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Definition of Philately

The word "PHILATELY" is the English version of the French word "philatelie", coined by Georges Herpin in 1864. He took the Greek root word "phil" or "philo", meaning "an attraction or affinity for something", and "ateleia", meaning "exempt from duties and taxes" to form "philatelie".

The introduction of prepaid postage stamps in the 1840's meant that the receipt of letters was now free of charge. Before the widespread introduction of adhesive postage stamps in the 1840's and 1850's, it was normal for postage fees to be paid by the recipient instead of the sender of a letter.

Philatelist vs. Stamp Collector

A stamp "collector" is one who collects postage stamps, without regards to their technical aspects, origin, subject matter, or usage, usually arranged for display in a stock book or a stamp album. Collecting can be very rewarding, in that one can assemble a beautiful array of stamp issues to cherish for a lifetime, without having to worry about the technical aspects, postal history, or the significance of the subject matter of each of the stamps.

A "philatelist" is one that embarks on the "study" of stamps and related items, such as paper and perforation varieties, postmarks, covers (postal history), proofs, essays, postal stationery, errors etc. It is actually possible to be a philatelist, without owning a single stamp. For instance, the stamps being studied may be very rare or exist only in philatelic museums.

In a philatelic sense, the examination of a group of stamps, all appearing to be the same, may reveal many different things, such as different printings, different kinds of paper, different watermarks, variations in shades, different types of separation and their measurements, possible errors etc.  A study of postal markings and town cancellation, along with the historical significance of the items, is also philatelic.  A thematic collection can be philatelic, as well, if the stamps representing the theme or subject are accompanied by varieties, postal usage, historical commentary, ephemera, etc.

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