Given the transitory nature of expat life, the idea of collecting objects may not sound particularly appealing, or even practical.
But search hard enough and you’ll be surprised to come across individuals who pride themselves on being ardent collectors with amazing tales to share.
Here, we speak with four individuals to find out the interesting stories behind their cherished collections.
History on paper
In a world dominated by emails, WhatsApp and countless other digital messaging platforms, the humble postage stamp had become a sort of forgotten relic from our pre-internet past.
But not for Dr Mohammed Chabuk, whose lifelong love for stamps is evidenced by his 4,000-piece collection sourced from around the world.
It was a passion that he inherited from his father, who handed him his own large collection when he was 12 years old.
“I started with a basic group collected from relatives and friends by gathering the stamps
they got while exchanging letters with others, then my father supported me with his collection of around 1,000 stamps,” recalls the Iraqi-Irish orthopaedic specialist.
Mohammed further grew his haul by buying from fellow enthusiasts, rummaging through old letters, joining competitions and scouting out post offices willing to sell old stamps for a bargain.
His collection fascinatingly includes stamps obtained from countries from bygone eras such as the Soviet Union, United Arab Republic (the brief union between Egypt and Syria from 1958 to 1961), Czechoslovakia, the Mutawakelite Kingdom of Yemen and South Arabia.
“The whole collection stayed in Iraq when I left the country 15 years ago. My mother safeguarded them in the same bag of albums that I left back then; I managed to get them a few years back. They survived the war and some difficult circumstances,” the father-of-two poignantly points out.
He estimates that his entire collection is probably worth “a few thousand dollars” and, like his father, hopes to pass on the hobby to his children or future grandchildren.
“Behind every stamp is an occasion, story or event in history worth memorialising. It was an eye opener for me. When I go through my collection, I feel as if I travelled the world.”
Over the years, Amanda Woodward had taken on a variety of jobs – including working in schools, at a veterinary clinic and even as a dog trainer.
But if there’s one title that she’d rather be labelled with, it’s a vintage movie poster collector.
“The first poster I bought was at one of those flea markets in France, which is a French version of a Laurel and Hardy movie called Great Guns (Quel Petard),” says Amanda.
“It was huge and dated from 1941. Despite showing some age, the colours remained superb. I was amazed that something of this age, and made from such fragile paper, could have survived unscathed for decades.”
Genuine vintage posters are hard to find due to their rarity and buying online through websites like eBay can be expensive, not to mention risky in terms of authenticity.
Amanda, who currently owns around 500 posters across various film genres, obtains the majority of her collection from international auctions, mainly in the US and UK where expert appraisers are on hand to verify if the items are genuine or a reproduction.
“I’m only interested in original vintage movie posters and original re-released posters,” Amanda insists.
“Sometimes if a movie wins Academy Awards, it will be re-released a few years later to a much wider audience. A whole new set of poster art was commissioned with some of these being better than the originals.”
Amanda can pay anywhere from $50 (AED 184) to $200 (around AED 700) – “If I don’t get outbid,” she quips – for an average poster.
Rates depend on the title, release date and country of origin, with classic ones like Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, James Bond and those featuring Marilyn Monroe and Steve McQueen generally fetching much higher prices.
“The most expensive poster in my collection is Thunderbirds Are Go, a vintage 1960s original with the marionettes,” she reveals.
“It is valued at around £2,000 (AED 9,500). I won’t say what I paid for it but I was delighted to get it for a lot less. It’s a rare British Quad poster with appeal to Thunderbirds collectors as well as movie poster collectors.”
Like any fervent collector, Amanda loves the exhilarating feeling that comes with chasing down a new find for a bargain, but also gets great satisfaction from sharing her horde with others.
“I love it when people browse through my collection and comment on films and memories associated with them. We have a good natter about the poster and I love to impart bits of trivial information about them, gained from lots of research,” she smiles.
“I have some posters I will never part with, which are not, funnily enough, posters of great value or rarity. They just speak to me on an artistic level or because of the circumstances surrounding how I got hold of them. It’s a miracle that some of them have survived and are so well preserved.”
Amanda’s film poster collection will be on display from 7th to 27th September at The Club, Mina Zayed. Free. 9am-9pm. Contact: 02 673 1111
Worth every penny
Freelance writer and events coordinator Zenifer Khaleel’s love for collecting started when her mother casually gave her two one dirham commemorative coins when she was 23 – and it kickstarted her hobby.
“Until then, I hadn’t noticed that they sometimes have different designs. After that I went on a hunting spree. I asked friends to help me and checked the purses and wallets
of family members, with their permission of course,” she laughs.
“I even went to cashiers in supermarkets to forage for coins, sometimes holding up the queues. My biggest sources of these coins are the loose change from Baqalas, and my sons developed a knack in finding them.”
Zenifer’s hot pursuit paid off; she currently owns 22 of these special dirham coins that were issued over the years to mark various national milestones.
Among those in her collection are the 25th anniversary of the General Women’s Union,
25th anniversary of the unification of the UAE Armed Forces, World Environment Day 2009 and I Love UAE national campaign, which is her personal favourite.
“My collection hangs in a special spot in my home,” she reveals.
“Most people who lay eyes on it are surprised that such coins exist. Even people who have lived in the UAE for decades have not noticed them.
“I have an old dirham coin that’s 2.8cm in diameter that is out of circulation now. My children find it very surprising that we used such heavy coins back in our day.”
These coins are representative of the country’s rich culture and phenomenal growth as a nation – something that Zenifer herself has witnessed, having lived in the UAE since she was six months old.
“I hope to obtain all past and future issues of these coins. I won’t sell them; they will serve as a legacy for future generations. Researching these coins will provide a deep insight into the UAE’s heritage and vast progress in many areas.”
Getting his kicks
Graphic artist George Kasparian’s love for sneakers manifested during his grade school days.
“I started collecting from fourth grade,” George reflects. “My first pair was a high top Puma in black and purple and it lasted me a year. Since then, every time I saw other students’ shoes, I’m like ‘I want that’. So I would save money just to buy new pairs.”
Today, George’s collection, along with his wife Kubra’s own assortment, stands at “over a hundred pairs” (he’s lost count, actually), and is made up of various brands and models ranging from new releases to retro designs.
“My wife actually started collecting sneakers when we started dating. Before I knew it, she was doing her own research and buying her own pairs,” laughs George.
“My most valuable is the Jordan 11, which at around AED 2,000 is also the most expensive in my collection, while the rarest is the Jordan 4,” he reveals.
While he does wear them, George takes good care of his shoes, manually cleaning them regularly and storing them in their original boxes.
“I’d like to keep them as long as I can, but if we decide to leave the country, I don’t know how we’re going to ship them – it’s just too much,” George admits.
“If I’m stuck in a bad financial situation I might have to sell them. But I’d like to keep them for my child if ever I have one in the future.”
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez