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Famous People who were Stamp Collectors and Famous Philatelists

Stamp collecting is one of the most popular hobbies in the world. In the United States alone it is estimated over 22 million people collect stamps. With all those people collecting stamps it only stands to reason that some of those stamp collectors are famous people. It would be hard to know every famous person who was also a Philatelist (stamp collector) because unless asked, they might not talk about their stamp collecting hobby. Here are some of the famous people who were also stamp collectors.

• King George V of England

Stamp collecting has been called the hobby of kings and many royals have enjoyed this hobby. One of the most famous and possibly, the largest collection of stamps in the world, is the collection that belonged to England’s King George the 5th. His uncle, Prince Albert is believed to have passed his love of stamp collecting to his young nephew when George was just a boy. In March of 1893 while George was the Duke of York, he was elected to serve as the Vice-president of the London Philatelic Society. (He would become Prince of Wales when his father, became King Edward VII in 1901) He was elected President of the London Philatelic Society in January 1896. When the Society celebrated its 25th anniversary in May of 1894, George displayed some of the rare stamps of his collection at the silver jubilee exhibition.

There is a funny anecdote about George, who at the time was the Prince of Wales, which shows his passion for stamp collecting. In 1904, he set a new world record for the price paid by a collector for a single stamp when he paid 1,450 for a Mauritius two pence blue. There are several versions of what was actually said, but the most common version of the story is: A secretary of George’s had read about the sale and had remarked to him that he had read in the paper about “some damned fool” who had paid an enormous amount for a single stamp. George replied back “I am that damned fool.” That Mauritius stamp is valued at 550,000 today.

At the time of King George’s death in 1936, his collection had grown to 100s of albums, which were kept in a room dedicated for storing the collection in the palace. The collection now belongs to his granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, who was an avid stamp collector when she was a young princess. Known as “The Royal Philatelic Collection” the collection is estimated to be valued at 400m, and is the Queen’s largest single private asset. Other well known royal stamp collectors include: King Faruk of Egypt, Czar Nikolaus III of Russia, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and King Carol II of Romania.

• President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was another well known stamp collector. His parents introduced him to stamp collecting in about 1890 when his was eight years old. The Roosevelt family was involved in international trading and shipping during the 1800s. Young Franklin asked his family and friends to save and send him all their stamps from their letters, packages and postcards. He wanted any stamp, from anywhere in the world that he could get his hands on. When he went off to prep school he took his collection with him. Later, when he attended Harvard University and during all of his travels, his entire stamp collection traveled with him. He became a life member of the American Philatelic Society about the same time he was elected Governor of New York in 1928. By the time he was elected President in 1932 and entered the White House, Roosevelt had albums of stamps from all over the world.

In 1921, after visiting a Boy Scout camp, Roosevelt contracted Poliomyelitis or Polio, as it is better known and was told by doctors that he would never walk again. He felt stamp collecting helped him survive this painful and crippling disease. Roosevelt is quoted as saying: “I owe my life to my hobbies, especially stamp collecting.” Roosevelt was well known around the world as an avid stamp collector and during his years in the White House, popularity for stamp collecting soared world wide. While president of the United States, Roosevelt was active in designing or making suggestions for and approving all the U.S. stamps issued while he was in office. In April 1945, shortly before his death from a massive stroke, he approved the design for the “Toward United Nations” commemorative stamp. In 1945, the American Philatelic Society (APS) inducted Franklin Delano Roosevelt into their Hall of Fame. You can view his biography and learn more about the specifics of his stamp collection on the APS website at URL: http://www.stamps.org/almanac/alm_HallofFame_1942-45.htm#Roosevelt

Roosevelt has been honored on stamps worldwide, not only as President of the United States, but also as a great Philatelist. In 1947, Monaco issued the 50-centime “Franklin D. Roosevelt Examining His Stamp Collection” airmail stamp. As mentioned earlier, Prince Rainier III of Monaco was also a stamp collector.

• “Rock and Roll” Philatelists

From John Lennon of the legendary rock group The Beatles to Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the rock group Queen, some of the best known rockers of our time also collected stamps.  One well-known rocker, Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, collects rare stamps. He also enjoys painting and often uses his rare stamps as subjects for his paintings.

While in grade school during the 1950s, John Lennon’s older teenaged cousin, Stanley Parkes, gave John one of his hardcover stamp albums so John could collect stamps. John would get stamps from other children who went to boarding school with him. Since many of these children were from outside the country, John was able to collect stamps from different parts of the world. Even though John only collected stamps for a few years, there are over 550 stamps in the collection. Many of the stamps, John had drawn moustaches and beards on the images of the people on the stamp. His favorite “targets” were images of some of the kings and queens of England.
In 2005, The Smithsonian National Postal Museum purchased John Lennon’s stamp album at an auction for $53,000.00 and it is currently displayed at the museum in Washington, DC. The museum has featured the stamp album on its website. To view John Lennon’s stamp album you can use this URL: http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/Lennon/index.html

Another school boy who enjoyed stamp collecting was Farrokh Bulsara, better known to fans of the rock group Queen as lead singer Freddie Mercury. Freddie Mercury’s father, Bomi Bulsara collected stamps and inspired an interest in collecting in his son. Farrokh (Freddie Mercury)collected stamps from around the age of nine until he was about 12 years of age and spent many hours working on his stamp collection at the kitchen table in his parents’ home in India. His father put away Farrokh’s stamp collection “for safe keeping” when Farrokh went away to school.

After Freddie Mercury died from AIDS in 1991, his father, Bomi Bulsara sold Mercury’s Stamp album, along with some of his own stamp albums at an auction held by Sotheby’s in December of 1993. Royal Mail purchased Freddie Mercury’s album for the collections of the British National Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) for 3,220 which was considerably more than the pre-auction estimate of 1,000-1,500. Including Bomi Bulsara’s three stamp albums, also sold at the auction, the Bulsara family stamp collection raised 8,090. The funds were donated to The Mercury Phoenix Trust, an AIDS charity, established by Freddie’s former bandmates, John Deacon, Brian May, and Roger Taylor and by Freddie Mercury’s friend, Mary Austin. A story from 2007 about BPMA showing of Freddie Mercury’s Stamp Collection at the international collectors fair in Prague is at URL:

• Ayn Rand, Novelist and Famous Philatelist

Famous novelist Ayn Rand collected stamps from the time she was a child. Much has been published on the internet about Ayn Rand, so rather than to attempt to create something new for this article, here are two links for those who would like to learn more about this remarkable woman. There is a website maintained by the Ayn Rand Institute that is totally devoted to her life story and her writings. To read her biography and see photos of Ayn Rand use URL: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_ayn_rand_aynrand_biography

In 1999, the United States Postal Service issued a 33 cent Commemorative stamp honoring Ayn Rand. To view the stamp and first day issues along with more information about Ayn Rand, use URL: http://www.artonstamps.org/champs/ayn-rand.htm

• Anatoly Karpov, Former World Chess Champion

Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov is a Russian Chess Grandmaster and former World Chess Champion, from 1975-1985 and was FIDE World Chess champion from 1993-1999. Born May 23, 1951 in the former Soviet Union, he stated collecting stamps as a boy. As a boy, his dream was to be either an officer or pilot or both with the Red Army of Russia. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Red Army, the U.S.S.R. issued a stamp that featured a Red Army pilot, a tank commander, and an infantry officer. The young Anatoly started his collection with this stamp and still collects stamps to this day.

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