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Big demand for Lanka's longest stamp:

Philatelic Bureau eyes better prospects

Many countries depend on machinery, motor cars, electronic goods, fisheries and agriculture for their export earnings while for some other countries, tourism, IT labour, are key to their export earnings.


Postal Services Minister Jeewan Kumaratunge, Transport Minister Kumara Welgama, Sabaragamuwa Province Chief Minister Maheepala Herath and Secretary to the Ministry of Postal Services, Post Master General M.K.B. Dissanayake.

However, one may be surprised to hear that there are a handful of countries that depend on the revenue earned from the global export of stamps to run their country.

For Tuvalu, formerly known as the Ellice Islands and located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia, the sale of stamps and tourism bring in the highest revenue while the same scenario applies to St. Marino. In the Fiji Islands too, the international sale of stamps is among the top three forex earners.

However, the situation does not apply to Sri Lanka as the annual revenue gained by the island from the sale of stamps is less than Rs. 10 million.

However, the Philatelic Bureau in Sri Lanka can be happy that it is not a financial burden to the Government and is a profit-making venture instead.

Publicity Officer of the Bureau, Channa N. Munasinghe however said that their profits had dipped last year. "One of the main reasons for this situation is that we issued too many 'faces' of personalities and buildings which do not have an international value," he said.

He said the new Minister of Posts Jeevan Kumaranatunge has realised this situation and has directed them to look at more popular themes when issuing stamps.

The issuing of Sri Lanka's longest stamp for the 25th anniversary of the Viceroy Special train operations is a result of this directive, he said.

World stamp collectors are keen to purchase stamps of this nature as they are attractive and have historical value. He said there is a similar global interest for nature pictures, animals and especially butterflies. "We are looking to explore this market aggressively," he said.

Munasinghe said they expect a very good response for Sri Lanka's longest stamp, valued at Rs. 45, with the Viceroy Special photograph. "This would be a collectors' dream," he said.

He described stamp collecting, a major global hobby, as an opportunity to earn a high income. There have been two or three cent stamps sold for millions. A four pence stamp issued in Sri Lanka in 1859, bearing the photograph of Queen Victoria, were sold for 60,000 sterling pounds at an international stamp auction. It is said that only 12 stamps of this edition are available today.

There were also instances when the third generation members of a family had found old deeds of lands of their great grandfathers which had old stamps pasted on them. "It is surprising to note that the value of certain stamps at international exhibitions were more than the land itself!" Munasinghe said.

One of the main reasons for collectors' stamps to go up in demand and price is that only a limited number of such stamps of a particular theme is printed.

"For example, we will print only 25,000 copies of Sri Lanka's longest stamp," he said.

He said that due to red tape, they cannot go all out to market their stamps in a big way and this problem is now being addressed. "We must take part in more international exhibitions and market our stamps in a more organised manner."

He said that they also have very good local and international clientele who are registered with the Bureau while there are several international agents that have been appointed to market local stamps. "Foreign buyers have sent us bank drafts and we are now looking at introducing credit card sales to simplify the procedure."

He said that with the dawn of peace tourism has picked up and that would help increase their local sales and bring them to be in a position to provide more than Rs. 10 million annually to Government coffers.

 

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