The origin of the word
Philately, literally meaning ‘lover of tax’ was coined in the year 1864 by M. George Herpin and encompasses stamp collecting. It explores researches and studies in the various fields connected with stamps. For example, we have Philometry (study of metered mail impressions), Maximaphily (study of maxim cards), AeroPhilately (relating to airmail) and so on. It also deals with the design and production of postal stamps and stationery. A stamp collector, on the other hand, is one who collects stamps with no definite aim in mind.
Growth of Philately
Having dalt with the history of postage stamps it will be interesting to know how these colourful bits of paper became man’s hobby and was named “Philately”. Man by nature has an acquisitive instinct. There were stamp collectors as early as 1850. To take an example, Mr. John Bourke, Receiver General of stamp duties in Ireland, had a collection of duty stamps in a book. This can be considered as the first stamp album in the world.
After the issue of “penny black” and “penny blue”, many people started collecting them. Dr. John Edward Gray of the British Museum bought blocks of “penny blacks” on 1st May 1840 and kept them in his possession. He later added many new issues to his collection. He is thus considered the first stamp collector. In 1863 he published a stamp catalogue on the lines of a French catalogue entitled ‘Catalogue destimbres poste cr’ees dans les duvers etats du globe’. Gradually the collection of postage stamps became popular and widespread as a hobby.
There has been gradual change among postal administrations to the current position of seeing collectors as important customers. The last fifty years have seen the emergence of a total Philatelic industry that can be thought of as a three sided triangle. For stability and usefulness, all three sides- stamp collectors, commercial trade and postal administrations- should be equal. Their roles and their inter-dependence should be understood.