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Philately - The King of Hobbies

by Chander M. Bhat

 

Postage stamps, though small in size, have attracted collectors by their colour and design and their inherent value of mementoes.  Hobby is what is commonly known as Stamp Collecting and Stamp Collector is known as Philately and Philatelist but word Philately covers many more than merely collecting stamps.

 

Stamp Collecting has been called “the King of Hobbies and the Hobby of Kings”… a reference to this fact that George V of Great Britain, Carol of Romania and Farouk of Egypt were keen collectors.  Other famous philatelists were President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the actors Peter Cushing and Yul Brynner.

 

Stamp Collecting began immediately after world saw the first postage stamp in 1840 issued by Great Britain.  An educator named Rowland Hill of England is considered the Father of Philately.  In 1837, he advocated pre-payment of postage and uniform domestic rates by weight.  He devised a prepaid envelope and the adhesive postage stamp. The stamp picturing Queen Victoria was issued on May 1, 1840 and was in use from May 6, 1840.

 

In Asia first adhesive postage stamp was issued in India on 1 July 1852, the so-called “Scinde Dawk” and the commissioner of Sind Province released the issue.

 

The bits of coloured paper were a curiosity and some people retained used specimens.  When several countries began to issue stamps, the idea of exchanging stamps came into existence and collecting became more interesting.  Thus the hobby was born. In 1841, a lady advertised in a London newspaper for used stamps.  She is considered world’s first stamp collector. The interest spread rapidly. By 1850, the hobby had taken root.

 

Now a question arises that who is a stamp collector and who is a Philatelist. Collecting stamps randomly irrespective of any theme or advance study of stamps is a stamp collector whereas when a stamp collector wants more dimensions to this hobby is known as Philatelist.  A Philatelist will notice about any stamp he acquires incorporates certain information in its design: its country of origin and its face value.  Philatelist pay attention to colour, watermarks, the printing process and the type of paper the stamp is printed on.

 

Today Philately stretches stamp collectors into:

  1. Type of stamps, colour, separation, artist sketches

  2. Covers, First Day Covers, cancellations, postal history

  3. Types of cancellations

  4. Checking of perforations, margins, and dyes.

  5. Study of shades, gum variations, errors, fakes

  6. Collecting of postal stationary.

In the beginning, there was only one kind of stamps, prepaying the postage on letters.  Such stamps known as permanent or definitive stamps, but over the years many other kinds of stamps have evolved which include: definitive design, commemorative stamps, omnibus issues, special issues, joint issues, charity stamps, airmail stamps and souvenir sheet. Whatever be field of specialization, a genuine interest in the hobby, spare time, good contacts and willingness and ability to spend some money are the pre-requisites of a good collector.

 

The fact that there are some old stamps worth thousands of rupees many sounds incredible to those outside the realm of philately.  The world’s most expensive stamp is in Britian issued in 1856.  In 1970, the, rearest stamp of the world was purchased by a bidder in New York auction at the shockingly high price of 280000 US Dollors. Its price as per today price index comes to one crore and twenty lakhs as per Indian currency.  In November 1993, history was made when an anonymous buer paid Rs. 13 crore for one of the philatelist’s acknowledgement treasures.

 

Many native feudatory states (some with their own currencies) before independence set up or continued local postal systems, which carried mail within the state.  Certain states signed a ‘convention’ with British India, which allowed them to difference the stamps and postal stationary in India by an overprint bearing their names.  Faridkot and Jind had periods of both feudatory and convention states.  Stamps of the Republic of India replaced all surviving separate issues on 1st April 1950, though convention stamps remained valid till 31st December 1950.

 

Jammu and Kashmir State post existed as early as 1820. This was carried by runners. Jammu and Kashmir had both joint and separate stamps issued currently in 1866-77.  First stamp in Jammu and Kashmir was issued in March 1866.  All stamps are inscribed in native script only.  Separate stamps were discontinued on November1, 1884.  Besides Jammu and Kashmir, Poonch had also its postal system and had its separate stamps. The then king of Poonch issued first stamp in 1876. Separate stamps of Poonch were discontinued in 1894.

 

Today maximum Philatelists collect the stamps of Indian states, which have been issued separately prior to independence. At present there are three million collectors in the United Kingdom, five million in Germany, 12 million in the USA, and probably up to 100 million worldwide.

 

This Philately has become a fully developed science and an art. But, it still wins the hearts of people as a wonderful hobby, rather the king of hobbies. It is certainly not an inherited capability. It is acquired by years of reading, experience, which develops into a great hobby.

    

 

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