KOCHI: You might have come across a philatelist or numismatic, but not a telephone recharge card collector. Curiously, Vincent Gomez from the city collects phone recharge cards. Now, he has got a collection of cards from 185 countries.
According to Vincent, the card collection wasn’t started as a hobby. He started collecting cards at the age of 19 when his father brought cards from Qatar.
“The cards were smooth and the pictures of birds and scenery on them were pleasing to the eyes. It became a hobby when I was able to complete a puzzle out of four cards,” says Vincent.
The collection of cards started getting serious in 1986 when he received a book on the history of recharge cards of Oman. From then, he began to collect cards from different countries. “Unlike the recharge cards in India, the cards in other countries have amazing pictures. Most of them either stand for the history of the nation or awareness on any of the social issues. Learning the imprint was another inspiration,” says Vincent.
With time, many countries withdrew the single-use cards to avoid pollution and tried alternatives. “Many of the recharge cards did not survive and card collection even became a hobby for many of the foreigners. It is accepted as a hobby in a few countries, but I had to face a lot of negative comments initially, even from my family,” says Vincent.
Still, a few of his relatives do not talk to him as he collects cards from the roadside. However, the negative criticisms didnot affect him. His family and friends accepted him as he entered into the India Book of Records.
Remembering one of the incidents, he says, “My father used to scold me for buying recharge cards in kilos. I defend myself saying that the cards will be used for making key chains for sale.” He even bought cards online that cost E25,000 for a set of four cards. The card collection from 185 countries weighs over 200 kilograms.
Though Vincent was asked to apply for a doctoral degree in World Record University, he was not able to do due to financial issues.
“I won’t miss the chance of getting a doctoral degree. Somehow, I’ll find the fund for it soon,” he said. Other than getting a doctorate, he would like to come up with a museum to hold exhibitions on cards. Currently, he is holding an exhibition of cards as a card carpet (pookalam) at Kanakakkunnu Palace as part of Onam Celebrations by the Tourism department.
Also, he is attempting for six records including Limca Book of Records and Guinness World Records.