Digital technology ‘the platform for the next generation’

By Jesse Robitaille

This is the second story of a three-part series on digital philately.

Digital technology’s impact on modern philately has been widely felt across the hobby over the past two decades as more collectors begin to understand the potential benefits of computer-based tools and resources.

Instead of serving as a death knell, technologies such as smartphones and social media “are the platform for the next generation of philatelists,” according to Darin Cherniwchan, a nearly 30-year physician from Chilliwack, B.C., who spoke at CAPEX 22 this June.

“When you look around at stamp clubs and stamp shows, the median age is probably 70 years old, but that’s always been the case. The age-old question is, ‘What’s going to happen to the next generation?’”

Current and future generations of philatelists will enjoy their hobbies in a world far removed from the stamp approval packs and comic book advertisements of the mid-20th century. They will also be less likely to wait around for mentorship – especially in offline formats.

“This next generation wants things quickly; they want to basically have information at their fingertips right away,” said Cherniwchan, the chair of the British North American Philatelic Society’s Digital Philately Study Group.

In a serendipitous turn of events, much of the world came to a screeching halt with the spread of COVID-19 in early 2020. A new way of doing things quickly fell into favour as face-to-face events were cancelled and virtual communication flourished.

“It was a real silver lining for our hobby,” said Cherniwchan, who added while most people have felt the pandemic’s negative impacts, including illness and death among family and friends, philatelists have seen the hobby grow in leaps and bounds.

“I’m the lead COVID physician for Fraser Health Authority – one of four on our team – and I have been in the room and witnessed too many deaths from COVID. I have an incredible respect for this virus, but at the same time, it forced us to do things that we’ve never done before.”

Within months of the pandemic’s start, major news publications began reporting on stamp collecting and its resurgence.

Cherniwchan referenced a March 2020 Forbes story, “COVID-19 virus affect on the stamp market,” an April 2020 Standard story, “COVID-19 lockdown fuels demand for stamp collecting,” a June 2020 Wall Street Journal story, “Why stamp collecting is suddenly back in vogue,” plus an October 2020 Newsday story, “A hobby that sticks: Stamp collecting keeps people glued during the pandemic.”

“And something else happened during the pandemic: stock in Zoom went up, and we connected like never before,” he said, adding he made friends – “people that will actually allow me to come to their house” – entirely through Zoom before meeting them in person at CAPEX 22. “It’s incredible, the power of this platform.”


Digital philately refers to “the use of computing technologies – hardware and software – to enhance the overall personal and shared experiences regarding the study of postage stamps and postal history,” Cherniwchan said.

“When I say shared experiences, I’m relating to what I was talking about with those Zoom experiences – developing relationships online in such a way that I’ve befriended people, and I’m starting to meet them for the first time at this exhibition.”

Digital philately is also “genre non-specific,” he said, adding anyone – regardless of their interests – can boost their hobby through technology.

As for practical applications, digital philately can be used to expand club and society memberships, something “we’re seeing already,” according to Cherniwchan. It can bolster research and exhibiting while offering new and more efficient avenues for buying, selling and trading material. Technology also allows collectors to better organize their collections, write articles and share presentations.

Regarding increased memberships, Cherniwchan recently joined the West Toronto Stamp Club (WTSC), which operates about 4,000 kilometres east of his home in British Columbia.

“And I’m a regular attendee – think about that.”

He also started participating in regional societies, including the BNAPS Pacific Northwest Regional Group.

“We are pan-regional now.”

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