THE Chinese community should discard the old practice of destroying all the belongings of family members who pass away in the belief that their loved ones will take the belongings to the next world.
Other members of the community throw the belongings into dustbins.
Philatelist John Goh believes the practice should be discarded as there could be treasures, especially in the belongings of the elderly.
“I have been advising people not to do it, but sadly they still do. They do not realise that these belongings could be worth thousands of ringgit,” Goh told StarMetro.
Goh, who is chairman of Sarawak Philatelic and Numismatic Society, recalled several incidents of families sticking to this tradition.
In an incident a few years ago in Peninsular Malaysia, a family threw away all the old magazines of the father who had passed away.
Two scavengers saw the magazines and carried them home, not suspecting there was something there.
They flipped through the magazine and an envelope with old Straits Settlement bank notes dropped out.
There were 30 pieces of old notes.
“Each note could have fetched up to RM10,000, but the duo sold them all for RM700 to a collector,” said Goh.
In another incident, Goh said a woman in Kuching told him that she had found several pieces of 1929 Sarawak bank notes stacked in between the books of her grandmother who had passed away.
“Her family was against her taking anything from the old woman and wanted to burn the lot. But she made a quick search and found the bank notes,” said Goh.
And just last week, a family rushed back from Australia when they learnt of the death of a loved one.
Days before the old man’s belongings were burnt, they found several pieces of old Malaysian bank notes. They sold the notes to a local bank and got good money for them.
Goh said a $100 Sarawak bank note could fetch up to RM390,000 if it was in good condition.
“The value of a bank note in good condition can be more than 10 times the value of a torn note,” he added.
Most people aged 60 to 90 years have collected old bank notes or stamps and stacked them in old magazines or story books unknown to their family members. These magazines already are priceless items which should not be destroyed as they may fetch high prices.
“The old rocking chairs of our grandparents are antiques, but people burn them for health reasons in fear that they may contain germs from the old folk,” added Goh.
The first thing that people should do upon the death of a loved one was to check if there were any rare items among the belongings, he said.
An avid collector of stamps, phone cards and currency since his school days, Goh said that people could get his advice if they had doubts as to what was an antique and what was not.
He has a collection of catalogues of old currencies, phone cards, stamps and coins. These catalogues show the age of the items and how much they are worth.
Taking the example of the first four series of a Malaysian bank note, he said they were expensive items now. The current Malaysian bank notes are in the 11th series.
Goh is among a few philatelists left in the state. At a time when most people have given up collecting old stamps, coins and phone cards, Goh is a true-blue collector.
Call him old fashioned, but the younger generation can learn what the old days were like from the collections of people like him.
He started collecting stamps during his school days at Catholic High School in Sibu in 1960. Each time he received a letter from a pen pal or friend, he kept the stamp.
The stamps were from Singapore, Malaysia and Sarawak.
He gave the stamps away to friends when he went for further studies in Hong Kong. While he was there, he came across many unique stamps and started collecting them.
In 1980, he became a member of Pos Malaysia Club so that he could buy exclusive first day covers.
“I remember whenever there was a first day cover, I would queue up at the post office to buy it. In 2006, I stopped collecting stamps because of the difficulty in buying exclusive stamps,” he said.
In 1993, when phone cards were introduced by Uniphone, Telekom and Cityphone, people went crazy about collecting them. He was one of them.
The phone cards were so unique that they caught the attention of collectors. There were phone cards on animals, plants, fruits, personalities, culture and events.
Cards from Japan were the most sought after due to their designs.
Goh has over 10,000 phone cards from different countries.
When mobile phones were introduced in the early 2000s, most collectors gave up the hobby, but not Goh.
He still finds satisfaction in collecting the cards.
“I have told people that if they want to collect stamps, coins, bank notes or phone cards, they must have keen interest. They must be willing to spend money and have wide knowledge on the items,” he said.
The country’s phone-card business has dropped by 95% since 2003 when people started going for handphones.
Only a few new cards have been issued since then. This is another reason why many collectors gave up the hobby.
Goh has also been an avid collector of coins and bank notes since 2000.
Due to his interest in collecting, he was appointed by Royal Mint of Malaysia as a distributor of Malaysian coins and bank notes.
He has a wide variety of the items in his collection.
Come Oct 1, Goh will hold an exhibition of old coins, stamps and phone cards under the auspices of the Sarawak Philatelic and Numismatic Society at Delta Mall in Sibu.
Collectors from the state, Singapore, Johor Baru, Malacca and Brunei will take part in the four-day event.