“It is said, quite rightly so, that the happening can have an impact on the people’s professions, activity and even faith.
For instance, the loss of my father, when I was a teenager who had not graduated from high-school yet, determined me to choose a less-expensive college and thus, I enrolled into the Law Faculty, I passed the graduation exam, I have been practising law all my life and as a Parliamentarian, I took part in the constituent assembly and then I became Minister of Justice. These were the consequences of a very sad happening from my youth. Similarly, by chance, a different one this time, as a child, having rummaged through the attic of my parents’ old house, I found a cardboard painting on which numerous stamps were glued. I liked them due to the diversity, colour and beauty of King Carol I’s effigies. I brought it to my room, I kept staring at it and I unskilfully tried to unglue the stamps, tearing all of them off. I was so sad that I keept that sorrow for a long time, until one day when, upon seeing my father’s correspondence, I discovered other stamps, beautiful as well, with the effigy of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie. I cut them and collected into a notebook and since then I have been a philatelist.
When I was a student, and later a lawyer, I started to buy and exchange stamps and thus, I became a stamp collector. Even nowadays, although I ceased to collect new stamps, I like a lot to watch the stamp albums and enjoy the beautiful and artistic stamps launched by Romfilatelia, whose skilful CEO, Mrs Cristina Popescu, remembers me, sending them to me from time to time.
Having said all that, I must confess that a great deal of the knowledge I have concerning great personalities of the world, history, geography, art and civilization was acquired by looking and understanding this great and wonderful “world in a stamp” and prompting the young ones to trustfully enter it!”
Mircea Ionescu – Quintus
“The postage stamps have fascinated me from childhood. I liked their shape, perforated borders, colour and graphical composition, although back then they resumed mostly to the effigy of sovereigns (Kings Ferdinand I, Michael I and Carol II), according to the model created by Henry Corbould, who engrained in the first half of the 19th century the first stamp with the head of Queen Victoria. At the beginning, my sister and I considered them as small ornaments that were stuck on envelopes and post cards by courtesy or just to please the addressee.
I remember I was very disappointed when I found that they were just accounting markers, as evidence of the fact that the carriages costs were paid. Our grandfather told us that the idea of using stamps discretely appeared in England, in 1680 (during the reign of Serban Cantacuzino, about 3 years before the second great siege of Vienna), due to London merchandisers William Dockwra and Robert Murray, who seem to have inspired from the ideas of the French Jacques Renouard de Villayer.
Our grandfather also used to tell us that the first stamp appeared in London in 1840 (just nine years before he was born). It is the famous „Penny Black” issued by „England’s Postmaster”, Sir Rowland Hill. It is then when the carriage was paid in advance (by purchase of the stamp) by the sender, according to a prepaid program proposed almost ten years before by Slovenian Lovrenc Košir.
We were very surprised to find out from our father that, according to his opinion, the stamps’ success was due to an explosive development of the railroads starting with 1840. Until then, the correspondence and postal parcels were transported by the State or private companies (as the famous company Turn und Taxis), that used the diligences or special couriers using horses, whose services were paid by the addressees. Due to such facts, my mind always associated stamps with trains and especially locomotives.
I was baffled, as well as amused that the fist Romanian stamp issued in Iasi, during the lieutenancy of N. Vogoride (1858), was called „Bull’s Head”, because, according to my lectures, I knew that Moldavia’s emblem was an aurochs head. Why did they make such change of counter-productive species from all points of view?
My father drew my attention that releasing this stamp issue was an act of bravery since at that time, the Romanian Principalities belonged to the Ottoman Empire, which forbid the coinage and other manifestations of autonomy. Furthermore, the stamp was withdrawn a few months later. I remember that the history of the Romanian post office started with a very risky symbolic political gesture. I do not know by what miracle, in 1858, during the lieutenancy of Ioan A. Cantacuzène, Vasile Sturdza and Anastasie Panu, another stamp edition was released called also „Bull’s Head”, which circulated until 1862, after the Great Union during Cuza’s reign. Later on, I also found about Cuza’s role – assisted by the debated Cezar Liebrec, Director General of post offices and telegraph offices – in the history of the Romanian postage stamp issues.
Another thing that impressed me while I was a teenager was that these stamps soon started to be collected and classified, which is uncommon for an accounting tool. I was told that in the beginning, stamps were used as playful decorative objects for canopies, lamp shades, present packages or candy packages, doors, etc. Then – since there are many people passionate about collecting stamps – stamps started to be collected the same way people collect anything else, from match boxes to bells, from canes to cups, works of art or rare books, etc. Thus, the first catalogues appeared in 1862 and then the first specialized magazines and the first great collectors. This is how in 1869, the first fake stamps appeared, being created for their value as collection pieces and not to be used in the post system. Which surprised me nevertheless was that for stamp collectors, the interest for the artistic or historic value faded almost completely and the stamps value was proportional to their rareness, translated later on by the fact that the size of issues was not that relevant in this respect. A paradox occurred, which is unique in the stamp collectors’ universe and which shocked me at that time: the value of the stamps was often conferred by their manufacturing faults. The philatelists are rarely interested in their artistic value, being mostly interested in their positive technological aspects and especially in their negative ones, which confers them a precious rareness, sometimes of million dollars. Even fake objects are valuable. The philatelists are true detectives, hunters of errors and fakes. In addition, many of them are real investors and even players on the stamp market. Which impressed me was that many crowned heads had famous collections of stamps, such as those belonging to Tsar Nicholas II, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, King Carol II of Romania, King George V of England and King Farouk of Egypt. Later on, I found that the first philatelist was an English zoologist, John Edward Gray, who started by buying five items from the first issue of stamps (Penny Black). Romania also had its outstanding stamp collectors. As far as I remember, the first stamp collector would have been a man called Butculescu. I had a good friend, Paul Laptev, who had an impressive collection that his followers sold it in London in exchange of a significant amount. I also started to make my own collection, which was at Stolnici when the communist activists plundered the mansion (in 1949), a fact that led to my collection disappearing. Ever since then, I have unsystematically collected stamps, based on their aspect and imagistic content and not according to philately’s rigorous criteria.
We had a lot of fun when my grandfather told us that before the creation of the term philately (by Georges Herpin in approximately 1864), the preoccupation and collection of stamps was called stamp mania, stamp-philia or even stampology, which is forgotten.
Something unexpected occurred with the stamps due to those who created them along over time. For me, this is the most interesting aspect, which has appeared as something collateral. Stamps had an impressive leap from the field of bureaucracy, technology and financial speculation into the field of culture.
Stamp creators were first preoccupied by the artistic aspect. Image quality, palette of colours, beauty of the graphic composition became finer and finer with time. I think that stamps should have, from this point of view, a more important place in the history of performing arts, poly-chrome engraving and artistic photography. A successful stamp is an artistic creation, according to my belief. This is happening with all stamps lately issued by Romfilatelia.
Then, those in charge of stamp issues were preoccupied by the topics of the imagistic content. The monopoly of the heads of State rulers was waived and the range of subjects edited extended considerably. It is true that certain totalitarian States used the stamp as a political and ideological propaganda tool.
Nevertheless, stamps luckily became an instrument to spread culture and here I am talking about real culture, with no kitsch and horrors broadcasted by the media. The actual team led by Mrs Cristina Popescu, managed to convey not only the artistic part of the Romanian stamps but also their image as bearers of interesting cultural messages pertaining to different domains. Nowadays, when culture is neglected (see, among others, the educational programs or television programs) and dishonoured, Romfilatelia continues to try to skilfully and devotedly bring back on the public scene, through stamps, themes from the Romanian and universal culture. I admired the choice of the themes as well as their tackling. It is a great pleasure for me to see that nowadays, when we are living secularization times, Mrs Popescu and her collaborators, goes the length of issuing stamps concerning our spirituality, which most of the times is neglected when not rejected. Due to such editorial programs, Romfilatelia has become a cultural institution and the stamp has become a vehicle of our culture and spirituality.
I must confess that I have never been a literal philatelist. I have never hunted rare and expensive items, execution errors or other variables. I have always been in search of beautiful stamps and stamps that convey a cultural message. This is why I do not consider myself a philatelist, but a stamp admirer and an admirer of those who create it, as well.”
“Philately does not only mean the history of the stamp, but the history, culture and art of a country, as stamps illustrate that too.”
Fernando Aranaz del Río – Vice-president FIP
“Dear philately lovers, I share with you the passion for stamps and philately. Ever since I was a child, I have practised this hobby, which offers a great opening to the world, history and great events. […] I still believe that philately will maintain its place if the stamp maintains its social and economic utility related to letter carriage, to its beauty and rareness. […] Philately is a hobby, as well as a world of artists, engravers, designers. I wish to pay my respect to them for the fact that by illustrating abstract topics most of the times, they create, on each stamp, an original masterpiece on a small surface, which is the proof of authentic talent.”
Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France 2007-2012 – Excerpt from Timbres Magazine
“Stamps embody the characteristics of a country. Stamps illustrate its outstanding personalities, touristic areas, greatness of history and cultural patrimony, which are made familiar by their presence on letters. Thus, stamps are a concrete means of advertising, an open window to the entire world. […] The philatelist discovers that people, although they pertain to different races, although they live in different climate areas or although they have different points of view, find in their passion for philately an easy method of understanding and friendship. […] For the moment, it is just a vision, but a time will come when philately, just as other tested methods, shall be used to teach history, geography, fauna, flora as well as many other fields. [….] As FIP President, I wish to congratulate and give thanks to Romfilatelia for its contribution in the development and promotion of Romanian and international philately across time.”
Jos Wolff, former president of FIP
“Romanian stamps, especially the first issues of Moldavian Principalities (1858) and Romanian Principalities (1862), demonstrate this opening towards new horizons. And yet, this is not the only reason for which they are so popular and appreciated worldwide. For instance, we can recall the first issue Bull’s head, which depicts all that the real philately stands for: the magic of rare items and a captivating history. Many legends have been told about these stamps by many authors and nowadays, they still fascinate the international researchers. The new issues of Romanian stamps are outstanding as well. As mirror of the country, society and cultural variety, these stamps are worth being seen and collected.”
Wolfgang Maasen, former president of the International Association of Philately Journalists