Stamp collecting hobby in Vietnam

Sunday, May 29, 2016 - 10:03:00

(VOVworld) - Stamp collecting is one of the world’s most popular hobbies thanks to its affordability, educational benefits, and historical value. For many collectors, philately is an art, a passion, a way to communicate, and more. Now when people communicate with each other via the Internet, are these stamps still attractive? Let's find out more with Thu Ly about the history of stamps and stamp collecting hobby in Vietnam.

Many people collect watches, antiques, paintings…but statistically, philately attracts the largest number of collectors. Collecting stamps involves hundreds of millions of people globally. In Vietnam, too, stamp collecting has become one of the most-enjoyed hobbies. Vũ Văn Tỵ, Vice Chairman of the Viet Stamp Club and editor-in-chief of Stamp magazine, is a famous philatelist who owns a number of rare stamps: “The stamp collecting hobby began more than 100 years ago in the developed postal sector of England. At that time, mail recipients had to pay for the delivery, which caused many problems. Rowland Hill, a British reformer, created the world’s first stamp in 1840. Since then, anyone who wanted to send a letter had to buy a postage stamp and stick it on the envelope”.

Soon after adhesive postage stamps were introduced in England, the stamp collecting hobby was created and spread to other European countries, and then those countries began to publish their own stamps. Twenty years later, stamps were appearing in all countries around the world. Stamp collecting arrived in Vietnam quite late, but the hobby has been popular here for over half a century. Tỵ said: “In 1946, Vietnam issued its first stamp series with images of President Ho Chi Minh. It is now considered by philatelists to be one of the most valuable stamp series, and has been called by famous historian Dương Trung Quốc “a national treasure”.

There are various ways to classify stamps. They vary in shape, size, and theme. Hoàng Anh Thi, Chairman of the Viet Stamp Club, explained one interesting way used to classify stamps by professional philatelists: “Normally, stamps are divided in two types: living stamps and dead stamps. A living stamp is a stamp that retains its original state as published by the post-office, and which has not been used yet. There are two kinds of dead stamp: a CTO stamp and a true dead stamp. CTO, or Cancelled-To-Order stamps, are mass-postmarked by the issuing postal service before being sold directly to stamp collectors or dealers, often with a discount. They are preferred by children because it’s quite easy to get a complete collection. A true dead stamp is removed from the envelope after it is sent to someone and has a cancel postmark by the postal service. This stamp is considered more valuable and is much more expensive than the other type”.

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1000 years Thang Long-Ha Noi stamp set (Photo: To Minh Trang)

A stamp collection is “an encyclopedia” of nature, society, history, sports, technology, and more. Each collection reveals its owner’s interests. Nguyễn Đại Hùng Lộc is the Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Stamp Club. He won a bronze medal at the World Stamp Exhibition 2003 in Bangkok and set a Vietnamese record for the biggest stamp collection. His “Horses- close friend of mankind” collection contains more than 400 precious stamps. Loc said: “For me, philately is not just an entertaining hobby. By collecting stamps, we have a chance to learn about Vietnamese and other countries’ history, geography, people, and more. Professional philatelists often have extensive knowledge about narrow specializations. Philately helps us improve our patience, perfection, meticulousness, and, especially, honesty. We often exchange stamps with foreign partners in France, Russia, Switzerland, China…We give and take our stamps. Stamp collecting is an ambassador that creates a bridge of friendship”.

Đống Lương Sơn, Chairman of the Khánh Hòa Stamp Club, has been a philatelist for more than 50 years. His collection of sea snail stamps won a silver medal at the 2015 Vietnam Stamp Exhibition. Son talks about his dream: “I want to preserve something Vietnamese for future generations so they can learn about beautiful Vietnam. My collection of Nha Trang sea snail stamps is a way to introduce the Vietnamese image to the world. Stamps bring Vietnam and foreign friends closer together.”

When it comes to philately, people often think of colorful stamps that vary in shape, size, and theme. With a magnifier, people can see the details of each stamp, but creating those miniature artworks is not so easy. Though creating and preserving stamps is now easier thanks to technology, it is still a challenge for stamp creators and collectors.

