Would you like to exchange your Marwari horse for a Chinese lily? Or maybe you’d prefer a lizard from Burkina Faso instead? Strange as these trade offers may seem, they’ll be a common affair at Indipex 2011, a world philatelic exhibition which starts on Saturday in the Capital. With over 70 participating countries, philatelists from across the world, hundreds of exhibits, postage stationery and stamp auctions, workshops for children, seminars for philatelists and some rare stamps on display, Indipex 2011 promises to be the “largest philatelic meet of its kind in the world", says Kavery Banerjee, chairperson, Indipex 2011.

Sankha Samanta stamps Photograph by Harikrishna Katragadda/ Mint

Indipex 2011 will be celebrating the centenary of the world’s first airmail flight, from Allahabad to Naini in Uttar Pradesh on 18 February 1911. “We are recreating the flight on the first day of the exhibition. The flight will also carry special stamps and letters which will have a special cancellation for the event," says Banerjee. These collectibles will then be available for sale at the exhibition.

President Pratibha Patil will unveil the world’s first Khadi Stamp bearing a line drawing of Mahatma Gandhi on cloth. “The idea came last year when Thailand had launched its silk stamp. The postal department wanted to do something special for the Indipex and they finally decided on khadi and the Mahatma," says Sankha Samanta, the designer of the diamond-shaped Khadi Stamp. Samanta, who has designed 17 of the 34 Gandhi stamps issued by India Post, says he designed this limited-edition premium stamp and its miniature sheet (a printed sheet on which the postage stamp is still attached) in 12 days. The 39x39mm stamp is made of paper, with a 20x20mm piece of khadi cloth stuck on to it. In the foreground is the charkha, with a single thread extending to form a line drawing of Gandhi in deep brown, with the words “Be True" written below it. The stamp has a denomination of Rs100 and the special package will be sold for Rs250 at the exhibition.

Another first will be the postal department’s My Stamp. These are personalized stamps where you can get your photograph printed on a theme stamp sheet. You can choose from six themes of existing India Post stamps—trains, aeroplanes, wildlife, the Panchatantra, zodiac signs and the Taj Mahal. You can either take a photograph along or get it clicked at the venue, pay Rs150 for a sheet of 12 stamps, and walk away with your very own photo stamp. There are also special cancellations for these stamps, “but you can use it to send out letters or personal invitations too", says Banerjee, who hopes such stamps and exhibitions will create an interest among children not just in philately, but also letter-writing. “Today’s email generation doesn’t get to see letters and stamps like we did, so they have no idea what a fascinating world stamps can be," she says.

Among the highlights of the exhibition is the Swedish Treskilling Yellow, the world’s most expensive stamp, which was valued at $2.3 million (around Rs10.5 crore now) in 1966, and changed hands for an undisclosed amount last year. The 1855 Treskilling Yellow is the only known misprint of a 3 shilling stamp that was supposed to be green. Another famed stamp that will be on show is the 4-anna British India stamp with an inverted image of Queen Victoria dating back to 1854.

Indipex 2011 is on till 18 February, at Halls 8-11, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi.