Collecting Foreign Postage Stamps


Vatican Postage StampsBy D. J. McAdam

Decades ago, when I started collecting postage stamps as a child, everyone collected foreign – or worldwide – postage stamps. The difference between the two terms was that packets of worldwide stamps included stamps from one’s own country (in my case, the United States), whereas foreign stamps, obviously, did not.

Naturally, foreign stamps were more rarely encountered than U.S. stamps. Every day my family would get mail with ubiquitous 4-cent Lincoln postage stamps, but we almost never received mail from foreign countries. At that stage, almost all foreign countries seemed equally exotic and faraway to me, the exception being Canada. Family friends knew that I was a stamp collector so sometimes someone would give me an envelope bearing postage from somewhere like Ireland or Germany or Italy and I would dutifully soak the stamps off the envelopes and place them in my album, thrilled at the idea of how far those little stamps had traveled and wondering if I, someday, would visit any of those places.

Collecting stamps from foreign countries remains a fun and worthwhile endeavor. One may simply choose to purchase whatever stamps one wishes, or specialize in an area, such as Asia or Western Europe or Latin America. And foreign stamps make great small, unusual gifts! Who wouldn’t appreciate some interesting postage stamps from Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day? Or a set of Vatican stamps at Easter?