By Kathryn Westcott BBC News
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has revealed that he likes to indulge in what has been called the hobby of kings – stamp collecting.
Apparently he has been a stamp collector since he was a young boy and his collection is growing into one of the most impressive in the world. He now has the help of international leaders in filling his albums.
It\’s not the first time that a head of state has revealed a passion for philately. American president Franklin D Roosevelt was a stamp buff, as were a host of royals – England\’s King George V, King Farouk of Egypt, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and King Carol II of Romania.
It is interesting that Mr Sarkozy has chosen to reveal this insight into his character, because stamp collecting is not a hobby that people generally readily own up to, says Geoff Anandappa, investment portfolio manager at philatelic auctioneers Stanley Gibbons.
Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova, for one, regretted letting on that she enjoyed poring over albums.
In reply to a question by a journalist: \”You\’re a stamp collector then?\” she laughed and said \”Oh God, stop. Everyone\’s calling me a dork now.\”
But Mr Sarkozy and his wife obviously feel comfortable with the revelation. Carla Bruni reportedly told friends that she was glad her husband was enjoying a more sedate hobby. He was known to have previously enjoyed karaoke.
But then in France, as in Germany and Scandinavia, philately is a well-respected hobby, says Mr Anandappa.
And in India, he says, it is something to be proud of – an indication that you are studious, and that you are a middle-class professional.
In the UK, however, people generally associate stamp collecting with school children, says Mr Anandappa.
\”We\’re used to people saying that it must be a boring hobby. I meet many company chairmen who would not let on to their staff that they collect stamps,\” he says.
He estimates that there are at least 50 million stamp collectors around the world, around a third of whom are in China.
Generally, there are two types of stamp collector, those who simply collect for pleasure and those who are investors. According to Stanley Gibbons, there are only a few hundred serious stamp investors in the world.
The French president probably falls into the former camp, judging by a letter he wrote to the French Federation of Philately Associations (FFAP).
In it Mr Sarkozy pays homage to the \”world of artists, engravers, page designers… because it shows real talent to illustrate sometimes abstract topics, to create an original work of art for each stamp, covering such a small area.\”
His hobby may also show a financially astute side. According to Stanley Gibbons, stamps are an extremely stable investment.
In 2008, the value of the GB 30 rare stamp index rose by almost 40 per cent.
Should Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy be looking for the ultimate gift to indulge her husband\’s passion, she might want to keep her eye out for one particular rarity.
The French president, whose ancestors came for Hungary, apparently has a particular interest in stamps from that country. In 2006, London auctioneer Spink sold one of the most valuable Hungarian stamps – an 1867 three Krone Green, which had been issued in red by mistake. The stamp was expected to sell for £30-40,000 but eventually realised £90,000.
According to Mr Sarkozy, stamp collecting is a good way to learn about other nations and their cultures. Franklin Roosevelt also used his collection to gain knowledge of the world during World War II.
Mr Adandapp draws parallels between Mr Sarkozy and former US president FDR.It may be unintentional that Mr Sarkozy is promoting stamp collecting during the economic downturn,\” he says, \”but FDR helped making stamp collecting popular during the Great Depression. It\’s a good hobby for such times as it doesn\’t need to cost much.\”
The UK\’s King George V was one of the greatest collectors, according to Michael Pitt-Payne, of the Royal Philatelic Society in London.
\”The King asked for stamps wherever he went. Because of that interest, the Queen is now presented with every new stamp that is issued throughout the Commonwealth\”.
The Queen now has one of the world\’s biggest collections, having inherited her grandfather\’s. But her interest is unlikely to match that of Mr Sarkozy\’s, as unlike the French president, she employs someone to manage her stamp collection for her, says Mr Pitt-Payne.
He says that the notion that stamp collecting is a boring hobby is far from the truth.
\”Basically one can spend many a happy evening going through one\’s collection. It is absorbing and it engages the mind – it can be extremely satisfying, writing entries explaining your new additions,\” He says.
When collectors gather at the society, the last thing they want to talk about is stamps, says Mr Pitt-Payne.
\”They talk about all aspects of their life – stamp collecting is just one of them.\”
And if Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy is looking for something to do when she puts down her guitar, she may be interested in the fact that according to Stanley Gibbons, philately is extremely popular with women.
Source & Courtesy: BBC NEWS