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The Philately Portal

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Philately is the study of revenue or postage stamps. This includes the design, production, and uses of stamps after they are issued. A postage stamp is evidence of pre-paying a fee for postal services. Postal history is the study of postal systems of the past. It includes the study of rates charged, routes followed, and special handling of letters.

Stamp collecting is the collecting of postage stamps and related objects, such as covers (envelopes, postcards or parcels with stamps affixed). It is one of the world's most popular hobbies, with estimates of the number of collectors ranging up to 20 million in the United States alone.

Selected article

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In the United States a railway post office, commonly abbreviated as RPO, was a railroad car that was normally operated in passenger service as a means to sort mail en route, in order to speed delivery. The RPO was staffed by highly trained Railway Mail Service postal clerks, and was off-limits to the passengers on the train. In the UK, the equivalent term was Travelling Post Office (TPO). Many American railroads earned substantial revenues through contracts with the Post Office to carry mail aboard high-speed passenger trains.

The world's first official carriage of mail by rail was by the United Kingdom's General Post Office in November 1830 on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Sorting of mail en route first occurred in the United Kingdom with the introduction of the Travelling Post Office in 1838.

In the United States, some references suggest that the first shipment of mail carried on a train occurred in 1831 on the South Carolina Rail Road. Other sources state that the first official contract to regularly carry mail on a train was made with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in either 1834 or 1835. The United States Congress officially designated all railroads as official postal routes on July 7, 1838.

Similar services were introduced on Canadian railroads in 1859. In the United States it was introduced on July 28, 1862 using converted baggage cars on the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad (which also delivered the first letter to the Pony Express).

Selected image

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Cover sent by Zeppelin from Gibraltar on 20 November 1934 to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil via London and Berlin for the Christmas flight (12th South American flight) of 1934 that took place between the 8th and 19th. The two red "MIT LUFTSCHIFF GRAF ZEPPELIN" and green circular marking were applied by the post office. This is a printed matter item that has been registered.

Selected biography


Ralph Allen (1693–1764) was a British mine owner, entrepreneur and philanthropist, who became a Post Office clerk in Bath and on February 13, 1712 became its Postmaster and remained so until 1848. He became Mayor of Bath in 1842.

At age twenty-seven Allen received a seven-year contract to control the Cross or Bye Posts that had begun to appear in the seventeenth century; for this he paid £6,000 per year but even though he only broke even he continued. He reformed the postal service by creating a network of postal roads that did not pass through London. It is estimated he saved the Post Office £1,500,000 over a 40 year period having renewed the seven-year contracts until his death.

Prior Park, his Palladian mansion was his home from about 1834 until his death. It was built from Bath Stone from his own Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines and located on a hillside overlooking the city of Bath.

Things you can do

There is a discussion about getting more people involved in Philately on Wikipedia. Join the discussion and share your thoughts here.

WikiProject Philately organizes the development of articles relating to philately. The collaboration focuses on one article at a time until they can proudly put that article up as a featured article candidate. This will last until they have run through a pool of "featurable" articles, then they will use a time-based system.

Currently there is one philatelic featured article, if you can help with another candidate, please do so.

For those who want to skip ahead to the smaller articles, the WikiProject also maintains a list of articles in need of improvement or that need to be started. There are also many red inked topics that need to be started on the list of philatelic topics page.

Postage stamps of Ireland is a Cscr-featured.svg Featured article
British Library Philatelic Collections, Postal codes in Canada, Pony Express, and 2009 Royal Mail industrial disputes are Symbol support vote.svg Good articles

Did you know...

... that the first Penny Post was established in London in 1680 by William Dockwra nearly 200 years before the better known Uniform Penny Post that was part of the postal reforms of 1839 and 1840 in Great Britain.

... that Czesław Słania (1921-2005) is the most prolific stamp engraver, with more than 1,000 post stamps for 28 postal administrations?

... that a forerunner is a postage stamp used during the time period before a region or territory issues stamps of its own?

... that the Royal Philatelic Society is the oldest philatelic society in the world, founded in London in 1869?

... that Marcophily is the specialised study and collection of postmarks, cancellations and postal markings applied by hand or machine on mail?

... that throughout U.S. history, different types of mail bags have been called mail pouch, mail sack, mail satchel, catcher pouch, mochila saddle mailbag, and portmanteau depending on form, function, place and time?

... that Non-denominated postage are postage stamps that do not show a monetary value on the face?

... that the Daguin machine was a cancelling machine first used in post offices in Paris in 1884?

... that the first airmail of the United States was a personal letter from George Washington carried on an aerial balloon flight from Philadelphia by Jean Pierre Blanchard?

Stamp of the month

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Chalon heads, were a series of postage stamps issued by many British colonies, inspired by a portrait of Queen Victoria. The head came from a painting by Alfred Edward Chalon (1870-1860), drawn for the first public appearance of Victoria as Queen on the occasion of her speech at the House of Lords in July 1837. Chalon's work was intended as a gift from Victoria to her mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Issued from the 1850s until 1912, in Queensland, in chronological order, they were released in the Province of Canada in 1851, Nova Scotia in 1853, Tasmania and New Zealand in 1855, The Bahamas and Natal in 1859, Grenada, New Brunswick and Queensland in 1860, and in 1870 in Prince Edward Island.

The effigy, found mainly on small sized stamps, appears inside an oval that has two main forms: the oval is either large enough to show the Queen's necklace or too small, so that only the upper part of the neck is visible, excluding the necklace. However, on the New Zealand stamps the circle has a larger diameter, so the upper part of the State Robes are also visible.

Selected bibliography

Williams, Louis N., & Williams, Maurice (1990). Fundamentals of Philately {revised ed.). American Philatelic Society. ISBN 0-9335-8013-4.

Hornung, Otto (1970). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Stamp Collecting. Hamlyn. ISBN 0-600-01797-4.

Stuart Rossiter & John Fowler (1991). World History Stamp Atlas (reprint ed.). pub: Black Cat. ISBN 0-7481-0309-0.

New articles

3 September 2016 Post Office Act 1908

Expanded articles

13 Nov. 2014 Inverted Jenny –
23 Oct. 2013 Trans-Mississippi Issue –


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