Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

Washington, D.C., United States | C.1993

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson

Stamp quest? Or Stamp attraction? Located next to Union Station in the capital of the United States, this museum is dedicated to all “philatists”, or as some might know them, the studiers of stamps. 

Devised by Frenchman Georges Herpin in 1864, the term “philately” describes the study and collection of postage stamps, which saw a 19th Century rise in popularity with the modernization of postal systems around the world. Using the Greek words “phil,” meaning an attraction to or affinity for, and “ateleia” meaning exempt from duties and taxes, the word to describe stamp collecting was born. Apparently the old word to describe the phenomenon, “timbromanie”, meaning “stamp quest”, just didn’t pan out with the stamp crowd. 

But today postal lovers and curious visitors alike can still venture on a unique “quest” of their own through the National Postal Museum. Amongst the planes, trains, and trucks used by the U.S. Postal Service in its long history lies in the National Philatelic Collection–containing over 6 million stamps. One of the largest stamp collections in the world, it even includes the boyhood stamp collection of John Lennon, purchased by the institution in 2005. 

For anyone wishing to become a philatist, the museum offers coupons to receive a personalized envelope which you can paste a stamp on and send out accordingly. While you may not reach millions of stamps in a lifetime, all it takes is one to begin a unique philatelic obsession, even though we still prefer to call it a “stamp quest”.

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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