Exhibition was organised by the Ananthapuri Philatelic Association

There is a term in philately that refers to things gone wrong. It is abbreviated to EFO – Errors, Freaks and Oddities. These nouns would not normally be considered words of praise or acceptance, but in the world of philately, it is a stamp collector’s dream to run into design or printing errors, however slight, for it significantly raises the value of the item. Testifying to this theory were two city-based philatelists who brought out a fraction of their wares for Apex 2014 — an exhibition organised by the Ananthapuri Philatelic Association — at the YMCA Hall here. The exhibition concluded on Sunday.

V. Syam Kumar and P. Mohanachandran Nair, two collectors, remember an engrossing stamp-exchanging session when one of them spotted for another an almost negligible smudge of ink on a stamp brought out to commemorate the Asian Games. And, an otherwise unremarkable stamp turned into a far more valuable collectors’ item. In philately history, one of the best-known such incidences is called the ‘Inverted Jenny’ issued in 1918 in the United States, which bears the image of an airplane, upside-down.

Another genre of stamp collection involves ‘stamps on stamps’ – which are ceremonial stamps that marks an anniversary of the release of special stamps (for instance, there is one celebrating the centenary of the ‘Penny Black,’ the first stamp issued in 1840).

A special page

Mr. Kumar even owns a special page in his collection that has a stamp which has images of previously issued nine special stamps. This one is flanked by all the nine individual stamps he managed to source.

Such practices, quirky to an outsider, form a revered code among philatelists and this fascinating world has been opened up to the public by members of the philatelic association. Mr. Nair, who is also the secretary of the organisation, has won awards at the national-level and shown off his collection in exhibitions around the world. For him, the hobby is a source of great mental peace, happiness and a way to cultivate discipline in work and life.

“Every hobby is a stress-reliever and philately works wonders that way. It is only a piece of paper, but when we finally find one that we have been hunting for long, it is an indescribable feeling of satisfaction,” says Mr. Kumar, adding that it was also a way of tracing and learning about different countries’ histories.

There are also ‘maxim cards’, First Day Covers, brochures, ‘the greatest stamp in all of philately’ issued in Mauritius in 1847, and collections on themes such as birds, sea creatures, army postal service in his collection.