In age of emails, philately still leaves its stamp

Ananya Revanna Chennai | Updated on January 15, 2018


Themes are varied, collections exotic; tech adds its own dimensions to serious pastime

If you think philately is no longer a popular hobby, you couldn’t be more wrong. Even as the number of traditional posts we send declines, philately continues to be the king of hobbies — and a hobby fit for the kings.

The South India Philatelists’ Association recently hosted a national exhibition here to celebrate its diamond jubilee. The three-day event saw philatelists, dealers and enthusiasts come together to share and enjoy a common passion.

CG Bhaskar, the organising secretary of the event, said the response from across the country was overwhelming. “Initially, we planned to display only 400 frames but the number increased to 568. While most of the participants are from the southern States, we had entries from States like Bihar, Punjab and West Bengal as well,” he said.

The exhibition was divided into a thematic section and a traditional one, with each frame holding 16 graph sheets of stamps. “The thematic section, which took up three-fourths of the exhibit, is like a comic book; we let the stamps speak for themselves. Collectors can choose any topic — UNESCO heritage sites, blood transfusion, fruit, birds, climate change, countries…” said Bhaskar.

There were collections on a wide range of topics — from bananas to musical instruments, famous people and special days.

N Sridevi, a collector from Bengaluru who won the silver medal for her musical instrument-themed stamps, has amassed over 800 stamps since 2013. Ancient instruments like the chifournie from Guernesy, which are alive only through stamps, and more contemporary ones, were part of her exhibit.

Folk and tribal instruments from various African nations like Malawi; the chowdike, a percussion instrument of the Yellamma tribe of north Karnataka; and obscure Icelandic and Mongolian instruments like langspil and morin khuur were also seen.

N Giridhar, a seasoned philatelist, explained that it’s necessary to understand your subject of specialisation and the rules before exhibiting. “You can only showcase stamps released by countries that come under the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Some countries may have to route their post through UPU members, but stamps of disputed nations, like Abkhazia, Palestine and Taiwan, cannot be displayed.” There are 214 UPU nations, out of which 22 are dependent states like the Vatican, and 10 are ‘disputed’ countries.

Apart from the thematic display, there were also many unique cancellations and telegrams that dated back to Independence.

On whether the digital age has dampened a philatelist’s mood, Bhaskar said: “No. In fact, technology has made it a more expensive hobby. Before the internet came into the picture we had to wait months, sometimes a year, to hear about a new stamp release. Now we just go on to various websites and buy whatever stamp we like.”

Organisations like the UN have also made it easy for people to access rare stamps. Giridhar added that if one wants to pursue philately these days one needs to be willing to spend.

“Dealers know when there’s a demand for a stamp, so they raise prices, which makes this a very expensive hobby.”

Published on November 28, 2016

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