CELEBRATE: October is National Stamp Collecting Month
Did you know that October is National Stamp Collecting Month? Philatelists everywhere, rejoice!

The United States first instituted Stamp Collecting Month in 1981 as a joint venture between the United States Postal Service and the Council of Philatelic Organizations (COPO). The COPO did eventually shut down due to lack of funding but National Stamp Collecting Month still remains! The postmaster general at the time of the holiday's inception, William F. Bolger, summed up the purpose of National Stamp Collecting Month in calling stamp collecting “the world’s most popular hobby” and urging “employees and customers alike to discover the joy of stamp collecting-the hobby of a life time.”

Stamp collecting, or philately, has a long and storied history since its origins in nineteenth-century England and to this day remains, as Bolger observed, one of the world’s most popular hobbies. The world’s first postage stamp, the Penny Black, was introduced in England in 1840. The next year a young woman advertised in the London Times asking the public to help her collect enough cancelled stamps to paper her dressing room. This woman, potentially the first stamp collector, had already collected 16,000 stamps at that time. Shortly thereafter the British School of collecting emerged where collectors would acquire stamps for the design alone and consequently cut away the perforate border before attaching the stamp in an album. The same collecting tradition emerged in France around the same time except that the French encouraged the classifying of stamps. They found the value of stamps to be based in the history of the design according to shade, paper, watermark, and perforation indicators. Members of this school of thought pushed philately in a research direction with emphasis on production and an understanding of the history of postal systems. It was actually a French collector, M. Georges Heroin, who first coined the term philately combining the two Greek words philos, meaning friend, and atelia meaning free, exempt from any charge or tax. In this way the word was meant to describe the study of that which has sets a letter free from tax, i.e. stamps.

By 1860 there were already thousands of collectors in Europe and by 1880 the first stamp albums were being printed. Across the Atlantic, the United States issued its first postage stamp in 1847 honoring Benjamin Franklin, the first Postmaster General of the United States, and George Washington. Soon after, the United States began to issue commemorative stamps starting with the Columbian stamps honoring the discovery of America in 1492 and stamps commemorating the Trans-Mississippi Exposition. The production of these commemorative stamps helped make stamp collecting popular in America. The American Philatelic Society, counterpart to England’s Royal Philatelic Society, was founded in 1886. The first quarter of the 20th century saw many commemorative stamps being issued, especially since the President of the time, FDR, an avid stamp collector, had all stamp designs come to him personally for approval and revisions. President Roosevelt made a big impact on the world of stamp collecting by improving the quality and design of these stamps. While sometimes referred to as the hobby of kings, the middle of the Great Depression saw a diversification of stamp collecting as it boomed in popularity among the general public. President Roosevelt helped increase its popularity by improving the quality and design of stamps but also, at this trying time in American history, stamp collecting provided an inexpensive way to enjoy a hobby and a much needed distraction from the financial difficulties of the time.

The main goal of National Stamp Collecting Month is to honor this illustrious tradition and, most importantly, to generate interest, especially from young people, in the stamp hobby. In actuality, the United States is not alone in realizing the importance of stamp collecting seeing as Germany also celebrates “Tag der Breifmarke” which means “Stamp Day” every two years. Similarly, the Philippines also celebrates a National Stamp Collecting Month.

The United States Postal Service tends to celebrate the month by issuing special stamps to invigorate the hobby and furthermore encourages local post offices to organize events celebrating the theme of that year’s stamps. For 2015, since October 2nd marked the 65th anniversary of the “Peanuts” comic strip, the U.S. Postal Service dedicated “ A Charlie Brown Christmas Forever” stamps at the Charles M. Schultz (creator of Peanuts) Museum in California. Last year, the commemorative stamp was the “Batman Forever” stamp which honored a quintessential American superhero and helped kick off the New York Comic Con 2014.

If you are anywhere near the nation's capitol, a great way celebrate NSCM is to participate any of the numerous events hosted by the Smithsonian National Postal Museum to honor the month. The museum offers highly interactive and interesting exhibits about the history of stamps and the postal service year round. Trust me, I’ve been, and it is a fantastic museum. You can also celebrate from afar by checking out the Postal Museum’s Pinterest board of famous stamp collectors. However you chose to celebrate, keep in mind the following words from FDR, America's champion of stamp collecting, to remind you of what makes the hobby great.

“Stamp Collecting dispels boredom, enlarges our vision, broadens our knowledge, makes us better citizen and in innumerable ways, enriches our lives” –President Roosevelt

By Meg Venable
Collectibles Central