Funny Stamps: Why are they worth so much?

A postage stamp, also known as a stamp, imprint, seal, or seal, is proof of prior payment for mailings made in the form of a label, usually stickered, or directly printed. A stamp is a small piece of paper, usually rectangular or square in shape, that is affixed to an envelope, indicating that the person sending the shipment has paid for the service.

Mail art often uses this medium and format for dissemination by creating false postage stamps of all kinds.

Variable value stamps or ATMs are those printed and distributed through machines. These print the desired postage value by the user on special paper, and the resulting stamp or embosser can be used for postage as a “traditional” stamp.

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History

The issue of the first postage stamp was part of a profound reform of the British postal service undertaken by James Chalmers (1834) and Rowland Hill (1837). Until then, the addressee paid for the shipment based on the kilometres travelled and not on its weight. Hill proposed that the sender should pay for the shipment at a uniform rate based on weight and not on mileage.

According to the legend, in 1835 the English professor Rowland Hill, who was travelling around Scotland, was ready to rest in an inn. As he was warming up in the fireplace, he saw the local postman enter the house and deliver a letter to the innkeeper. She took the letter in her hands, examined it carefully, and returned it to the postman claiming

As we are quite poor we cannot pay the amount of the letter, so I beg you to return it to the sender.

When Hill heard this, he had a generous impulse in his heart, and on that impulse he offered the postman the amount of the letter, because he did not want the good woman to be left without the news of the letter for lack of money. The postman collected the half-crown that it cost, and delivered the letter to the innkeeper, and then went out to continue his journey.

The innkeeper picked up the letter and left it on a table without any concern for its contents. Then she turned to the generous guest and said with kindness

“Sir, I really thank you for the kind gesture you made to pay for the letter. I am poor, but not so poor that I cannot pay that cost. If I didn’t do it, it was because there is nothing written inside, only the address. My family lives a long way away and to know that we are well we write letters to each other, but taking care that each line of the address is written by a different hand. If everyone’s handwriting appears, it means that everyone is fine. Once we have examined the address of the letter we return it to the postman saying that we cannot pay for it and so we have news of each other without costing us a penny.

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Postage stamp of the Second Spanish Republic, representing the Mosque of Cordoba, 1931.

This anecdote, with several variations, has been narrated and written in different media, as for example in the French magazine Lectures pour tous. It was also written in the Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIX Siècle, by Pierre Larousse, in the Parisian edition of 1874. In Spain the Enciclopedia Espasa also reproduces it, giving a version in which the owner appears really unable to pay the amount of the letter because of her extreme poverty. However, Eugène Vaillé in his Histoire du Timbre-Poste 1947 states that this anecdote has been denied by Hill himself in his Memoirs. It is illustrative, however, of one of the problems that the reform of the Post Office sought to address with remarkable success.

Hill would have written a pamphlet proposing the pre-franking of correspondence. Hill’s pamphlet, entitled Post Office Reform, resulted in the appointment of a committee of the House of Commons (22 November 1837) “to study the types and systems of postage”. This committee reported favourably on Rowland Hill’s proposal, and in 1839 an order was made authorising the Treasury to fix the rates of postage and to regulate the manner of collecting the previous amount. Stamped envelopes (the first to be worth 1 and 2 pence) and adhesive stamps would be issued by the Government. The engraving of the stamps was commissioned by Perkins, Bacon and Petch, on drawings by Hill. It was decreed that the stamps would be put into circulation on May 6, 1840.

Thus was born the first postage stamp in the world: the famous Penny Black of Queen Victoria. Hill drew on it a profile of Queen Victoria, the word Postage at the top and One Penny at the bottom. He omitted the name of the country because he understood that the effigy of the queen was enough to identify it. On May 8 of the same year, the 2 pence was put on sale, in blue. The new postal system had amazing results, so much so that the number of letters tripled in one week. On the first day of sale to the public alone, 60 000 copies of these stamps were sold. In view of all this, Rowland Hill was appointed Director of the UK Post Office, and devoted the rest of his life to making extensions and improvements to the postal services. The new system found rapid acceptance in other countries and within a few years was already widespread internationally.

The Universal Postal Union established that stamps circulating internationally must bear the name of the issuing country in the Latin alphabet. The United Kingdom is exempt from this obligation as it is the first country to issue stamps.

Collectors

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Stamps are now collected worldwide by both adults and children. This hobby can be cheap and fun, but when practiced in a more formal way you can get to invest a lot of money in it, as more serious collectors tend to look for rare and hard to find stamps. This hobby is known as philately.

Issuing process

The process for issuing a postage stamp is complex. Usually the postal administration receives hundreds of suggestions from individuals and associations for the design. Once the series to be issued have been decided, several artists are commissioned to make the designs, usually four times the final size. Once the design has been chosen, the necessary modifications are made and it is reduced photographically to the correct size.

