The baby steps

The baby steps

Pallab Bose, 42, is the founder of Facelift Foundation, an events management company, and the philatelist father of 17-year-old philatelist Sameera. “(The hobby) starts off when you’re a kid in school. But after a while, the interest just starts going because you don’t know what’s to be done with all those stamps," he says. Bose and Ajay Kumar Mittal, 54, a veteran, award-winning philatelist and stamp dealer, tell us how to start with philately and avoid its two major pitfalls—boredom and a lack of direction.

What do I need to know before I start?

For those who want to seriously venture into philately, Mittal lists the several types to choose from: traditional philately (collection of definitive stamps—the stamps that are usually used as postage—by date and series), postal history (cancellation and used envelopes), postal stationery (printed envelopes, postcards, cancellations, etc.), maximaphily (picture postcards with the same/similar picture on the stamp and cancellation—this category is fast becoming a favourite with philatelists for its sheer challenge and uniqueness), fiscal philately (stamp paper, revenue stamps, etc.), thematic (stamps of a particular theme, such as flowers, plants, architecture, commemorative stamps and first-day covers—most young philatelists start in this segment), aero-tely (stamps with an airmail cancellation, labels, first-flight covers) and astro (stamps with images related to outer space—this kind of philately is rarely taken up since there are few stamps and stationery in this category).

Once I pick a category, how do I start building up a collection?

“Just collecting stamps isn’t philately," says Bose. Usually, children blindly collect whatever stamps and first-day covers that they find, little realizing that “in terms of philately, both these collections have no value," he says.

Definitive stamps, says Mittal, are only valuable when they’re collected in a series, or when they are extremely rare (such as the 1854, 4 anna Queen Victoria stamp in which the image of the Queen’s head was inverted due to a printing error).

Most people usually start with thematic collections and then move on to more specific categories as they get serious. For instance, Mittal has been collecting stamps since he was 11. Like everyone else, he started with the general stamps that came with letters; soon after, his interest in the sea led him to collect stamps on aquatic life, which formed the basis of his first real collection. After 43 years, thousands of stamps and postal stationery, around 20 international awards and a book (Stamp Collecting: A Fascinating Hobby), Mittal’s collection is worth several crores, and growing.If I’m not getting anywhere, where do I turn for help? Both Mittal and Bose attribute the lack of any guidance as the foremost reason for children giving up the hobby, but they also agree that this is the right time for it to thrive. “The Internet has made it much easier to gather information, and eBay is the most easy way to get hold of many of them." Bose also suggests enthusiasts get in touch with philatelic clubs both within the country and abroad. In India, the South India Philatelists’ Association (, Baroda Philately Society (, Philatelic Society of Rajasthan and West Delhi Philatelic Club are some of the more active clubs. Then there are blogs such as Indian Stamp Ghar ( and senior philatelists such as Mittal, who are forever ready to promote the hobby.

Indipex 2011 opens today in Halls 8-11 at Pragati Maidan, Delhi.