As industrious as Americans are in the workplace, they approach leisure-time activities with similar passion, whether it is for reading, sports, handcrafts, music, theatre, art, dance . . . or collecting! The kinds of objects people collect range widely, and there is no explaining preferences. There are those who collect coins, while others collect barbed wire, match book covers, great art, and vintage linens. The list is virtually infinite. And, of course, there are literally millions who collect stamps. Since the mid-1800s stamp collecting has ranked among the world’s most popular hobbies. It has a rich culture and vivid history and can be enjoyed in ways and at levels that appeal to the nation’s culturally and economically diverse population.
In response to the demands of its burgeoning industrial economy and the international market, Great Britain issued the world’s first postage stamp on May 1, 1840. Brazil issued its first stamp in 1843, and the United States released its first stamp in 1847. Before the American Civil War ended, industrializing countries worldwide followed these path breakers and issued stamps of their own. As the public discovered stamps’ practical uses, their beauty, and their design and production intricacies, interest in philately surged. Unwittingly, a whole new culture was created based on small, colorful pieces of paper.