from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The philatelist ( François Barraud , 1929)
Stamp viewing

The Philately or stamp customer deals with the systematic collection of postage stamps , as well as evidence of their use on mailings of any kind and the exploration postal history documents.


The term philately was coined by Georges Herpin in the fifth edition of the Parisian stamp collecting magazine Le Collectionneur de timbres-postes on November 15, 1864 as a combination of the Greek words φίλος phílos “friend” and ἀτελής atelēs “unencumbered / tax-free” or the noun ἀτέεια atéleia “tax exemption”. This duty exemption refers to the receiver in the first exclusively usual shipping form unfree had to pay for the transportation fee, it which by corresponding stamp or postal stamps documented franking , franking at the expense of the sender, liberated (French affranchir , literally free ).

Although the content is not immediately comprehensible, the term imitating word formations such as philosophy , philanthropy and philharmonic established itself in all languages. Other proposals such Timbrophilie or Timbrologie disappeared soon. The German version for philately is often "stamp customer" and for the practicing people "stamp collector" or "stamp lover".


The early years of philately

One Penny Black,
the world's first postage stamp

Philately began shortly after the world's first postage stamp was issued . This is the so-called One Penny Black , which was issued in Great Britain on May 6, 1840 . The introduction of the postage stamp in other countries also helped stamp collecting to spread. At first they collected the small postage stamps from the daily mail just for fun and used them, for example, to stick lampshades or wallpaper, which almost always destroyed the collectibles.

It was only slowly that one began to look more closely at the stamps. The number of stamps that were issued at the time was still very small. For the collector at the time , it was a matter of course to create so-called general collections. This means that the philatelist added all the postage stamps in the world to his collection. This would be inconceivable today with the mass of different stamp issues. In the early years the philatelist had no aids or storage options, such as stamp albums, which meant that the stamps were often damaged or even destroyed by improper storage or the makeshift sticking of mint stamps.

The first aid for the philatelist

The world's first stamp albums appeared in the 1860s. The Paris philatelist Lallier released the first commercial album in 1862. However, it was still a simple landscape format folder bound in leather . For all postage stamps in the world that have appeared so far, there was an empty space on the right-hand side , into which the postage stamp could be stuck. The coat of arms , the flag and a brief description of the geography and the previously issued stamps of the country were on the opposite left-hand sides .

The major shortcoming of these stamp albums was that the individual stamps had to be glued directly into the album with bone glue or gum arabic . This severely damaged the stamp, especially when attempting to peel it off. Numerous philatelists thought about a better way of storing their "treasures". However, a reasonable alternative was only found 21 years later, in 1881.

Just one year later, in 1861, the first forerunners of today's stamp catalogs came into being . The British Dr. John Edward Gray and the Strasbourg Berger-Levrault developed the first so-called postage stamp directories . At the same time, the first stamp associations were founded . In them, collectors were able to exchange their experiences and knowledge as well as their stamps for the first time .

Cover of the first Scott catalog from 1868

In 1862 the first philatelic trade magazines were issued - first published on December 15, 1862 in the country where philately was born, “The Monthly Advertiser” . Shortly afterwards, the first specialist journals appeared in Germany and Austria-Hungary . The first trade journal for stamps in Germany is the “Magazine for Stamp Collectors”, which was first published on May 1, 1863 by the coin and antiques shop Zschiesche & Köder in Leipzig .

The stamp magazines mainly promoted the exchange of stamps between the philatelists. They also reported on the new editions around the world and informed the collectors about everything worth knowing about philately.

In 1881 the first folds for postage stamps appeared. In the long term, these solved the problem of storing postage stamps. The stamp folds were issued by the Frankfurt stamp dealer Dauth. At that time they were still called "Brand Charniere" . 1000 of the world's first stamp folds cost only 75 pfennigs.

