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Philatelic Family Impresses With Dedication, Friendliness

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      From the moment people started gathering in Grand Rapids for StampShow 2015, anyone could see that this was more than just a gathering, it was a reunion. For some, one that carried on from one of the most recent World Series of Philately shows — for others, from a StampShow in years past. No matter how long it had been between visits, members, collectors, and dealers stopped to say hello, pass on news of someone not there, share an addition to their collection, or just catch up. While it is certainly a philatelic community, the better description is that it’s more like family.
      For “the new guy” (as I was affectionately called throughout the show), it is overwhelming and humbling to be so warmly welcomed by strangers that I can now call friends. This begins with the long list of amazing volunteers who dedicate so much time and energy to making your StampShow experience as great as it is. There is simply not enough space to recognize every one of them for all they do before, during, and after the show.

We should thank Harry Winter for spending a good part of the show engraving medals and his wife, Dottie, who had the energy of three people for working tirelessly to recognize the award winners as quickly as possible. This would also include Rodney Juell, who offered the first welcome note I received at the APS and the first welcome in Grand Rapids — he set the bar for hospitality and so many folks lived up to it.
      I would also like to recognize the staff, starting with our new shows director, Megan Orient, who did a great job right out of the gate. Barb Johnson, who kept all of us on task morning, noon, and night, including anyone who lingered a little too long on the show floor. Of course, thanks to Ken Martin, who can deliver awards, take pictures, and answer three questions, simultaneously. If you stopped by the APS booth, you probably met one or more of our great staff members, Rick Banks, Tara Murray, Jay Bigalke, Jeff Stage, Mercer Bristow, or Carol Hoffman. In total, we added 60 members to the APS family in Grand Rapids. And, let’s not forget the staff and volunteers in Bellefonte, who keep things going even when StampShow is happening.
      What would be a StampShow if we didn’t talk about stamps? My first classroom experience came from Jean Stout, who is on the board of directors for the American Topical Association. For those in Grand Rapids, you probably got a chance to see Jean’s exhibit among the 200 exhibits on display in Grand Rapids. Jean and ATA director Vera Felts introduced me to topical stamps of all sorts and walked through the programs they offer members and students alike. One of the new study groups the ATA has just begun is Halloween Spooktacular Stamps & Stuff, just in time for the October edition of The American Philatelist. We welcomed a number of clubs and affiliates to the StampShow and thank them for all they do in helping advance the cause of philately to collectors, both new and experienced.
      The great thing about collectors is they have a great passion for the hobby and want to share that love with others. Our StampBuddy booth was staffed full time with volunteers who welcomed newcomers by answering questions and taking them around the floor to meet with dealers and other collectors to grow their new collection. Michael Bloom, who now chairs our newly formed Entry-Level and Youth Committees, led the way, spending countless hours greeting visitors and organizing StampBuddy volunteers.
     
