Antiques Column - Appreciating the small wonders of collecting

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Downsizing is a popular term these days, and talking to a friend recently that collects tractors who is moving from a farm into a two bedroomed flat with some difficulty, got me thinking about the smaller things in life.

The news that a single stamp, the 1856 British Guiana 1c black and Magenta sold recently for a record £5.5 million pounds focused my thoughts on philately, commonly known as stamp collecting.

Michael Dowse at the AE Dowse Auction house which will be closing doors at the premises on Scotland Street

Michael Dowse at the AE Dowse Auction house which will be closing doors at the premises on Scotland Street

The first postage stamp in the world was issued in 1840 in Great Britain, the famous ‘Penny Black’ showing the head of a young Queen Victoria and cut from sheets without perforations.

There was no need for the name of the country on the design, and to this day the stamps of the United Kingdom remain the only ones in the world to be issued without the country identified. Most are not as rare as you may think as many millions were issued and saved.

Switzerland, Brazil and the United States began issuing stamps in the mid 1840’s and by the 1960’s most countries in the world had followed suit.

Britain alone was sending 350 million letters a year by 1850 and since then stamps have been issued in every shape or form conceivable, even made with gold or chocolate and one that could be played as a record. There are numerous types of collections, with people concentrating on individual countries, pictorial themes, first day covers, historical events and even post marks and perforations.

A lot of people still have their childhood stamp albums, I’m going to check mine for that British Guiana stamp and I’ll be recommending my friend has a look for his - that’s one collection, unlike his tractors that will fit on a bookshelf!