Stamp Collecting

The variety of themes and colours of stamps is endless and stamps often give a miniature pictorial history of a country, its culture and development, and even its flora and fauna.

Three-Pence Beaver
Designed by Sir Sandford Fleming, it was Canada's first stamp (courtesy Canada Post Corporation).

Stamp Collecting

 Almost immediately after their issue in 1840, POSTAGE STAMPS became a collectible item. The first stamp catalogues were published in Europe as early as 1861 (Potiquet, Paris). The first magazine devoted to stamp collecting in North America was published in 1864 in Montréal (Stamp Collectors Record, S. Allan Taylor). Stamp collecting, or philately, is a truly international hobby with its own local, national and international organizations. At the local level clubs exist where collectors may meet to exchange or exhibit stamps, and there are national and international conventions held each year. Canada's national society is the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada, based in Toronto. The Canadian Post Office (now CANADA POST CORPORATION) has also had a special philatelic service since 1932.

The variety of themes and colours of stamps is endless and stamps often give a miniature pictorial history of a country, its culture and development, and even its flora and fauna. Collectors may form basic collections by country, by series, by period or by specialty, such as airmail stamps, first-day covers, postmarks or plate numbers. Whereas the themes of most collections concentrate on the factors relating to the stamps themselves, a growing number of collectors are interested in what is called postal history, which encompasses items illustrating the history of the transmission of mail from earliest times. Examples of mail carried by the postal systems set up by Thomas Neale in 1691 for all the colonies in British North America are particularly sought after by both Canadian and US collectors. The early periods used hand-stamped or manuscript markings to assign routes and postal charges before the introduction of adhesive postage stamps. Even after 1851, the use of stamps was not made mandatory in Canada until 1875.

Some people collect stamps because they are rare; others collect a particular subject such as Canadian ships. The "50-cent Bluenose" of 1929 is said to be the world's most beautifully engraved stamp. A 1933 stamp commemorated the ROYAL WILLIAM, the first ship to cross the Atlantic almost entirely under steam.

One of the scarcest Canadian stamps is the 1851 Twelve-Penny Black, showing Queen Victoria at the age of 19. It was, along with the Three-Penny Beaver (designed by Sandford FLEMING) and the Six-Penny Prince Consort, which carried a portrait of Prince Albert, Canada's first issue. Canada's first stamp following Confederation was a profile of Queen Victoria issued in 1868.

Canada issues 2 kinds of stamps. Definitive or regular stamp issues are printed from the same plates for 3 to 5 years. Commemoratives, or special issues, recognize specific subjects or events each year; when the issue is run off the plates are destroyed.


Further Reading

  • Cimon Morin, Canadian Philately, Bibliography and Index (1979) and Supplement (1983).

External Links