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Looking Back and Looking Ahead

New Year's Resolutions Can Easily Include Some for the Hobby

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     It is believed the month of January gets its name from Janus, the god of beginnings or transitions in Roman mythology. According to the Romans, Janus had two faces, one looking back to the past and one looking ahead toward the future. His job was to initiate beginnings and oversee change to its natural conclusion. As we start another new year, we will mark our 132nd year as a society. For too much of that time, collectors have been predicting the end of the hobby and the American Philatelic Society. Could it happen? Nothing is impossible, but before you rethink renewing your membership, let’s address some of the thinking we heard in 2017 and start 2018 with some action items.

Sunshine, Lollipops and Roses
     In Kelleher’s Stamp Collector’s Quarterly for the third quarter of 2017, David Coogle, co-chair of Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions writes about this very topic. Early in the article, he cites APS membership declines as one of the key indicators, “The American Philatelic Society tells us that membership has been declining 10 percent every year for a decade, but, not to worry, they are expanding operations.”

     There is a school of thought that says if someone puts out a negative, don’t bother correcting it, if it doesn’t make things better. While I typically agree with that, I’d like APS members to know the number is closer to 4.5 percent annually. That’s not where we want to be, but it is the reality of where things stand. They are not, as David goes on to write, “all sunshine, lollipops and roses” – it is at the heart of the work we’ve done over the past year and how we’ll attack a three-decade-old challenge in the next year and beyond.

     We’ve not expanded our operations, but we have changed how we do business. I try to break down different segments of that in my monthly column. The most significant change comes in the form of improving our use of technology to better serve you and the hobby. You can read more about that technology initiative in my June 2017 Our Story column, “Melding Technology and the Hobby.” There is no silver bullet to growing and strengthening organized philately, but if we do not embrace technology, we will not stand a chance.

     It’s not all negative. David goes on to identify the challenge that we know to be true, defining our place in a technological world. He talks about supporting the National Postal Museum and the Spellman Philatelic Museum to create an educational mission for future generations to learn and engage in stamp collecting. Both of these museums have been critical partners to the APS for many years and we’ll continue to support both in every way we can. They serve as two greatpotential targets for bringing the non-collecting public to the collecting world.

Stamped Out…Sort of
     In late September, Gene Meyer, a journalist and writer from the Washington, D.C. area, published an opinion piece titled, “Stamped Out,” in The New York Times. Mr. Meyer, like so many casual collectors in their youth, came across his stamp collection going as far back as the 1950s. He proceededto take us on a journey of disposing of this collection so many years later. The first thing he discovered is that his collection had little commercial value given its common nature. So, on the advice of a dealer, he offers to donate it to Stamps for the Wounded, a great group that provides donated stamps to wounded veterans around the country. Mr. Meyer paints a picture of retirees sitting weekly to collect donations for the organization. His conclusion at the end of this journey was that stamp collecting was practically a dystopian wasteland of no one younger than 60.

     So eloquent was the article that I received e-mailed copies from members across the world, some disagreeing vehemently with his take on the hobby and others believing an outsider had exposed what they had known for years. As a once proud writer of opinion pieces, I found the reaction to be exactly as it was in my days in the public arena. Those inclined to view the hobby as in trouble, felt validated; those who disagree, felt motivated to act.

     If you have read the article, it is a cautionary tale of casual collectors who know what they like, but nothing about stamp collecting. It reinforces the very reason why the APS is a critical educational link to the hobby. Mr. Meyer followed up his piece with a different reflection on the state of the hobby, which can be found here: http://eugenelmeyer.com/2017/10/ stamped-oh-memories/.

     All of us have met someone who has buried a stamp collection for decades or inherited one from a loved one, believing it must be worth a nice sum. It’s also likely you know the end of this story, where the perfectly common investment yields little interest in the marketplace. The value is not solely in the little piece of paper we collect, but the knowledge each of us has accumulated over the years. It is my hope and belief that the APS and American Philatelic Research Library are the bedrock of that knowledge. Somehow golfers never lament the value of their spent greens fees at the end of their days on the course, but we tolerate the “investment” benchmark as the sole indicator of the state of the hobby.

     The value of the hobby and the APS for more than 130 years has been to bring together people who share a passion for collecting with peace of mind. How that is accomplished has changed and we need to adapt. But the reason for collecting and organizing remains just as it was in 1886, exchanging and gaining knowledge and buying with confidence.

A Resolution for 2018
     A time-honored tradition at the start of each year is to make resolutions to make change in your life. Whether it’s about spending more time with family, going on a diet, or taking that trip you’ve meant to take, there are a few resolutions you can add for the hobby.

     Resolve to be a Recruiter: The most effective recruiting tool the APS has is its members. Why you belong and why you stay are the best endorsements the APS receives. We provide applications on request, through local stamp clubs, or our website. Ask a fellow collector, friend, neighbor, or a loved one if they have ever thought about joining. Some of our members talk to total strangers and not only bring us a new member, but make a new

     friend. Resolve to support a local stamp club: No matter where you live, there is a great local stamp club that meets regularly in your community. Many of them sponsor a stamp show each year. Volunteers are hard to find, but are always warmly welcomed. If you belong to and volunteer already, thank you. If you need more information about stamp clubs, please check out our website at: https://stamps.org/Local-Clubs.

     Resolve to embrace education: We have increased the number of “On-the-Road” courses we provide around the country and more members are teaching courses to collectors, new and experienced, young or old. In 2018, we will build online offerings to provide collectors on the go more chances to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge from our membership. Be a teacher or be a student, but our community is strong because of the knowledge.

     Resolve to try a different APS service: Our library is a wealth of information regardless of what you collect. Members can request books, articles, and other services. Never had a stamp expertized through APEX? Our Expert Committee includes some of the most knowledgeable collectors around the world and our opinions are guaranteed. Need to sell some stamps or interested in expanding your collection? Thousands of APS members buy and sell through Circuit Sales and the Internet StampStore each year. Unlike other services, we ensure your purchases are safe and reliable, not just anonymous transactions.

     Our resolution in 2018 is to serve APS members with pride and bring positive changes to the Society and the hobby. We don’t have all the answers, so we always welcome member feedback and we like to share your good news. Please feel to contact me anytime at 814-933-3814 or scott@stamps.org. For members who prefer to use traditional mail, I do write back. Thanks to all of you for your support of the APS and the hobby. I look forward to a great 2018!

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