Stamps don't just tell the story of a letter, they can tell the history of a nation.

"In one of the bags I bought was a 40c kiwi stamp, it got me thinking how we came to be known as Kiwis? When did this term first become popular," says Helen Bell, a stamp collector and spokeswoman for the Waikato Philatelic Society.

"What is depicted on a stamp can lead to so many interesting things," she said.

Helen and 60 other philatelists in Hamilton will welcome stamp enthusiasts from societies in the central region for the Ambury Shield
Interclub Competition on Saturday, October 27.

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Collectors will be coming from Auckland, Tauranga, Whangamata and several other places.

Entries include stamps on test pilots, mining villages, Canadian revenues and penguins.

Philately, the study of stamps and stamp collecting starts as a childhood hobby for most. The term comes from the Greek term philo which means "love of" and atelia or without tax in reference to the early days of paid postage.

"Stamp collecting is not as common or popular as when I was a child but (still) as interesting and fun and can be quite social," Helen said.
Stamps are prized for their beauty, rarity and their historical significance.

"They illustrate realities from wars or can remind the public about sports events, centennials or the environment.

"There is a stamp that showed the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the centenary of railways (1963), or the telegraph in NZ (1978)," Bell said.

Stamps also mark coronations and royal weddings. "All the monarchs from Queen Victoria on are shown on New Zealand stamps, except Edward VIII as there was insufficient time before he abdicated to have New Zealand stamps designed," she said.

There were even several issues celebrating films like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

Eight stamp dealers will be in attendance for a stamp auction in the afternoon of next week's event. Up for grabs are stamps, coins, medals and other collectibles.

Displays are open to the public on Saturday, October 27 at Fairfield Baptist Church in Heaphy Tce, Hamilton. Admission is free.

The society meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at St Frances Church in Mansel Ave, Hillcrest, at 7.30pm.