Dr. B. Sarantuya, a professor at the Chair of the Mongolian Language and Philology of the Humanitarian Science Department of the Mongolian National University of Science has an interesting hobby of collecting postage stamps. Dr. Sarantuya has been collecting postage stamps from childhood and after a brief spell of break, ten-years ago she resumed her hobby and shares with Ts. Otgonsüren, a reporter of The Mongolian Observer about her collection of stamps.
What is the theme of your collection?
“Khalkha Gol” and “Mongolians in foreign stamps” are the two key themes of my collection. Many may not know about Khalkha Gol. This is the name of a place in the extreme west of the country where a fierce battle was fought against Japanese invaders when they attacked Mongolia in 1939, which some historians describe as a prelude to the Second World War. Today there are many monuments devoted to Mongolian and Soviet (Russian) soldiers who had come to the assistance of the country in the war against the Japanese militarists and also many commemorative postage stamps have been released in the country to celebrate the victory over militarism.
I also have a special collection called 12.12. 2012. As a matter of fact, postage stamps mirror history.
Can you, please tell us, a little more about this collection called 12.12.2012?
I had a photo exhibition displayed at our University on 11 November 2011 under the theme called “A Moment.” This exhibition gave birth to a new idea and started a media campaign called 12.12.12 or 12 December 2012, saying that this is going to be a rare moment in human history which would happen only once in lifetime. And so, I said to myself I must have a postage stamp collection under the theme “12.12.12”. For this to happen I started writing to all my friends in all the 21 aimags of the country, as well as my friends living and working overseas to send me letter with stamps and with the postal seal dated 12 December 2012.
And how many letters did you receive with the postal seal 12.12.2012?
I received a total of 600 letters, 500 from inside the country and 100 from foreign countries.
How long did these letters take to reach you? In those days postal service was relatively slow.
The letters which were sent from Ulaanbaatar were delivered the next day, but most interesting, a letter from Bayan Ölgii aimag from the country’s east, reached in just 2 days, which I thought was a record and I said to myself ‘Well our postal service has improved and has become efficient.’ All letters that come from overseas are also stamped by the Mongol Post on the day they receive the letter and there was one letter from Namibia which had taken 9 months to reach Mongolia. There were several letters which were misspent to either Thailand or Taiwan, I don’t know why, but they were all finally delivered with postal stamps of these countries and after several months.
Was 12.12.2012 also celebrated in other countries?
Philatelists in different countries had celebrated this day in their own manner. A friend of mine had written to be from New Delhi, India who had said that the post office on this day was busy and there were long queues of people who wanted to buy the First Day Cover for their own private collections.
What is First Day Cover?
First Day Cover is a postage stamp on a cover, postal card or stamped envelope flanked on the first day the issue is authorized for use within the country or territory of the stamp-issuing authority. Sometimes the issue is made from a temporary or permanent foreign or overseas office. There will usually be a first day of issue postmark, frequently a pictorial cancellation, indicating the city and date where the item was first issued, and “first day of issue” is often used to refer to this postmark. 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.
Postal authorities may hold a first day ceremony to generate publicity for the new issue, with postal officials revealing the stamp, and with connected persons in attendance, such as descendants of the person being honored by the stamp. The ceremony may also be held in a location that has a special connection with the stamp’s subject, such as the birthplace of a social movement, or at a stamp show.
Mongolia issued its first First Day Cover in 1924 with its first ever postage stamp under the theme Eldev Ochir or karma-vajra. This postage stamp was released one year before the country issued its first mint. The latest 1027th First Day Cover was released in November 2017 called “Butterfly Blue – The National Flower of Mongolia. The figure 1027 implies the number of themes of the postage stamps issue but on the whole more than 5,000 postage stamps were issued in the country since.
The country has a professional stamp collector’s organization called Mongolian Philately. Its members meet once every week on Sunday on the first floor of Tuul Hotel in Ulaanbaatar. The gathering not only brings together stamp collectors, it also brings together post card and lapel pin collectors.
The Central Post has a small Museum of Mongolian Postage Stamps where one can find all the postage stamps that have been issued in the country since 1924.