Largest museum stamps collections

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Largest museum stamps collections Photo: Illustration

The largest collections of philately held in museums are in the Smithsonian Institute (which houses the US National Postal Museum) in Washington DC, USA, and the British Library in London.

In fact, both claim to have the largest collection and it is not clear as to exactly which collection is bigger. However, the collection held in the British Library in London is probably the more important in terms of the scope and the value of the rarities that it contains.

The British Library collection inherited the Imperial War Museum’s philatelic collection in early 2002 and some of its stand-out features include the world famous Tapling Collection which covers philately from all around the world from 1840 to 1890.

Amongst the eight million or so philatelic items within the British Library collections are the unique Gold Coast 1883 1d on 4d magenta; the GB Penny Red from plate 77, unused; Hawaiian Missionaries 2c blue; the Western Australia 4d blue, frame inverted; an unused Post Office Mauritius 2d blue; Spain’s Dos Reales error of colour; and one of the USA ‘inverted Jenny’ errors.

In the public area on the ‘upper ground floor’ of the library there are 1,000 pull-out philatelic frames but this represents just over 1% of the total collection.