Special Article By Dinu
Philately (king of the hobbies and hobby of the kings) is undergoing from being a hobby to a tool of investment. It is sad but true that Philately is dying for Philatelist and reincarnated and accepted as a vehicle of investment.Once I read, that only politician’s asset has appreciated more than value of Gold in last 5 years. Worthy reporter might not have sampled the philatelist / philately dealers then!
Philately as a hobby is dying out due to apathy of authority and greed of dealer and big collectors.
1. The first hurdle – INDIA POST Without criticizing India post, which is the mother supplier of all Indian stamps, as they might have their own valid reasons and constraints for behaving the way they are doing, few points, which were noted with my limited knowledge, results in frustration are· Issues and miniatures vanish mysteriously from post offices. eg. from recent past, I mean since when I have started.
A. Save the glacier and polar region was not available in south India.
B. Dr. Triguna Sen and NCE – Not available in Delhi region. I, myself have visited the post office on 23 rd December (central bank of India?) and 31st December. On 31st December itself nothing was available. (In Ebay already price is approx 10 – 20 times higher.) Hearsay is Imperforation error found and hence hoarders are holding it and checking the whole pack in leisure to dig out the diamonds. Who knows it might soon be available via epost with proud announcement that due to Public demand epost is most graciously organized it.
C. Krishnadeva Raya – MS – Imperforation error and color missing error and have vanished. Even against PDAC* standing order I got half of the required quantity i.e. 2 against 4. But in ebay I saw 5 sealed packets from Hyderabad location was being auctioned with highest bid of Rs 17’500 (7 times higher than face value). Delhi Bureau as per their own verbal admission has received supply of only 6400 pcs where PDACs are approximately 6000. Nothing can be expected from Government in writing by mere asking – only option in RTI.
D. Corps of signals and Chitralekha, too, vanished temporarily. Now they are back in ample quantities.
*PDAC = Philately Deposit Account
Many options given in PDAC opening forms are not available, at least in Delhi – like year pack order, Block of 4 from corner, Children’s pack etc. etc.No stock list of old issues is available (compare it with Norway, Denmark, USA or even Faroe island post office). Epost is offering some in limited quantity from back year and I am informed by not so reliable sources that most of those were not available immediately after issue. Might be same fate will befall Dr. Triguna +NCE. In case old issues are found in some philately counter those are mostly in Treasury, which sometime opens only after 1300 making the pilgrimage of a philatelist whole day affair + imposed burden of buying full sheet, which can be ill afforded by many collector’s who have to earn their bread in some other profession. Some exceptions are there where pleasant surprise can be had. Very less dedicated, knowledgeable staff. In few places, Indian Capital not being an exception, those who are doing the job diligently lacks basic facility and enough space. Situation in South India, especially in Tamilnadu, out of sampled post offices, seems to be comparatively better.
Philatelic counter – mostly exist in name as displayed in website. In many ‘so called counters’ if someone tries to find out about the Philately counter he is confronted with mute surprise and indifference like what – are – you – searching – for – we – do – not – have – any – and – if – it –is – published – in – web- site – ask – them – and – not – us. Sampled few from District (with one exception found in West Bengal and one in Tamilnadu) headquarters offers dismal picture. Kochi Philately bureau seems to be best as from philashop anyone can buy offered one (though very meager in offering).
Even where staffs are aware about counter, normally it is not manned during the total duty hour (my experience without any proof) on the ground of staff shortage. Display board does not match with the stock available. Counter is mixed with normal counter creating hassles for collectors, who needs more time to buy. Do you want a proof and do you have manpower to do it? Without first publishing this letter (in case you decide to publish) send someone to Gol Dakkhana in our National Capital or Kashmere gate GPO to judge and compare it with Coimbatore HPO (the one near Railway station). I have not seen more helpful staff, which encourages Philately than the last one. However, please listen attentively to their lament. Post someone, not the same person, incognito till two weeks after an issue is released – we may learn something about fineness of creativity in transport and logistics in issues being bundled away.
Common small collectors have to stand in queue in the post office; but some of the favoured one will be allowed entry to inside and they are often allowed to scan the whole package before either picking the packet or some from it. What do they search there? “Errors” for the sake of our errors of going to buy those at exorbitant cost! Stamp issues are normally kept in the evening and getting an issue across the counter on the day of issue (in case the stamp is being released in the city) is not possible. FDC can be franked with FD cancellation up to six months but many FDC cannot be posted on the day of issue – Is not there some rule of exhibition about FDC with franking (round date stamp) of the day of issue having some uniqueness and more exhibit value?
