Topical stamp collecting

Postage stamps have been in use since the mid-19th century, and it is probably safe to say that there have been stamp collectors for practically the same amount of time.

Warman's U.S. stamps field guide : values and identification
Maurice D. Wozniak.
Iola, Wis. : Krause Publications, c2009.
Whether the collection is focused on images of presidents and musicians, colorful photos of flowers, historic sites, or emblems honoring those who have waged battles for freedom, health, and love, U.S. stamps offer a unique glimpse at history. This pocket-sized guide to U.S. stamps pays tribute to these various categories of popular postage with 1,000 detailed color photos, and offers collectors details and pricing in 4,200 listings.
The complete illustrated guide to stamps & coins : the ultimate visual reference to over 6000 of the world's best stamps & coins & a professional guide to starting and perfecting a spectacular collection
James Mackay.
London : Lorenz, 2007.
Collecting stamps and coins--known to the world as philately and numismatics--are among the most enduring hobbies of all time, and this superbly comprehensive guide helps to explain why. It is a stunning visual compendium.
1800 stamps of the world
James MacKay.
London : Southwater, 2007.
This reference book is the ultimate A-Z identifier, essential guide book, and definitive collector's record of stamps from all over the world.

The Collector's Corner includes

Stamp issues

Release dates

Collecting tips



(from U.S. Postal Service)

There was a time when a diligent and solvent collector could reasonably attempt to obtain a copy of every stamp issued, but those days are long gone.Now, a collector needs to narrow his scope and collect within stricter limits.

Countries are a popular collecting choice (only United States stamps), or specific time periods (only World War II stamps). One of the fastest-growing areas of stamp collecting is that of topical collections, in which the collector's focus is on the subject matter shown on the stamps.  People have put together fascinating collections dealing with everything from angels to zoos. There are few areas of interest for which representative stamps cannot be found.

A popular theme on stamps is people, including writers. Many nations have honored Shakespeare, but you can also find stamps featuring Lewis Carroll or Dr. Seuss.

People on stamps

Finding a favorite author on a postage stamp may be more challenging than you'd expect. 

The U.S. Postal Service rule is that people must be dead for ten years before they can be featured on a U.S. stamp.  You can find Mark Twain or Emily Dickinson, but there will be no John Irving or Toni Morrison. 

(You can, however, find Morrison on a Swedish stamp, since that country regularly honors the winners of Sweden's Nobel Prize).

The collector's path can take unexpected turns-What is Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot doing on a Nicarauguan stamp? Why is Tolstoy on an Indian stamp? What connects William Faulkner to Sweden? or Robert Louis Stevenson to a set of Samoan stamps?

Putting together an interesting collection is concerned, to a large extent, with persistence, rather than with a lot of money. While some stamps can be amazingly expensive, most are quite affordable. Topical collections are as small or as large as you make them, and the pleasure you get out of them is not determined by the scale of investment.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff