Finding & Collecting Hong Kong Philatelic Material

By Ernie Warden

Just under eight years ago when going through papers of my late sister estate, I found the P.O.W. correspondence from my father to my mother which I had never seen before. The P.O.W. cards and letters were from my father in Stanley Camp to us in Australia and were dated between January 1943 to May 1944. This collection was the catalyst for me kick-starting my interest in collecting Hong Kong material. The question was "Where do I start?" This is how I went about finding out about "The Philatelic World of Hong Kong."

Firstly, think about what you want to collect and why.

Decide if you want to be a general collector or specialize in one area and there are many areas to look at. See what material is available in relation to what you want to collect and can afford. I have learnt it is better to buy one very good item than two less expensive items.

Go to stamp fairs, local and international exhibitions and get catalogues for postal auctions. Nowadays you can surf the net for more interesting and varied material at reasonable and often bargain prices. These are just some of the search areas for material.

Join a local stamp club and a specialist society such as your local stamp club, the Hong Kong Philatelic Society or the Hong Kong Study Circle of England. If you can, attend meetings of these clubs / societies, meet the members, talk with them, ask questions and ask for help and guidance.

Read about the subject, there are many books that can give you the information you are looking for and the Hong Kong Philatelic Society or the Hong Kong Study Circle both have good libraries and publications. There are also public libraries for books related to philately in general and newspaper / periodicals for research purpose.

Communicate with informed people asking them about your interests, glean information from them and be prepared to listen and learn and be prepared to help others less knowledgeable than yourself.

It is getting difficult to find good material at reasonable prices nowadays. Many small and local dealers stopped selling Hong Kong material when the prices went sky high in the mid nineties. In Philately, as in the business world, with take-overs, closures and mergers there are fewer dealers that collectors can go to and these results in less competition, and for the collector, means higher prices.

It seems that there are two main sources where interesting material can be found, the large stamp shows and the International Exhibitions such as London 2000 and the coming Hong Kong 2001 in February next year. This is where the gathering of quality dealers from around the world gives a good choice under one roof to all collectors, beginners and the Large Gold Winners alike.

The other source is the top-flight auction houses like Spink, Phillips, John Bull, Yang, Cavendish and others, as well as the other Postal Auction Companies; they have very good and interesting material for sale. This is the home shopping area for collectors. Here you can sit in the comfort of your home and select the items you want to bid for and post your postal bids, or prepare your visit to the public auction. Even as an individual bidding at auctions you come up against dealer's buying for stock and buying for clients. One new area I touched on earlier and that is buying from the various web-sites such as e-bay.com etc. and now there are many dealers using this method placing good materials on the sites; so this is another avenue for collectors to explore.

It becomes frustrating when you have a good general collection and want to improve it or specialize in an area. The demand for good item is fierce and frustration sets in when you receive notification that your bids have been unsuccessful or you are out bided by the person sitting next to you at auction. One thing is certain, there will always be another auction and you might get another chance. You just have to keep trying, never give up and you might be successful next time. Finally, it takes time, knowledge, luck and patience to form a good collection.