Lighthouse stamps spark lifelong passion

Published: 21/02/2009 05:00



Mr. Nguyen Huy Khanh.

A picture of a beam of yellow light, shining out from a lighthouse and guiding ships safely to shore inspired Nguyen Huy Khanh to collect images and stamps of lighthouses in Viet Nam and throughout the world.

With a collection of over 200 lighthouse stamps, Khanh owns every Vietnamese stamp which features a lighthouse, including Cu Lao Xanh (Quy Nhon City), Long Chau (Hai Phong City), Can Gio (Vung Tau city) and Vung Tau (Vung Tau city) as well as lighthouse stamps from countries all over the world.

“Many people think that collecting stamps requires a lot of money and effort but I don’t think so, it’s simply my passion. I’m happy when my collection is enriched,” Khanh says.

“I was passionate about collecting stamps when I was a child, but I began focusing on collecting stamps of lighthouses when I began working for the HCM City Maritime Safety Company in 1983,” Khanh says.

As director of the company, Khanh got a chance to survey and visit a number of lighthouses, building his collection.

Khanh is especially fond of collecting first day covers (FDC) of lighthouse stamps.

A FDC is an envelope where postage stamps have been cancelled on their first day of issue. Depending on the policy of the nation issuing the stamp, official first day postmarks may sometimes be applied to covers weeks or months after the date indicated.

“My stamps are not as expensive as some people may believe, but the information about lighthouses and lively images make them invaluable.”

“The biggest difficulty I have is finding sources of stamps,” he says. “In Viet Nam, only a few collectors are fond of lighthouses and this kind of stamp is not as varied as others such as butterfly or flower stamps.”

Self-made man

“Only four of Viet Nam’s eighty lighthouses have been introduced on stamps,” Khanh says.

“I know some countries print many stamps of their lighthouses even though they don’t have as many beautiful lighthouses as we do. Some countries don’t even have any oceans or lighthouses but they still release stamps of other countries’ lighthouses.”

Khanh doesn’t limit his collection to just stamps; he has even made envelopes featuring lighthouses on his own.

“I have been lucky enough to visit many lighthouses. At first, I just took photos of them for keepsakes, but after consulting lighthouse stamp collections across the world, I wanted to create a collection like no other,” he says.

He printed these photos on envelopes, glued lighthouse stamps on and then mailed them to himself so he could have lighthouse letters with the local post mark.

Khanh always prints information about the lighthouse on the envelope. Sometimes, letters mailed from lighthouse stations encounter trouble on the way to Khanh’s address because of bad weather or postmen’s’ carelessness.

“I received my letter but its envelope was so crumpled and dirty that I couldn’t keep it in my collection. The postman can only protect what’s inside the envelope, how can he know what I need is the envelope itself?” Khanh says.

Lighthouse history

Khanh has spent 26 years working with lighthouses. The stamp collection is not only his hobby, but also a journal full of information and stories about his favourite topic.

Khanh owns three photos of the Ly Son Lighthouse (Quang Ngai Province), each capturing a different stage. The lighthouse was restored three times after being damaged by inclement weather. These photos were printed on Khanh’s envelopes, marking the history of the lighthouse.

Khanh possesses dozens of lighthouse stamps from the Soviet Union, which became quite valuable after its collapse.

Khanh admires the beauty and symmetry of lighthouses, but his love comes from a much deeper source.

“Everyone knows the devotion of a lighthouse,” Khanh says, “it looks like a soldier guarding territorial waters for the nation. It shines the way for sailors, seeing a lighthouse means seeing safety.”

“For me, a lighthouse is a beautiful symbol.”

Khanh is proud of his unique collection and loves getting the opportunity to visit lighthouses, but his greatest wish is that Viet Nam’s other lighthouses will soon appear on stamps.


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