As the German army was marching westwards across Europe in 1940, a letter was making its way from Bahrain to Philip Moore, a soldier serving in the British Army's Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment stationed in France.
The letter's arrival in France coincided with the Allied evacuation at Dunkirk, says Thomas Johansen, the managing director of Credit Agricole in Singapore and the current owner of the letter.
The letter never reached Moore, but the chaos of the time is forever etched on the envelope.
The address is scratched out several times and is crowded with purple and red postmarks, before finally being endorsed as "Missing 5/6/1940", handwritten in red ink.
"This cover is special because I managed to track down the guy," says Mr Johansen, who bought it for US$2,000 (Dh7,346) from a dealer in Sharjah about six years ago.
Mr Johansen was one of the 200 participants at the 28th FIAP (Federation of Inter-Asian Philately) International Stamp Exhibition in Sharjah last week.
Focused on postal history, the exhibition brought together executives and businessmen who, besides their day jobs, enjoy digging into postal history either for investment or as a hobby.
Yet few young people are signing up for the hobby in the Emirates.
"The philatelists here are not big in numbers" says Abdulla MT Khoory, the president of the Emirates Philatelic Association. "We have 220 members at the association and most of us are old and male."
As a hobby, philately is expensive and most of those who take it up have full-time jobs.
Chuluundorj Enkhbat is a road engineer in Mongolia and also the owner of a rare postal cover from 1883.
Sent during the Qing Dynasty in China, it is one of the first known domestic express courier mails sent to Urga, now Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. Instead of stamps, the letter has drawings of a bird beside the address and a small letter under its beak. It also has drawings of four horse hooves on each corner of the envelope, suggesting urgency.
Hashim Zia Jafri, a director of the textile exporter Jeffcott Group in Karachi, says he went from collecting to dealing in postal covers three years ago.
"I just sold a cover from Ras Al Khaimah from 1971-72 for €500 [Dh2,381]," he says. That is because "there was very little mail from that region during that time".
But it is the politics and stories behind the envelopes that hooks many of the collectors and increases their value.
Stamps are "a mark of sovereignty", says Mr Johansen, adding that his hobby also provides him with a pension plan.
"To me, this is an investment," says the 47-year-old Danish currency trader, who focuses on Arabian Gulf philately.
The Gulf covers and stamps are still low-priced, he says, compared with other collectibles from the region, such as coins and paper money. One of the reasons could be that stamps were never collected as a hobby in the Gulf, which started producing them as early as 1923 in Kuwait, followed by Bahrain in 1933 and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 1961. The first official Kuwaiti post office opened in January 1915, during the First World War.
As a result, the room to make money from collecting stamps and envelopes has expanded.
Mr Johansen said he bought two Kuwaiti envelopes from 1916 for 18,000 and 18,500 pounds. Similarly rare covers that originated in the United States would now be valued at about $1 million to $1.5 million each, says Mr Johansen, indicating the more active market for historic envelopes in the US.
Philately covers tell stories. And the opportunity to unearth forgotten stories and political intrigues of colonial times also helps to maintain a balance with the stress of high-pressure jobs for the collectors.
Mr Johansen, who works an average of 10 hours a day, took time out to follow up on Moore, the addressee in the 1940 letter.
The soldier, he found, was injured in the German offensive at Dunkirk, taken captive and released after having his leg amputated. He died in 1977.
"It is a difficult distribution of time," says Mr Johansen, who also puts together a 50-page digital edition of Arabian Gulf Postal History and Stamps Quarterly.
"But I can sit for hours with my covers."