I donít know the official count. But I am sometimes asked this question, especially when someone is talking about the declining memberships in stamp clubs and the low attendance at some stamp shows.
Compared to, say, 20 years ago, I think the overall number of stamp collectors has increased. Youíre going to ask, ďIf so, why are stamp club memberships decreasing?Ē Hereís my analysis.
Until about 1990, the only way to get information about stamps was to buy books, belong to a club, and/or read the philatelic press. But the Internet changed all of that. A lot of this same information is now free.
Are stamp club memberships declining? In some clubs, yes. But not all clubs are decreasing. Is it the diehard collector who would join these clubs anyway? No. I think weíre not attracting what I call the casual collector.
What is a casual collector? Itís someone who doesnít invest a lot of time or money in stamps. Theyíre not buying rare stamps worth lots of money. They buy inexpensive stamps or new issues from the post office. Their collections are kind of small, maybe a few albums at best. They spend a couple hours a week, or less, on their collections.
Collectors like that look at $20 for a club membership, a book, or a subscription to a philatelic publication and say, ďI can get most of that information from the Internet. Iíll skip the cost and spend $20 on buying more stamps.Ē
When they buy stamps, they go to eBay or some other resource on the Internet. You can do it from the convenience of your own home and you can do it virtually any time that suits you. You donít need to get to the stamp show on time. Or deal with set business hours from a typical stamp dealer.
I donít believe philately is dying. Quite the opposite, I think itís growing. I think the number of diehard philatelists is shrinking. They are the ones who exhibit stamps, write books, write articles for publication, do philatelic research, and other things. They are the ones who really enjoy philately and enjoy sharing it with others.
The challenge is how to bring the casual collector closer to the hobby. If I knew the answer, Iíd be a millionaire. It involves bringing the benefits of organized philately to them and making them realize that there is much more than just the free world of information on the Internet, some of which can be misleading or flat out wrong