The 5 Most Famous Stamp Collectors from the Past 100 Years

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt

One of the wonderful things about stamp collecting is that anyone can do it. It is a hobby that appeals to a wide range of age groups, nationalities, and personalities. In fact, you would be surprised to learn just how diverse some of the world’s most famous stamp collectors really are.

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or FDR, is best known as the only U.S. President to be elected a total of four times. He took the reins during the Great Depression and remained in power through the turmoil of World War II. It’s amazing to think that a man responsible for overseeing the United States during such demanding times could have a hobby, but he did. FDR was a stamp collector.

FDR was enthusiastic about the hobby. He took steps to promote stamp collecting during his time as president. He worked with Postmaster General James A. Farley during the 1930s to create new stamp designs and themes. He even sketched some of the ideas that were used.

For FDR, stamp collecting wasn’t so much a patriotic duty as it was a relaxation method. He used his hobby as a way to take a break from the stress of his role. His own words speak to how much he enjoyed philately: “I owe my life to my hobbies – especially stamp collecting.”

FDR’s first son James Roosevelt provided his perspective on his father’s hobby: “I have vivid memories of Father sitting at his desk when he had a half hour or hour with no appointments… with his stamp books and an expression of complete relaxation and enjoyment on his face.” FDR was a part of stamp clubs and bought his collection from auctions and stamp dealers.

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II is a name known around the world. She was born in 1926 to King George VI and Elizabeth, Duchess of York. By 1952, she found herself presiding as Queen over the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. While most people know who she is, many are not aware that she is an avid stamp collector and one that built an impressive collection.

Queen Elizabeth began collecting decades ago. She started by saving first day cover envelopes from the U.K. Her collection currently resides at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. The exhibit is no longer publicly available but can be viewed online. Her stamps span a rich history with the collection divided into Postal Reforms, Stamps to Mark a Coronation, Rarities, and an introduction category which includes pieces from King George V.

Renowned French Explorer Jacques Cousteau

Jacques Cousteau was a man of many talents. He was an explorer, photographer, conservationist, scientist, and French naval officer. He dedicated much of his time to studying sea life and co-developed the Aqua-lung. He was also a philatelist. His collection consisted of French stamps. He died just two weeks after his 87th birthday in 1997. France released a commemorative stamp in his honor in 2000, allowing the collector to become part of the collection.

France’s 23rd President, Nicolas Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy served as the French president from 2007 until 2012. During his time, he had to deal with the financial crisis of the late 2000s and the Arab Spring. He went into a temporary political retirement after his defeat between 2012 and 2014.

Nicolas Sarkozy took up stamp collecting in more recent years. Other heads of state, including Queen Elizabeth II, helped him get started. Her Majesty gifted Sarkozy a set printed by the British Post Office in 2004 in honor of the Entente Cordiale. He also received a leather-bound album of stamps from actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Beloved Queen Singer Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury was an amazing singer. It may be hard to connect his on-stage persona with someone who collected stamps. Mercury was a philatelist from childhood. His inspiration came from his father, Bomi, who also enjoyed the hobby. Mercury’s albums offer a fascinating international flavor, with stamps from across the British Empire and Eastern Europe. Some of his most interesting finds are from Zanzibar.

Mercury had a unique way of organizing his collection. Some pages are arranged by type, size, or color. Balanced patterns were constructed on other pages while some featured letter shapes. Mercury’s collection went on display alongside those of John Lennon at the Stampex exhibition last year.

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