01 April 2014

Philately - an Enthralling & Enduring Hobby



I am sharing here the points of Presentation given by Mr Mainak Kathiara at a workshop on Philately held at Rafi Ahmed Kidwai National Postal Academy, Ghaziabad. 

~ an Enthralling & Enduring Hobby

By Mainak Kathiara

President Emeritus, Gujarat Philatelists’ Association


· The same flame of philatelic inspiration that illuminated philatelists over 100 years ago still glows within the collectors of 21st century.

· Times change, collecting habits evolve, but Philately Endures.

· The joy derived from anticipation of a purchase, adds to the mystique of philatelic experience.

· It's thatAnticipation' that has mystified Philatelists for over a century & it's one of the basic joys of the hobby

What is Philately?

· Stamp collecting or ‘Philately’ is one of those timeless hobbies that might have been enjoyed by your grandfather and could be a past time for your grandchildren. Stamp collecting is far more compelling than just the removal of the paper from the back of the stamp.

· Philately is a way of engaging in the past through pictorial imagery and preserving it for the future

· Philately is a hobby for health and happiness.

· It is a pleasure for yourself and treasure for your family.

· Therefore ‘Philately is king of hobbies’.

Philately in Independent India

· From The First Postage Stamp of Independent India which was released on 21st November 1947, till the end of 2013, there are 2424 stamps released worth of Rs. 8897.32.

· Philatelists have never shied away from collecting whatever is officially released by India Post. They have always wished to get material on time/desired quantity.

· At times it has happened that material released did not reach Philatelic bureaus on the day of issue which prevented Philatelists do some creativities. To over come this, Philatelists have to run for the alternates, using their relations outside the city to get material on time. Same thing with Dealers too.

3 Pillars of Philately : OEM

· The Hobby Philately rests on 3 Pillars : OEM

· Originator : Post Office

· End User : Philatelist

· Market Feeder : Dealer

· A very strong coordination among all the three is required at every stage to sustain the hobby and take it to new heights

3 Pillars of Philately : OEM

· Dealer helps Philatelist filling up the Gap in Collection.

· To make this happen, Free & frank exchange of ideas is a must between a philatelist and a dealer.

· The Post Office should encourage both the philatelist and the dealer to make the stamp collecting a successful hobby.

· Local/State/National level Philatelic Associations also have a major role to play in promoting philately.

· Registration & Accreditation of Dealers/Philatelic Association would be a Great Step Forward.


· Goal : What is the Objective of Philatelic Material from DoP’s Point of View?

· Role : What they want to Promote in Philately?

· Audience : To Whom DoP wants to Target?

· Situation : Set the Context of the present scenario and Explain the Situation in terms of Challenges, Future Plans and Learning from Past Experience

· Product (Output) : Explain & Clarify What did DoP do? Why & How? To reach the Goal stated above. Take its own feedback.

Why Philately?

· Now the question is Why focus on Philately?

· Stamps have often been described as ‘The Visiting Cards of Nations'. In many ways they reflect the history of their countries, convey the sensation of travel to faraway places, depict strange landscapes and tell of the customs of many races.

· Many stamp designs portray famous people, provide information on historical events and of the progress of science, and other times tell us about art and architecture.

Why Philately?

· Stamps of India depict important subjects like Art & Culture, Mythology, Science & Technology, Heritage Monuments, Flora & Fauna, Sports, Iconic Personalities, etc…

· This proves to be Educational Phenomenon mapping with the Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy which he presented in 1956 and current Indian Education system is based on the same.

Bloom's Taxonomy

· Knowledge : An Entry Level Philatelist who starts collecting used stamps by detaching stamps from Envelopes

· Comprehension : Collector who starts understanding the Term Philately and value of Stamps

· Application : Collector who starts collecting with proper Direction like Country Collection, Thematic, etc…

· Analysis : Collector who understand the different aspects of Philately, Exhibitions & Market. Who does little research

· Synthesis : The One who prepares Exhibits and participates in Exhibition and the one who writes Philatelic Articles on various aspects

· Evaluation : The Philatelist who has become the Jury member to evaluate Exhibitions

Hitting Right Segment by DoP

· The Department of Posts spends a lot of money in promoting Philately through Exhibitions, Displays, Events, etc..

· But They are YET TO hit the Right Market Segment and attract collectors from various fields.

