Philately is the study and collection of stamps and other postal material as a hobby or an investment. For example, postage stamps, revenue stamps, stamped envelopes, postmarks, postal cards, covers and similar materials relating to postal or fiscal history can all be included in the subject of philately.
Traditional philately is the study of the technical aspects of stamp production and identification, and it includes the stamp design process, paper used, method of printing, gum, methods of separation such as perforation and rouletting, and any overprints on the stamp. Traditional philately also deals with the study of philatelic fakes and forgeries, as well as security features built-in to the stamp, such as security markings, underprints or perforated initials.
Thematic philately, also referred to as topical philately, is the study of what is depicted on stamps. Another type of philately, called postal history, studies the postal systems and how they operate. Postal history includes the study of postage stamps, covers and associated material illustrating historical episodes of postal systems both before and after the introduction of adhesive stamps.
The collection and study of stamps is one of the most popular hobbies in the world. Postage-stamp collecting began around the time of the original invention of the stamp in 1837, and it quickly became popular across Europe, European colonies, the United States and other parts of the world.