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Philatelic rarities

Rare and special items from the world's largest and most diverse philatelic collections - featuring treasures from the Thomas Keay Tapling collection, covering the years 1840 to 1890.

Philatelic specialists can find out more on our Help for researchers website

Image of David Beech

David Beech

Head of Philatelic Collections

The British Library's Philatelic Collections are the world's largest, most diverse and most complete of their kind. They include a wide variety of items: not only postage stamps, but also revenue stamps (both adhesive and non-adhesive), postal stationery, postal history materials, meter stamps, postal orders, paper money, and more besides. About half are from Great Britain. The rest come from the British Empire, British Commonwealth and foreign countries.

Read the full curator's introduction

Curator's choice

David Beech highlights personal favourite items from the collection

See all of the items in this exhibition

America: Revenue 1765 Newspaper and Pamphlet One Penny. A proof sheet of 26, showing the registration certificate. Unique thus.

These tax stamps were issued as a result of Stamp Act 1765 to contribute towards the costs of def...

Jamaica: 1956-58 £1 chocolate and violet, unissued.

The £1 stamp issued in the reign of King George VI shows Tobacco Growing and Cigar Making. T...

Mauritius 1847 "Post Office" 1d. orange-red, used on cover.

The first British Colonial postage stamps were issued in Mauritius in 1847. These are the famous ...

New South Wales: 1850 1d and 3d essays of the Sydney View issue.

The first stamps of New South Wales, being 1d, 2d and 3d values, were issued in 1850. The...

St Helena: 1961 Tristan Relief Fund 5c.+6d., 7½c.+9d., and 10c.+1/-, used on a postcard.

The small island of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic hit the headlines in October 1961 when...

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