Topical stamp collecting
Topical or thematic stamp collecting is the collecting of postage stamps relating to a particular subject or concept. Topics can be almost anything, from stamps on stamps, birds, trains and poets on stamps, to famous physicians and scientists, along with historical people and events on stamps, which is often a standard theme for many stamp issuing countries.
The earliest stamps simply depicted busts of reigning monarchs, important figures, or coats of arms, but as time went on stamps started to have a wider range of designs. Bears appeared on provisional stamps of St. Louis in 1845, while the beaver was featured on the earliest stamps of Canada. More than 150 years later, the variety of designs on stamps is enormous, giving topical collectors plenty of scope to find stamps for their chosen theme. In fact, so many stamps have been issued that some popular themes, such as "ships" or "birds", have become nearly impossible to complete, and topical collectors may specialize further, such as by looking for only square-rigged sailing ships, or only flightless birds.
Since most types of stamp designs are commonly available and inexpensive, acquiring them is mostly a matter of poring over the stamp catalog looking for relevant types, and learning enough about the topic to recognize subtle connections. The American Topical Association and others have published handbooks and lists of larger topics.
Some topics include:
- Birds on stamps
- Fish on stamps
- Insects on stamps
- Dinosaurs on stamps
- People on stamps
- Presidents on stamps
- Ships on stamps
- U.S. space exploration history on U.S. stamps
- Soviet space exploration history on Soviet stamps
- Stamps on stamps
Birds on stamps is a common theme in philately and a popular subject for topical stamp collectors.
Birds started appearing on stamps by 1845 in Switzerland with Basel Dove, and after, by 1875, when Japan issued a series of stamps bearing stylized illustrations of three species. The first United States bird stamp was a registry stamp issued in 1911, depicting an eagle with wings outspread. The UK issued its first in honor of "Nature Week" in 1963. As of 2003, over 10,000 bird stamps had been issued around the world.
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- "Handbooks". American Topical Association. Retrieved 2010-01-24.
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- Bold, W.E.J. van den. Handbook of Thematic Philately. Limassol: Published by James Bendon for The British Thematic Association, 1994 ISBN 996-357-970-1 215p.
- Branston, A. J. Thematic and Topical Stamp Collecting: A practical and comprehensive handbook for thematic, topical, and subject collectors. London: Batsford, 1980 ISBN 0-7134-1974-1 176p.
- Griffenhagen, George and Jerome Husak. Adventures in Topical Stamp Collecting. Tucson: American Topical Association, 1997 96p.
- Gupta, V.K. A Handbook on Thematic Philately. Delhi: B.D. Gupta, 1989
- Lee, Alma. Introducing Thematic Collecting. London: National Philatelic Society, 1983 34p.
- Martin, M. W. Topical Stamp Collecting. New York: Arco Pub. Co., 1975 ISBN 0-6680-3754-7 159p.
- Morris, Margaret. Thematic Stamp Collecting. London: Gibbons, 1977 ISBN 0-85259-920-X 32p.
- Media related to Stamps by topic at Wikimedia Commons
- American Topical Association
- LearnAboutStamps.com A resource for stamp collectors
- Websites for particular themes
- Scouts on Stamps Society International
- Stamps on Stamps Collectors Club
- Bird stamps by country
- PaleoPhilatelie - web site about Paleontology and its representation in Philately
- List of all stamps depicted fossils, dinosaurs, prehistoric animals and palaeontologists