Citizens' Issues
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 If a few manage to get into circulation before they are withdrawn, their value soars.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by the British Guiana government in 1856, when the regular shipments failed to arrive from England, and were later withdrawn.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.


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.


Master collection: The king of collectors

Rajan Jayakar has not only nurtured his passion, but also lived it

Rajan Jayakar figures in the Limca Book of Records as the owner of India’s largest collection of matchbox labels. He has curated several exhibitions, is a frequent lecturer at many collector and historical societies, represents India at international philatelic exhibitions meets and is a fascinating repository of stories about people and things.

Mr Jayakar is an out and out Mumbai fan. He collects everything from the pre-Independence era on history of Bombay including photos, picture postcards, lithographs, engravings, books, letterheads, monograms and glass and porcelain on which ‘Bombay’ is embossed. His knowledge of old Bombay is astonishing and he is also an avid collector of things related to his own community; the Pathare Prabhus who, he claims, were the earliest settlers on the island of Bombay since the 13th century.

Mr Jayakar has an optimistic plan of writing a few books such as “Legal Bombay” (history of law courts in Bombay from 13th century till 1947), “Greeting from Bombay” (history of Bombay through picture postcards) “People of Bombay” (communities, businesses and avocation of people in the 19th century), “Pathare Prabhus of Bombay” (history of his own community) and has already started work on these.

Each item in his collection has fascinating stories attached to it. He can rattle off the history of that item, but what is more interesting is the story of how he came to acquire it. While Mr Jayakar’s collection also consists of various decorative items such as blue & white china, wedgewood, porcelain and glass Victorian furniture etc, he has some quirky interests too. He is also proud of Shammi Kapoor memorabilia. such as his film posters, old records, prints, songbooks, lobby cards, articles, stills and other items related to the actor’s films. The Shammi Kapoor memorabilia may not be something which will fall in line with other antique collectibles. But, it is of immense value to Mr Jayakar because he is an ardent fan of Shammi Kapoor.

Mr Jayakar claims that he has successfully stocked up all the available Shammi Kapoor’s film memorabilia, and wants to hold an exhibition around the 80th birthday of Shammi Kapoor which falls on 21st October. 

Mr Jayakar has not only nurtured his passion, but has also lived it. It manifests itself in his house. All the clocks at his home are of the winding variety. The Victorian furniture, switch board with brass & porcelain switches, kerosene fan, an HMV Radio, box gramophone and earliest model of a wall mounted telephone—all are in working condition. The ceiling fans are all 100 years old with wooden blades, and he is not bothered if they consume more electricity or are slow in circulation.

Having adhered to his childhood passion, Mr Jayakar, today, possesses an enviable collection of almost every conceivable collectible item from the colonial era, many of which are one of a kind. So his advice, to all those aspiring collectors out there, is to enjoy their hobby—be it as an investor or a passionate collector.


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