Autumn 1995 (3.3)
Pages 26-28, 38
Connecting Through Collecting
Azerbaijan Philatelic Society
by Yusif Valiyev
"Collecting stamps helps commemorate the spirit of life. It obliges man to connect with the major issues of his time. To tell you the truth, I think stamps make me younger!" admitted a 70-year-old Azerbaijani stamp collector, who has spent the last 50 years collecting these tiny pieces of paper from distant parts of the globe.
There are many reasons Azerbaijanis get involved with philately as a hobby. Sometimes, a parent, relative or friend got them started. Sometimes, as in the case of Rafig Aliyev, now Deputy General of Azerbaijan's Philatelic Society, intellectual bonds provided the motivation. "I saw people who were intelligent and extremely knowledgeable about so many things. Many had a vast awareness of worldwide events and geography. I got involved simply because I wanted to be with these kind of people."
Some admit using stamps as a form of escapism. They say collecting transports them into a mysterious world. "It's like reading a book. You get so absorbed that you relax and forget your difficulties and everyday problems. It's a fascinating journey. Every stamp has a narrative, a story to be told, not only about the topic it features, but about how the stamp itself came to be acquired."
Others gain a certain identity from it. "I have stamps that nobody in all of Azerbaijan has," says one proud owner of a recent Aliyev stamp that was printed with its denomination missing. It seems the red print run showing the manats was never made. Some even claim collecting makes them more disciplined in their office jobs.
In the process of collecting and connecting, Azerbaijanis, like people all over the world, have formed close friendships. Some have even married through acquaintances they've met in the Philatelic Society.
Collecting During the Soviet Period
Most people who have serious collections in Azerbaijan got started during the Soviet Period. Back then, collecting provided one more way to scale those walls that had been built up around us-one more way to expand our world. The tradition of stamp collecting can be traced to the 30s and 40s in Azerbaijan, according to Rafig Aliyev. Stamp collectors have been meeting together since 1946 in Baku. Because of the international character of the city, it was only natural that such a hobby would attract a large following. The Philatelic Society was officially registered in 1961.
Up to that time, authorities could not decide whether stamp collecting was important enough to set up such an organization. But when the decision was made, Azerbaijan's philatelists initiated the movement and provided the impetus to create the All-Union Society. In 1996, Azerbaijan's Society will celebrate its 35th anniversary, and the All-Union Society, its 30th. Many Azerbaijani stamp collectors have won All-Union (entire USSR) and International Exhibitions.
During all these years, the Society has made its own regulations, had its own board, and established favorable terms for buying stamp books and participation in exhibitions. Membership entitles one to purchase four or five blocks of each new stamp issue at a discounted price prior to its being put on sale to the public. The Society meets each Saturday and Sunday from 10 A.M. till about 2 P.M. They exchange information, plan meetings and conferences, make preparations for exhibitions. But primarily they come to buy and trade stamps, coins, and medals.
Because of the sheer quantity of stamps from which to choose, not to mention the prohibitive expense, most collectors limit their collections to specific themes or topics. Some collect Sports (not just in general, but specific ones such as Soccer). Others try to trade in Literature, Music, Art, Fauna, Flora, Science, Aerospace, History, Outstanding Historic Personalities, and so many other subjects.
Numerous stamps, of course, have been printed about the Soviet system. There were stamps commemorating Lenin, National Holidays such as "May Day" and "Victory Day", "Moscow Collections," and even "Streets in Moscow". Some dealt with Industry, Agriculture, Youth Komsomol, KGB, Military Forces, "Patriotic War" (World War II), "Struggle for Peace" and "International Cooperation". Back then, there were special ties with Vietnam, Angola, and Cuba and it was easy for collectors to acquire stamps from these socialist countries.
After the collapse of the USSR, many philatelists left Baku. These days, the Club is down to about 1,000 members from the previous 5,000. Now with the economic difficulties, fewer people have time to think about stamps. Some have had to choose between selling their collections or draining their family budgets. Even the club membership of about $2 annually is impossible for pensioners who make only $4 per month. Despite all these difficulties, the Society is alive and has plans to expand its activities. There are numerous organizations that have been created to develop interest among the youth and there's a keen interest to meet and exchange with stamp collectors from all over the world.
