Some Interesting Stamp Facts
- In 1973 Bhutan issued a stamp
that looked like a record. Put it on a record player and it would actually
play the Bhutanese national anthem!
- The United Kingdom is the only
country that doesn't have its name on its stamps. (Usually they have the
- The Pacific island of Tonga
once issued a stamp shaped like a banana.
- The smallest-ever stamp - 9.5
x 8mm - was issued in 1863 by the Columbian state of Bolivar.
- The first stamp to be issued,
in England on 6 May 1840, was the Penny Black. It's called the Penny Black
because it cost a penny, and it was black. The face on the stamp is Queen
Victoria, who was Queen at that time. Just because a stamp is old doesn't
necessarily make it valuable. The Penny Black is not rare - 68 million of
them were printed - but if you had one in excellent condition it could be
worth well over £1000.
- Before stamps were invented,
the person who received the letter was charged by the number of pages, and
also by the distance the letter had travelled. An Englishman called Rowland
Hill came up with the idea of pre-paying for postage with 'postage stamps'.
Today stamps just seem like common sense, but the Postmaster General at the
time complained, 'Of all the wild schemes I have ever heard of, this is the
most extraordinary'! However, Hill's idea was adopted and other countries
soon started to issue stamps.
- Cats were used for a mail
service in Liege, Belgium, in 1879. In all, 37 cats were employed to carry
bundles of letters to villages within a 30km radius of the city centre. The
experiment was short-lived as the cats proved to be thoroughly
- The first Commonwealth Country
to issue a stamp specifically for postage on Christmas greetings cards was
Australia in 1957. The first stamps issued specifically for postage on
Christmas greeting cards appeared in Austria in December 1937.
- In 1932 a gang of three men
operating a racket in bogus sweepstake tickets forged quantities of the 2d
George V red and 2d Sydney Harbour Bridge stamps, using the former to mail
out circulars. An Adelaide philatelist detected the forgery and notified
police, who arrested all three men and seized 60,000 forged stamps.
- The Australian Commonwealth
issued postage due stamps in July 1902 - eleven years before it issued
ordinary stamps. Britain did not adopt postage due stamps until 20 April
1914. (The first in the British Commonwealth were issued in Victoria in 1890
and New South Wales in 1891).
- The first stamps to bear the
date of their production were the 'Tigers' of Afghanistan, which bore Moslem
dates. Since 1935 Canadian stamps have had the date of their production
concealed in tiny numerals in the design.
- The first airmail stationery,
consisting of postcards and letter sheets, was produced in Paris for
carriage by balloon in 1870.
- In 1849 the French Government
introduced a law making it an offence to wash or otherwise clean used French
postage stamps. This was to combat the practice of using the same stamps
over and over again. In one six-year period almost 15,000 persons (including
genuine stamp collectors) were charged under this law.
- The world's rarest, and most
valuable, stamp is the 1c British Guiana of 1856. It was acquired in 1873 by
an English schoolboy who later sold it for 6/- to a fellow collector. The
stamp is now valued at more than £1 million.
- The numbering of houses for
postal purposes began in Paris in 1463-4; the Pont Notre Dame district being
the first so numbered.
- Germany was the first country
to adopt postcodes, introducing a two-digit system in 1942. Australia
introduced postcodes on 1 July 1967.
- The first person other than a
head of state (living or dead) to appear on a stamp was Benjamin Franklin
whose portrait featured on the 10c stamp issued by the United State in July
- The first person other than
royalty to appear on a British stamp was William Shakespeare in 1964.
- Potato starch, wheat starch
and acacia gum were the ingredients of the gum used on the back of the Penny
Black. The Post Office called it cement and early stamps bore instructions
printed on the sheet margins - 'In Wetting the Back be careful not to remove
the Cement'. This created a panic that the gum was injurious to health and
led to a Select Committee on Postage Label Stamps being convened in 1852 to
enquire into its composition.
- The first self-adhesive stamps
were issued by Sierra Leone on 10 February 1964.
- The earliest adhesive stamps
were issued imperforate and had to be torn apart or cut with scissors,
although the printers, Perkins Bacon, actually had a small perforating
machine in 1840 to perforate cheque book counterfoils. They regarded the
perforation of sheets of stamps as impracticable owing to the closeness of
the stamps and unevenness of the layout caused by paper shrinkage after
- The first Australian stamp
pack featured the 50th Anniversary of the First UK/Australian Flight. It was
issued in November 1969.
- China issued the largest
stamps ever - 210 x 65 mm. They were issued in the early 1900s and used on
- The earliest postal markings
date back to about 3000 B.C. They were used by Egyptian court officials and
read: 'In the name of the living king, speed!'
- The first stamp collector was
John Bourke, Receiver-General of Stamp Duties in Ireland. He formed a
collection of fiscal stamps in an album in 1774.