by Hayati Nupus
JAKARTA, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- Since getting the first postage stamp in the world of Penny Black in 2002, Arianto Januar, living in Jakarta, feels that he is the happiest person.
The black-white stamp with Queen Victoria's image issued by the British government in 1840 is the dream of every philatelist -- a person who studies or collects stamps and related items -- and it was being contested in an online auction in which Januar won it after raising the bid price many times.
His savings for years had to be depleted for that small piece of paper, but Januar didn't mind.
"This is my passion. Not everyone can have a collection like mine," Januar, philatelist since the age of four and has a collection of millions of stamps, told Xinhua recently.
Sometimes this member of the Indonesian Stamp Collector's Community has to fly to various countries, visit international exhibitions, or queue for hours, to get the new pieces he craves.
Meanwhile, Resti Damayanti, a 15-year-old who missed the heyday of philately, said that at first, she wondered why people were willing to sacrifice everything to get a stamp, including her late father.
The confusion drove her to visit the Indonesia 2022 World Stamp Championship & Exhibition in Jakarta, which displayed thousands of stamps belonging to hundreds of philatelists from 61 countries from Aug. 2 to 9.
She walked through booth after booth, observed the stamps displayed there, and then gained a lot of new insights.
"We can gain new knowledge from a stamp, including the historical fact that in the past people had to travel by sea for six hours from Medan to Singapore. We need much less time by plane now," Damayanti said.
In the past, stamps were affixed to envelopes, postcards, or other postal items as proof of payment of shipping costs, but they are rarely used anymore since the digital era, although they are not completely lost, said the chairman of the Indonesian Philatelic Association, Fadli Zon.
Philatelists around the world now still gather, discuss and hunt for stamps to enrich their collections, while many institutions still regularly publish their latest editions.
Zon, who has countless stamps in his private library in Jakarta, is still waiting for his luck to get Surakarta military stamps, which were issued in only 40 pieces on an emergency basis during Indonesia's struggle to defend its independence in 1949, which are now worth billions of rupiah (more than 70,000 U.S. dollars).
Now stamps are markers of a nation's history and bridges of diplomacy between countries. "Stamps record the identity of a nation, can also be an object of investment, (and) the price reaches tens of billions of rupiah," Zon said.
Despite limiting the use of stamps, the digital era also makes it easier for philatelists to hunt and get new collections through online sales, Zon added.
The survival power of stamps is also unlikely to be lost, as some countries have issued digital stamps -- physical stamps with a digital touch such as barcode features -- as well as crypto and non-fungible token stamps.