Printing methods

Shape and materials

Although most of the stamps are rectangular, as early as 1847 Great Britain issued the first one with another shape, namely octagonal. However, as it was not perforated, it was often cut into a square shape. In 1853 the British colony of Cape Town issued the first triangular stamp. Sierra Leone issued stamps in the shape of animals, fruits and maps.

Characteristics of the stamps

Errors

During the printing process errors and faults can occur despite checks at the issuing centres to destroy faulty copies.

The small defects, which do not increase the value of a stamp, allow to collect varieties of a stamp that are produced by erosion in the plate, erasures in the ink, appearance of a line or white spot, etc.

Other types of errors are more valuable: lack or mistake in some color or those that present the inverted center. There are also errors in perforation and denting.

Design errors do not occur during printing. This is an error that occurs in a previous process and affects the entire print run of the stamp: spelling mistakes, design errors… Sometimes this results in the withdrawal of the issue to correct the error, although sometimes some stamps manage to reach the public and are very valuable.

Overprinting or overloading

An overprint is any inscription or design added to the original image of a stamp. There are many reasons for overprinting stamps: a country that gains postal independence overprints the stamps of the former colonial power with the name of the new state; also when the form of government, name or currency changes. Another reason is to convert a stamp into a special issue, for security reasons. When the overprinting is done because the postal rates have changed, it is called a surcharge. In each issue it is common for a certain number of stamps to be invalidated for postal use and used as a sample of the issue with the specimen surcharge or similar. It is called ‘clearance’ when the overprinting authorises a different use from the original one, such as tax clearance for mail, ordinary mail for airmail and many other examples.

Large companies sometimes pierce stamps to prevent theft by their employees. These are known as perforated stamps.

Counterfeits and repaired stamps

A stamp can be forged for use as postage. This type of forgery is known as a false postcard, or to deceive collectors, in the case of valuable stamps, which in this case is called a false philatelic. Two of the best known forgers were François Fournier and Jean de Sperati.

There are also other less common types of forgeries, such as those of a propagandistic nature. An example of this type is the counterfeiting of British stamps by the Germans during World War II to include the Star of David in the king’s crown.

A stamp can be repaired in many ways: erasing the postmark is a very common type of fraud, either with the intention of reusing it in the mail or selling it to a collector as if it were new. A stamp can also be reattached to make it look like new, to alter the colours or to add or remove teeth. Ripped stamps are wetted and carefully flattened so that the paper fibers will bond superficially for some time.

To prevent counterfeiting and fraud, the postal authorities put security measures on the stamps. This can be the complication of design, the inclusion of watermarks or the use of watermarks on the paper. To avoid erasure of the postmarks, non-permanent inks that run off when the stamp is put in water or varnish coatings were used.

On the other hand, a facsimile stamp is an exact copy of a valuable stamp sold as a copy and not as a postage stamp. It is usually marked to show that it is not a legitimate copy. Removing that mark is also a fraud. Philatelic experts issue philatelic certificates of authenticity after examining the piece to prove that a stamp is authentic, which is convenient when a stamp is valuable.

Reverse side

The back of the stamps is the part that is stuck to the envelope for mailing. It is usually unprinted, but there are cases where it is printed: a control number or some information about the reason for the stamp. Most stamps have a gumming on the back, with a variety of colours and shapes, even tried with invisible gum (which proved ineffective) or a gumming protected by a strip of paper.

To collect the stamps, a hinge can be fixed to the back or stamps can be fixed to the sheets of the albums (a practice not recommended for new stamps and doubtful for used ones).

The back of the stamp is used by the philatelic expert to stamp his signature when certifying the authenticity of a stamp. In this case they are called ‘stamped’.

Cinderella

Stamps that were not issued by an official postal administration (those recognized by the Universal Postal Union) are called Cinderella stamps and may be issued by private companies or local authorities that provide a postal service. Another variety of Cinderellas are phantom stamps: issued in non-existent places such as micronations and patriotic labels, Christmas stamps issued by charitable postal services, etc.

Tax policies or stamps are stamps issued by governments to collect savings, taxes and fees and are not postage stamps.

Some charities, such as the Red Cross, in some countries have issued strips of stamps to collect donations.

Postage stamps are key pieces in interpreting communications and human history, and although today’s world relies on electronics and the Internet, these small pieces continue to contribute to knowledge.
A postage stamp, also known as a stamp, imprint, seal, or seal, is proof of prior payment for mailings made in the form of a label, usually sticky, or directly printed.

