Jul 2, 2012

Stamps. The Window of the World.

Stamp collecting is a lot like being a scout. It’s something that most people did in their younger years and was like a hip thing, and now thought as something lame and geeky. I’m one of those people, and now I’ve accepted the fact that I am somewhat a geek. After all, I blog.

Recently there was a huge philately exhibition held in JCC building in Jakarta. Despite the banner ads that said they’re displaying stamps of IDR 20millions worth of money (that’s about USD 2.1 millions), I was eager to see the exhibition. I wanted to see stamps from around the world. I wanted to see stamps.

The first thing I saw at the exhibition

So I went there on a Tuesday after work and found it so hard to stop myself from buying too many stamps. I bought the mint Indonesian ones, the ones for sending postcards in my travels. Oh, there were so many designs that I loved! This reminded me why I was so into stamps back then. The artworks! Because I was so caught up in choosing new stamps, I didn’t have much time to look around other booths before the event closed for that day. So I came back 2 days afterward.

I (made myself) got out of work 2 hours earlier than normal time so I could have more time in the exhibition. This time, I looked at those artworks closer and longer. It felt like I was pulled back in time, reminiscing how I used to feel about stamps in my teenage years.

A mosaic of Soeharto that's made of 10,000 stamps of Soeharto, the longest ruling president of Indonesia.

One of the stamps that I had many in my collection back then, also made into mosaic. The Queen.

Stamps are mysterious. They tell you a lot from the picture and brief captions, yet they leave you so much to wonder about the object that you see. About the country. About what the strange letters are really saying if you don’t understand the language, moreover the ones with Baltic or other non-latin letters. And what I often wondered about was, why certain objects, people or events are so important to be printed as stamps.

Admiral Cheng Ho stamp

The Madura buffalo race, an event I'm planning to see next October! Yay!

In the exhibition they provided these philatelic passports, in which you stick stamps on the pages according to the countries’ names printed on them, and stamp the stamps. The passport was for free, but the stamps weren’t. I only bought a few, not because they were expensive, cos they weren’t, but unfortunately I was dead broke, waiting for payday.. hahaha. So I only got one from Taiwan because the stamp is in heart shape (how cute!), one from Vatican because it’s Vatican, one from Mauritanie because I’ve vaguely heard of it and I might just mistaken it for Mauritius, and then one from Niue and one from Tokelau. The 2 latter ones I’ve never heard at all, and they turn out to be small countries near New Zealand. That kind of ‘discovery of new lands’ is also what I love about collecting stamps. I didn’t even know a country existed until I saw their stamps! Haha.. that’s weird and I love it!

It's a really small country near New Zealand, even lower than the Down Under

Another small country near New Zealand

Heart shpaed stamp, still attached to the sheet. 

My interest in ‘discovering’ other countries grew in middle school when I was living with Mom in Michigan waaaaay back in 1990s. She was getting her PhD, and I was only one out of so many foreign kids living with their student parents. So at lunch time, I was one of those uncool foreign kids sitting together in a corner table, speaking in limited English. And from those kids I learned a lot about other countries and their cultures (though I’ve forgotten many things by now). And when one by one went back to their country cos the parents graduated, some of us continued communicating through letters (emails weren’t so popular yet) and my stamp collection grew. Ones from Latvia, Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan and many more! I even had pen pals from countries such as Finland and UK, with swapping used stamps as my main agenda, and it was a hobby I continued doing when I was already back in Indonesia.

The hobby had to be terminated when monetary crisis hit Indonesia in 1998. Everything got expensive. It was either buying stamps or my daily food. My stamp albums were put away in shelves. Emails were the new letters and postcards. I forgot about my stamps years and years until the exhibition I’m telling you about.

I don’t know why, but good illustrations & graphic design on perforated (mostly) rectangles always amuse me. I didn’t mind carrying my heavy backpack around the huge exhibition hall just to enjoy them artworks. It’s so fun to be reminded that our (Indonesian) money used to be worth a lot, judging from the stamp nominal. Hey, money might change in value, stamp might not be a hip thing anymore, but something remains the same: my fondness in looking at stamp designs. It was like drawn into the other world once again.

Some are glittery!
These nominals don't get letters far these days.. 

~ This article is also published on Indohoy.com. ~

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