by Nguyen Hien and An Vu
VietNamNet Bridge – What does Nguyen Thanh Kim, a stamp collector, have that makes other philatelists jealous?
Pride of place: Kim currently owns 68 stamp collections from various nations, including the US and Canada as well as Asian countries.
Kim, 75, says proudly that he has more antique Lunar New Year stamps than any other collector, not only in Viet Nam but around the world.
The first Lunar New Year stamp was the Japanese tiger stamp, to mark the Year of the Tiger. From that time on, Japan published such stamps every year, Kim explains.
Viet Nam published its first special stamp collection in 1966 to celebrate the Year of the Horse, but did not issue another zodiac animal stamp until 1969 to mark the Year of the Rooster. In 1993, the animal stamps were again released and have been distributed consistently since then.
Kim has harboured a passion for these colourful stamps for many years. He currently owns 68 stamp collections from various nations, including the US and Canada as well as Asian countries.
Rather than animals, some Western countries use zodiac symbols like Pisces and Scorpio on their festive stamps.
More than ten countries have released stamps to mark the Year of the Snake, ten of which are in Kim's possession.
| The Ox stamp of Hong Kong, which was issued in 1997.
"What captivates me most is seeing how different countries create the same image. For example, the Liechtenstein stamp collection was printed by laser. Liechtenstein was also the first country to apply modern technology to national stamps," says the collector.
"In order to gather all the stamps, I spent years building a network of friends around the world. Some used to live in Viet Nam, but have since moved overseas. Some acquaintances I made through stamp clubs."
At the moment, Kim belongs to ten stamp clubs, both in Viet Nam and overseas.
"I can ask friends who live in large countries to send stamps to me, but in some places where the population is small, like Benin and Liechtenstein, help from stamp clubs is necessary," he says.
At the end of every year, Kim receives letters bearing New Year's stamps from his friends all over the world.
"Stamp collecting is not only a hobby. It also brings me friends and connections. By exchanging stamps with these people, I learn a lot about their countries' cultures and customs," he says.
Kim is also famous in the stamp-collecting world for his other valuable collections, such as animal wildlife and cultural tradition stamps.
Due to their rarity, many of his collection are as valuable as gold, such as the Mac Thi Buoi collection (worth US$600) and the Japanese dragon collection published in 1871.
After spending many years collecting stamps, Kim's biggest wish is to sell part of his collection to other collectors, as he fears that the next generation is not capable of preserving them.
Recently, Kim sold his precious train stamp collection, worth VND100 million ($4,800), to a domestic collector. "It took me more than 30 years and a lot of money to own it. So I wanted to sell this treasure to someone who could respect it," he says.— VNS