On a personal level, I received my first three panes of stamps from Rich Drews, a veteran collector from Chicago. Though I am not a stamp collector, I do have an extensive baseball card and comic book collection. Tying those interests to stamps, Rich shared panes of stamps with some of baseball’s greatest players, classic comic strips, and superheroes. I will be looking for others to add at future shows and see where the stamps take me.
      Speaking of Chicago collectors, I got a chance to visit the Collectors Club of Chicago booth and meet a great group of collectors who, without hesitation, welcomed me to the family. Jerry Miller and Jackie Alton (known as Chocolate Jackie for the great desserts she serves at Chicago events) gave me a deeper appreciation for the research side of collecting and the mission of preserving not just philatelic history, but how philately is our collective history. On the social side, I was able to join Jackie, Charles Berg, Bob Glass, and Melanie Rogers for breakfast. Hopefully, I will get a chance to catch up with each of them when I visit Chicagopex in November and hope to see a few more of you there as well.
      The StampShow would not be complete without recognizing all of the exhibitors and other remarkable accomplishments throughout the year at our awards dinner on Saturday night. The recurring family theme continued as past APS Board President Janet Klug led the attendees in singing “Happy Birthday” to APS staff members Ken Martin, Tara Murray, and Jay Bigalke, all who celebrated their birthday on the last day of the show. We also graduated our sixth class of the Young Philatelic Leaders Fellows and welcomed three new participants, Truth Muller, Austin Foo, and Evan Schlosser, who will graduate at StampShow 2016 in Portland, Oregon.
      Congratulations to Mark Schwartz for winning the 2015 Benjamin and Naomi Wishnietsky World Series Champion of Champions award for his exhibit, “Boston Postal History to 1851.” Mark emerged from a field of 31 WSP champions to take away the highest honor. Yamil Kouri won the Open Competition Grand and Gold for his exhibit “The First Postal Issues of Spanish Antilles (1855–1865).” The Single Frame Grand and Gold went to Barry Schwartz for his display, “St. Louis Bears Postmaster Provisional Stamps.” In the Youth Category, the Bonnie and Rich Drews Grand and Gold Award went to Alexandra Fillion for her exhibit, Dairy Products of the Cow. The National Stamp Dealers Association Most Popular Award went to Edward Bergen for his exhibit, “Walt Disney Postal Commemoration of 1968.” In the Literature category, the Grand and Gold was awarded to the Western Cover Society for “Mails of the Westward Expansion, 1803 to 1861.” For a complete listing of all the award winners, please go to stamps.org.
      There was one member whose presence was felt throughout the show, even though he is no longer with us and that is Walter Weber. Walter was born in 1936 in San Diego, California, to Ernest and Lina Weber, immigrants from Bischoffzell, Switzerland. Starting his collection in his teens, Walter would go on to put together a complete collection of Swiss postage, semipostal, and revenue stamps, along with an impressive collection of
Canadian stamps and U.S. first-day covers, among other U.S. stamps. Unfortunately, Walter passed away in May 2014, but left $1.3 million to the APS. As a result of his generosity, we are now able to start the construction of our new American Philatelic Research Library in our headquarters in Bellefonte.
      This barely scratches the surface of just how amazing the family of philatelists really is and I want to give thanks to the hundreds of APS members who stopped to offer advice, a handshake, and a warm welcome to “the new guy.” To quote Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
      Congratulations
      During StampShow we recognized APS members and show participants. The complete listing is on our website at stamps.org, but here are a few notable recipients:
      50-Year Membership: Robert Baldridge, William Hatton, Stephen Schumann, Ken Trettin, and Robert Vis.
      Carter Awards: Local: Paul Larsen, George Norton, Rudy Roy, Mary Ann Sandstedt, Michael Turrini, and David Wessely; National: Ian Gibson-Smith, Sandeep Jaiswal, Irv Miller, and Jean Stout.
      Luff Awards (which is the highest honor to a living philatelist recognized by the APS): MaryAnn Bowman, Leo J. Harris, and Jim McDevitt.
      USSS-Barbara Mueller Award (for the best annual article in The American Philatelist): Robert Gray.
      Charlie Peterson Award (for lifetime achievements in philatelic literature): Ken Trettin.
      Tom Allen Award (for the best annual submission in the Philatelic Literature Review):Christopher Cook.
      Where We Are Going …
      In the months to come, we are working to bring focus and energy to the task at hand, making the American Philatelic Society the flagship for philatelic activities in the United States and even on a world stage. Here is a summary of the starting points:
      World Stamp Show–NY 2016: For the past 100 years, the U.S. has played host to an international stamp show. Next year, the show will be in New York City over the Memorial Day weekend. The APS will have a presence there and we are working with all stakeholders to make it a great show. Given the number of international visitors we expect to see in New York, we will be working very hard to increase our international membership.
      Membership: While our membership has been on the decline over the past 20 years, we will be devising new strategies to bring more members to the APS. We cannot focus on a single type of collector and instead have identified several groups (students, new adult collectors, former collectors, seniors, non-members, and international collectors). Matt Liebson has agreed to step in as chair of our Membership Committee and as he said at our General Meeting in Grand Rapids, “We will turn this around.”
      Fundraising: Over the past year, the Campaign for Philately has been less active, but campaign chairman Alfredo Frohlich has begun work on reconstituting the committee and we will be working aggressively to begin the task of supporting the APS and our core mission of growing philately.
      One of our first targets will be to raise funds for the APRL to retire the debt and make it the most accessible philatelic library in the world. While we do a great job now, we should not rest on our laurels and work to continue to provide philatelists and researchers access to our collection even without coming to Bellefonte. This will require an investment in technology and your generosity can help us make that happen.
      Joint Strategic Plan: At StampShow 2014 in Hartford, the respective boards of the APS and the APRL agreed to devise a joint strategic plan. At StampShow 2015, we initiated the process and a written plan will be available for consideration by both boards no later than AmeriStamp/Southeastern Stamp Expo in Atlanta in January 2016. Specifically, the plan will center on four areas: space utilization of the American Philatelic Center, financing and debt relief of the library construction, enhancing accessibility of the research library, and the APS/APRL agreement signed over a decade ago. Other issues that will build a sustainable path going forward are sure to be discussed, but we will be informing members of progress as possible.
      Education Director: With the departure of Gretchen Moody, we are in the process of hiring a new education director. Hopefully, by the time of this publication, we will have that position filled. Our top priority for the new director is someone who has experience at managing and developing online programs so that we can offer more online and on demand educational opportunities for students and our members.

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