Drawing stamps is a specialized form of artwork. Because a stamp is supposed to be a miniature encyclopedia when it is examined under a magnifying glass, all images have to be clear and accurate in every single detail so that foreign people can learn about Vietnam without coming here. Painter To Minh Trang said: “Vietnamese stamps reflect the unique language of Vietnamese arts. Once a stamp is officially released, it is used in 193 member countries of the Universal Postal Union. It exists with the existence of the postal network. Vietnamese postal stamps in the eyes of foreign friends show a rich cultural tradition that is always developing, integrating, and consciously preserving traditional cultures.”

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12th National Assembly (15.01.2016) (Photo: To Minh Trang)

Stamp designs must be approved by experts for accuracy in every single detail because they project their country’s image. This requires the designers to seek ideas, collect information, and find the signature features. Painter Hoàng Thúy Liệu is a specialist in drawing stamps on the theme of Vietnamese culture: “Drawing and designing stamps involves a complicated process with accuracy and meticulousness in every single details as the very first step. Each image on every topic such as history, economy, politics, well-known people, ethnic groups, and signature animals must be approved by experts on that issue. Even after a stamp-set is published, if the verifiers find any detail that is not true, the whole set will be retrieved and corrected. The stamps are just like money; they are only issued once and they exist for a long time.”

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Pedicab in Ha Noi (Photo: Hoang Thuy Lieu)

Philately requires collectors to be patient as they search for and collect each stamp and each postal item to learn the details of each kind. It also requires a serious investment in time and effort. Lê Đức Vân is former president of the Viet Stamp Club and has more than 60 years collecting stamps. He has collected Tet stamp sets from many countries since 1950 when Japan published a Tet stamp-set for the first time. Van said: “I often look back to memories of the past. I had pain, I had happiness, I had failures and success. Collecting Tet stamps each year is a way for me to recall the past, to remember my old friends who have passed away, to remember my hardship in the resistance war, and to enjoy my peaceful life now. Apart from Tet stamps, I also have other stamps about the major events of the country in those years to easier recall what happened. It’s a good way to reach knowledge, and to preserve meaningful moments in my life."

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Some Tet stamp sets (Photo: painter Nguyen Du)

Drawing stamps is complex. Understanding the meanings behind a stamp is not easy. And the way of preserving stamps through a long period also requires time, meticulousness, care and respect for these small things. Nguyễn Dung Nghi, who has been working for Vietnam Post for twenty years, shared one way to preserve stamps: “Vietnam is a tropical country, so it requires a careful preservation to keep stamps in good condition for a long time. The two most dangerous factors for stamps are humidity and sunshine. If a stamp is not dry enough, its perforations will become soft and break. Or if it is affected by direct sunshine, its color will fade and the images will be blurred, which makes the value of the stamp much less”.

Stamps bring relaxation and enjoyment. However, it’s nearly impossible to design or collect them without gaining a large amount of knowledge. So stamps are rewarding mentally and can provide a much greater return on your investment of time and effort.

This has been the Sunday Show on the Voice of Vietnam. If you have any comments or suggestions about the program, send your letters to: The English Section, Overseas Service, Radio the Voice of Vietnam, 45 Ba Trieu Street, Hanoi, Vietnam. Our email address is englishsection@vov.org.vn. Or you can log onto our website at: www.vovworld.vn to listen to recorded programs. We hope you’ll join us again next time. For now, good-bye!

Some stamp sets by painter Hoang Thuy Lieu and To Minh Trang in pictures:

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Ngọ Môn Gate, one of the four main gates in Hue Citadel (Photo: Hoàng Thúy Liệu)
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Thái Hòa Palace-Palace of Supreme Harmony, the most important architectural work in Hue Imperial City (Photo: Hoàng Thúy Liệu)
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Olympic 2012 (Photo: Tô Minh Trang)
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World Cup 2002 (Photo: Tô Minh Trang)


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