04 July 2019
We spoke to Belgian philatelist Patrick Maselis RDP FRPSL, president of The Royal Philatelic Society London, the president of the Club de Monte-Carlo de l’Elite de la Philatélie, and a signatory of the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists, and asked him about his time at The Royal and his thoughts on our hobby.
How did you first become involved in philately and stamp collecting?
I was three years old and stamps were added to the boxes of Milkana cheese as an incentive. I was immediately collecting them and put them in a logical order. I couldn’t read, so I put cars with cars and butterflies with butterflies. Stamp collecting was also genetic. I am a fourth generation philatelist.
What has been your favourite speciality/subject to collect over the years?
Early postal history of the Congo. According to an inventory I made myself, I think there are only eighty covers from the Congo (between 1550 and 1885). Most of these are from famous people. The earliest letters are from the King of Congo to the King of Portugal and are in the National Archives of Portugal. Others are from famous explorers like Livingstone or Stanley.
Can you explain your involvement in MonacoPhil and what visitors can expect from the event?
I am the General Commissioner. Visitors to MonacoPhil can expect both a great philatelic and a great social programme. Philately: three exhibitions; 100 iconic items, Egypt and worldwide maritime postal history. We will also welcome the FEPA, AIJP, AEP and Club de Monte-Carlo General Meetings. Social activities: almost every day a major, very high level reception with free entry sponsored by the Post of Monaco and several philatelic auction houses. Prince Albert will open the exhibition.
How have you enjoyed your role as President of the Royal, what have been the highlights?
I enjoyed it very much. First, I had to win the hearts of the UK members (but Belgian chocolates and beer helped me a lot). I also went to ten regional meetings in the UK. So, after a few months I knew that I was accepted and I learnt how beautiful this country is and I was invited to many truly British parties and events. An unforgettable experience. For me, the highlight is the new building.
How do you think the Royal’s move to new premises will benefit the Society and its members?
It will be a major improvement. Larger rooms, a lift, more room for our library and collections, decent rooms for the staff, catering facilities, etc…
What do you think the future holds for the hobby?
A small but very dedicated group of expert philatelists in Europe and America. The future of the large numbers of traditional collectors is in Asia.
We also asked Patrick about his thoughts on how collectors can help to promote philately to non-collectors, and he kindly allowed us to print an excerpt from his article to be publsihed in the catalogue of the Stockholmia exhibition, as follows:
We philatelists have always known just how interesting and important our pastime is. Unfortunately, all too often we tend to be rather misunderstood by the outside world. Of course, this is due partly to the fact that philately is by no means an easy hobby to get into properly. Oddly, collectors of art or vintage cars don’t seem to have the same problem. Yet philately takes a great deal of effort. To be a philatelist, you need to have all sorts of intellectual, historical, geographical and technical background as your stock in trade. You also need to devote a lot of time to your chosen hobby. Putting together an interesting collection can take many years. And even when you have all the items you want, there’s still plenty of work to do. For a start, you need to carry out research, and that will take up even more time. Your ultimate hope is to build up a collection that is ground-breaking of its kind, one that provides new insights. In my view, every really good collection is comparable with a PhD thesis, and I’m not exaggerating.
To explain philately to a wider audience that has never been involved in collecting stamps is not easy. In my view, the best way to attract the attention of non-collectors is to create a ‘shock effect’. My exhibits at Stockholmia illustrate what I mean by this. If the ‘shock effect’ works and the reaction of the casual visitor viewing my exhibits is something like: ‘I didn’t realise that philately could be so exciting and interesting', then I will have succeeded in my aim.