· It becomes a collective duty of Philatelists, Dealers and Philatelic Associations to provide a solution to get Indian Philately recognised Worldwide.

· For this, an Exhaustive plan of 10 to 20 years should be drawn up by taking the views of the experts of the field.

Certificate of Authenticity

· Need of an Hour : Expert Committee to certify the Authenticity of Premium Grade Stamps, Rarities, etc…

· Sinde Dawks, Early Lithographs, Early Cancellations, Rarities & Other Philatelic Gems are sold with Certificate of Authenticity and its Genuineness

· Specialised Organisation is Missing in India to certify Genuineness of these items

· Indian Philatelists have to get material certified at UK, USA, German or France for international validation even for classic Indian items

Technology : Make Available Online

· All form of material should be made available Online. This will be Boon for collectors across the world

· Proper Guidelines for dispatch and mode of Payments

· “Un Sold” word will disappear as Philatelists across the world will be able to order the material Online and this will be Sure Shot Win for DoP

Get Exhibited, Get Recognised

· In India, like in other countries, a discontent is growing amongst would be collectors. They feel that the exhibition world is reserved for collectors with fat wallets and that only they can win high-placed medals. They also feel that the rules were too rigid.

· The Exhibitors realised that at their exhibitions, the public crowded around the dealers and post office stalls and queued up to get a set of newly released stamps or special covers. The man from the street did not understand the refinements of looking page after page, frame after frame of say, 1st issues of England or early India cancellations etc. They needed new and more exciting exhibits to attract the public.

Self Education

· Many Philatelic friends have told me over the years that they could have improved their collections if only they had more money to spend on stamps or covers.

· Money is an Important but not the only key to Philatelic success.

· Dozens of collectors who inject huge amounts of money into their collections were neither Happy nor their collections improved. They needed guidance about what to collect, which they were not able to tap and hence they could not complete their collection.

· On the other side, there are collectors whose themes are innovative and could prepare attractive exhibits at low cost.

· You have to ask a few questions of yourself if you want to be an expert of philately.

· Do you want to lead your fellow philatelists, rather than being ignored by them?

· Then educate yourself and share what you know with others.

· Do you want to get goodies that busy and lazy dealers over look for cheap prices?

· Then......READ.

· Do you want to make fruitful investment in stamps?

· Then the answer is, READ as much as you can.

Be Innovative

· Innovation will take you to a step ahead of your fellow collectors.

· Shown here are Hexagonal Stamps of the ‘Aldabra Giant Tortoise’ issue. Different attractive combinations can be made which gives a beautiful look. Try to be creative - it does not cost much and it is a pleasure to look at.

· Shown here are two covers which were made by a philatelist to commemorate the ‘World Aids Day’.

· These types of Innovative / creative Ideas will give birth to exclusive items for the future and will enhance/upgrade your collection.

· Shown here are three covers which were made by a philatelist to commemorate :

· 1. Public Notice on Ban on Smoking in Public Area

· 2. Radio Event : RED FM Pe Sachin 200 Not Out aired to celebrate Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th Test Match.

· 3. Last Sequential Unique Date of the Century : 11-12-13

Philatelists Create Awareness

· The next time when you pass by a post office in any city pay attention to how they are using their Philately to promote the country, cater to the Tourists, or Commemorate Moments of Significance.

· My appeal to young Professionals, Doctors, Lawyers, Chartered Accountants is to have a peep at the Philatelic Bureau(s) wherever they go. I am sure they will find something or the other that is interesting to take home as a collectible or to Gift Someone as a Memento.

Alternative Investment mode

· Nowadays, Stamps are considered as an alternative investment.

· Stamps possess considerable Aesthetic Qualities and there is also Psychological appeal of something Tangible, rather than the figures in the Bank Passbook or Demat Accounts.

· The beauty of investing in stamps is that there is such an enormous range and diversify of material available to suit every pocketbook. With the present surge of interest in philately as an alternative investment, the future looks very bright.

· Sometimes, people need to re-evaluate the true purpose of collecting. If they view philately purely from the perspective of making money, they are apt to experience moments of stress & anxiety. However, if they embrace philately as a refuge from the rigors of the world, then they have truly found the meaning of the Hobby.

