While Aladdin got to do his journeys via a magic carpet, a lot of people do it their own exceptional way. It’s the kind of traveling where anyone is afforded a unique glimpse into the world’s history (ancient and most recent), a fascinating combo of nature and traditional cultures, icons of history, antiquity, sports heroes, arts and crafts, and time’s noteworthy passages through tiny “windows” to the world.
Collecting postage stamps from all over the world is a matchless continuity of pleasure; owning a rarity is every collector’s quest. If there’s one thing to put a sparkle in a stamp collector’s eye, it is a rare stamp—the kind that surfaces on a most prodigious time.
Stamps are printed by the millions but limited editions can become a part of one’s treasured collection. There are odd-shaped stamps (diamond and triangular) such as the 1925 Tannu Tuva, a free state in Asia from 1921 to 1944 before the Soviet Union annexation. They provide intrinsic enhancement to a collection and add visual zest on stamp stock albums.
In the 1800s, mail recipients would pay the mailing rates based on distance. The cost to receive mail could run up to so much that many addressees would pretend to not be home to avoid paying the postal fee.
A British educator, Sir Rowland Hill, introduced the one-penny rate stamps, without regard to distance. Those who could not afford the high postal rates were then able to use the lowered rates, thus increasing the volume of mails that went into the postal service's office, giving the post office an increase in its income.
The first postage stamp (a tiny piece of paper covered at the back with a glutinous wax which when moistened would be attached to the envelope) was printed in 1840 and is known as the “Penny Black,” with an image of England’s Queen Victoria. In a span of 30 years its value has increased to over 1,500 percent.
The second oldest stamp was printed in 1843, Switzerland’s Canton of Zurich, and is now valued at more than $13,500.
The world’s most valuable stamp is also the rarest. In terms of its size and weight, it is considered the only article on Earth that is worth more than gold, platinum, and silver combined.
The British Guiana stamp of 1856 was printed using a local newspaper press when its post office ran out of its supply. There were very few that were printed, they being merely provisionary until a fresh supply of regular stamps came from the post office. In 1873 an English schoolboy found the 1-cent black-on-magenta colored stamp and sold it for $1.50. It was later sold to an Austrian collector for $750, and for 44 years the stamp stayed with him.
In 1917 the stamp was purchased by an American millionaire and stamp collector, Arthur Hind for $38,000, outbidding King George V of England. A story goes that a man sold another stamp of the same kind to Hind who promptly bought it for a huge amount. Hind thereafter burned the second stamp, made sure that there would be no other stamp of its kind except the one he had. The stamp’s current value is estimated to be at $1 million.
The Philippine Postal Corp., at its central office by the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, holds free postal tours and lectures a few times each year with Arlene Labao, Rence Chan, and Josie Cura conducting them.
People collect stamps, Josie Cura explains, for the learning experience involved. It’s a great way to learn about geography and history, famous people, world events, political views of various nations, science, and technology, etc. People engage in it for the challenge of acquiring hard-to-find issues, for financial reward, or all of the above.
Postage stamps have extraordinary monetary value. Some become more valuable as a result of mistakes made during the production process—misspelling, inverted images, overprints on stamps (to commemorate an event, to change the denomination of a stamp, or to allow a stamp to be used in another country or possession), wrong perforations, and lost nations of the world—that affect just a small percentage of the total number of issues printed. Also valuable are old postmarked stamps still attached to the original first-day cover or envelope to which the stamp was affixed.
Most stamp collectors have become passionate, life-long collectors investing their time (and money) in a total escape out of a daily sustained routine as they sort their stamps, feel their distinctive designs, topics, and nations portrayed.
For beginners, one can start with Philippine stamps. Commemorative stamps such as those of the 60th year of RP/France Treaty of Friendship, the Beijing Olympic Games, 25th death anniversary of former Senator Benigno Aquino, Juan Luna’s paintings, Graciano Lopez Jaena’s “La Solidaridad,” 60th year of the Development Bank of the Philippines, and the first 100 years of the University of the Philippines are available.
Special issue stamps have varied themes and are more colorful. Heroes like Jose Rizal, Lapu-lapu, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Manuel L. Quezon; national celebrations like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Chinese New Year; celebrities like Manny Pacquiao, Carlo J. Caparas, international titleholders Gloria Diaz, Margie Moran, Pia Wurtzbach, and an upcoming issue with Catriona Gray; fish, rare birds and wild animals, orchids and wildflowers, tourist spots, games Filipino children play. The list goes on.
Most stamp collectors do not focus on owning rare postage stamps, preferring to immerse themselves in accumulating postal issues that are available at the postal office at their current prices.
A stamp collection is always a fascinating way to spend one’s time on. It can be an archive of a future reward as it increases in value. It is also a treasure world of knowledge and beauty and has the likelihood of being a family heirloom. This being the case, stamps need to be taken care of.
Albums are the most common storerooms for stamps. Do not use adhesive tapes or glue. Instead, stamp hinges should be used because they do not leave stains or marks. Do not store in damp places because they may get stuck together. Glassine envelopes will protect the stamps from dust and mites.
When sorting stamps avoid having beverages or alcohol on the same work table; spills will devaluate the stamps. Also, surcharge marks on the stamps are alcohol-soluble and will definitely make them worthless. Oops! And you don’t know how much damage was done.
Stamp collecting definitely beats Aladdin’s jaunts. Start yours now and bon voyage!
Photos by Diana B. Noche