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The Complete Collection of U.S. Postage Stamps on Arago

5 cent stamp with Benjamin Franklin

Where in the world can you see images of all the postage stamps ever issued by the United States and read authoritative narratives about them too? Look no more. You will not find a more exhaustive site online than the National Postal Museum’s vast Arago database. It puts the museum’s collection at your fingertips, and its zoom capacity allows you to scrutinize stamps’ most minute details.

Arago (named for James Smithson’s close friend, scientist Dominique François Arago) offers stamp collectors, whether beginners or advanced, the most comprehensive information about United States postage stamps in the world. It includes images of every postage stamp issued by the United States since 1847, the year the nation began printing pre-paid stamps. Further, it includes narratives written by recognized experts on the specific issues. If you seek historical information about the Post Office Department, the various companies that have printed U.S. postage stamps, the postal history of the Confederacy, to name but a few, you will find it here in Arago. As a beginner, do you wonder about the different categories of stamps? What is a definitive? What is a commemorative? Who appeared on the first stamp issued? Why do modern stamps look different from those printed in, say, the 1950s?Arago will give you answers to these questions and many, many more.

Using Arago is easy. It organizes entries chronologically by period and hierarchically within the category. Just use the pull-down menu to get started. The Advanced Search menu offers a variety of search fields, including a search using catalog numbers (most Americans use the Scott catalog). You might want to search your favorite topics—sports, famous women, your hometown, American architecture are just examples.

Once you have reached your destination, you will find Arago’s zoom capacity amazing. It allows you to enlarge the image many times. Those interested in a stamp’s minute details, including those who study the engraver’s art, will love this feature.

While visiting Arago, take time to view one or more of its online Exhibits, which offer fascinating pictorial lessons on specific stamp-related subjects. Drawn from the NPM collection, online Exhibits bring together stamps and other philatelic items in ways that offer unique insights into a subject. Federal duck stamps, free franks, settlement of the west, the Olympics . . . Arago has them all and many more. You will find online Exhibits organized thematically for your convenience. You can even group images of your own favorite stamps or philatelic items by using the “My Collection” function. You will find the link at the homepage’s bottom right.

Thank you for visiting the National Postal Museum’s website. Our award-winning Arago website will certainly make your philatelic explorations breathtaking.

5 cent stamp with Benjamin Franklin

U.S. Postage Stamps 

Whether they are issued by government postal systems or private, competitive carriers, stamps are at the center of philately. They are the receipt for pre-payment of a specific level of service afforded the customer. They reveal the mailing status and the country of origin of the cover on which they are affixed.

10 cent stamp with George Washington

Classic Period (1847-1893) 

In 1847 President James Polk occupied the White House as the young nation's eleventh president. Born after the signing of the Constitution, he represented a generation that had not fought for independence but was born into it.   

3 cent stamp with an Olympic runner

Bureau Period (1894-1939) 

In 1861 Congress authorized the United States government to finance the Civil War with its own paper money rather than that issued by private banks. Congress also authorized the creation of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) as a division of the Treasury Department. 

Wildlife Conservation- 15 cent stamp with an owl

Modern Period (1940-Present) 

Important technological advances in stamp production and printing marked the post-1940 or 'Modern' period. As a result of these advances, the public enjoyed dramatic changes in stamp images and formats in both definitive and commemorative stamps. 

The National Postal Museum would like to thank the many volunteers and staff members who worked on this collection, specifically,  NPM Arago team members MJ Meredith, Christine Mereand, and Alex Haimann, who published the collection and Elizabeth Schorr, NPM Collections Manager.