I sometimes make a distinction between philately and stamp collecting, but the truth is they are both just different aspects of the same pastime. There are researchers who take their hobby very seriously, and conduct exhaustive studies. On the other hand there are people who are just putting together collections of stamps that catch their eye, with little rhyme or reason. We sometimes imply that there is a sort of natural evolution; that the collector starts out just accumulating, then eventually develops a plan, and finally becomes serious. At that point they start thinking about publishing and exhibiting.
I don’t think that is always the case. I know some very experienced collectors who sort of do both things at once. They have a serious collection, which takes up most of their collecting budget and a chunk of time, and one or two fun collections which have little value but give them great pleasure. We also know generalist collectors, who take their hobby very seriously. My point here is that whatever you call it, the hobby is just not something that is easy to sum up in a single sentence. It is not just about acquisition, and it is not just about study, and for way too many of us, it is not just about profit.
Yet it is about all of those things, and more. Having spent more than 20 years writing about collectors of various sorts, I can claim to understand and know them, but I cannot claim to actually comprehend what makes one person a collector and not another. Certainly, I think in most cases environment is a factor, people have to be exposed to the idea of collecting, but even so many children raised in collectors’ homes have never taken to the hobby. Ultimately, as much as I wish I could put my finger on whatever the trigger is that starts a collector on that path, I just can’t. In a world where everything seems to analyzed, quantified, and studied down to the tiniest detail, stamp collecting, or philately if you will, remains a bit of a mystery.
For me, that’s a good thing; I think that there is still a bit of room for a little mystery in our lives. Time for The Royal this issue also contains the coverage of the upcoming convention of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada, (RPSC), a three-day event simply referred to as “the Royal.” This year, Edmonton is hosting the exhibition, show, and sale. I sincerely hope everyone has made plans to attend, but I am also pretty sure this isn’t the case. If you can make it to Edmonton this year, I encourage you to make the effort. You will find out one of the most rewarding aspects of the Royal is the chance to spend several days with a room full of like-minded people. The RPSC, which once had a bit of an elitist image, is trying very hard to appeal to the average collector of modest means. It is time we met them halfway.