While other 12-year-olds spend their evenings on PlayStations or online, Neel Maurer prefers to collect stamps in his free time. Together with the illustrator of the “50 years manned Moon landing” stamp, we spent an afternoon with the young philatelist.
Few young people are passionate about stamp collecting nowadays. This makes a 12-year-old boy’s decision to start collecting all the more remarkable. When asked why he does it, Neel Maurer gives an straightforward answer: “I just like stamps. I find it especially fascinating that something so small can have such an intricate design.” This fascination has made him one of Switzerland’s youngest stamp collectors.
Philately is not kids’ stuff
Using a collection mailbox he made himself and hung up in the waiting room of his father’s veterinary surgery, Neel quickly built up his collection: “My mailbox is bursting at the seams. Lots of people have even given me entire albums.” He now has to sift through and arrange all 2,000 of these stamps, which he has learned a great deal about through self-study. Benel Kallen, Head of Stamps and Philately Product Management at Swiss Post, gives him a hand during our visit and offers some advice about which of his stamps are likely to increase in value over the coming years. Neel said that young collectors generally receive lots of help from the philately community: “I’m always the youngest by far at collector events and often pick up stamps at a special price. The older collectors think what I’m doing is great.”
Little pieces of art near and far
Stamps create special experiences that appeal to the senses, are socially relevant and are attractive to look at. How they are created is often just as exciting as the result itself. Jwan Reber, for example, had to reinterpret the “50 years manned Moon landing” motif due to copyright issues. During our visit, he showed Neel how he reworks his pencil sketches digitally on the computer. With so much early encouragement, Neel may well delight Switzerland with his own stamp motif one day.
Text: Sandra Gurtner, Photo: Lena Schläppi
According to the Union of Swiss Philatelic Societies, there are currently around 4,000 registered philatelists in Switzerland. All the hustle and bustle at auctions and stamp exchanges, however, suggests the number may actually be much higher. Despite this, the proportion of people under the age of 50 is low. For this reason, the Union of Swiss Philatelic Societies is committed to nurturing interest among young collectors by providing documents for teachers and offering support at the national stamp exhibition Philatelica’19, which will be held in Bulle from 28 November to 1 December 2019.