In the late 1970s a fascinating series of articles written by Mr. K. Kouwenberg about the history of Stamp Collecting, appeared in the Dutch magazine Philatelie. This series has been the source of inspiration for PostBeeld owner Rob Smit to rewrite the history of stamp collecting in instalments. This is Part 5 – Booming 1862.
The year 1862 could be called the most important year in the history of philately.
In the above “Philatelic Journal of Great Britain” from April 1, 1916, an article written by EL Pemberton (1844-1878) (more about him later in this series) in 1863, stated that before 1856 there were probably only three or four recognised adult stamp collectors, and that collecting stamps was mainly a hobby for schoolchildren. From 1858 that began to slowly change, and the beginning of the 1860s saw a dramatic increase of interest in the subject.
The increasing numbers of adult collectors led to trade and money-making opportunities for some people. On the one hand there was a great need for information, and on the other there were more and more collectors who wanted to share their knowledge. And in 1862 philately began in earnest.
That year saw the publication of many catalogues, the first album and many magazine articles. Within his stamp catalogue published in 1862, John Edward Gray (see Part 3 – and also more to come about him in later Parts) created a list of 18 other publications on the subject which were also available in 1862.
Although before 1862 some traders were active (usually as a sideline activity), it appears that 1862 was the first year in which so much demand for stamps arose that a number of people could earn a living from the stamp trade alone.
It was also the year when price lists were issued, whereby it became clear that not every stamp represented the same value, and a collection could actually be worth money. This realisation was definitely one of the main reasons for the great upturn of interest in collecting stamps. It was no longer just something for the youth but a respected hobby for adults.
Originally, most collectors were to be found in and around London and Paris. Indeed, a stamp exchange has existed in Paris since 1860. Outside England and France it seemed collecting was mainly confined to Germany, Belgium and the United States. In 1862 the Netherlands published its first Dutch-language stamp catalogue and it could be seen that the ‘virus’ was beginning to spread worldwide.
Of course it wasn’t long before the criminal element of society was attracted to the world of philately. Thus reprints and forgeries were soon to be found on the market and publications recognising these falsifications also appeared for the first time in 1862.
In upcoming instalments of this series we will feature other people who, in or around 1862, played an important role in the growth of philately. In Part 6 we will turn our attention to Edard Laplante. He was perhaps the first full-time stamp dealer who lived entirely from the stamp trade.