Before the invention of the stamp fold, there were some imaginative workarounds to prevent the stamps from sticking directly into the album. For example, the unneeded sheet edges of the postage stamps were folded over so that part of the adhesive surface is glued to the postage stamp and the other part of the sheet edge is glued to the base. The stamp fold worked on the principle of attaching stamps to album pages using sheet edges, but it was specially made for this.

In the decades that followed, the stamp fold established itself as a fastening means for stamps among philatelists. Of course, this was also taken into account when producing the stamp albums. In addition, more and more new shapes came onto the market. Today, stamp folds are no longer used because they easily damage the gum . After the Second World War , they were replaced by clip pockets and other systems of stamp storage that no longer required sticking the stamps anywhere.

The stamp albums themselves have also been improved. In 1884 Dauth sold a "mechanical stamp album". This was the world's first screw-stitched stamp album . It made it possible to easily replace and insert individual sheets of the stamp album.

Creation of clubs and events

Postage stamps on the occasion of 150 years of Austrian postage stamps and WIPA 2000

In addition to the new tools for the philatelist, more and more stamp associations and events were created especially for the philatelist. Meetings of philatelists in the United States are known as early as 1856 . In 1866 the first postage stamp association in the world was officially founded. It is the Excelsior Stamp Association in the United States. The world's oldest remaining philatelic association was founded in 1869 as The Philatelic Society, London. Today it is known as the Royal Philatelic Society London . In the same year, in August 1869, the first stamp associations were founded in Germany. The first German stamp collecting association, the South German Philatelist Association , was founded in Heidelberg . Over the next three years, Dresden , Berlin followed with the still active PHILATELIST CLUB VON 1888 EV and Hamburg . The Stamp Club of 1886 eV , founded in Hanover in 1886, is still active with weekly meetings after more than 130 years.

The increasing number of philatelic associations led to numerous mergers. In Germany today this is the Association of German Philatelists , in Austria the Association of Austrian Philatelist Associations and in Switzerland the Association of Swiss Philatelist Associations .

The Philatelist Day has existed in Germany since 1889 and was first held in Mainz . The German Philatelist Day was held annually from 1947 to 2011 . In accordance with a majority decision of the BDPh general meeting on September 3, 2011 in Wuppertal, a two-year rhythm was set for the German Philatelist Days from 2011 onwards. In Austria, the largest event in this regard is the Vienna International Postage Stamp Exhibition ( WIPA ). Over time, many other major postage stamp events have arisen.

In the 1990s, the importance of letter traffic decreased, and postage stamps were replaced by label franking on mail items. Postage stamps are now a marginal phenomenon of postal traffic and are stamped in Germany in systems that all use the term “letter center”. While stamp collecting had developed from a leisure activity of the upper class to a popular phenomenon, the development goes back to the collecting of rarities.


Like many other hobbies, philately is facing challenges in the present. Compared to the heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, which also gave rise to scandals , it is now more in competition with other pastimes. Although the scene is still active, the hobby is struggling with an outdated image, and there are widespread complaints in stamp collectors' associations of an aging membership.

Philatelists and famous collections

The world's first philatelist

John Edward Gray (1800-1875)

The Briton John Edward Gray , who published the first forerunners of the stamp catalogs , the stamp registers, claimed of himself to have been the first philatelist in the world, since he had already collected stamps before there were even stamps, namely tax and Postage stamps of all kinds. On May 6, 1840, the day the first postage stamps were introduced worldwide in Great Britain , he bought several copies of these stamps with the intention not to use them up but to keep them.

John Edward Gray was actually an eminent zoologist after whom the heron species Ardeola grayii was named. This bird was immortalized by the postal administration of Bangladesh on July 15, 2000 on its own stamp.

The most famous collections in the world

Famous collections of states and royal houses

The foundations for today's most famous and largest collections were laid mainly in the second half of the 19th century .

The collection of the Reichspostmuseum in Berlin is one of the largest and most significant in the world, although great losses were incurred during the world wars and the post-war period. The collection had to move several times because the original location on Leipziger Strasse was badly hit during World War II .

