The joy called stamps

Today on National Post day, NT BUZZ looks at the significance of those tiny colourful country identifiers that come with your letters and postcards

Janice Savina Rodrigues | NT BUZZ

Once upon a time, the post office was one of the busiest government offices, with piles of letters, postcards and telegrams flowing in and out of the crammed offices. Snap back to the 21st century, the post offices, especially those in villages and small towns wear a rather deserted look, with probably a few people standing in queues to pay bills or send a courier to a location only the postal services can access. And on a holiday or a Sunday, these might as well be a shoot location for a Ramsey film.

But the Panaji GPO, on every other Sunday, is another scene entirely. It is more like a little den for people who indulge in buying, selling and exchanging items, of sometimes, great value. Among the dusty files and cabinets they debate, discuss and dissect the value of each of their prized possessions. The item here is not anything illegal but a small piece of paper we call a ‘stamp’ and the people here are the members of the Goa Philatelic and Numismatic Society.

Set up in April 1975 when a group of philatelists decided they needed to be organised and maybe someday participate in competitions and to regulate the ‘trade’ of their little wonders. They then decided to join hands with the numismatists to form a society and further their purpose of the same end – collection. “The society has over 40 members now in Goa,” says vice president of GPNS and professor at the Goa University, Bernard Rodrigues.

Though the society was started in 1975 with all gusto, there was a lull at the turn of the century, when the postal service began to see a steep decline. “Earlier people used to write letters, postcards and they would anxiously wait for the postman to come but those things have changed. But there’s still a charm, waiting for the stamp to come, something that doesn’t seem to capture the minds of the younger generation,” says president of GPNS is M R Ramesh Kumar, chief scientist, National Institute of Oceanography.

Kumar adds that it was a gentleman Charles Lobo who was instrumental in reviving the Society. “We began to meet often and then in 2014 we had the first Goa PEX,” he says. The GOA PEX is a kind of Emmys for the stamp collectors, while the INPEX (National Philatelic Exhibition) would be the Oscars. “At these exhibitions, the philatelists compete with their collection of stamps. Collections could be of various things – weather, climate and science, like the ones I collect or those depicting mushrooms like what Bernard has; it could also mean getting the entire collection of one country, they can also be miniature sheets, first day covers, special covers, booklets and the like,” says Kumar who inherited the hobby and the collections from his father and has not even counted the number of stamps he has. Bernard adds that he has seven cupboards full and has given up on the counting aspect.

The joy they get from the hobby is immense, they say. From discovering new stamps to finding a really rare limited edition one, it is a joy that only a few can fathom. “There is a lot you can learn about a country from a stamp, there is no value to the knowledge gained,” says Kumar. Speaking about the value of a stamp Bernard says: “The value of a stamp comes from its rarity and numbers in circulation; the age and the difficulty of procuring it.”

They hope there are new members to join the society soon, and they have been organising several talks and workshops to inculcate the hobby in youngsters. Be it through a dealer and pen friends, ‘post crossing’, meetings, barter system or auctions, stamp collectors have their ways of procuring their prized possessions even if the postal service is heading to the autumn of its life.