I left a recent meeting of the West Toronto Stamp Club (WTSC) with stronger optimism about stamp collecting in Canada.
The WTSC was my first club visit as a representative of Canadian Stamp News. As guest speaker, I was given free rein on the topics. I focused on the behind-the-scenes production of CSN as well as our future direction and how I want CSN to partner with stamp clubs to help sustain and grow our hobby community.
The latter topic created a fun, encouraging discussion on what we can do, collectively, to draw more collectors to the hobby and stamp clubs.
While passionate about stamp collecting, the WTSC members I spoke to are even more enthusiastic about doing whatever it takes to entice new collectors and grow stamp clubs. A few hours later, feeling encouraged about the future of our hobby, I said goodbye to the members of the WTSC.
This visit left me seeking a broader view, so I assigned CSN freelance reporter, Jesse Robitaille, to produce a story on stamp clubs, focusing on members’ views on the current state and future of our hobby here in Canada.
As you will read in this issue’s cover story, the hobby is struggling with dwindling or static memberships, but there is overwhelming optimism about the hobby’s future, especially if more “closet collectors” can be turned into club members.
Garfield Portch, a fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) and director with the WTSC, offered this great advice in Robitaille’s story:
“I think first is education. I feel sorry for anyone who tries to collect on their own at home. I know I did before I joined,” he said, adding that there’s more to collecting than buying and reading catalogues.
“The catalogues don’t tell you anything – they just list what’s there – so you need the education behind it. You have to understand the stamps or else you’re just accumulating – buying things you shouldn’t, paying too much. If you can learn through osmosis – asking questions, all that – you’ll pick up on things.”
And after learning about how the hobby works, clubs will also help their members find new material, Portch said.
“Once you’re in, you’ll find a big thing is the ability to get the material. The acquisition and disposition of material for your collection is a huge aspect.”
Roger Fontaine, a member of the Winnipeg Philatelic Society since 1988, shared this advice as well:
“The main thing is camaraderie. We’re quite a unique bunch of people. Then there’s the availability and sharing of information. When you join a club, you’ll find people are more than willing to help you with the dos and don’ts of collecting.
“I’ve seen a lot of home collections – closet collectors, as I call them – using scotch tape or photo albums. I’ve seen a lot of collections ruined by not seeking help or guidance.”
The underlining theme throughout the story is stamp clubs offer a great venue to share information and provide support for collectors.
And George Pepall, president of the RPSC, shared this:
“Stamps have the capacity to spark the imaginations of children and older people alike. So many of us agree that history, art, geography and language come to us through our stamp collections. It’s a form of learning that’s not textbookish or schoolish. You learn your own way, on your own time and at your own expense.”
If you are a collector and do not belong to a club, I urge you to try out a meeting. You have nothing to lose but a lot to gain for yourself and our stamp hobby.
Stamp clubs: if you would like me to attend a meeting as a guest speaker, please email me at email@example.com. I would welcome the opportunity.