When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in Somerset, PA, phone booths were common. Somerset is a small town (population: about 5000). However, I can remember the location of several phone booths around town. Like many young kids, I stuck my finger in the change slot of the pay telephone hoping that someone forgot to take their dime or nickel change with them. I did not become independently wealthy.
Superman comics were popular and there were several Superman television shows and movies. A common theme was for Clark Kent to slip into a telephone booth and don his Superman uniform.
It is a good thing Superman was alive when there were still telephone booths for pay telephones. Within the last 20 years and especially in the last 10 years, telephone booths have all but disappeared. Everyone has a cell phone these days. Public pay telephones are obsolete. Oh, there are a few pay phones floating around in a shopping mall or an airport where there are large crowds of people. Public telephone booths have all but disappeared. Ask anyone under the age of 30 today what a phone booth is. You are likely to get a blank stare. You may as well be talking gibberish.
Things change and time marches on. Today, Superman is still with us. Where does he change clothes at today?
Some people bemoan the fact that today’s youth are not interested in stamp collecting. That is true. But these same people would kill off Superman because there are no phone booths available to change clothes.
Getting youth involved in stamps is useful. Unfortunately, only a fraction of them are going to stick with it for any appreciable length of time. I am not suggesting that we give up on educating youth. I suggest that the youth factor alone is not the savior of our hobby.
Thousands of stamps are sold online every day. This is in addition to sales from traditional dealers like me. Someone is buying those stamps. I do not believe it is all 80+ year old people sitting at a computer going, “Buy! Buy! Buy!”
Many of my new customers are older individuals who are now retired and they need a hobby to keep them busy. Many times, they briefly collected stamps as a kid and after a 25+ year absence, they are getting back into the hobby. Some new customers are in their late 30s or early 40s. They are more educated and the kids are mostly grown and independent. They look for a hobby to occupy their time.
I wish I had a magic wand and I could convince the entire world to collect stamps. I cannot do that.
What I can do is keep evangelizing the hobby. I can show people that the number of collectors is growing. The evidence is there. Are they all traditional collectors though? The ones who join clubs and subscribe to magazines? No, they are not. It is different, but it is not always a bad thing.
I am not ready to kill off Superman because there are no phone booths. The hobby today is much different than it has been in the first 170 years since Great Britain issued the first postage stamp in 1840, the Penny Black. Will things become clearer over time on what the hobby looks like and who the average collector is in the 21st century. I think so. That image is still very murky today. I think that strikes fear into some that the hobby is dying. Nothing could be further from the truth though.