People thronged an exhibition displaying Sindh Sports Minister Mohammad Ali Shah’s stamp collection at the Karachi Arts Council, where they were able to see some of the world’s oldest, largest and smallest stamps. Shah’s collection, which he started in 1957, consisted of over 10,000 stamps that belonged to 192 countries.
The smallest stamp on display at the exhibition belonged to South Africa, while the largest was issued by Pakistan. Visitors also came to see the world’s first prepaid adhesive stamp, the Penny Black, which was issued in the United Kingdom in 1840, as well as some of the oldest stamps of Pakistan.
“This hobby [stamp collecting] is the king of all hobbies. It is the hobby of kings as well,” Dr Shah told the group of people who had gathered to listen to the collector. “To collect stamps and to keep them intact is not an easy job, but a person gets addicted to it if he takes this up as a hobby.”
While going over the history of stamps, Shah said that they were initially developed in response to the British government’s failure to adequately recover the funds the postmasters owed it. “The government decided to follow Sir Rowland Hill’s proposal, after considering nearly 200 suggestions.”
While the United Kingdom did introduce the postal stamp as we know it today, “It is the only country that does not display its name on its stamps.” Hungary, meanwhile, has issued most postal stamps to date, said Shah.
Shah said that the price of the world’s smallest stamp was 500 pounds. The world’s most expensive stamp was issued by Mauritius. “Only four people have this stamp, and I don’t. Its price is about 50,000 pounds.”
Shah keeps his collection at his house in London and said that he rarely finds time in Pakistan to look after them. Shah’s sisters, Razia Shah, Dr Samreen Shah, and other family members were also present and informed visitors about values of various stamps. “A stamp is not just a ticket; its value goes up with the passage of time,” shared Shah. He acquired a stamp nearly twenty years back, which was issued by the Pakistan Post in its early days. He paid Rs25,000 for it. The reason? “The moon and star were placed wrongly. The government had stopped its sale within a few months, but I was able to get it.”
Other people also helped Shah assemble his collection, by giving him historical and valuable stamps. “I gave Dr Shah over 100 good collections of mine because I think he can keep them very well,” said a journalist, Farzana Khanam.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2012.
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