A tiny shop in Meerut is home to some of the oldest and rarest stamps released.
About 30 years ago, when Rakesh Kumar Gupta set up the Indian Stamp Company in Meerut, it was more out of a hobby than anything else. As a child, Gupta was fascinated with stamps and used to collect stamps from all over the world. “Stamps were my window of knowledge as I came to know about countries which I had never even heard of,” says the Meerut-based owner of some of the rarest stamps available.
Even in this era of e-mails, Blackberrys and social networking, Gupta gets inquiries from not only India, but all over the world. Five years ago, he decided to go online with his stamp collection and since then, his business has grown considerably. On an average, he says that online he sells more than a 1,000 stamps per week. The number might sound huge but then some of his stamp collections include 150 stamps commemorating a particular event. While there are others which are single tickets only or not more than three.
Ask him about the number of stamps he has and he says it is difficult to put a number to them. Stamps of all the Indian princely states to pre-Independence stamps, Gupta’s tiny little shop houses them all. Then there are international stamps of personalities like Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul , Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt. How does he source them? “Most of them have been collected over years through friends or buying from stamp exhibitions and sometimes some old philatelists donate their collections to us as well,” he says. There’s a huge collection of Mahatma Gandhi stamps issued both by the Indian government as well as the other countries.
Apart from stamps, Indian Stamp Company caters to everything a philatelist might need. So there are albums of all shapes and sizes to keep your stamps safely. “A stamp collection without a good album is of no use at all,” says Gupta. Albums at his shop are available from Rs 550-Rs 2750. Then there are tweezers available as well as Gupta feels use of fingers on stamps dirties them and causes a lot of damage as well. In addition to the stamps and stamp accessories, there are old and new postcards as well which according to Gupta “a lot of people have started to collect.”
The stamps at his shop are priced differently, according to the rarity. For instance, a collection of 250 stamps of Disney characters is sold at Rs 1600. “There’s no fixed cost and we determine the cost on the basis of how old and rare the stamps are,” he explains.
His buyers are mainly middle-aged people as they are the ones who have actually been exposed to stamps and know their importance, he says. “The current generation is too busy on Orkut and playing online games to indulge in such a wonderful hobby,” he rues. But still, he doesn’t believe that is a dying art or hobby. “Several of my customers come from different parts of the country and sit for hours with their kids browsing the collection,” he says. He says that he never felt the need to go out of Meerut and set up shop in other cities. “What will I do in a big city? I am quite happy here surrounded by my stamps and will continue searching for the elusive stamps,” he says.