This 1998 stamp of the Faroe Islands marks the 50th
anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
A commemorative stamp is a postage stamp issued to honor or commemorate a
place, event or person. Most postal services of the world issue several of
these each year, often holding first day of issue ceremonies at locations
connected with the subjects. Commemorative stamps are usually used alongside
ordinary or regular-issue stamps of the time, although in some cases their use
has been obligatory.
There are several candidates for the title of first commemorative. A 17-cent
stamp issued in 1860 by New Brunswick, showing the Prince of Wales in
anticipation of his visit is one possibility.  The United States 15-cent
black stamp of 1866 depicts Abraham Lincoln, and was the first stamp issued
after his assassination in 1865, but it was not officially declared as a
memorial to him. The U.S. also issued a 5-cent stamp in 1882 showing the
recently murdered President James A. Garfield. In addition, the United States
issued stamped envelopes for the Centennial Exposition in 1876, although
technically these are postal stationery and not stamps. The UK's Jubilee Issue
of 1887 may be thought of as commemorative of the 50 years' reign of Queen
Victoria, although there are no special inscriptions on the stamps, and they
were intended as regular stamps.
1888 1d of New South Wales, one of the first
commemoratives in the world.
The first undoubtedly commemorative stamps were issued by New South Wales
in 1888 to mark its 100th anniversary; the six types all include the
inscription "ONE HUNDRED YEARS". Commemoratives followed in
1891 for Hong Kong and Romania, then in 1892 and 1893 a half-dozen nations of
America issued commemoratives for the 400th anniversary of the discovery by
The appearance of commemoratives caused a backlash among some stamp
collectors, who balked at the prospect of laying out ever-larger sums to
acquire the stamps of the world, and they formed the Society for the
Suppression of Speculative Stamps around 1894 to blacklist what they deemed to
be excessive stamps. However, it had very little effect, and today the early
commemoratives are prized by collectors.
Today, commemorative stamp collection remains one of the most popular
collection hobbies in the world.