Collecting is one of man’s most firmly established habits and man in this context means woman too. Archaeologists have shown that even the earliest cave-women collected brightly coloured stones and shells. Today, collecting has taken thousands of forms as ming vases, match boxes, by theatre programmes, cassettes, cigarette cards, coins, view cards, paintings. The list is endless but the most popular and universal is stamp collecting. The advance stage of stamps collecting is called “philately”. It includes the study of stamps and research carried out regarding stamps. The experts of stamp collecting are called “Philatelists”.
In general terms Philately is the study of revenue and postage stamps. This includes the design, production and uses of stamps after they are authorized for issue, usually by government officials such as postal authorities. Philately is the distinct activity of studying stamps, which may or may not include stamp collecting. For instance, some philatelists will study extremely rare stamps without expecting to own copies of them, whether because of cost, or because the sole survivors are in museums. Conversely, stamp collecting itself is the acquisition of stamps, at times without regard for origin or usage.
Philately is a word, which originated from Greek language. It is formed from the Greek words philos (φίλος meaning "friend"), and ateleia (ἀτέλεια meaning "exempt from duties and taxes") as postage stamp(s) indicate that no service charge is to be collected from the recipient as they constitute franking and thus confirm the pre-payment of postal fees by the sender or another. The alternative terms "timbrophily" and "timbrology" are far less commonly used.
The origin of philately is in the observation that in a pile of stamps all appearing to be the same type, closer examination may reveal different kinds of paper, different watermarks embedded in the paper, variations in color shades, different perforations, and other kinds of differences. Comparison with records of postal authorities may or may not show that the variations were intentional, which leads to further inquiry as to how the changes could have happened, and why. To make things more interesting, thousands of forgeries have been produced over the years, some of them very good, and only a thorough knowledge of philately gives any hope of detecting the fakes.
One explanation for all the variation is that stamp printing was among the early attempts at large-scale mass production activity by postal authorities. Even in the 19th century, stamps were being issued by the billions, more than any other kind of manufactured object at the time.