As I reflect on another year in philatelic journalism – and as I continue my personal progression from stamp journalist to stamp collector – I believe I’ve gained a bit of understanding about one of the hobby’s longstanding concerns.
Please bear in mind this doesn’t mean I think the hobby is in trouble, or that this concern even merits a response. The close-knit Canadian community is indeed thriving, and around the world, things are good, insofar as being “on this side of the dirt” is good.
The state of the hobby was perhaps best demonstrated at last year’s World Stamp Show in New York City, where philately proved to be alive and well. And this isn’t coming from me (who unfortunately couldn’t attend, although I’ll see you in Boston in 2026); it’s coming from the show’s attendees and dealers, who are still going on about how busy the bourse was, and how eager collectors were to grow their collections.
But back to that ongoing concern of ours: how do we get young people interested in the hobby? It’s something I’ve discussed with a number of big-time collectors, and while most agree the hobby’s demographics are uneven – even unsustainable – others believe it’s of no concern.
I think finding the next cohort to carry on the philatelic tradition is worth some consideration, and I can think of no better place to find this cohort than at primary and secondary schools across the country.
There’s commendable work being done by the Bramalea Stamp Club, in Brampton, Ont., to try to share philately with the younger generation. Through an ongoing series of presentations at local schools, the club’s members are introducing philately to the students of Brampton.
“I’m sure the kids didn’t know anything about stamps before this, so they ended up learning a bit about the culture, a little bit about history, a little about geography, and a bit about philately and some famous stamps,” said Bramalea Stamp Club member Jerry Piotrowski.
Stamps, and to some degree philately, could find a home in most curriculums. Acting as a gateway to their issuing country’s history, geography, art and more, stamps and other philatelic material can teach us about the world in a number of ways. Students can be taught about Canadian history through the lens of Canadian postage stamps, or they could learn about their own heritage by studying stamps issued by their ancestors’ home countries.
But the depth of philately’s power to teach is in thematics. As long-time Montreal dealer Issie Baum says, “There’s no end to it, unless you’re a left-handed monkey wrench collector. Thematics are endless, and you can break themes into subtopics. … Thematics is an inroads to stamp collecting.”
And what a better year to witness the hobby’s growth in Canada than 2017, which promises to include an array of topical issues marking Canada’s sesquicentennial?