They had 'stamp' of authority

Young and old alike flocked to philately expo

Volunteers try to assist a philatelist looking for a particular stamp on Mahatma Gandhi.

Letter writing may have been phased out by the advent of internet and other technological advancements but postal stamps are here to stay. The World Philatelic Exhibition, held in the national capital recently after a gap of 13 years, was a perfect opportunity for thousands of stamp collectors and enthusiasts thronged to the venue to be part of the international event.

It was not just men and women of different age groups or those from abroad who made a beeline to the show; little children too were equally enthusiastic about the huge collection of stamps of various countries-- some of them   rarest in the world.
Twelve-year old Sharmistha, daughter of a city-based businessman, was quite elated by getting “magic stamps” on Mahatma Gandhi. “I have bought 15 magic stamps on Mahatma Gandhi. It’s terrific,” she said and immediately got back to see the collections at Korea’s stall as she did not have much time to spare.

For children, Korea’s philately stall was one of the centres of attraction as it had three dimensional stamp of Mahatma Gandhi with his charkha. The stamp was merged and morphed to convey a multi-dimensional image. They were priced at Rs 40 each. “We did not expect this overwhelming response from the visitors, especially children. On the opening day, we sold almost 200 stamps,” Korean exhibitor and a philatelist Pyo Hyok Chol said.

But, for 48-year-old IT professional Srinivas Acharya, it was his childhood passion that brought him to his country from the United States to collect stamps at the exhibition. “Stamps reflect everything—history, geography, integrity. One just needs to spot the passion for philately,” he said.

The biggest crowd puller at the expo remained the ‘My Stamp’ stall. Visitors could be seen checking what all they could get printed on a stamp along with their photograph and how long it would take them to obtain this unique stamp which was priced at Rs 150.

“When I first heard about this concept of ‘My Stamp’ wherein I could have my own photo and my very own personalised stamp, I just couldn’t resist coming here,” Rohit Bindal, a college student, said.A special postage stamp on Mahatma Gandhi created in khadi turned out to be another most sought-after thing at the Indipex 2011, organised by the Department of Post here at Pragati Maidan.

Coveted item

The stamp on the father of nation, priced at Rs 250, was a coveted item in a miniature sheet format for many enthusiasts who queued up to buy it at the India Post counter at the venue.

“So far in India, we had never experimented with anything other than paper. This is the first time we brought stamps in Khadi. It has been sold far beyond what we had expected,” said an official who was incharge of the postal department stall.

The Malaysia counter was a big draw, particularly for having stamps on Indian festivals — Eid and Deepawali. “Indian festival stamps sold like hot cakes,” said exhibitor Haidan Abdul Rahman.

There was a special section in the expo which had some of the rarest stamps in the world on display. Chinese zodiac stamps, those of pre-independence period like the Queen Elizabeth stamps or simply ‘Inverted Head Four Annas’, the most expensive Indian stamp first issued in 1854, were some of major attractions of the event. The exhibition had on display two other India’s most valuable stamps—Scinde Dawk of 1850 and Gandhi stamp of 1948 (both were priced at Rs 10).

Scinde Dawk was the first stamp of Asia in which the East India Company’s mark was embossed on sealing wax and then imprinted on paper. The stamps on Mahatma Gandhi stamp, issued just after his assassination in 1948, were printed in Switzerland. Both stamps command huge prices at auction.

The next attraction of the mega event was an international philately competition, organised along with the expo. Over 500 philatelists from more than 60 countries had entered their collections here for the contest.

At the conclusion,  Martha Villarrdel  de Peredo from Bolivia was given the highest award ‘Grand Prix de Honnour’ for her exhibit of stamps on the ‘19th Century Bolivia’ while the ‘Grand Prix International’ was given to Paul Commeli for his exhibit on ‘Brazilian Mail to Foreign Destinations’.

The expo not only had stamp enthusiast as its visitors but also those who are much more serious philatelists. The hall number 8 was for the dealers at the expo with some brought their stamps of their collective value--the GDP of a small nation safely hidden somewhere.

Stamp catalogue publishers Stanley Gibbons had the 1840 1d Rainbow Trial on offer. They were rare and only six sheets were used of which only three survived in private hands. The price was 90,000 Pounds only.

“Philately now is not just about removing stamps from envelopes you get at home. The number of people investing in old stamp is increasing because their high price. They give you sound returns,” Rahul Priyadarshi, a resident of Mumbai, who had collection stamps featuring Gandhi with some worth Rs 10 lakh today, said.

According to Yossi Malamud, Vice-President of the Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corporation, stamps are a 4-billion US dollar industry worldwide. “It is a very organised hobby now and we have people bringing in old stamps worth thousands of dollars to sell,” he said.

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