The Museum for Communication in Bern owns one of the largest publicly accessible stamp collections in the world. There is also an extensive collection of stamps on display in the United Nations buildings in Geneva.

The collection of the British royal family is considered to be the largest stamp collection in the world. The collection consists of more than 400 stamp albums that unite the greatest rarities in philately. Their value can hardly be estimated as numerous unique items are owned by the British royal family. The stamp collection was especially in the time of King George V. gathered.

Another famous collection is that of King Farouk of Egypt , but it was dissolved and auctioned after his deposition . The collections of King Carol of Romania and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia also became famous .

Famous collections from private individuals

The collection of Count Philipp la Renotière of Ferrary is certainly one of the most famous private collections . Thanks to his great fortune, Philipp von Ferrary was able to buy almost all world rarities. Numerous dealers worked exclusively for him, looking for the last missing pieces at auctions around the world. Although Philipp von Ferrary lived in Paris , he was often drawn to Austria and Germany . He eventually became an Austrian citizen , but continued to live in France. At the age of 65, after his death, he decided to leave all of his “treasures” to the Reichspostmuseum in Berlin, which he greatly appreciated. The First World War had already broken out, however, and Philipp von Ferrary had to flee to Switzerland in a rush because of his Austrian citizenship . He left his collection at the Austrian embassy before he left . However, the collection (which consisted of around 120,000 stamps) was viewed as a reparation payment after the war and was auctioned off. Philipp von Ferrary did not live to see the destruction of his life's work because he died a year before the end of the war. The auction lasted over six years and brought in sums never reached for the stamps. Philipp von Ferrary was probably the only collector in the history of the postage stamp who could claim to have the entire collection area "the whole world".

Another famous collection belonged to Arthur Hind , who also came into possession of numerous rarities thanks to his large fortune. For example, he bought the legendary British Guiana 1 ¢ magenta at a Ferrary auction . Other famous collections were built by Colonel Greens, Alfred Caspary and the Swiss tobacco millionaire Burrus .

The “Old German States” collection by the American John R. Boker may also have belonged to the large collections; it has since been dissolved in several own auctions in Wiesbaden.

Types of philately

When all the stamps ever published in the world are collected, it is called a general collection or a universal collection. However, with the large number of collectibles, complete general collections are hardly feasible today and collectors typically specialize in certain collecting areas at some point.

In philately, a distinction is made between two fundamentally different types of stamp collecting: classic philately and collecting motifs.

Classic philately

In classic philately one deals more closely with the postage stamp issues of individual states or of limited periods of time (for example Weimar Republic or West Berlin ) in one of the two forms of preservation "canceled" or "mint never hinged" (previously alternatively: with fold). In the past, the aim was to make the area in question complete, especially with preprinted albums , today often less emphasis is placed on completeness, in this case the aim is to collect as many collectibles as possible in high quality preservation , and not to fill gaps with inferior copies.

The collection can be expanded to include various special features. The most important features include:

  • Special features of the stamp itself
With the individual stamps, particular attention is paid to the special features of the paper . There are many types of postage stamp paper such as fiber paper , chalk paper, and Japanese paper ; Furthermore, postage stamp paper with security features such as watermarks , lacquer strips , fluorescence , phosphorescence or holograms . It also happens that postage stamps are produced in different printing processes , or that errors such as plate defects or other variations arise during printing .
Handwritten cancellation "Sarajewo 20/7"
The back of the stamp is also of interest to the philatelist, as there are different types and special features of the gumming, such as the savings gum or the rubber corrugation . Attention is also paid to the perforation and the way in which the individual stamps are separated.
Forgery of mail and counterfeiting of espionage and propaganda also enjoy a high reputation among philatelists.
  • Special features of the cancellation
Philatelists are mostly interested in the type of cancellation of the postage stamp, since there are numerous other cancellation options for postage stamps in addition to the postmark . Special and first day postmarks are assessed separately by philatelists.
  • Special features of the franking
In the case of documents such as letters or postal stationery that the philatelist includes in his collection, he pays particular attention to the type of franking . A distinction is made between single postage , multiple postage and mixed postage , for which different prices usually apply. A special form of franking that is particularly popular in France is the maximum card . Here the stamp is glued to the face of a postcard, which shows exactly the same scene as the postage stamp.
  • Special collector
Special collectors have specialized in a very specific period or a very specific series. They try to complete their collections through luck, intuition, and targeted purchases. Particularly in Germany, very popular specialty areas are the stamp issues from the period of German hyperinflation after the First World War or the series of buildings in the American and British occupation zones and the GDR five-year plan series after the Second World War. The building series , in particular, offers tons of different types, printing errors and differences in perforation.
  • Secondary areas
Ancillary areas, such as collecting letters or postal stationery , provided these come from the postal service and have historical relevance. This is not to be confused with "philatelic" decorative covers, the most special stamped earlier sold "to loosen up the collection" to philatelists (such as first-day covers , first day sheets , Numisbriefe and black prints ).

