You’re all a bunch of amateurs (French for “lovers of”), although I must admit I’ve never met as professional a bunch as you.
This notion of professionalism – doing business ethically, morally and courteously – is widespread in philately. And while some hobbyists might eventually become true “professionals” in every sense of the word, all true hobbyists live out their existence as amateurs regardless of the amount of money being earned.
When you love the “art and science of philately” and begin taking this hobby seriously – as most of you certainly do – you inevitably become better at what you’re doing and begin specializing, and even commercializing, your activities. Suddenly, by acquiring and selling material, attending shows and joining associations, you’ve become more of a professional than a hobbyist, although the passionate amateur remains, steadfast as ever. Only when you’re an “amateur” can you truly become pro.
The reason I say the amateur remains is because I’ve simply met too many dynamic septua-, octo- and even nonagenarians that are exuberantly engaging about their stamps to believe the myth of the solitary, grumpy collector who aimlessly fills holes in his collection without enjoying the social side of the hobby.
(After all, as a wise man once said, “Happiness is only real when shared”; and whether it’s through material, knowledge or ideas, there’s a lot of sharing in this hobby.)
Most people are simply mistaken about what a hobby even is … and now that the boss is finally on vacation, I can admit that before I started here about seven months ago, I didn’t quite grasp the concept myself. The words “philately” and “numismatics” weren’t a big part of my lexicon. In fact, I didn’t collect anything (my hobbies are reading, writing and playing music) and I knew no serious collectors. I’m afraid to say my friends are still, after seven months, hesitant to discuss what I do for a living (although my grandmother is smitten by the idea).
But after learning a bit about the hobby – which I see more as a social pursuit of knowledge rather than an accumulation of goods – I can promise readers I will correct this misguided way of thinking every chance I get.