Risks and Disadvantages

· The Future is volatile. Principally, the demand comes from collectors & not the Investors and the majority of collectors are aged over 50 in Western Countries.

· There are relatively few younger collectors in Europe and North America that would be expected to be the buyers of the future, although anecdotal evidence suggest that may not be the case in India, China and other developing countries.

· In the longer term, the future existence of Postage Stamps may be in doubt as people use electronic communications more and more and send fewer letters. If stamps are no longer sold for postage they may cease to be collected and if they are not collected, the vital collector demand that underpins the investment market may disappear.

· Stamps have little Intrinsic value, they do not have the raw material value like gold coin, they do not represent a share in a business like equities, and they usually lack the enduring visual appeal of a great work of art.

· Stamps investment is relatively unregulated compared with, for instance, Investments in Mutual Funds and investors may have little protection if things go wrong.

· Stamps DO NOT generate any Interest or Dividend.

· It may be impossible to determine the current market value of your stamps without selling them.

· Stamps may be relatively illiquid as finding a buyer may take time.

· Investing successfully in stamps requires a high degree of specialized knowledge. This takes time to acquire and there are many pitfalls for the inexperienced investor.

· The return is uncertain.

· Special instruction will need to be given to spouses or executors in the event of the owner’s incapacity or death as the family members may be unfamiliar with Philatelic Items and their value

· Stamps may take time to be sold unlike cash, equities or mutual funds which can usually be realized with minimal delay.

· There is very little reliable historical information about the performance of stamps as investment.

· A long term view is necessary. A quick purchase and sale is unlikely to be profitable

Few Debriefs on...

· Why one will get attracted towards Hobby of Stamp Collecting or Philately?

· What Appeals / Fascinate him towards this hobby?

· This is a Creative Hobby & Patience of a person is tested.

· What Disturbs him in perusing this enriched hobby?

· What are shortcomings from a philatelists viewpoint.

From Philatelists' View Point

· Information should be made available in advance about the Release of a Stamp

· Availability of Stamps / FDC / Brochure / Cancellation at the time of stamp release. After 2007 this has taken a severe beating

· Condition of Blank FDC / Brochure / Stamp should be taken care of. 'Condition' is the main thing for Philately as 'Location' is the main thing for any building

· Clean Cancellation / Postmarks is a must for Sustaining this hobby

· Good Pictorial Cancellation / Date Cancellations & NO PEN Cancellations. Cancelling of Stamps by PEN by Postman should be taken seriously

· Selection / Choice of Stamps at Philatelic Counter

· Process to buy Stamps / FDC at bureau should be Minimized

· Online availability should be made for Stamps / Philatelic Products

· More Thematic Stamps should be brought out. This will attract Tourists too

· Availability of Postal Stationery should be made to Philatelists. This is a deeply neglected area since past 2 to 3 years

· Regular Dispatch of Philatelic Deposit Account Holder’s Material. Collectors Anxiety should not be tested

· Cancellation should be available only for the prescribed period & a strict policy should be followed for all the bureaus. Cachets can be called back to Central Office from all bureaus after stipulated time

· Pre-cancelled FDCs should be made available for few days of a new stamp release. This will save time.

· Commemorative Stamps should not be kept after 6 months. This directive is there but it should be strictly followed & monitored.

· Philatelic Moderators should be appointed to check the development & shortcomings of the Philatelic Bureau.

· The logic of target P.D. A/c should be given a thought :

· Is it sustainable?

· Close watch is needed as to the Philatelic Material does not get cornered by a few people before the P.D. A/c holders get them.

· Communication within the department should be clear from the top level so that correct information is given to the Philatelists.

· Proper Environment at Philatelic Bureaus where one can get stamp / cancellation etc. at one go. Single Window system should be implemented for Philatelists.

· The attitude of the Philatelic Bureau staff should be positive so as to welcome & attract the Philatelist again.

· Coordination among the staff of Philatelic Bureaus will help a great deal to serve Philatelists in a better way.

· During the Exhibition, the Organiser feels stressed : कब खत्म होगा? AMPEX 2012 was outstanding because Young Staff was involved.

· At least 50 Postal Officials from Class 2 or above level should be trained on Philately. Preferably Young & Computer Savvy. Exhibition is an event & it should be carried out smoothly to benefit Postal Department & Philately for the Time, Effort & Money Spent.

