and more diverse, they attracted attention. As new nation states emerged and issued their own stamps and commerce among them accelerated, collectors began categorizing stamps in a more scientific way. Further, they formed clubs and bought albums to enhance and enjoy their hobby, a trend that has deepened and widened since the turn of the twentieth century.
Who are today’s collectors? What is collected? And why do they collect? Collectors fit no specific social group, economic group, or personality type. Some enjoy their hobby in private; many join local and specialty clubs; others participate internationally through exhibitions, societies, and auctions. Collections range from the very general to the topically very specific. The trait that most collectors share, however, is that they find collecting creative, challenging, relaxing, and fun. Whatever their interests, collecting philatelic items satisfies those interests, whether art, history, geography, travel, culture. . . . The choices are infinite.
By contributing either collections or financial resources to the National Postal Museum, collectors leave a personal legacy that benefits the nation and all philatelists. These contributions have secured a key position for the National Postal Museum within the vast philatelic universe, a position that makes many of the world’s most precious philatelic items and collections accessible to everyone.