Panama offers the collector wide ranging possibilities from the Spanish Colonial era to modern times. The philately of Panama is linked to that of Colombia. After obtaining independence from Spain, Panama became part of Colombia. It became an independent nation November 3, 1903 after the Colombian Senate rejected a treaty which would have allowed the US to build the Panama Canal.

In 1878 Panama issued a set of stamps for internal mail, but beginning in 1887 Colombia issued separate stamps for use in and from Panama. Before Colombia joined the UPU in 1881, most foreign mail from Panama was carried by forwarding agents (over sixty are known and others may exist) or mailed at post offices operated by the British and French consulates. Only a limited amount of this mail has survived, providing a tantalizing field for the postal history specialist.

During the first two years after independence, most Panama mail was franked with overprinted stamps of the Colombian issues for Panama. Overprints were prepared by the postal agencies in Panama, Colon and Bocas del Toro as well as the central administration. There were many overprint varieties, most unlisted in standard catalogs. These provide a rich field for specialization.

Most Panama stamps to form a basic collection are readily available both mint and used and it is possible to assemble a fairly complete collection on a moderate budget. However, many of the stamps are quite scarce on cover, especially higher values of all issues, early airmail stamps and some overprinted or surcharged stamps. Pre and post independence cancellations, revenues and postal stationery offer challenging areas to collect as many are scarce.

Between 1964 and 1968 a private contractor with marketing rights for philatelic sales printed numerous issues that saw limited use in Panama. Scott catalog lists these issues un-priced; most used copies are cancelled to order it takes considerable searching for postally used examples.

Panama philately is reasonably well documented, though much of the literature can be difficult to locate. The catalog listings are incomplete. There are a number of articles and specialized publications that discuss most aspects. In 2003 COPAPHIL published a Handbook of Panama Postal Markings to 1950. A new edition is planned. To address the problem of locating information, COPAPHIL developed an extensive library and published a comprehensive bibliography .

Last Updated December 1, 2009