Kids Corner: Learning about postage stamps!

Learning about postage stamps!
Learning about postage stamps!

So you want to collect stamps? Get ready for lots of fun!
Stamps can be pretty to look at, but they can also help you learn about different countries, music, animals, art and a whole bunch of other things.

What is a stamp? Well, a long time ago in England, when people would receive a letter, they would have to pay for it themselves when it was delivered to their door! Often, the cost of the letter was really high. If you didn’t have much money and you didn’t know who the letter came from, would you want to pay for it? A lot of people thought that wasn’t fair, so someone decided to change the way letters were sent, Rowland Hill.


The Penny Black
The Penny Black

Mr. Hill thought up the idea of making little pieces of paper that you could buy and stick on an envelope. This little piece of paper–a postage stamp– would prove to the mailman that the cost of sending the letter had already been paid for by the sender. These first postage stamps started being made in 1840 and only cost 1¢, so most people could afford them. The world’s first stamp was called the Penny Black.




A stamp with a cancellation
A stamp with a cancellation

Unfortunately, some dishonest people thought it would be a good idea to unstick the stamp from the envelope and reuse it, instead of buying a new one. This is called postal fraud. In order to prevent postal fraud, post offices started cancelling stamps. In other words, when the person mailed their letter, the post office would make an ink mark on the stamp to show that it had been used once already. No stamp with a mark on it could be reused. This mark is called a cancellation.

These early stamps had no glue on the back. You had to put glue on yourself and then stick it to the envelope. Eventually, stamps started being made with the glue, or adhesive, already applied–all you had to do was lick the back of the stamp. These stamps are called gummed stamps and were very much like the ones we have today. Some modern stamps don’t even have to be licked, they are like stickers–these stamps are called self-adhesives.

Canada's first stamp
Canada’s first stamp

Eventually, other countries decided that England had a good idea and they started making their own stamps too. Canada’s first stamp was made in 1851 and is called the 3-pence beaver because there is a picture of a beaver on it. This stamp can be very valuable depending on the condition, up to thousands and thousands!

So, enjoy building your stamp collection. Stamps have been around for a long time and are an important part of our history. Who knows what treasures you might find one day! But the most important thing is to have fun and learn about each stamp you collect.

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