History of Stamps in Azerbaijan
The first stamp ever to be issued was an unperforated profile portrait of Queen Victoria. It was printed in England in 1840. Russia's first stamp appeared in 1857. Azerbaijan's first stamp followed in 1919 after the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917. However, Azerbaijan's fledgling Republic collapsed after only two years and the printing presses fell silent. Between 1922 and late 1991, Azerbaijan's stamp production became absorbed into the larger Soviet plan. During that time more than 500 Azerbaijan-related stamps featuring historic personalities, architecture, traditional musical, oil industry, and the like were issued from Moscow. Not surprisingly, Azerbaijan's first stamp after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 commemorated the Republic's new independence.
In High Demand
These days, stamps that were issued in Azerbaijan between 1918 and 1920 are quite rare and are beginning to command considerable sums (See photos in AI, Summer 1995, "Azerbaijan's Petroleum Stamps"). And so, too, are the new stamps currently being issued if prices in the catalogs provide any indication. It seems Azerbaijan's new stamps are among the most sought after in the 15 former Soviet Republics.
These stamps are now being printed abroad. Colors are deep and rich, and the designs quite compelling. Apart from aesthetics, one other reason why the stamps are in demand is that Azerbaijan publishes limited copies and limited series as the government does not have a tradition of selling to world collectors to raise revenue.
Standard well-known catalogs of France, Germany and the U.S. have included the country of Azerbaijan these days. However, in the case of the Scott Catalog (U.S.), the 1995 edition does not include stamps past 1992 although all the early Azerbaijan Republic Stamps (1918-1920) are listed.
Plans for future commemorative series which should appear soon include the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations, which is being celebrated this year, and the 110th Anniversary of the birth of Composer, Uzeyir Hajibeyov (September 18th).
Yusif Valiyev is an avid stamp collector living in Baku. Fax: (99412) 983 755; e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>. To contact the Philatelic Society of Azerbaijan, (Deputy Head, Rafig Aliyev) write P.O. Box 134, Baku 370005. Tel: (99412) 98-88-04 or 93-47-57.
Azerbaijan's Stamps since Independence (late 1991)
Stamp denominations are in manat, unless designated with k (kopeck), monetary system of the former Soviet Union. Stamps are listed alphabetically within each year, not according to month issued.
Caspian Sea Ecology: 25, 35, 50k; 1.50 & 2.50m
Independent Azerbaijan: 35k
Maiden's Tower: 10, 20, 50k; 1.50m
Architecture: 2, 4, 8
Aliyev (President): 25 (2 times)
Flag & Emblem: 5, 8
Fuzuli (Poet) 10
Horses: 20, 30, 50k; 1, 2.5, 5, 10m
Iran and Azerbaijan: 1.5, 2, 20, 25, 50
Ministerial Building: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 40, 50, 100
Aliyev (President): 150
Apollo XI (Women Cosmonauts): 100 (8 times)
Birds: 10, 15, 20, 25, 50, 100
Butterflies: 10, 25, 50, 60
Dinosaurs: 5, 10, 20, 25, 30, 50, 80, 100
Fauna: 50, 80, 100, 120
Fish: 20, 25, 50,100
Flowers: 20, 25, 50, 100
Mammadquluzade, Jalil: 20
Minerals: 5, 10, 15, 20
Nobel Brothers' Petroleum Co: 15, 20, 25, 50
Olympics-100 Years: 3 times 100
Olympics: 10, 25, 40, 50, 80, 100, 200
Rasulzade, Mammad Amin: 15
Ships of Caspian: 15 different stamps (5 different ships) all 50
World Cup USA: 5, 10, 20, 25, 30, 50, 80, 100
Caspian Sea Ecology: (same design as '92) 200, 400, 600, 800, 1,000
Fauna: 50, 100, 150, 250, 300
Tortoises: 50, 100, 150, 250, 300
From Azerbaijan International (3.3) Autumn 1995.
© Azerbaijan International 1995. All rights reserved.