· More Staff should be appointed at Administrative level at DDG Philately office, who has interest in philately. The present staff I suppose is not adequate in numbers & at the time of 4 to 5 issues they cannot function smoothly due to less people working.

· Govt. Controlled Hobby : Proper care should be taken to maintain & enhance its Brand Value so as More Collectors from Abroad get motivated to buy Indian Stamps.

· In every big city post office or philatelic counter should be there where there is a lot of foot fall - i.e. malls, important landmark places etc. where latest stamp issues are available & chance of opening a P.D. A/c.

· Todays efforts are tomorrow’s work which a manager thought yesterday.

· Philatelic Advisory Committee - A selective group of people preferably philatelists/artists should be on the agenda. Where 10 years vision should be planned & feedback appraised at every meeting. Meeting should be once in 3 to 4 months. This professionalism here will automatically get DoP in improving quality & generate demand.

· Should not be Politicized - 600 Years of Ahmedabad Proposal as a Heritage City is still not passed due to possible Political Reasons. Excellent design has been handed to the DoP made by NID people. This should not happen.

· Innovation & HRD should be given top priority

· Investment of Rs 5000 to 10000 should be exempted from TAX under Section 80cc etc…

· Concept similar to Forever Stamp should be introduced

Information Folder / Brochure should be sold compulsory with First Day Cover on a Chargeable Basis

Synchronization of all Philatelic Bureaus for release of Stamps and Stock available/preferably online

Emphasis should be made to motivate young professionals, C.A., doctors, software experts who can spare money and understanding to enter into the beautiful world of stamps apart from children.

It is a creative hobby & should be free from the clutches of the Ministry.

· All Postal Training Centres should motivate their newly recruited staff about the Importance of the Hobby & it’s Business Model.

· Handling of postal material by Department. The FDC & Brochures come from Delhi - the condition at the receiving end is so bad & damaged that 20% to 30% material is not usable from philatelic view point. Instruction should be given to the person who makes these covers to pack in the box of 100 FDC / Folders so that they dont get damaged in transit. Brochures should be made compulsory & should be inserted inside the FDC with a charge

· These all suggestions are not to critise but it will help us as well as DOP in a win-win situations if implemented

· Cancellation should be strictly cleared after 6 months as a rule all over India. This will set a standard. At many places even for 4 to 5 years the cancellation is available. Pre cancelled covers should be kept ready during the time of a new stamp release. This will save the time & increase sale of philatelic material.

· Philatelic moderates should be appointed to check the development & shortcomings of a particular philatelic bureau.

· India Post has to think big as according to me philately can be a major source of bailing India Post out of the losses.

· Philatelic stamps should be used at the counters after 6 months. This will help the DoP to clear their stock & help collectors in getting used stamps. This could enhance the value & commitment.

· India Post apart from being an originator has a more important role to play as a market regulator.

· Coordination among hierarchy.

· Lot of work involved at clerical level also

· Communication within the department : This is a very important factor. Communication makes or mar any business model.

· Good accessories should be available at a selected few philatelic bureaus to start with.

· Year Packs should be given a new look, in an album page, where all the stamps of that particular year can be seen.

Greatefulness of India Post

· India Post है तो हम है ! (Philatelists)

· India Post should be given credit as not a single stamp issued by India Post is black listed by UPU.

· Time & again India Post has come out with very creative stamps which are appreciated world over & have won awards.

· India Post is a respectable member of UPU.

· Innovative stamps like Fragrance, Braille, Khadi Cloth, My stamp etc. are appreciated by philatelic fraternity.

· Six international exhibitions are held in India since 1954. This given the collector ample opportunity to build his collection & meet people/dealers of different countries.

· National/state/district level exhibitions are very helpful to set a base for collecting.

· To maintain a network of 70+ philatelic bureaus is not an easy task.

· Indian stamps, particularly thematic, are a fancy amongst collectors.

· Time & again India Post has risen to the events held world over a issued stamps, Olympics etc.

· India Post needs to be congratulated implementing worldwide ideas regarding the issue of presentation packs, sheetlets, souvenir sheets etc.

· The quality of printing is improving & less number of errors are surfacing since last few years.

· This gesture, apart from philately, helps philatelists to know India better from a tourist angle also.

· India Post has a great establishment for holding mega events which is not possible for philatelic associations. They have to take India Posts support as it is the issuing authority for stamps.

