Citizens' Issues
Antique locks: Key options

Prof V Raghunathan collects indigenous locks which are at least 50 years old

Prof V Raghunathan, a former banker who taught at IIM Ahmedabad, is probably the best-known collector of antique locks in India. He started his collection by trading a new lock for an antique one hanging from the door of a house in Kashmir. He has more than 600 antique locks in his collection. The collection has been widely reported on television and in newspapers.

Prof Raghunathan collects indigenous locks which are at least 50 years old. These locks come in various shapes: human, animal or mythical, and show amazing mechanical creativity. There are locks that require multiple keys to open; locks whose key slots are hidden; some which require a different key to open; one that gives out an alarm when it is being opened; some with complicated combinations and a lock whose key has to be unlocked first! There is a lock shaped like a girl with her hands joined, a massive 3.5-ft long lock that weighs 30kg and one that is about half a centimetre in length.



Prof Raghunathan estimates that he has invested about Rs10 lakh on his collection so far. Antique locks are deemed difficult collectibles; being heavy, they cannot be moved around or taken for exhibitions. Nor can they be insured. Moreover, non-availability of literature on the item makes the collector’s job doubly difficult.

 “Antique locks are a specialised item, and I know only a few people in India who collect locks. Abroad, though, there is a good market. Indian locks are viewed as excellent mechanical puzzles,” says Prof Raghunathan. Many such locks are exported and are bought by collectors who are willing to pay enormous amounts, as locks are not covered by the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972. As a result, the Indian collector is at a disadvantage.

In his own way, Prof Raghunathan has made the object of his passion memorable. He has erected seven four feet-bronze locks outside the ING Vysya Bank building during his tenure as president of the Bank.

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Philately: King of hobbies & hobby of kings

Stamp collecting is a common hobby but can be taken to great heights

Stamps are probably the most popular collectibles. Some rare stamps are deemed to be worth a fortune. However, every old stamp is not necessarily expensive. Even recent stamps can be extremely expensive, because a stamp’s value depends on rarity.

Stamps are graded as follows: mint, multiple mint stamps, single used stamps, stamps used on covers, misprinted stamps and misprinted stamps on cover. While it is better to get stamps in mint or excellent condition, those which are rejected by postal authorities or are printed on cover are exceptions.

Defective stamps are usually more valuable than regular ones because the entire print order is destroyed once the defect is detected. If a few manage to get into circulation before they are withdrawn, their value soars. The ‘inverted jenny’ series from the USA, issued in 1918, which contain the inverted images of the Curtiss JN-4 airplane, is one of the most spectacular examples in philatelic history. However, errata alone do not make stamps valuable. India Post comes up with so many defective stamps so often, that they are rejected in international markets.

What makes stamps invaluable is the history attached to them. An otherwise unremarkable stamp collection consisting of 550 used stamps fetched some $53,000 in an auction in 2005 by the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. The Museum committee feels it is a ‘cheap bargain’, because the stamps belonged to John Lennon.

The most expensive stamp in the world is a unique case in which fascinating history and rarity came together. The Penny Magentas from British Guiana, originally worth one and four cents, are described as among the ugliest in the world. The Penny Magentas were provisional stamps issued by the British Guiana government in 1856, when the regular shipments failed to arrive from England, and were later withdrawn. However, one of them remained with a schoolboy. It changed hands and, finally, appeared in an auction in 1922 where it was sold to American businessman Arthur Hind for $35,000, who outbid Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Mr Hind publicly burned the only other copy of the stamp in his pipe at that point, so his purchase would be the only Penny Magenta in the world. After his death, the stamp was bought by Frederick Small, an Australian businessman. After two more auctions, the stamp was, finally, bought by John E du Pont for a whopping $935,000 in 1980. Du Pont died on 9 December 2010. The Penny Magenta remains in his bank vault. Philatelists continue to speculate about the appearance of a cousin of the most valuable stamp in the world, but it hasn’t surfaced yet.

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AI pilots’ strike enters 6th day, 90% flights cancelled

Since the striking pilots did not obey the HC directive asking them to resume work by Friday, the Air India management moved the court again, seeking action for contempt

Mumbai: The strike of Air India (AI) pilots entered the 6th day today, with the national carrier having to cancel 90% of its domestic flights, reports PTI.

The Delhi High Court will today hear the contempt of court case against three sacked pilots, belonging to Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), including its general secretary Rishab Kapur.

The high court, upon a petition filed by the airline, had asked the pilots to resume working by last Friday. Since the striking pilots did not obey the directive, Air India management moved the court again, seeking action for contempt.

The pilots took out a candle-light march at Gateway of India here last evening demanding immediate ouster of Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav, alleging that the management’s unwillingness to invite them for talks was a part of his hidden agenda to shut down the airline and privatise it.

The management’s stand so far is that they should return to work, as a pre-condition for talks.

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