The best research happens when collectors work together

By Jesse Robitaille

The Internet has opened many doors for philately.

Acquiring, researching and discussing material has never been easier – or undertaken on such a large scale – than it is in today’s online landscape.

Speaking as a storyteller, I can find a lot of information to craft a detailed story on basically any philatelic topic with just a simple search.

A cursory Google search of the word philately and the phrase “missing colour” (complete with quotations to search that exact phrase) reveals more than 5,000 results. It might not seem like much, but they’re all closely related to missing-colour errors on stamps—nothing else.

You name a subject, and the Internet will have something for you.

This is especially evident in philately as more collectors begin curating their own online galleries to document and promote their area of specialization.

A few that immediately come to mind are:

Across the Internet, there are thousands upon thousands of these digitized displays covering countless areas of collecting, whether they’re focused on specific countries, time periods or themes.

Dozens of exhibits, books and articles on topics ranging from Admiral stamps, modern coil definitives and illustrated indicia for permit mail are available (for free) from the British North America Philatelic Society alone.

But is this enough for a philatelic researcher – or a journalist – trying to find a specific piece of information to complete the puzzle? Often times, it’s not.

Speaking as a journalist, the Internet is a big help – a solid foundation – but it’s far from everything a reporter needs to build a great story. Not everything is on the Internet (especially some older but still valuable philatelic references now out of print). And what’s there can’t simply be taken as the absolute truth on its own.

That’s where the real source of credible information – the specialist collector – comes in.

Covering this hobby, I need you to help guide my research (much like you lean on your fellow collectors to guide your research). Sometimes, new information hasn’t made its way online, where out-of-date information is occasionally shared as if its still current.

While online resources abound, nothing beats discussing your research with a likeminded person, preferably in a face-to-face setting.

In philately, there’s arguably no better place to meet trustworthy sources than at a stamp show or local club meeting, where everyone is fired up to tell their story against the backdrop of peer review.

To find a club near you, visit CSN’s listing at


  • ob says:

    A great example of this is the Barrel Rollers study group.
    Bob Smith spearheaded this group.
    The end result was a book entitled Canada’s Barrel Postmarks, which contains a full account of what is presently known about barrel cancels. The book is available free to PHSC members. In addition, we have a database for barrel postmarks that is continuously updated.
    Bob is active and should be interviewed before it is too late
    The study group had over 40 members including Alan Steinhart
    16 Bulletins were published over an 8 year period, and are available on the PHSC website.
    Bob is still involved in updating the PHSC spilt circle cancellation website.
    In my opinion he was a true pioneer in creating and maintaining Postal History Records.
    David Oberholtzer

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