Canadian author releases book on topical collecting

The American Topical Association (ATA) recently published What’s First?, a 335-page book by Canadian playwright and journalist Jack Gray, who pictures and describes the first stamp for more than 800 topics.

From abacus to zebra, it is colourfully illustrated with stamp images and descriptions of the first time a topic appeared on a stamp. Spanning two centuries, the book explores firsts for popular topics such as cats and railways/trains to more esoteric topics such as handshakes and dominoes. It is fully indexed by topic and country/Scott number.

What’s First? is arranged by decade with the year of issue specified for each stamp, offering a window into the history, culture and events of each era. Gray’s entertaining narrative follows people and events as readers move through the decades.

In the 1860s, we are introduced to railroads, ocean liners and Abraham Lincoln. Dragons, astrology and many other topics are featured on the stamps of the 1870s. As we head into the 20th century, there is continued variety in the topics but lots of scenery (mountains, glaciers, icebergs) and animals of every description.

What’s First? is available in book and DVD format for $40 US plus shipping. For more information, visit

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