Subject collections

When collecting motifs or thematic collecting, you collect stamps from all over the world with a certain motif or topic, such as B. Sports or composers; this is how it differs from classic philately. The accusation of some classic philatelists that collecting motifs is just a piling up of stamps cannot be justified. Motif collectors try just as seriously to preserve and document as many stamps and sentences as possible in their collecting area. Many philatelists collect one or more subject areas in addition to their classic subject.

In postage stamp exhibitions, presentations of collections of motifs are often more interesting and popular than classic collections. This has to do with the fact that the classic collector can only present specific topics such as “100 years of automobile construction” or “Olympic Games” to a very limited extent. The motif collector, on the other hand, has extensive material precisely on his field of collection. Since stamp catalogs can be viewed online on the Internet and the corresponding search functions have also been available, motif collectors have first-class opportunities to search for stamps in their specialty.

Motif collectors have had problems for many years because developing countries in particular issue stamps on popular motif themes in order to generate appropriate sales income. As a rule, these stamps are valid for postage and are therefore regular stamps.

Since the year 2000 it has been increasingly observed that counterfeit stamps are brought up for sale. In particular, the counterfeits are sold under the name of countries where the state order has collapsed, including several African countries. Numerous products with names of Russian areas - often with the addition of "regional brands" - are also offered via various Internet auction houses. These forgeries, which are worthless in the philatelic sense, are produced in professional printing houses; they are therefore indistinguishable from real postage stamps.

Popular motifs are, for example:

A philatelist's tool

How to handle stamps

A philatelist needs some tools to properly handle postage stamps. Stamp tweezers are his most important tool. It always has rounded corners and smooth, if possible polished inner surfaces, since it cannot damage the gum on the stamp.

In order to recognize the perforation of individual stamps, the philatelist needs a perforation key . This is available in numerous different versions. In order to recognize a watermark in the postage stamp paper, the collector can place the stamp in a petrol bowl with chemically pure petrol , whereupon it becomes visible after a short time. A much simpler tool are modern optical watermark finders, so-called signoscopes. Here, the back of the stamp is illuminated from the side under pressure from a transparent plastic plate.

In order to be able to see the various details of a stamp more precisely, the stamp collector needs a magnifying glass . Different UV lamps are required to recognize certain test marks. A UV lamp with a wavelength of 380 nm is used to detect optical brighteners or phosphorescent paper , which is sometimes used in modern postage stamps. Even fluorescent characteristics can be checked with a 254 nm UV lamp. A micrometer can be used to determine the paper thickness of the stamp, which varies with some issues. A color catalog enables the exact color of a brand to be determined.

For storing the stamps

Today's stamp albums are almost always bound stockbooks, and more rarely ringbinders.

However, there are also so-called form albums in clip binders or ring binders. With these you put the stamp in a designated place. The disadvantage is that individual peculiarities such as corner pieces or pairs cannot be taken into account and the design of the albums with the placement of the stamps in the central axis is very conservative. There are special foils for storage, the so-called clip pockets . In the past it was often the case that plastic films with plasticizers that could damage postage stamps were used for these transparent strips. After a few years the brands appeared brownish-yellow and often became inferior to worthless.


