Philately is the collection and study of stamps, a pleasurable activity which can be a hobby or a serious financial investment for both the young and old.
Basic stamp collecting means collecting specific stamps, while philately is a more in-depth approach to stamp collecting. Philately looks at all aspects of stamp collecting from distribution, creation, all the way to stamp accessories. Therefore, a philatelist and a stamp collector can refer to two different types of stamps enthusiasts. A stamp collector actually collects stamps whereas a philatelist might study stamps, but not collect them. Another hobby derived from stamp collecting is deltiology, the study and collection of postcards.
The Mashonaland Philatelic Society was founded in 1940. Members meet on the third Saturday of every month for an opportunity to host One Page exhibits and discuss Society agendas which include how to improve the quality of Zimbabwe stamps. Apart from One Page exhibits (which includes the display of stamps, covers, and recognized philatelic material Philatelic research of some kind or a topical or thematic stamp collection), members also discuss a recent ‘find’, an ‘attractive stamp’, a ‘puzzling stamp’, a ‘valuable or unusual stamp’, a ‘new issue’, a ‘flaw’ and anything else of interest.
Harare News spoke to the Chairperson of the Mashonaland Philatelic Society, Mike Fox. Fox said, “Our members collect two categories – either by country or thematically. Of these, the majority of stamps collected are from Rhodesia, Zimbabwe and Great Britain. Thematic stamp collecting means collecting postage stamps relating to a particular subject or concept. The most popular thematic collection of our members is birds, flowers, railways and trains. But a person can collect any subject they want including butterflies and insects.”
The most valuable Rhodesian stamp is among those issued and known as ‘Double Heads’ from 1910. The most valuable Zimbabwean stamp is the 1985 $1.00 Mbira stamp in mint condition with the perforation error. No value can be placed on this stamp as only two copies are known to exist at this time and it has never been offered for sale. In philately, a mint stamp is a stamp which is in its original state of issue, is unused, has never been mounted and has full gum, if it was issued with gum. Gum is the substance applied to the back of a stamp to enable it to adhere to a letter or other mailed item.
The most famous stamp in the world is the British ‘Penny Black’ which was the first stamp ever issued in 1840. The British Penny Black value has increased for decades. Also of extreme value are the Swedish 1855 “Treskilling Yellow” and the 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, as only one copy of each are known to exist. The Swedish Treskilling Yellow is believed to be the only surviving misprint of an 1855 three shilling stamp that was supposed to be green. The 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta was sold at auction in New York in June 2014 for $9.5 million, although the stamp expected to fetch between $10 million and $20 million.
In the month of April the Mashonaland Philatelic Society celebrated its 75th Annual General Meeting. Anyone interested in becoming a member of Mashonaland Philatelic Society can send them email on [email protected] before being invited to join their meetings on Saturday mornings.