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What is Philately ?

‘Philately’ as defined in Oxford English Dictionary is ‘Collection and study of stamps’. Word philately comes form greek words ‘Philos’ means ‘love’ and ‘Ateliae’ means ‘tax-free’. The stamps were a substitute for the tax paid delivery earlier, and were therefore, as the name suggests 'tax-free'. As a whole ‘Philately’ means love for postage stamps.

History of Philately

The first stamp in the world, "The penny Black" was issued by Great Britain on May 6th, 1840. Today it costs about few hundred Pounds. Rowland Hill is the inventor of the adhesive postage stamp. Issuing of stamps and the pursuit of the hobby of stamp collection almost started simultaneously. The first stamp collector recorded was a lady in the isle of Weight (UK) who started collecting stamps in 1841, to paper the walls of her room!

The history of philately is as old as the history of the postage stamp itself. Dr. John Edward Gray of the British museum became the first collector by purchasing the first postage stamp on the date of its issue May 1, 1840, and preserving it as a memento.

Initial stamps, called 'Definitives, depicted portraits of rulers or denominations, and were used only as receipts of postage. These were soon supplemented by 'Commemoratives' - stamps that were used to commemorate an event or phenomena, or even personalities. One of the first commemoratives was the New Brunswick set of pictorial stamps depicting locomotive, issued in 1860 on the occasion of the completion of North American Railway.

Gradually all countries saw the possibility of using stamps as the true ambassadors of their countries, representing all aspects of their life - history and culture, flora and fauna science and technology, aspiration and achievements. Each stamp tells a story of the country of its orgin. It usually mentions the name of the country, its denomination in local currency and also has a design relating to the country or mankind in general.

While countries have commemorated events and achievements of their own citizens, world events and celebrities have also been accorded equal significance in postage stamps. Several countries, for instance, have commemorated the historical event of man's landing on the moon, and have also acknowledged the contributions and achievements of Mozart, Michealangelo and Tolstoy through stamps.

Postage stamps have been printed through numerous printing processes. The history of postage stamps has withnessed not only embossed and cyclostyled stamps, but even typewritten ones, which were first issued in Uganda and British Honduras in 1895.

Over the years, the number of authorities of issuing stamps reached to over 240 in number. They issue an estimated 12,000 stamps in a year. Above all, starting with the so called "harmless lunatic" in the Isle of Wight, there have been many collectors. Some of them very famous. Commoner to Royalty, humble school boys to the Presidents of Nations. Statements to Scientists, have been avid stamp collectors. These were some of the collectors – Jawaharlal Nehru (First Prime Minister of India), Antoli Karpov (Chess Champion), King George V (King of England), Queen Elizabeth II (Queen of England), Franklin Roosevelt (Former President of US), M.M.Hidayatullah (Former Vice-President of India), etc.

The first stamps in India were issued on 1st July, 1852 in the small province of Sind, now in Pakistan, in white, blue and red colours. The design of these "Scinde Dawks" was the merchant mark of the East India Company. They are the Aristocrats of Indian Philately. They were also among the first circular stamps in the world. The present value of Scinde Dak Red (used) is Rs.2,00,000/- approximately.