Have you heard of the 'king of hobbies and the hobby of kings'?

Stamp collecting is the “King of Hobbies and the hobby of Kings”
Stamp collecting is the “King of Hobbies and the hobby of Kings”

South Africa's Covid-19 lockdown has pushed all of us out of our comfort zones, and as rough as it has been we've also had opportunities to learn new things and to look at life differently.

At Parent24 we've shared legal advice, news and up to date information with our readers, as they navigate these strange times, but we've also published activities and tips to keep the kids busy and learning while they're stuck at home. 

And just recently a reader reached out to us to ask if we've heard of the 'king of hobbies and the hobby of kings'? 

Intrigued, we chatted to avid stamp collector and part time dealer, Colin Bousfield. 

As President of the Edenvale Philatelic Society and one of the current Regional Vice Presidents of the Philatelic Federation of South Africa, he is well placed to share his love of this intriguing hobby, and to tell us all about it. 

"I have been collecting stamps since I was a child and learnt to enjoy these little pieces of paper from my parents," he told Parent24.

Why stamps?

"Collectors collect for various reasons, some collect thematic items such as animals, birds, trains and so on, as they find these additions to their hobbies, some folk use them for scrapbooking." 

"I enjoy the research into stamps such paper types, printing types, errors, flaws varieties, printing shades and find these wonderful mini works or art fascinating," he said, adding that he may not be able to afford to own the Mona Lisa, but he can own a stamp depicting the item. 

There many other aspects in stamp collecting: for example a stamp of a different shade could have been printed in a very scarce print run and could be worth a lot of money compared to a normal issue.

Stamps through history 

"Some folk collect not the stamps but the post office cancel marks, because in some cases the cancel is scarcer then the stamp," Bousfield revealed.

"Take the Paris siege of 1870 for example. The French were flying post out by balloons to evade the Prussian forces. The stamps themselves are fairly common, but the envelope received a unique cancel and this makes it different."

"These items are very scarce today and highly collectable, and did I mention quite valuable."

Did you know? South Africa’s most valuable stamp, the Woodblock ‘error of colour’, was sold by Corinphila in Zurich for the equivalent of R8.2 million?

Bousfield also shared how some people collect not the stamps, but the letters and envelopes themselves, as the postal history tells a wonderful and sometimes poignant story.

"Like the soldier at Rourke’s Drift who the very next morning after the Zulu attack penned a note in pencil on a scrap of paper to send to his mother to tell her he was alive and ok," he told us.

Competitive stamp display 

Stamp collecting is not only about collecting stamps but also displaying the items, he added. 

"Organised Philately worldwide controls the competitive aspect of displaying stamps where exhibits are displayed that tell a story or an aspect of the stamp, or country or print run or thematic," he explained, "and follow very strict rules in how the material is judged with medals (some real Gold) and certificates been awarded to those who are judged worthy."

"Children, through junior clubs, have their own class. South Africa has a format of local, National and International competitions (Our International in 2021 will be at the Cape Town Convention Centre). The Western Cape Education Department is on board and it is expected that about 15 000 to 20 000 school children will visit the exhibition as the theme of the show “The Road to Democracy” gels with the syllabus." 

You can find out more about the event here

The worlds smallest fiscal documents

"I find it a peaceful hobby that encourages people to read and learn new things, and is way more beneficial to children and, dare I say, adults wasting lives on electronic devices," Bousfield said. 

Stamps are an amazing thing to collect, he insists. "Not only do they teach us about places, people, history, animals and more, they also teach life skills, such as shapes, colours, fine motor skills, organising skills, selling and trading skills and many many more benefits such as scrapbooking, journaling, art such as mosaic, murals and crafts."

Stamps are the worlds smallest fiscal documents (treated the same as bank notes) and are used by many countries as the smallest ambassadors for those same countries, he explained.

"This is a very active hobby and many famous collectors such as Freddy Mercury (his collection is now owned by the British postal museum), President Roosevelt and Queen Elisabeth II (she owns one of the most valuable collections in the world) it is also one of the worlds most active investment vehicles for tangible assets and holds the record of the most expensive item by weight."

"Past generations had great fun doing this hobby and it is very suited to an at home environment," he said.

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