With the exception of avid stamp collectors, many people don't pay too much attention to the images on their stamps. As long as we have a stamp whose value can take care of posting and delivering our mail we are pretty much satisfied with it. To stamp collectors however, the images on stamps are important because they determine the intrinsic value of the stamps. The first postage stamp on record was called the Penny Black and it was issued in Britain in 1840. It bore the portrait of Queen Victoria. Since then stamps have borne portraits of important people among them kings, queens, notable statesmen, athletes, and other venerated individuals.
Kings and queens are certainly the most notable people on stamps. In Britain, the tradition of putting the monarch's portrait on stamps has endured to this day. Stamps usually have the value and country of issue printed on them. The British however elected not to print the name of their country on their stamps. The assumption was that the image of the monarch was sufficient to identify the stamp as British. This made sense considering that at the time the British monarch ruled over a sprawling world empire.
Other notable people on stamps are presidents and statesmen. In the early days of the postage stamp, stamps tended to bear portraits of the issuing country's leader. This was a tradition probably borrowed from Britain where the first stamp was made. With time countries started varying the images used on stamps. In the US, for example, the post office stopped using presidents' portraits in 1869, a move that angered most Americans.
Many countries still put people on stamps mostly as a way of honoring them. People most likely to be put on stamps include famous athletes who have brought fame to their country, celebrated scholars who have contributed to science or the arts, renown musicians, painters, architects, and many others. People on stamps definitely feel honored by their country for having their portraits printed on the nation's stamps.
In the first decades of the postage stamp deciding whose portrait was to be put on stamps was not an issue because they tended as a matter of course to bear the portrait of the country's leader. Nowadays, post offices must carefully consider the individuals they place on stamps in order to capture national sentiment and to avoid offending sections of the population.
Whose portraits are printed on postage stamps?