Stamp Collecting (Philately)

One of my many interests is in philately (collecting stamps) which was sparked by my grandmother's love of collecting. She had an enormous collection and I was lucky enough that she gave me several contributions to start my collection.

I generally like collecting First Day Covers (FDCs) which are stamps affixed to (typically) special envelopes then cancelled (stamped) to indicate the first date of issue. These can be issued by private companies but the ones I am interested in are issued by actual postal authorities as I feel this is more “authentic”. I do also have a good selection of used, and mint stamps but generally I stick to FDCs. Mostly I purchase new issues but do dig through the bins at Stampex and online on eBay to find things I am looking for.

Collection

My collection consists of a good number of First Day Cover albums (pretty much all full) along with several stock books containing individual stamps. As far as what I am actually interested in, it is really whatever takes my interest at the time. I have a good number of items regarding space travel (manned and unmanned) and science but I also have many from popular culture (Dr Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc) and the natural world (cats, dogs, horses, etc). I have recently started collecting United Kingdom Machin definitive FDCs but that part of the collection is very much in it's infancy (“Machin” is the name of the designer of the modern “definitive” stamps used in the British postal system, “definitives” are fixed value stamps in various denominations with the queen's head on them that are used to make up any amount of postage required).

Certificate

In 2021 I purchased a piece of the most expensive (and rare) stamp in the world: The British Guiana ONE CENT black on magenta via the Stanley Gibbons partnership with Showpiece. This is not so much an investment as it is owning a piece of philatelic history.

Stamp Shows

I have been quite spoilt living in the UK as I have access to one of the biggest and most famous stamp shows of them all: Stampex.

London International Stamp Exhibition

BDC - International Stamp Exhibition

Held every 10 years (the exception being in the 2020 exhibition which was held in 2022 due to the pandemic), the “International Stamp Exhibition” is held early in the year at the Business Design Centre in Islington. It brings together dealers and exhibitors from all around the world and needs several days to visit and appreciate with a typically massive number of displays to see.

Exhibits

Stampex

Stampex at the BDC

I typically attend Stampex held every spring and autumn at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London. Typically one show will concentrate on International dealers (Fall) and the other will be more on the domestic side (Spring). The show runs from Wednesday to Saturday and entrance is free on public days (Friday and Saturday) but cost if you wish to attend on the Wednesday and Thursday as these are mostly intended for dealers.

Exhibit

Stampex generally consists of a large number of dealers and postal authorities as well as judged stamp exhibits, talks and study groups. Recent years have seen a huge increase in the number of auction houses in attendance who often do not even have anything for sale but rather are there to publicize upcoming auctions. Regular exhibitors include Royal Mail (who often feature special issues for the show itself) and Stanley Gibbons (the famous stamp dealer and yearly catalogue publisher).

York Stamp & Coin Fair

York Racecourse Grandstand

Held twice a year (July and January) at the York Racecourse, this large fair brings together many coin and stamp dealers from the UK and abroad under one roof spread out over multiple levels of the grandstand. The show takes place over a Friday and Saturday with Friday being the busiest day. The sheer range of dealers means there is likely something of interest to most attendees.

On First Floor (coins) Looking down to Ground Floor (stamps)

Entrance is free as is parking with the event well signposted on nearby roads. There is a small café and a bar on site for use during the show.

Ground Floor - Stamps

See the official site at https://stampshows.net/york-stamp-coin-fair/.

Museums

I have visited a few postal museums during my travels around the world.

The Postal Museum (London, United Kingdom)

 The Postal Museum

The Postal Museum (London, United Kingdom) has a great selection of postal history from where it all began and it also has the “Mail Rail” – a train that transported post under the streets of London – that you can ride on! See my more detailed information here. There is an admission charge.

Singapore Philatelic Museum (Singapore)

Singapore Philatelic Museum

Sadly now closed, this small museum had a great selection of stamps for sale as well as a small museum. There was an admission charge (though free/discounted for locals).

Smithsonian National Postal Museum (Washington, D.C., United States of America)

The Smithsonian National Postal Museum (Washington D.C., United States) has a modest museum with a great selection of stamps for sale in the attached US Post Office shop. Entrance is free.

Useful Web Sites

Over the years I have accumulated various web sites that I have found helpful.

General Sites

Postal Authorities

These are the postal authorities (official suppliers of stamps for the given country) I regularly purchase from: