I would like to state here, for the record that I am one of them. ‘Them’ being those who can admit that they actually have hobbies and pour moi, one of my hobbies is the hobby of collecting stamps or more glamourously known as philately, and by extension, I am therefore a philatelist or , stripped of all pretenses, a stamp collector.
Historically speaking, if not for the Frenchman Georges Herpin, we would be known as ‘timbromaniacs’ for having ‘Timbromania’ as a hobby. Thanks to him, he coined the new term ‘Philately’ in 1864 and ever since then, we have been known as ‘philatelists’. Sounds better and safer than being a ‘maniac’, does it not?
In addition to being to a philatelist (ehem, ehem), I also admit to being a collector of coins and paper currencies (I have not looked the term up yet!), metal badges (nowadays metal badges are hard to come by, unlike in them good old days of a metal badge for every occasion), telephone cards (see my previous post, Into The Annals of History – The Telephone Card (http://wp.me/p21MP1-7i)), music cds and vinyl records (goes well with my interest in music regardless of genres) to name but a few.
I must admit it being not easy to admit to being a stamp collector or a philatelist, be it stamps from my own country of Malaysia or from elsewhere in the known world. I guess it’s all due to the normal reaction one draws whenever one admits to collecting stamps : looks of disbelief, a snicker and a snigger, to downright laughter (almost derisively, I could have sworn), all of whom are not exactly good for the morale, I must say.
But pray tell, where did I get this hobby from, you might ask? From my late father, that’s who. He was a King’s Scout (so I am told) in his school days and used to have quite a collection of stamps, lovingly kept in his collection of stamp albums, compiled since he was young and he kept them lovingly together even when he got married. Lovingly until that is when we, his children, came along not long thereafter.
His stamp albums did not last long after our arrival especially when we came to be amazed and excited at what colour pencils can do. After that, there was never enough paper (and walls for that matter) for us budding Vincent van Goghs to draw on.
Not only his stamps (and the walls, mind you) were not safe from us then, but as we got older and got to know (theorectically that is) that to send mail via the Post Office, you’d need stamps and as stamps require money (kids those days only had the money what our parents gave us), we came up with an ingenious way of sending mail without having to purchase them from the Post Office.
Trouble is, no one told us that those stamps must be unused stamps and they must be stamps issued by the country. We never saw our Father’s stamp collection after that. And kids being kids, we did wonder what happened our Father’s stamp collection, although not for long for there was always something else to attract our attention.
I began collecting stamps early, thanks to my father’s guidance and also thanks in his indulgence in getting me a stamp album. From then on, whatever I know today of stamp collecting, most are what he taught me when I was a child.
However, school began to take its toll on my new-found hobby and soon enough, my passion for stamps, their many designs and colours, all together telling a story, began to take a backseat. However, despite all that was happening in my life then, I still collected stamps, carefully cutting the stamps off from the envelopes they endorsed and put them away for a time when I had the time to really attend to them and hear their story.
Until that is til I was in my late 20’s, believe it or not, of all places, when I was in West Germany. There was, at that moment in time, an East Germany, internationally known as the Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR for short, and a West Germany aka the Bundes Republik Deutschland (BRD).
Some of the stories and the history of the two Germanies were told via the stamps issued by the Germanies, East and West as well as the stamps of the individual states that make up the current Germany – Pruessland, Hessen, NordRhein-Westfalen, Schleswig-Holstein, amongst others.
It was a natural that my West German stamp collection expanded to include East Germany, the United Kingdom, and of course Malaysia. It helped that for enthusiasts like me, there were stores that cater to philatelists, with a good and wide range of stamp albums to choose from.
Since then, I have settled down, got married and have children of my own. Learning from experience, I have kept my stamp albums hidden away from their reach and my collection are now awaiting for the day that I will, once again, be able to channel my energies and time to add to the collection that I already have.
Its hard to explain, this joyous feeling when you have compiled a complete set. It’s either you have it or you don’t, this feeling. Try it and just maybe, you’d understand why.