This applies to food, coins, art, and just about anything else you can think of. Peopleís tastes change over time. Stamps are no different.
When postage stamps appeared in 1840, the term ďpostal historyĒ had not even been thought of. That is why covers from pre-1900 and especially pre-1880 are so rare and command big prices. No one collected postal history at that time. Most stamps were soaked from envelopes and were mounted in albums. Or the envelopes went into the trash. That is why there are so few covers available. It wasnít until the turn of the century that people began taking notice of covers and what we call postal history. It wasnít until the 1930s and 1940s when postal history became so mainstream.
In the 1970s, a friend of mine attended a local stamp show. A dealer was trying to sell stampless covers and had very few takers. At the end of the show, he left his stampless covers behind for trash. My friend took them home. Today, those same common and ordinary stampless covers sell for at least $10 each. In the 1970s, stampless covers were not overly popular. Today, they are.
Plate blocks were once very popular to collect. In the 1970s and 1980s, the USPS expanded to multiple plate numbers per issue, causing collectors to have to purchase 6, 8, 10 or sometimes a whole strip of 20 stamps to get the plate block. Some collectors quit collecting plate blocks because it became too expensive or they didnít like the oversize blocks. I donít think that area of philately ever fully recovered. Still popular today, but in my opinion, plate block collecting is not as popular as it once was.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the USPS used to print Mr. Zip in the margin of US stamps. They also included the slogan ďMail Early In the DayĒ. This led to collectors saving Zip and Mail Early blocks as they were called. But the 1980s, everyone knew what a zip code was and mailing early in the day became less important. Eventually the USPS eliminated these markings from the margins of panes of stamps. Iím sure there was once a club that specialized in collecting Zip blocks. The name Zippy Collectors Club sticks in my brain, but I canít be sure. Anyway, today there are probably a few collectors that still collect the Zip Code and Mail Early blocks. When the USPS removed the marginal markings, there went the interest too because there was no more new material.
The recent decision by the USPS to require collectors to purchase at least a strip of 500 of coil stamps is, Iím sure, going to affect the collecting of plate number coils. Similar to plate blocks, collectors are going to be turned off by having to shell out a larger sum of money to obtain a few stamps for their collection. Even at 100 stamps, some collectors will still balk at the price. In my opinion, interest in plate number coils, save for the very early issues from the 1980s, has decreased. To me, I just donít see the fervor over plate number coils like I did thirty years ago when PNCs were brand new.
The point is that collector tastes will change. It has happened before. It will happen again.
That is why I encourage everyone to collect what they like without thought of financial reward. What you collect today may not be a popular area 40 years from now when you decide to dispose of your collection.
Changing tastes also opens up new avenues for collecting too. Years ago, there were no press sheets from the USPS. Although limited in quantity, it is also limited in demand too. I often see press sheets offered at auction at below face value. There are some who collect these press sheets (more power to them!). But they have never reached mainstream acceptance in my opinion. Who knows what new collecting areas will become the hot topics ten years from now?
Tastes change. They always have. They always will. Collect what interests you and it does not matter if others like that area or not. If you are happy, that is the most important thing. That is what makes stamp collecting so enjoyable.