A stamp is a small piece of paper, most commonly rectangular or square in shape, which is affixed to an envelope, indicating that the person sending the shipment has paid for the service. Mail art often uses this medium and format for dissemination by creating false postage stamps of all kinds.

Variable value stamps or ATMs are those printed and distributed through machines.

They print the user’s desired postage value on special paper, and the resulting stamp can be used for postage as a “traditional” stamp.

The issue of the first postage stamp is part of a profound reform of the British postal service undertaken by James Chalmers (1834) and Rowland Hill (1837).

Until then, the addressee paid for the shipment according to the kilometres travelled and not according to its weight. Hill proposed that the sender should pay for the shipment at a uniform rate based on weight and not on mileage.

According to the legend, in 1835 the English professor Rowland Hill, who was travelling around Scotland, was ready to rest in an inn. As he was warming up in the fireplace, he saw the local postman enter the house and deliver a letter to the innkeeper. She took the letter in her hands, examined it carefully, and returned it to the postman claiming

As we are quite poor we cannot pay the amount of the letter, so I beg you to return it to the sender, she said.
When he heard this, Hill’s heart was moved with generosity, and on that impulse he offered the postman the amount of the letter, for he did not want the good woman to remain for lack of money without knowing the news that might come to her in the letter.

The postman collected the half-crown that it cost, and gave the letter to the innkeeper, and then left to continue his journey.

This anecdote, with several variations, was narrated and written in different media, as for example in the French magazine Lectures pour tous.

It was also written in the Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIX Siècle, by Pierre Larousse, in the Parisian edition of 1874.
Hill would have written a pamphlet proposing the pre-franking of correspondence. Hill’s pamphlet, entitled Post Office Reform, resulted in the appointment of a committee of the House of Commons (November 22, 1837) “to study the types and systems of postage”.

This committee reported favourably on Rowland Hill’s proposal, and in 1839 an order was made authorising the Treasury to fix the rates of postage and to regulate the manner of collecting the previous amount.

Stamped envelopes (the first to be worth 1 and 2 pence) and adhesive stamps would be issued by the Government. The engraving of the stamps was commissioned by Perkins, Bacon and Petch, on drawings by Hill. It was decreed that the stamps would be put into circulation on May 6, 1840. Thus was born the first postage stamp in the world: the famous Penny Black of Queen Victoria.

The Universal Postal Union established that on stamps circulating internationally the name of the issuing country should appear in the Latin alphabet. The United Kingdom is exempt from this obligation as it was the first country to issue stamps.

All stamps are printed with the nationality; except those of Great Britain, which instead contain the image of the bust of Queen Victoria in its first issues and later of the monarch who governs the United Kingdom.

Teeth: it is very important that the stamp is perfect with all its teeth.

Margins and centring: a seal must have the image well centred and equidistant from the edges.

Imprint: generally bear the name of the designer and the year of issue.

Image: it is the motif of the stamp, the one that leads the fan to collect it.

Face value: the value of the postage.
Many others are the elements that are treasured in a postal stamp, hence its interest for collectors, museums and for a modern world that reveres such origins.

Although they have a practical use for sending letters and packages through the postal system, stamps also generate interest for collectors looking to exhibit their best specimens. The first stamps date from the 1840s. New designs are regularly launched by the United States Postal Service and have illustrations based on different themes. When you need to buy stamps, there are several places where you can do so.

Stamps can be purchased at all post offices, at the stamp machines you will find at the post office, and at some kiosks or tobacconists.

Post Office

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Many communities and neighborhoods have a local post office that provides a variety of postal services. These include the sale of stamps, both common ones for sending letters and collector’s editions. Options for purchase at many post offices include individual stamps, sheets and rolls of stamps, first-day envelopes and uncut sheets.

Retail stores

Several stores have postage stamps to sell, including supermarkets, hypermarkets and pharmacies. Vendors offering this service usually display a U.S. Postal Service logo in a prominent place to show that they have stamps for sale. This is a convenient way to buy stamps while doing your weekly shopping.

Specialized vendors on the web

Recent innovations in stamp buying include web-based vendors, who provide some specialized services. Several Postal Service-approved vendors, such as Stamps.com, provide the opportunity to purchase and print postage stamps at home, using vendor-supplied equipment. Others offer a service to produce customized photo stamps, or create stamps for special occasions such as weddings. These are created and purchased online, and then shipped to the customer’s address.

Cash machine

Many banks give the opportunity to buy regular postage stamps through ATMs. Many people make regular ATM cash deposits or withdrawals, so buying stamps this way is a convenient option. ATMs operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which means you can buy the stamps at any time.

Specialized philately shop

The options for collectors interested in buying stamps are the philately shops. They usually offer a variety of collectibles based on stamps and usually have a wide range of quality stamps to choose from. Both physical and online stores provide this service.