The stamp catalog is one of the most important documents of the philatelist . There are usually several different catalogs for a certain collection area. Specialist magazines for postage stamps, in which the latest postage stamps from the respective country are also presented, are used for additional information. In addition, the study of manuals or special literature on individual collecting areas is essential if a philatelist specializes, i.e. H. is committed to one or more manageable areas. This further philatelic literature can be seen much more than the stamp catalogs: z. B. Listing and evaluation of specialties ( plate defects , stamps, etc.), precise description of the authenticity features of the individual issues, detection of forgeries, etc. v. a. m.

Postage stamp purchase by subscription

Most postal administrations have departments for philatelists from which the issued stamps can be obtained by subscription: In Germany from the collector service of Deutsche Post AG in Weiden in the Upper Palatinate , in Austria from the collector service of Österreichische Post AG in Vienna and in the Switzerland at the collector service of the Swiss Post in Bern .
This orientation in the postal administration towards collectors is not without controversy. Within philately, it is often criticized that many administrations direct their stamp issuance primarily to collectors in order to induce them to buy and thus generate income. Sometimes states that operate this practice particularly aggressively (for example through very high numbers of motif issues, submission only in multiple blocks, distribution only via collector services or commercial agencies instead of at the post office etc.) are contemptuously referred to in the scene as "predatory states".

The "collection by subscription" of mint postage stamps and canceled ones is offered. The canceled ones usually have stamps that differ in appearance, print quality and often also in position from those used in real postal traffic. There are also other products on offer aimed at collectors, such as first day papers.

Postage stamps as an investment

The post horn set from 1951 in mint condition is considered to be the most expensive stamp set in the Federal Republic of Germany with a value of around € 2,000, but costs only a fraction of the top price from the high points of philately today

Postage stamps are hardly suitable as an investment. Nevertheless, in the history of philately there have been speculative bubbles in which issues of certain epochs and regions or individual stamps recorded enormous increases in value within a few years.

In times of crisis, postage stamps, like cigarettes, were a popular medium of exchange, for example during or after the two world wars. The largest speculative bubble in recent times formed in the 1960s when the number of collectors soared in the Federal Republic of Germany and Switzerland. As a result, the prices of older editions of past decades rose. A prominent example was that of the Frankfurt stamp dealer Hartmut Schwenn, who sold packages of stamps as an investment through bank branches.

Contemporary advisors recommended newcomers to philately to purchase current stamp issues from their own country. The speculation on future performance motivated the purchase of large quantities of postage stamps, especially more modern material; occasionally stamps were bought sheet by sheet, including novelties. In 1977 and 1982 the prices of various collection areas reached speculative maximums. After the end of this stamp boom, however, prices began to fall, which was due to an expanded supply (many postal administrations had increased the number of new issues and the number of copies of these issues) with simultaneously reduced demand (younger generations were increasingly less interested in philately as a hobby) . The current situation is therefore more sobering: Postage stamps in average condition or common cancellation are difficult to sell, sometimes they are referred to as “grandfather goods”. Holdings from "collecting by subscription" often no longer even reach their nominal value when they are sold. Private collections therefore usually have no significant monetary value. While Deutsche Post no longer offers the exchange of older, unvalidated postage stamps for DM face value, old collections in Switzerland can still be used for franking letters. At best, extremely rare individual stamps and letters from the period up to the first third of the 20th century reached and continue to achieve top prices in the six and seven-digit range without any regular increase in value being derived from them.

Philately follows its own rules when it comes to valuation, as unlike an art collection, for example, it cannot simply be bought together. Many postage stamps would theoretically be affordable if they were used in the best degree of preservation, but they can only be obtained with great effort. A well-known example are some postage stamps from the Berlin issues of the permanent series Women of German History : With full cancellations from the Berlin postal service, these are hardly to be found and even rarer than corner pieces, while the catalog prices are far from top prices.

