Freddie Mercury's first album

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The late, much-missed, flamboyant Queen rock star Freddie Mercury was once a diligent schoolboy, called Farrokh Bulsara, who quietly updated his treasured stamp album on his parents' kitchen table in India. Young Farrokh's passion for stamps was sparked by his father Bomi - a civil servant who had his own British Commonwealth collection including a variety of Zanzibar (where Farrokh was born on September 5, 1946) fiscals.

It's believed Farrokh primarily built up the collection between the ages of nine and 12. He saved to buy packets of stamps and when he was satisfied with the colour and design of particular stamps he added them to his symmetrical designs. Unusually for a boy Farrokh chose black album pages, with a quadrille background, and, in fact, today some of the pages are incomplete as clearly the right stamps to finish the page design hadn't yet been found!

The Bulsara family - Bomi, his wife, Jer, Farrokh and his younger sister Kashmira - moved to England in 1963 and purchased a small, terraced house in Feltham, Middlesex. By now Farrokh was displaying a keen interest in art and in 1966 he attended Ealing College of Art to study graphic illustration. At this point Bomi, decided to keep the stamp album as he was sure that Farrokh would either sell it or lose it once he went to college.

Up for auction
Following Freddie Mercury's death on November 24, 1991 the majority of his belongings were burnt in line with the Bulsara family's strict Zoroastrian religious beliefs. However, the stamp album was kept as Bomi felt that it was partly his and just over two years later he decided to auction his, and Freddie's, stamp collections at Sotheby's in London.
Bomi had carefully kept Freddie's blue covered, childhood stamp album. The expert on the Freddie Mercury stamp collection - and former Philatelic Officer of Britain's National Postal Museum - Derrick Page explained: 'The stamp album survived thanks to his parents. They derived much happiness and enjoyment watching their son sitting down at the table with his stamp album, sticking in stamps and copying his father's hobby'.

The Sotheby's auction was held on December 17, 1993 with four lots - 54, 105, 143, and 157 - being 'the property of Mr. Bomi Bulsara'. Lot 143 contained Freddie's childhood album and the catalogue noted: 'Included in this lot is an album which we understand from his father, Mr. Bulsara, was the personal collection of Freddie Mercury'. The album was 54 pages of beautifully-arranged stamps, but, in truth, few were of any real value apart from some Zanzibar fiscals collected by Bomi. The material includes items from Monaco, Hungary, Zanzibar, Australia, Aden, New Zealand and Great Britain amongst others.

Freddie Mercury's album was purchased by Royal Mail for the collections of the National Postal Museum (NPM) for £3,220 plus VAT, against a pre-auction estimate of £1,000-£1,500. Including Bomi Bulsara's three other lots the Bulsara family philatelic collection raised £8,090 - the monies were donated to the Mercury Phoenix Trust (the AIDS charity set up by Freddie's former band members John Deacon, Brian May, and Roger Taylor with Freddie's friend Mary Austin).

Special certificates
The National Postal Museum allowed visitors to view Freddie Mercury's collection from 1994 on and even produced special certificates, on acid-free stamp album paper (used by the museum for its own stamp displays), stating: 'This is to certify that ................ Viewed and touched the Freddie Mercury Stamp Album on.................................. which is housed at the National Postal Museum'. During 1994 825 people viewed and touched the album, and former Museum Manager Stan Goron recalled: 'For many the album is part of the singer and fans made a pilgrimage to the museum. Many left red roses behind'.

Although in philatelic terms the Freddie Mercury collection wasn't award-winning material its provenance soon drew large crowds when the NPM showed it at various philatelic exhibitions around the world. It was first shown at Stamp '95 (held at the Wembley Exhibition Centre), and the just days later it was loaned to the 10th anniversary Queen Fan Club's Convention which was held at Pontin's Holiday club in Southport, Lancashire.

At this point the NPM produced a limited print run of sets of four postcards showing images from the Mercury Collection including the album itself, and an unfinished page in which Freddie had spelt out the letter 'F' in GB stamps.

Bust & statue
On the fourth anniversary of Freddie Mercury's death (November 24, 1995) the charity 'A Kind of Magic' donated a bust of Freddie Mercury to the NPM and this later appeared in a specially commissioned display case in the foyer of the Museum's old home in King Edward Street, London. In fact, at one stage correspondence was entered into between the NPM and the Queen fan Club to see if the NPM could put a nine foot high statue of Freddie Mercury outside its then building. Unfortunately, it was unable to do so and this statue is now on the shores of Lake Montreaux in Switzerland.

The National Postal Museum's Derrick Page took the collection around the world in a suitcase. Page told STAMP MAGAZINE: 'The problem we had was that the collection is irreplaceable but you have to put a nominal price on it for insurance purposes, when it was carried abroad'.

The collection was also shown at Stamp '96 at Birmingham's NEC and travelled to Australia in 1999 for the Australia '99 world philatelic exhibition in Melbourne. There it overshadowed the Royal Philatelic Collection in the show's Court of Honour and Derrick Page recalled: 'Thousands a day saw it - it was very successful, moreso than The Queen's Collection'. Unfortunately, that is the last time that the Freddie Mercury Collection was seen in public as the NPM had already closed its doors in late 1998. Currently the famous blue album is kept in a vault in London with little chance of an obvious public outing unless a new site can be found for the NPM.

Emotional response
Today, Derrick Page has fond memories of travelling, and looking after Freddie Mercury's stamp collection. He told us: 'Freddie prepared a layout for each page in an artistic fashion. The stamps are mounted symmetrically and the colours of the stamps chosen are pleasing to the eye. Several pages have gaps because he was waiting for stamps of the correct size, shape or colour. Some of the pages show stamp-hinge marks where he has removed stamps because he was unhappy with his design'.

Page added: 'He was very much into the colour black - he later painted his nails black - but it was very unusual for a child to use black. He was very advanced in his art format even at a very early age. he was using stamps as a form of art'.

Page also noted the very emotional response that the collection inspired in Freddie Mercury and Queen fans. He remembered: 'Some fans found it an emotional experience to see and touch the album and many burst into tears'. Indeed the emotion has also spread to Freddie's father Bomi who has viewed the collection again several times since he sold it 10 years ago. In fact, Derrick Page claims that it is the only personal belonging of Freddie Mercury's that still exists in the public domain. The only thing that remains to be seen is when, or if, it may ever see the light of day again.