Mismatch : From Vision to Blindness

· At Many instances there are mismatches by India Post.

· Size of the Cover & the size of the stamp or Miniature Sheet.

· MS of Railways 2009,

· Jaydeva and Geetgovinda

· Buddha

· Value of the Stamp & Postage Rate of the service.

· No Single stamp for Registered Letters, Speed Post, Airmail.

· When there is a demand after the stamp released, the stamps are not available or they are rationed & when the stock arrives the demand fizzles out.

· Mismatch among the value of the Stamp.

· Many stamps are issued with a face value of Rs 20/ where Rs 5/ postage stamps are in demand. What is the need to issue stamps of this facsimile when there is no demand & the bureaus has plenty of stock of this value.

· No fixed format about the size of the sheet. It becomes difficult for the collector to Preserve.

· Unfolded Sheet of Jaydev & Geetgovinda can be found in Printing Press ONLY

· With the new series of stamps only in the form of Miniature/Souvenir sheets, the collectors who are collecting colour codes or block of 4 stamps since 1947 feel the pain

What India Post can do?

· International Exhibitions - Absurd Costs - Indian Post should step in.

· Commissioners for International Exhibitions / Archeological Dept Insurance.

· Philatelic Advisory Committee - Should be represented by a group of Creative Philatelists & Artists.

· Look at Philately from Philatelists View

· Philapost was taken at the time of Ms. Radhika Doraiswamy 2009 - India Post should have its Journal either Bi-monthly / Quarterly of International Standard.

· GPA is serves philately by its monthly magazine.

· What India Post can do & should to retain the hobbyist

· Status for hobbyist should be created. This can be done by appreciation from time to time. Apart from the people who exhibit , there are lot of other people who needs to be honoured. Stamp designers, writers, webmasters, postal staff etc. They all need recognition & once given a good appraisal their morale will get a boost. They would not say “स्कूल में था जब स्टेम्प कलेक्ट करता था...” The confidence would get a boost when one gets a good recognition

· Enough Publicity should be done through National as well as Local Newspapers at the time of New Stamp release.

· Few Articles in important magazines should be incorporated to widen the canvas.

· Talk show on important T.V. channels relating to Philately including New Stamp release should be done.

· Philately in India vis-a-vis China, USA, Germany. It is considered a status in these countries which is not in India. This should be worked on

· Exhibitable & Exitable.

· Good Brand Ambassador is needed to promote India Post product… Famous celebrities like Mr. Amitabh Bachchan etc. may help many people to connect & this will help in giving the hobby a status

· My stamp was an idea. It’s sale can be propped up by opening counters where there is a good foot-fall with due publicity in advance & giving them the printed sheet with their Photo right away at the venue. Outsourcing is one aspect

· National Archives showing various gems of India should be kept. Either in physical form or digital format. This would help the country to build a great collection legacy. e.g. Mail Service Collection i.e. Speed Post, QMS, Express Delivery, Registered Post Collection etc…

· It is a Hobby. And it must be treated as a hobby. Profit can be a byproduct. Remember that Hobby is for Health & Happiness. It is a pleasure for you & treasure for your family.

· Files are the same, Staff is the same, System is the same. The challenge is how to manage in a Better way & extract more from this establishment. Leadership Quality & Attitude required in doing this & for that vision & action plan is required.

· 17 Horses among 3 Sons

· Philatelists see Philatelic Bureaus as Temples. They will visit any Philatelic Bureau to find something or the other collectible. Keep him connected & involved.

· Unsold stock of Philatelic Bureaus, Particularly Miniature Sheets. How to get them disposed?

· From 2008, the Miniature Sheet stock is there. Buddha, Railways, Jaydeva Geetgovinda, etc…

· India Post has a double role to play. Both as an Issuer of Stamp & a Regulator.

· India Post has a potential to do business worth Rs. 1000/- crores per year - & what will be the cost of servicing? Well you people know more.

Rewards and Recognitions (R&R)

· Honour Philatelists

· DAK Ratna

· DAK Bhushan

· DAK Shree

· Philatelic Day

· National Exhibition can be held

in every 2 years instead of 4

· Awards for best philatelic
bureau in India

· Awards for largest number of active
P.D. A/c in India

· Employee Felicitation


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