The Penny Black was the first British postage stamp issued in 1840 picturing the profile of Queen Victoria. Today this stamp is very rare with stamp collectors willing to pay up to £200 for a used one depending on the condition of the stamp. An unused one would fetch considerably more than this. When the stamp was first issued it had to be cut from a sheet has it had no perforations. Later stamps (Briefmarken) always featured the reigning King or Queen but nowadays stamps can picture anything that might be of interest. At Christmas special stamps are issued showing maybe Angels, Reindeers, Snowmen, Father Christmas or Shepherds, the Three Kings or the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus. Commemorative stamps printed to remember a special event or anniversary can be bought, but these will only be on sale for a short time. Stamps showing wildlife or the countryside will sometimes be on sale as well as stamps featuring the latest Rock Band or well known celebrity. Also sketches have been used on stamps over the years and children’s sketches are often used. The Royal Mail will sometimes hold a competition amongst school children to design a picture for a new stamp and the best sketch will be used. Sketches of portraits have been used and various other sketches of art have also been popular.
Stamp collecting is a very popular hobby and is enjoyed by young and old alike all over the world. Many people first start collecting stamps while they are at school. All that is needed to start a stamp collection is a stamp album where stamps can be hinge mounted or a stock book with clear plastic pockets. Children enjoy swopping duplicate stamps with each other and then displaying the stamps on the pages in the stamp album. Later in life they might join a Stamp Club or go to Stamp auctions (Briefmarkenauktion) where very rare stamps can often be purchased. Usually, only serious stamp collectors will attend Stamp auctions as it is not uncommon for particular stamps to fetch thousands of pounds. One particular stamp the Inverted Jenny an American stamp which was issued in 1918 was sold at a Robert A Siegel auction for US$977,500 in November 2007. At another auction in 2005 a block of four Inverted Jennys was sold for US$2.7 million. The Inverted Jenny had the image of the Curtiss JN-4 airplane in the middle but unfortunately had been printed up-side-down, making this particular stamp world famous. At Stamp auctions stamps with sketches can often be sold for a good price with bidders keen to add something different to their collection.