India post is having a website for the namesake. They found it too difficult to publish details like perforation gauge, size of the stamp (print / overall area), numbers printed, if miniature exists or not – if yes, how many etc. etc. Beside that even with published issue program there are many unexplainable sudden changes – like “The united Theological College”. Have you ever tried writing an email to email@example.com? Try it and have some fun. Surprisingly our vast India post also relies on gmail even if they have official server – e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org
In epost up to 5 stamps (when the links are working, which is rare) can be ordered. There some old issues can be found – why? Returned by the first purchaser?! However, counter argument will be we are developing nation and we are trying very hard to improve. I forgot that we are developing. – oh yes! Even after 63 years of Independence we are developing.Getting everything (like FDC, MS or required amount of stamp) cannot be done in one single go to the counter. Common refrain is “received supply is not enough”. But the same stamp can be had from dealers in ample quantity albeit in higher price- Oh! Oh ! I keep on forgetting that Printing press supply direct to the supplier for reasons best known to them.
Whereas other nation’s post like Faroe Island, USPS, Norway, Denmark and even Pitcairn Island follows some different rules and paying government fixed premium one can have older stamps too. Here it is not possible – sure what is the need to make India post richer? – the money will finally be swindled away in one scam or another. Rather let it go direct to beneficiary from few lucky, what’s – the – word, A word starts with Ho…
Why do I cry? – It is incredible India shining, where everything is corrupt which even our prime minister (though he is stated to be honest gentleman, last few of a fast vanishing breed (?), and I personally believe in his honesty) admits it. Show me a department where palm greasing is not required and I shall give you a three rupees note.Those, like me, who with great hope have visited INDIPEX 2011 to collect some old issues at face value must have seen the nerve wrecking spectacle of mismanagement in manning the counter, meager issues on offer in most haphazard fashion and last but not least the nauseating behavior displayed by collector / philatelists, our fellow brethren – WHOM to blame; that is the system. The less said about this exhibition is the better. E.g. Mahatma Gandhi Khadi MS was sold without presentation pack for 2 –3 hours and then abruptly stopped. God bless us as the packet is now available in some counters.
(Here I believe for the sake of benefit of small collectors no issue should be sold for first three moths across counters in > 2 sheets per collectors against positive ID proof and then dealers should be entertained for bulk orders– sure, whatever said and done, we need them too in this philately food pyramid. Only fear is like the authorized agents of Indian railway when stopped from booking ticket between 0800 – 0900 after public out cry by passed the system by creating multiple private user id – we are nation of indigenous people)
The second hurdle – other source
Other source means secondary market i.e. some old collectors or dealers. Though only dealers are blamed but the old collectors themselves are not totally fault free. Might be myself, who is crying hoarse at the moment, or my son too will change in this direction in near future.I can well understand and agree to the views of old collectors / Dealers on charging extra when someone wants to buy from them the old issues. Surely when someone buys stamps as an investment, his/her demand for appreciation is within reason and I agree with it. People save in Bank and other financial institution too for the same purpose. But the money charged – is it logical? Considering all margins for error and being most liberal in calculation a well-appreciated investment grows double almost every five year. Please look at the cost of earlier issued stamps of any theme listed in catalogue or ask collectors. I, personally, am yet to meet a single collector / dealer who has shown certain leniency to encourage a new collector. Surely no one here is talking about errors and rarities – higher cost for those is quite reasonable. The other day I was reading in a national daily that in last five years only the Indian Politicians wealth has appreciated more than gold; might be the reporter(s) has (ve) not included the stamp dealers in survey.
One must attend some meetings held in post offices on 2nd Saturday or Sunday to understand it better. Perhaps hope of appreciation has surpassed the realm of reality due to the realization that there is none in the family to whom the precious collection can be bequeathed as heirloom.
On issue date one can have lot of fun in the way this people gathers in post offices and become busy in showing their clout and ‘Who calls the shot here ability”.
Everyone is interested in pushing across the catalogue first with an offer to buy it (funny thing is everyone is having one extra) and then show that he is offering stamps cheaper (2 –5 Rs than listing) than listed in it – what a magnificent generosity!Let us not pretend that this beautiful hobby mostly is now nothing other than a moneymaking ploy, without paying income tax, for the most of us.
As rightly said by one friend in some blog– “it is hobby of the king and king of the …”and therefore only king must pursue it. Probably he too forgot that Privy Purse and monarchy have become obsolete in most part of the world . Therefore, if the trend continues, “Philately” will either evolve to a new form or will become obsolete.
One gentleman long ago has said ” Survival of fittest” – May I be allowed to modify it to ” survival of the ‘richest’/ or the ‘best connected to correct person of India Post’ (in philately)”To keep the hobby alive infusion of new collectors is necessary, who mostly will be young. How many of them can afford to invest such huge sum of money to go for a good complete collection for competing in world exhibition?
I repeat without hurting anyone’s belief, sentiment and view, I can only comment that future scenario of this hobby is quite critical as nowadays youths are having many other hobbies to indulge unlike in past. I have decided to make my son’s collection from present onwards; He can collect the old issues/ and unavailable issue when he becomes a millionaire. In case he loses interest he can do whatever he wants.“God bless us (the small collector) and show us way away from this addictive hobby to the path of newer” should be the national anthem for this unfortunate group .