It’s hard to find anyone involved in stamp collecting who doesn’t seem to think the hobby is dying on the vine.
I have been hearing it for more than 20 years, and it has been repeated so often that it has taken on the status of an uncontested fact. Of course, the naysayers are quick to bring out their own observations. We are told that children do not collect any more, clubs are dying out, and the hobby is full of old men.
When I first came to Canadian Stamp News and attended my first show, it certainly seemed to be the case. My co-worker, who was showing me the ropes, was quick to point out that the hobby was in decline, and made darn sure that I was introduced to people who shared that view.
Even then, I wasn’t so sure. What I saw was a bit different.
For one thing, I could see dealers and collectors buying and selling stamps. Pretty much every dealer there was making a profit, not the sight of an unhealthy hobby.
As for the hobby full of old men, well it was the middle of a Friday afternoon, prime time for retired men, but not very good for younger collectors, busy with work or even school. What’s more, I can’t see why a young collector, with just a few dollars to spend on stamps, would be hanging out at a stamp show. I was a young collector once, and back then I didn’t go to shows, and I didn’t join a club.
To my mind, organized stamp collecting only appealed to a certain type of collector: the one who had the money and time to indulge in building a specific collection.
I also noticed that in the early issues of CSN, I had seen the same sort of complaints.
I looked at articles and show pictures from 40 years ago and saw a bunch of old men. The only thing I noticed that had changed was that now fewer of them wore tuxedos to stamp dinners.
I’m sure, by now, some of you think I am just ignoring an unpleasant truth. That there can be no denying there are almost no local stamp shops, and that many clubs have folded due to lack of members.
Both are true, but there are also clubs that have grown, and the local stamp shop has been replaced with the online vendor.
The hobby isn’t dying, but it is evolving.
In fact, the Internet is at the core of these changes. We live in an information age, and the way we communicate with each other has changed forever.
The home telephone has been
replaced with cell phones, and the family bookshelf, complete with a massive set of encyclopedias, has been replaced with online references and digital books.
I’m convinced there are just as many collectors out there today as there were years ago. Postal authorities are still selling huge numbers of stamps, but now their main sales venue is the website. Similarly, collectors who went to shows in the past now make their purchases online. They can do it from home, and at the time of their choice. As for clubs, well the main reason people got involved in clubs was to talk about stamps, learn about stamps, and swap and exchange stamps. Again, all of this can be done online, at very little cost, at a time and place of the collector’s choosing. If the more established sellers and clubs don’t get in the game, new ones will spring up to take their place.
The Intenet may be the saviour, not the slayer of organized philately.
Having said all that, there are also serious challenges, again largely because of the Internet.
There can be no denying that fewer and fewer letters are being sent, and more and more of those are either permit or metered mail, so finding postally used stamps is harder than ever before.
That doesn’t mean they will become valuable, at least not in the near future, but it does mean new collectors are going to have to turn to dealers and postal authorities as their primary source of material.
There is an old adage that everything has to adapt and change or become obsolete.
Thank goodness, stamp collecting is evolving.