Imagine a brilliantly painted and finely detailed work of art rich in history, worth lakhs of rupees. Only this objet d’ art comes on a 3x4 cm canvas that you can easily carry in your wallet.
We are talking about stamps, which found themselves in the collections of every second child in the neighbourhood till about two decades ago.
With emails phasing out the snail mail, collecting stamps today is a dying hobby. In its place, however, has come a highly organised lucrative industry of serious collectors and dealers who have built full-time careers of their childhood hobby.
Manish Jain (36), like most kids his age, started collecting stamps when he was 15. This furniture businessman from Bangalore specialises in stamps featuring Gandhi and some of the stamps in his collection are worth Rs. 10 lakh today. “Philately now is not just about removing stamps from envelopes you get at home. I source them from dealers and at auctions. The price of old stamps are so high that the number of people investing in them is increasing,” he said.
“It’s not a hobby of children any more. Serious money is required to buy stamps,” said Ashrit, a pharmacist and stamp lover. “Many people who invest in stamps are not collectors but buy them as objects of art that promise good returns.”
The treasurer of the Philately Congress of India, Damayanti Pittie, said. “Some stamps have been sold at such a high value that many people are now buying them as investments. Right now, speculation is ripe about stamps but we have to see how long it sustains.”
According to Yossi Malamud, Vice President of the Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corporation, stamps are a $4 billion 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.