Nicolas Changea is a collector of Greek stamps and owner of the stamp blog Hellenic Philately. His exhibit on Greek philately won a vermeil medal at the NOTOS 2021 European Philatelic Exhibition. APS interviewed Nicolas to learn more about his philatelic background and plans of the future in the hobby.
Read the interview below:
Give a brief bio and background of how you began to collect stamps?
Like many I started collecting when I was around 10 years old before leaving from the hobby for a while. My first stamps came from a grandfather, most of them were what we call CTO or stamps from France. Around 30 years old I remembered about them but this collection was destroyed. As I was quite demotivated I chose not to go back to France, but to create a collection on Greece, which is a country close to my heart and the home of my wife.
Who inspired you to collect stamps?
My inspiration comes from my wife, even if I admit that I already had some tendencies to collect everything and anything! I looked for a new hobby and she saw my stamp albums gathering dust in a cupboard. She pushed me to contact an association (of which I have now become the webmaster) and I met a group of enthusiasts which allowed me to flourish. I could name a number of them, but I will mention two main ones: André Van Dooren (President of the association) and Paul Vialatte, the centerpiece of the "discussions on the table". The APR (Association Philatélique Rhodanienne) allowed me to meet an important man in my philatelic history: Yves Mallet. He was also a fan of collecting Greece who had met and learned from big name Parisian collectors from the 70s and 80s. He gave me reading suggestions and a method that allowed me to start specializing my collection. This was also the starting point of my blog.
Do you collect anything outside of French and Greek postal history?
I have almost nothing from France following the destruction of my grandfather's collection. Today I only collect things related to Greece, although I have things from other countries. Like all of us, when we buy a lot or a collection we find things that are outside our themes but which for our collector's soul must enter an album! So I only have things that relate to Greece, but as everyone wanted to settle in Greece in the 19th and 20th centuries I have a sample of the international post!
What are your favorite stamps that you have collected?
Paradoxically it is a modern one which has rather little information about it. In fact I like the incongruous aspect of the error it contains. This is a stamp from 1986 which I write about in the article on my blog: 1986 : Un « J » qui se balade – Philatélie Hellénique
As a Greek stamp lover I should obviously quote the classic of classics with the Hermes Head stamps but that would be an almost easy answer!
What inspired you to create your blog?
Myself. I already had a blog about another hobby of mine. So the blog existed before I met Yves Mallet, but it's thanks to that meeting with Yves that I was able to discover the direction I was taking, and he's enthusiastic about passing on that knowledge to me. These conversations were surely the real starting point of this adventure because the motivation it gave me allowed me, through the blog, to meet people I never thought I could approach. I was able to interview Anthony Virvillis, exchange words with Georges Thomareis who notably collects Salonika, the city of my wife's birth and of which I also collect documents. I could take my mailbox and write the names of 30 or 40 people whose names appear in a magazine, a notorious collection, or an international exhibition. Of course, I must also mention Louis Fanchini who is for me a master. Since the death of my friend and mentor Yves Mallet, Louis has become my philatelic father, even if I never told him I'm fascinated by his knowledge.
Louis Fanchini (left) and Nicolas (right) at Epernay
Are your philatelic interests related to your professional interests?
Absolutely not! But if an opportunity presented itself I think I would go for it!
Are you planning to incorporate your stamp collecting interest to other social media platforms outside of Twitter?
I actually thought about it, especially YouTube. But the skills are quite far from me and when I see what exists in particular on the US YouTube I don't think I can offer something as qualitative. On the French-speaking Youtube there is a great void on philately and I am surprised that a company like Yvert & Tellier does not occupy this space.
What advice would you give to someone who is new to the hobby?
Go to associations, visit exhibitions, get closer to collectors. Go further than simply ticking a box in a catalog, stamps are a window on history, culture and knowledge. Whatever your angle of attack is, philately will take you to places you never suspected!
What are your plans for the future of the blog/your involvement in philately?
Actually I admit that I let myself be a little carried away, so I have suspended major projects such as the exhibition of my collection. I would like to have the time to write a book but I don't know if my knowledge is mature enough for that. For the blog I focus on openness. When I can, I take advantage of the stamps as a support to elements of history and culture. I try to put in simple words the sometimes difficult knowledge to which I have access to. I would like my blog to be a library of Greek philately, so that when you are looking for something, you will be able to find it on the blog. Knowledge that is not shared is knowledge that is lost, some knowledge is now only in the heads of a few people and in books, inexhaustible or even disappeared. I am convinced that there is a danger of loss of knowledge and competence with the reduction in the number of collectors, and the sudden and tragic disappearance of many associations which sometimes had relevant libraries. I would not want the only solution to have access to knowledge to be going to Athens to the Hellenic Philatelic Society (HPS) which is today the great guardian of this knowledge.
Anything else you would like to add?
First of all, thank you for granting me this space of expression. I can't thank enough all the people who supported me, support me and will support me! I would like to salute the memory of my friend Yves Mallet again, and also Louis Fanchini whom I would like to call a friend but who in reality is perhaps more of an icon for me.