The sky is falling. The end is near. Philately is a dying hobby. Sound familiar? Donít believe it! Here are a few reasons for believing that the hobby is healthy, but changing.
The Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee receives about 50,000 requests per year for stamp subjects. If no one is interested in stamps, why do they receive so many requests?
The USPS continues to print commemorative stamps by the billions. If no one is buying them, why print so many?
Yes, some stamp shows have gone away. But others are prospering. What makes those shows prosper? For the shows that closed, was the root cause due to a lack of attendance or a lack of effort in promoting the show? I contend, itís more of the case of the latter.
Yahoo and other online services have plenty of stamp related groups to belong to. There are lots of members.
Auction realizations remain strong. Someone must be buying stamps. If philately is dying, why did Heritage Auctions (a major auction house in many collectible areas) recently get into the stamp business? There must be money to be made.
Major publications like Linnís Stamp News and the American Philatelist continue to have a backlog of material to publish. Someone is writing those articles.
Yes, the hobby is undergoing changes. Here are some examples.
US stamps are not easily soakable. That means collecting them on piece. There is nothing we can do to change that.
Philatelic books are not major sellers. Many titles sell a few hundred copies at best. Specialty books often sell in the tens of copies. Itís cost prohibitive to print books in such small quantities, especially if they are done in color. Look for more philatelic books in electronic format only.
The computer is becoming as important to the collector as stamp tongs and a perforation gauge. There are many resources available on the Internet. Some publications are moving to electronic versions at much cheaper prices as USPS rates continued to climb for printed matter. News is much more instantaneous these days. There is a wealth of philatelic information available at your finger tips on the Internet.
Collectors tend to specialize more. With 170 years of stamps, collecting the world seems impossible to many. To those who still collect worldwide stamps, I congratulate you and hope you have fun. But collectors seem to be moving to specializing in one or more areas.
Society memberships are declining. Who is leaving? Is it the hard-core collectors or the casual collectors with a shoebox of stamps in the closet? I think itís the casual collectors who are not joining clubs and not subscribing to publications.
I support youth in the hobby. But sometimes I feel like we focus too much on the youth. Yes, they are young and maybe they will be collectors for the next 50 years. Are we missing the boat with other segments of society? What about retired people? They may have the time to collect and the resources to get involved. As long as we get new collectors in the hobby, who cares if they are 16 or 60? Letís broaden our appeal to the general public and not put all of our eggs into the youth basket.
The hobby is changing. But it is not dying. Today is different than 20 years ago. It will be different 20 years from now compared to today. I hope you agree with me that the hobby is, in general, healthy. There are areas for improvement. Weíll work on them. Long live philately!