Once, long ago, I purchased a book: The Guinness Book of Stamps, Facts & Feats. It stood a little lost in a corner of a bookcase. I noticed it again when I was looking for another book, that’s how it often goes. Needless to say, the book contains many fascinating facts regarding stamps and everything related to them.
Quite nice to look something up. My edition was released in 1982, which is more than thirty years ago, so some records may be outdated, who knows. Let’s look:
The smallest stamp
According to the book, the smallest stamp ever produced was from the province of Bolivar in Colombia (South America). Issued in 1863-64, the stamp image size was 8 x 9.5 mm.
Stamps with high and low values
Stamps with the highest face value: champion for a long time was the German 50 billion mark stamp from the massive inflation period of the 1920s. However, in 1946, not long after the Second World War, Hungary suffered an even greater period of inflation -resulting in the release of a stamp with the value of 5 millio Adópengo (the Adópengo was a unit of currency introduced by Hungary as part of a stabilisation attempt of its then currency, the Pengő) or 5 million billion (5 000 000 000 000 000 000 000) Pengo. See picture below right.
The highest “real” value issues (so basically the gold values) can be found on some stamps of the former British colonies. For example, 1925 issues £75 and £100 for East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika) and releases 1910, 1912 and1923 $500 (= 58.33 pounds) by Straits Settlements (Malacca). Actually these were high value revenue stamps, with stamp markings “Postage and Revenue”. So yes, if you are an English Colonies collector and have spaces in your album to fill …….. .
The stamp with the lowest value ever issued was the tenth-cent French Indochina 1922-39, which equated to 0.01 of an English penny (at that time 240 pennies equalled one pound). Other stamps with extremely low values were the ½ milesima Puerto Rico 1881-98 ( 0.025 English penny), an equally low Cuba 1888-94, and a ½ centime stamp imprint France 1919-22 (0.05 British pence), see picture below left.
The rarest stamp
You’d think the rarest stamp is an example of which only one exists. Well, even more rare is the stamp of which only half exists! There are two of them. One is half of an imperforated 4ct stamp from British Guiana from 1866. This imperforated half stamp had to serve as a 2ct stamp for postage on local mail. The perforated version is not so rare. Then you have the zemstvo stamp from 1869 from the Russian district Kotelnich . These Kotelnich stamps had two halves, one for the letter and the other half for the post office as a sales receipt . Of the known 3 kopek stamp, black on yellow paper, there only exists the sales receipt part.
The first stamp collector was one Mr. John Bourke, Receiver-General of Stamp Duties in Ireland. His album of tax stamps from 1774 still seems to exist. The first postage stamp collector was Dr. JE Gray (photo) of the British Museum in London, who started in 1840, immediately after the release of the World’s first postage stamp, the Penny Black. In 1863 he published a catalogue.
The first stamp sheetlet
The first sheet was produced in Luxembourg in January 1923, as a souvenir for the birth of Princess Elizabeth (see below). The stamp without surcharge was 10fr black, but in the following months regular 10fr stamps were issued in another colour with different perforation. The next Luxembourg sheet was produced in 1937, but in the meantime the postal services of many countries had picked up the stamp sheet idea. The collector was well served, and still is.
Computer Series Netherlands
The Netherlands is also honourably recognised in the Guinness Stamp book. The summer series 1970 (NVPH 965-69) was the World’s first series designed by a computer. A small country can be great!
My Guinness stamp book has 225 pages so I can continue for a while with the facts. But I know that I have to moderate myself, and will therefore reveal more at a later date.