Stamp Devil


The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Weekend | Hobby -

MIL­LIONS of emails are sent across the world ev­ery day – they’re in­tu­itive, straight­for­ward, cost ba­si­cally noth­ing and ar­rive at their des­ti­na­tions in­stan­ta­neously. The role of email in Myan­mar has ex­ploded over the last decade with the wide­spread in­tro­duc­tion of in­ter­net and the free­dom to use it, and so tra­di­tional means of post have suf­fered as ev­ery­one clam­bers to join the 21st cen­tury. But as it is said wist­fully of the old days of main­line tele­phone – there’s some­thing whole­some miss­ing in our flashy new modes of life. Some­thing tan­gi­ble and tex­tured and warm. Some­thing you can hold in your hands and touch and ap­pre­ci­ate. U Kyaw Myint Maung is one of those aes­thetic ret­ro­grades who, in the pur­suit of ana­log authen­tic­ity, is an avid stamp col­lec­tor. Some­thing, he says, saves the past while still hav­ing some­thing to teach us.

“It’s not just a hobby, it can be lu­cra­tive. The stamps in­crease in value over time,” U Kyaw Myint Maung says. “Er­rors can be even more valu­able. In 2004, the 4th World Bud­dhist Sum­mit was com­mem­o­rated with a stamp in Myan­mar, but the event ul­ti­mately never took place. The stamps were is­sued, though. The price of that com­mem­o­ra­tive stamp sky­rock­eted.”

The col­lec­tor’s in­ter­est in stamps be­gan when he was a youth in Mawlamyaing in the early 1960s. 20-yearold neigh­bour­hood res­i­dent ‘An­drew Balt­hazar’ was known to U Kyaw Myint Maung and his friends as a keen col­lec­tor who would share some of his less valu­able finds with the boys, en­cour­ag­ing them to cher­ish, study and trade in stamps as well. A col­lect­ing cul­ture de­vel­oped with An­drew pro­vid­ing in­ter­est­ing new items and even host­ing com­pe­ti­tions to see who had col­lected the most in­ter­est­ing items. All time spent in the li­brary was ded­i­cated to read­ing about the art of col­lect­ing and U Kyaw Myint Maung was soon en­gag­ing in in­ter­na­tional mail cor­re­spon­dence to ac­cess stamps from far and wide. Once a month the letters would flow back into Myan­mar, met with great ex­cite­ment.

In 1970, the Burma Stamp So­ci­ety was formed and U Kyaw Myint Maung im­me­di­ately be­came a mem­ber. It was a step up from per­sonal col­lect­ing. Be­ing a mem­ber of the club meant ac­cess to the col­lec­tive knowl­edge of all the mem­bers and a chance to ex­change books. In 1979, U Kyaw Myint Maung joined his sec­ond col­lect­ing club, the Manawatu Philatelic As­so­ci­a­tion, but this time in New Zealand, where he was work­ing in academia. “When I told them there was only one stamp club for the whole of Myan­mar, they seemed sur­prised,” U Kyaw Myint Maung noted.

These days, U Kyaw Myint Maung is work­ing to­wards re-in­vig­o­rat­ing the art of col­lect­ing by writ­ing books and try­ing to find celebri­ties who share his in­ter­est and want to go pub­lic. There are very few chil­dren col­lect­ing stamps, he says with a hint of sad­ness.

U Kyaw Myint Maung has, to date, pub­lished five books about stamp col­lect­ing, the first go­ing to print in 2009. That first work, A Handbook for (the) Myan­mar Stamp Col­lec­tor, won a bronze prize at the 2014 World Stamp Ex­hi­bi­tion. There is a sixth book in pro­duc­tion at the mo­ment.

No­bel peace win­ners on stamp.

Stamp ex­pert U Kyaw Myint Maung.

Photos: Sup­plied

U Kyaw Myint Maung’s col­lec­tion.

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