A dentist by profession, Hsiao Shih-cheng (蕭士誠) unwinds each day by spending time with his other love — collecting stamps.
After arriving home from his dental clinic in Changhua County’s Lugang Township (鹿港) every day, Hsiao spends about an hour in a room where he stores a variety of stamps, postcards and envelopes from more than 100 countries that he has collected since the age of 18.
“When I was little, I was the right-hand man of my father, who was also a philatelist, helping him clean his collection of stamps. I gradually learned that each stamp has its own story to tell and offers a glimpse into different parts of the world,” Hsiao said.
“Before I knew it, I got interested in stamps too,” he said.
Hsiao, who has been collecting stamps for 40 years, said that his trove includes stamps dating from 1840 to the present.
However, his collection grew so fast that he lost count of how many stamps he had. To avoid collecting duplicates, he started using a computer 20 years ago to catalog his purchases and collection.
While it was the variety of designs that first attracted Hsiao to the world of philately, it has also brought more fun to his life than he had expected, he said.
Most of his travels over the past years were related to his hobby, either to attend a stamp exhibition or to buy some postal item, he said.
“After amassing stamps for some time, I shifted my focus about three decades ago to collecting thematic stamps, such as those focusing on medicine, especially dentistry,” Hsiao said.
Talking about the thrill of stamp collecting, Hsiao said that finding that stamp that you have been looking for — whether online or at a stamp exhibition — feels like winning the lottery.
Hsiao’s love has also opened up a new career for him.
In 1993, he won a Vermeil medal for his collection of dental-themed stamps at the World Philatelic Exhibition in Thailand. The French medal is awarded annually to people who have made cultural contributions to society
Stepping up his efforts, Hsiao took an aptitude test in 2005 and was accredited as a philatelic judge in the Asian region. He has since served on the panel of judges at two international stamp exhibitions held in Thailand and South Korea.
Hsiao has published a book titled The Fun of Thematic Philately (專題集郵的樂趣) in February, aiming to introduce beginners and children to the joy of thematic stamp collecting.
Hsiao said he had spent more than NT$5 million (US$151,000) in collecting dental-themed stamps alone.
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