The study and collection of postage stamps are popular hobby that spans over 100 years. The study and collecting of stamps is called philately. Although basic stamp collecting refers to collecting specific stamps, philately is a more in-depth approach to stamp collecting. Philately looks at all aspects of stamp collecting from distribution, creating, to stamp accessories. A philatelist and stamp collector can refer to two different types of stamps enthusiasts. A stamp collector actually collects stamps where a philatelist might study stamps but not collect them.

What Is Philately?

Philately refers to the study of stamps and stamp materials. These include the history of stamps and postal history as well as the evolution of tools related to stamp collecting. Stamp identification and stamp production are also referenced in philately. The process of stamp production involves everything from stamp design to printing to distributing throughout post offices across the country. A person who studies philately not only gains knowledge about the different kinds of stamps but also gains valuable insight in regards to how stamps are created, produced, and distributed.

What Is Stamp Collecting?

Stamp collecting is a form of collecting that involves gathering stamps from different eras to different states and countries. Stamp collecting is the most popular form of collecting in the world with over 20 million stamp collectors in the United States alone. When a person undertakes stamp collecting, what they are essentially doing is a collecting a series of stamps from a certain time period or from a certain state. The complexity of this hobby is through the process of stamp identification, not necessarily through the collecting itself.

History of Philately

Stamp collecting can be traced back to around the same time as stamp production. People started collecting stamps almost the same time the first stamps hit post-offices. Most of the first known collectors of stamps were children and young adults. The fascination for stamps among society first rose when it was discovered that all designs of stamps were unique in terms of their watermarks, coloring, and perforations, even the ones from the same series. After this, more and more people started collecting stamps. The hobby became so popular that stamp collecting shops started to pop up in cities across the US. Today the hobby is not as popular as it once was but there are still millions around the world who enjoy collecting, and the Internet has helped unite different collectors from around the world.

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Types of Philately

There are numerous types of philately and different areas of study. In total, there are eight different areas within philately that a stamp collector can choose to specialize as or to gain more insight in. The areas include postal history, postal stationary, Cinderella philately, revenue philately, maximaphily, philatelic literature, aerophilately, and thematic. Cinderella philately refers to the study of faux stamps. Thematic philately studies the different attributions to each stamp. Things like watermarks and indents and security features on the stamps are looked at. Postal History refers to gaining knowledge of how stamps were distributed and processed throughout history. Postal stationary covers other aspects of stamps such as post cards, wrappers, letter sheets and envelopes. Aerophilately is the study of mail sent by air. Philatelic literature refers to the study of how income generated through the collection, distribution, and sale of stamps are used for taxing purposes. Maximaphily refers to the study of maximum cards and their importance in stamp collecting.

Philatelic Organizations and Societies

There are many different stamping and philatelic organizations through the United States and the rest of the world. The history of these bodies of organizations started about the same time people started collecting stamps. The organizations are divided into three categories; local, national, and international. Each type of organization has their own set of rules, regulations, and code of conduct. International organizations are larger than the other two organizational types and tend to attract seasoned and veteran stamp collectors. Almost every nation has at least one type of organization for their country. These organizations serve as a platform for stamp collectors to share their knowledge and passion about stamp collecting. The American Philatelic Society and the American Air Mail society are the largest philately organizations in America. The American Air Mail Society and the Federation Internationale de Philatelie is the largest international organization.

Libraries and Museums

Because of their popularity in American society as well as the rest of the world, numerous libraries and museums dedicated to the notion of stamp collecting are found throughout the United States as well as the rest of the world. The American Philatelic Research Library located in Pennsylvania is one of the most prominent libraries regarding stamp collecting. Others include the Western Philatelic Library in California and the National Post Museum in Washington DC. The British Postal Museum archive in London and the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library in Colorado are also prominent libraries and museums.