See also

Portal: Philately  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of philately


  • Carlrichard Brühl : History of Philately. in two volumes, Olms, Hildesheim 1985 and 1986.
  • Wolfgang Maassen : Philately and associations in the 19th century. Phil Creativ, Schwalmtal, Verlag 2006, ISBN 3-932198-69-7 .
  • U. Häger: Large encyclopedia of philately. Bertelsmann Lexikon, Gütersloh u. a. 1973, ISBN 3-570-03229-9 .
  • H. Kühne: We collect postage stamps. Gütersloh 1970.
  • Alfred Wieland: This is how you collect stamps. 1972, ISBN 3-451-16449-3 .
  • Frank Arnau : Lexicon of Philately. Stamp customer from A to Z. Ullstein paperback, 1957.
  • Frank Arnau: Jewels made of paper. The most precious and beautiful postage stamps in the world. Schuler, Stuttgart 1966.
  • Wolfram Grallert: Lexicon of Philately. Phil Creativ, Schwalmtal 2003, ISBN 3-932198-36-0 .
  • Wolfram Grallert, Waldemar Gruschke: Lexicon of Philately. 5th, arr. u. supplementary edition. transpress, Berlin 1981, DNB 840241240 .
Magazine articles
  • R. Zimmerl: 125 years of philately in Austria. In: Phila Historica. No. 1/2013, pp. 78-90; the article was also first published in the Schweizer Briefmarken Zeitung . No. 1–2 / 2013.
  • Achim Thomas Hack: Timbrology. A basic historical science? In: Achim Thomas Hack / Klaus Ries (ed.): History to stick on. Historical events in the mirror of German postage stamps , Stuttgart: Steiner 2020, ISBN 978-3-515-12658-8 , pp. 11–28.

Web links

Wiktionary: Postage stamps  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Philately  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Georges Herpin: Baptême. [Baptism] In: Le Collectionneur de timbres-poste. n ° 5, November 15, 1864. fr.wikisource : "Philatélie est formé de deux mots grecs: φιλος ami, amateur, et ατελης (en parlant d'un objet) franc, libre de toute charge ou impôt, affranchi: substantif: ατελεια. Philatélie signifierait donc: amour de l'étude de tout ce qui se rapporte à l'affranchissement. »
  2. ^ Carlrichard Brühl: History of Philately. Volume 1, Olms, Hildesheim u. a. 1985, ISBN 3-487-07619-5 , p. 24; with a copy of the article Baptême (German: Baptism).
  3. frank ( Wiktionary )
  4. ^ Wolfgang Maassen: Philately and associations in the 19th century. Phil Creativ, Schwalmtal 2006, ISBN 3-932198-69-7 , p. 218 f.
  5. ^ Carlrichard Brühl: History of Philately. Volume 2, Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim 1986, ISBN 3-487-07620-9 , p. 771.
  6. ^ Wolfgang Maassen: Philately and associations in the 19th century. Phil Creativ, Schwalmtal 2006, ISBN 3-932198-69-7 , p. 222 f.
  11. Wolfram Grallert: Lexicon of Philately. 2nd Edition. Phil Creativ, Schwalmtal 2007, ISBN 978-3-932198-38-0 , p. 162.
  12. ^ Frank Arnau: Lexicon of Philately. Stamp customer from A to Z. Ullstein Taschenbuch, 1957, pp. 342, 437.
  13. ^ General collection .; Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  14. ^ Frank Arnau: Lexicon of Philately. Stamp customer from A to Z. Ullstein Taschenbuch, 1957, p. 382.
  15. Wolfram Grallert: Lexicon of Philately. 2nd Edition. Phil Creativ, Schwalmtal 2007, ISBN 978-3-932198-38-0 , p. 252.
  16. The Stock of the Experienced Man. on: , June 17, 2010.
  17. Only rare stamps are in demand. on: , July 26, 2016.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on August 5, 2005 .