Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Sarkozy steams ahead with stamps

Nicolas Sarkozy (file image)
Stamp collector Nicolas Sarkozy is better known for energetic hobbies

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is finding time in his hectic schedule to collect stamps, it has been revealed.

The man nicknamed "Speedy Sarko" is better known for more boisterous pastimes such as skiing and jogging.

But he now sponsors fellow philatelists in a new club at the Elysee Palace, where he lives with wife Carla Bruni.

Foreign dignitaries including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are helping Mr Sarkozy to fill his albums.

"Mr Sarkozy's collection is slowly growing into one of the most impressive in the world because of all the international leaders he is in regular contact with," a source at the newly formed Elysee Philatelist Club told the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Royal gift

Pride of place in Mr Sarkozy's collection is said to be a British set issued in 2004 to celebrate the Entente Cordiale and presented to him by Queen Elizabeth II during his visit to Windsor Castle last year.

Governor Schwarzenegger has also given the French president additions to his stamp collection - a blue leather album with the governor's seal on the cover and two framed first-day-issue envelopes with Californian stamps.

Dominique Ballagny, administrative secretary of the French Federation of Philately Associations (FFAP), told BBC News that Mr Sarkozy had been a stamp collector for a long time.

Nicolas Sarkozy and Queen Elizabeth II (26.3.08)
Queen Elizabeth II has an extensive stamp collection

"A few months ago he even organised a gathering of all the philately organisations in France," he said.

"They met to decide how to promote stamp-collecting."

He added: "His ancestors came from Hungary - I think Hungarian stamps interest him a lot."

In a letter to the federation, Mr Sarkozy said: "I share your passion for stamps and philately. I have been a stamp collector since I was a young boy - this hobby is an opening to the world, to history and great events.

"I'm still sure that philately will maintain its rightful place if stamps retain their social and economic utility, in terms of letter-writing, beauty and rarity. But stamps of course have to adapt to 21st-Century culture.

"Philately is our hobby, it's also a world of artists, engravers, page designers. I want to pay homage to them, because it shows real talent to illustrate sometimes abstract topics, to create an original work of art for each stamp, covering such a small area."

Mr Sarkozy is said to spend time on his collection in the evenings.

Carla Bruni has reportedly told friends that she is glad he is enjoying a more sedate hobby.

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