‘Craftsmanship and quality’ key to enticing younger collectors

I usually find myself chuckling as I’m listening to my favourite radio station during my 50-minute morning commute to my St. Catharines office. But I found myself annoyed one recent morning when the hosts were talking about collecting and hobbies.

They talked about numerous things people collect, but when the male host mentioned stamps, his counterpart – a young woman likely in her 20s – quickly dismissed stamp collecting as a dead hobby. I was taken back by how contemptuous she was about stamps. It’so easy to dismiss her as being reflective of a generation that spends more time texting and snapchatting with next to no experience in mailing letters.

If I had Bluetooth, I likely would have called into the radio show to give an important news flash that our hobby is alive and well. And yes, I know most philatelists have likely experienced similar comments from family, friends and the younger generation.

But it doesn’t mean we have to accept it.

This reminds me of a recent article in Maclean’s by writer Allen Abel, who attended the World Stamp Show in New York City.

“That stamp collecting survives in the 21st century – when hardly anyone sticks a stamp to an envelope that enfolds anything more emotive than a hydro bill – is a surprise to some, a joy to millions and a boon to postal administrations from Canada, whose sales counter at the Javits Centre in New York was swamped by people eager for the new Star Trek issue…”

He shares a comment from The Halifax Philatelist, which lamented, “A good many persons think stamp collecting a very foolish thing because they can see nothing to be gained from it: This results from the fact they know nothing about it.”

Guess what? That comment from The Halifax Philatelist was published in 1887.

Abel interviewed a number of “prominent Canadian dealers,” and one of my favourite comments he provided was from Roy Houtby, who’s also of St. Catharines.

“’Stamps and coins and stuff are in decline,’ that’s what we always hear. Not true,” Abel quotes Houtby. “We’ve had a bum in every chair every day. Yes, they are mostly white-haired gentlemen. But if you had come to my booth 40 years ago, you also would have seen mostly white-haired gentlemen. These are not the same gentlemen.”

The “uh-huh” moment in Abel’s article comes from Kathy Hagendorf, whose husband Sonny owns two of the famous Inverted Jenny U.S. airmail stamps.

“The question is, how can we sustain this?” she mused. “This whole hipster thing, these young people whom seem to value craftsmanship and quality, if we can make them see the beauty and the history, then it will endure. I have seen a few mohawks and quite a few tattoos at the show, so that gives me hope.”

She’s right about today’s young people valuing craftsmanship, quality and even history.

I witnessed this with some of the young people we have employed in the last few years. They arrived at Trajan Media with no – or very limited – knowledge or interest in stamps. But that changed rather quickly, especially when they attended shows and would see the beauty and design of stamps.

For example, my niece, Calla, was fascinated with how stamps, postcards and first-day covers provide a more enjoyable insight into our Canadian heritage. I even caught her reading articles in CSN! … and she even mentioned to me one day how she has shared with her friends that stamps are a segue to better understanding the history of Canada. The artwork is also cool!

The key – as we have seen through Irving Osterer’s Merivale High School fine arts students and the recent school class project spearheaded by the Bramalea Stamp Club –  is sharing the “craftsmanship and quality”  and helping the younger generations “see the beauty and the history”  that shines through philately.

Perhaps I need to mail a letter with a collage of artful stamps to that young radio host!

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