Coins, Stamps, and Piles of Boxes: A Collector's Story
by Shara Mae Balce, November 14, 2018 8:48am
Photos by Shara Balce/Inside Manila
The mailing of letters and parcel delivery have been on continuous decline, some even assume it to be an extinct practice. With its decline, many businesses and its staples have slowly to ceased to exist due to them becoming unprofitable—stationaries and stamps for one.
But as the decline continues, collectors continue to find and see higher value (other than its history) in these objects. Like Jimmy Yu of Manila Stamps for example, who has been collecting old paper money, commemorative coins, postage stamps, letters, and antiques for almost two decades.
How It All Began
Born and naturalized in the Philippines with pure Chinese blood, Yu inherited the business his late father started.
Yang Siu Chong, Yu’s father, then was a postage stamp dealer and collector who found this fad at a young age of 15. Mr. Chong turned his hobby into a living, and established a small shop in Manila in 1937 but it was burned down during the Battle of Manilla in 1945.
However, this tragedy did not end Mr. Chong’s genuine love for stamps, thus he later refurbished and reopened the business. Now, the shop he established known as Manila Stamp is being managed by one of his sons, Yu, who pushed his way through accumulating and selling stamps. And now, Yu is able to make a generous living with this inheritance.
Before he focused on the stamp and old currency business, Yu worked in a textile factory in Valenzuela for twenty years.
On Collecting Postage Stamps and Old Currencies
Inside a three-bedroom lodge apartment in San Miguel Manila, Yu lives with his wife and his collection piled inside square plastic containers that are placed on top of each other. Yu's main interest are on postage stamps, but after knowing that paper money and coins are in demand, he began collecting and selling them, too.
He has bundles of local and international old paper money and commemorative coins. He even has antiquated comics and rail cards.
“’Pag nabenta, pera. Kapag kuwan, parang basura,” Yu said, chuckling himself.
Claiming his expertise on stamps, he never found himself dealing with paper money and coins until he discovered it in an exhibit he once attended.
“Sumasali ako sa mga exhibit tapos nakikita ko, ‘ba, mabili ang paper money at coins ah.’ Nag-umpisa na ako. Nagcollect…namimili na rin ako. Dati mayroon akong pwesto sa Greenhills. Every year sumasali ako doon. Mayroon silang, ‘yong parang antique show.”
His love for his collection is evident through his eyes and his chat filled with so much passion about it. And just when we tought the container boxes in his home were already held lot to browse into, he also toured us around their stock room and said “Ito, isang bodega punung-puno kaya lang magulo. Makikita mo, kalat-kalat lang oh, nakakahiya. Wala akong time mag-ayos eh.” With this, we respected not to take photos of his home’s interiors.
The Joys and Values of Collecting
“Masaya ka kapag nagcocollect ka. Mabibili mo nang mura, mabebenta mo nang mahal. May jackpot pa minsan. Kapag mga rare kagaya nito (coin dated) 1906, ang halaga kalahating milyon.”
It could be just a memorabilia made of specialized paper or a souvenir from your grandparent’s exchange of old love letters, but for many like Yu, stamps are of big significance. The more it gets old, the more it gets valuable. He relies on thousands of pages world currencies and stamp catalogues as his own guide to the value and familiarization of his collection.
“Kung sa coins, iyong mas luma ang mas mahal. Pero sa paper money kailangan maganda, malulutong.”
“Noong marami na, siyempre sobra-sobra minsan nabibili mo, kikita ka, bibilhin mo na. Gaya nitong fifty pesos, nabili ko lang mga sixty, mabebenta ko ng one-fifty, malaking bagay.”
Even when he travels abroad, Yu brings his collection with him and sells it to other collectors. These ‘old’ pieces of paper are actually of monetary value. “May nabenta ako noon, fifty thousand. Noong isang araw nabenta ko…twenty five thousand binayad sa akin, isang stamp lang ‘yon.”
The stamp collector is turning 78 next year. He encourages younger ones to engage in collecting, and puts it into an investment perspective he quoted, “Maski hindi ka collector nagiging collector ka kapag naengganyo ka. Sayang yung pera ilagay mo sa bangko, hindi tutubo nang malaki. Dito masaya ka na, kumikita ka pa. Hindi lugi.”
There’s a great sense of fulfillment in collecting, and for one like Yu, it’s that certain gratification in developing the hobby is one thing that money can’t buy.
Collecting never gets old. Whether you’re in it for the nostalgia for things or simply a way of using material things to commemorate our milestones, and when taken very seriously, collecting can actually repay you.
Manila Stamp and Coins is at 1099 Manila Central Post Office, P.O. Box 2486. For more info, you may contact Mr. Jimmy Yu at (02) 734-2234.