Published — Wednesday 13 February 2013
Last update 13 February 2013 12:25 am
During school some children start collecting different items, however only a few students continue acquiring rare pieces into their adult life. These collectors are usually inspired or supported by someone in their family to pursue their hobby.
Tariq Mughal is a private collector living in the Gulf who started collecting from a young age. “When I was in school, more than half of my classmates used to collect stamps. But as we grew older most of them lost interest and stopped collecting altogether.”
Mughal told Life & Style in an interview that when he was a child, his father, who was the chairman of a transportation company based in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, would travel often, as his company carried pilgrims by caravan even Haj season.
“The return journey used to take about three and half months passing through different countries on the way,” said Mughal. My father would write us letters from whatever country he would stop at. The letters bore stamps, which Mughal found fascinating. When the father returned home he also brought currency notes from the countries he passed through. One of first currency notes Mughal acquired was that of Saudi Arabia. Later on, when he started going to school, his father bought him stamps from dealers in Lahore, as a greater encouragement for his son to start a stamp collection.
Mughal became even more interested in collecting, when his maternal uncle, a collector himself, gave his entire collection to the young boy. During university, Mughal was too occupied with studying and stopped actively collecting, however upon graduation he joined a marketing company in Dubai. “The job entailed a lot of traveling to different countries and this reignited my passion for collecting. I got a membership in the postal authorities of the countries I would visit often and I also started going to antique dealers to buy old coins. And thus my official journey in collecting started,” he explained.
According to Mughal, what started as a hobby, slowly gathered momentum and became an investment, as the items he collected appreciated in value. “I started buying stamps, currency notes, coins and watches from auction houses in the UK and the US.”
Mughal has the largest private collection of currency notes in the world, some from countries that no longer exist, which either lost autonomy or gained independence.
“I have a complete collection of Saudi Arabian currency and coins, also the Rajasthan currency,” he added. From currencies, Mughal moved to collecting pre-paid telephone cards, which were introduced in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. “The cards used to be without numbers. You inserted it, and the telephone would read the credit. Number cards came later,” said Mughal, who claims to have telephone cards from nearly 100 countries. Asked if he has been to so many countries, he answered he bought these from auction houses.
“It took about five years for a professional person to scan all my collections in separate folders. I have spent a lot of money over the years acquiring my collection.” he said.
When asked whether he has selled some items in his collection, Mughal answered that he doesn’t, however he exchanges certain items with collectors and auction houses.
Mughal collects a wide variety of stamps, some of them are used, while others are no longer used and certain stamps are the minted collection with the original glue on the back. “I have around 80,000 used stamps and another 40,000 minted ones.” Regarding whether he runs out of storage space for the items he collects, Mughal said he is very organized and keeps them in albums and boxes.
“I used to have some gold coins; people would ask me the weight of these coins. They did not understand their rarity. It is not gold you are buying; you are buying a piece of history. So, you have to have an understanding of the background of these coins to appreciate their value,” he said.
Mughal said he would like to keep his collection in the family. He has two daughters, one has recently finished her MBA, and the other is still studying, however they have no interest in collecting. “Children these days are mostly interested in electronic gadgets. But my wife and daughters encourage and appreciate my passion for collecting.”
Overall, Mughal feels the interest in collecting is waning and its even becoming difficult to find stamps for instance, because the printing of stamps has been discontinued, since people hardly write letters or use the postal service. Nowadays, stamps are issued for collection purposes, to commemorate an event or anniversary. “It has been said that stamp collecting is a hobby of kings and the king of hobbies. “Queen Elizabeth is one of the biggest collectors today, while King George used to collect stamps,” he said, adding, “They say a collector is a born collector,” Mughal concluded.