A Rare Hobby
By Yusta Seghete, published on 13 Nov 2020
Have you ever wondered what strange and unique hobbies are out there? For most of us, hobbies aren’t just a way to fill time, they’re a passion – activities that make it seem like time stands still every time we lose ourselves in them.
Let me tell you a story of a man with a rare hobby.
Asgarali Kassam is known all over the world for his exclusive and rare hobby-collection of postage stamps. This activity of collecting stamps is known as philately. He also collects coins and notes from all across the world. On this day I meet him flipping through his well-organized collection, and each page had a story to tell. His passion for collecting currencies and stamps started at the age of thirteen. Growing up next to a post office in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa, really influenced his passion.
“In the beginning it was tough to collect the stamps. May be in a month we could collect only 4 to 5 stamps or 10 stamps then in the year you would have made your album, so that goes to the first album. So some people left it half way, they didn’t continue.”
Amidst the challenges, Asgarali has assembled notes and coins ranging from the era of Jesus Christ, Alexandria the Great, Queen Elizabeth among others. I am lucky to have seen and touched these coins from his collection. In 2013, he was granted the significant honor of designing the Kenya at 50 stamps. A collection that included the country’s infrastructure, political history, heritage and tourism. Philatelic material can include first day covers, postal stamps, letters, souvenirs and postal stationery. They hold historic information that has been passed from generation to generation.
‘’Originally stamps started as a way of paying for postage. But over time it has evolved to be a tool of communication. A tool that you can use to commemorate. A tool to celebrate events. And with that we talk about philately. Why has philately taken up? When you look at the stamp, it says much more than just something you lick, stick and put on an envelope. It has a story to tell. It can tell the story of an individual.’’
While for some people, philately can be considered just a hobby, for others, it’s a serious business. To mean, philately can fall from being a hobby that you collect things or subjects that interest you to being an economic occupation that you can actually sustain yourself with.
Whether it’s buying, trading or getting as a souvenir, Kassam delights in his hobby. This hobby flows through this blood stream that he can stay up to 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock at night sorting and arranging his wide collection.
What began as a simple hobby can now pass for an empire. Asgarali has collected up to 3 million postal stamps from across the globe, earning him a recognition in the Guinness World Book of Records, as a collector with stamps from most countries.