Enthusiasm builds

Stamp Collecting Begins to Build

Starting with a few enthusiasts in the 1850s, the hobby of collecting postage stamps and related items grew steadily for three decades. By the 1880s there were an estimated 25,000 stamp collectors in the United States. In 1886 several prominent stamp collectors began discussing the possibility of forming a national organization of philatelists. Thus by April of 1886 they had formed The Committee on National Organization (S.B. Bradt, O.S. Hellwig, and R.R. Shuman) and printed an announcement of the possible formation of a national organization. (Click here to read the announcement.)

Following this effort and those of others, some 400 collectors indicated their willingness to assist in founding such an organization. A total of 219 sent in their proxies, each paying twenty-five cents for the privilege of voting by proxy.


American Philatelic Association (APA) is Established

A committee met in New York City on September 13, 1886, and adopted the name "American Philatelic Association" for the newly formed organization. The following day, John K. Tiffany, a prominent St. Louis attorney, and ardent philatelist, was elected president, a position he held until 1896.

The preamble to the Association's constitution was included as follows:

"The objects of this Association are, to assist its members in acquiring knowledge in regard to Philately; to cultivate a feeling of friendship among philatelists; and to enable them to affiliate with members of similar societies in other countries."

Dues were set at $2 per year and the pro-rated dues basis was established where members pay only for the balance of the year remaining. Membership cards were provided to members and a button badge by which members may be recognized was authorized and sold to members for $1, the design is still used today as the APS logo.

Services provided in the early days:
Annual Conventions - known today as StampShow, began with the first meeting on September 13, 1886 and has been held annually since.
Purchasing Department - members wishing to use this service paid for the purchasing agent to procure new issues or obsolete stamps at or near face value. The more members that participated the better prices they could buy for.
Exchange Department (today's Sales Division) - The object of the Exchange Department of the Association is to facilitate the exchange of duplicate stamps, entire envelopes and postal cards among the members. This end will be attained by the use of exchange books and boxes...."
Library Department - As reported in the Volume I of the AP, Although the Library Department is not yet in a condition for the members to take advantage of it, still considerable progess has been made. We shall, until the Association is fairly started, have to depend to a great extend on donations for the growth of this Department."
Counterfeit Detector - the regular appearance of fraudulent stamps plagued the organization in the early days. The APA took prompt action and elected E. A. Holton, a Boston dealer, as "counterfeit detector." This forerunner of today's expertizing agency served without a fee!


First American Philatelist

The first five issues of the APA's journal, The American Philatelist were published in Altoona, Pennsylvania, commencing January 10, 1887, editor W. R. Fraser, but a mail vote in June of that year resulted in the choice of The Western Philatelist as the society's official publication. Their July, August, and September 1887 issues appear with "Official Journal of the American Philatelic Association" printed on the front cover. Dissension caused by this action led the membership at the second annual convention, held in Chicago in August 1887, to vote to resume publication of The American Philatelist as the society's official journal.

- Advertising rates in 1887, $2.50 quarter column; $5.00 Half column


APA adopts Vignette of Philatelia

During the Chicago convention in 1887, Eugene Dill, a member from St. Louis proposed that the APA adopt the vignette of Philatelia as shown on the cover of their official journal The Western Philatelist. The current APS logo still depicts the vignette however altered over the years.


APA Incorporated

The Association was first incorporated in the State of West Virginia November 2, 1891, and re-incorporated in the State of Minnesota in 1897.


APA Library in Care of Carnegie

In 1897 the Board decides the APA’s library should be placed in care of the trustees of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. It will remain there until 1927.



First Expertizing Certificate

The Expert Committee issues its first photo certificate. The 1-tical on 1-solot stamp from Siam is genuine.



APA Changes Name to American Philatelic Society (APS)

In 1897 the name of the organization was changed briefly to American Philatelic Society, but was changed back to American Philatelic Association after only a few months. The name was changed again to American Philatelic Society at the 1908 convention, and has remained as such since that time.


In 1916 Dr. Holland A. "Doc" Davis of Denver was elected as secretary of the Board of Directors, a position he held until 1945. His twenty-nine years of service on the Board of Directors has never been eclipsed. During Davis' tenure Franklin Roosevelt, an avid philatelist, and APS member, was elected President of the United States. He brought into his administration long-time APS member Harold R. Ickes, as Secretary of the Interior.



Through the 1920s and 1930s the number of members grew steadily. By 1940 there were more than 4,000 members.


Stamp Collecting Merit Badge

The APS helps institute a Boy Scouts of America merit badge in philately.


Admission Fee Introduced

Bylaws revisions include an “admission fee” to replace the shares of stock. The admission fee is set at $2. Every applicant applying for membership in the APS is now required to have the endorsement of two members of the Society.



APS Abandons Library

The Board votes that “the present library [located in the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh] was absolutely useless … a library such as we have will hardly be a success with the members scattered all over the country and the library located at one point." The APS abandoned all claims to the library.


Franklin D. Roosevelt Joins APS

The APS receives an applicaiton for membership from Franklin D. Roosevelt who two years later becomes U.S. President.


At the 1940 Convention the "Committee on the Establishment of Permanent Society Headquarters" issued a report on the benefits and complications of creating a central office for the American Philatelic Society.


A Vision for the Future - Central Office

The 1942 convention in Cleveland, Ohio was the stage for local collector and APS board member Donald Lybarger to present his vision for the future of the APS. In a speech, he called for the creation of a central office, which he felt should be near the geographic center of the philatelic community, but, for financial reasons, should not be in a large city. He was elected APS President in 1943, and constantly campaigned for the central office, as well as elimination of the proxy system through his monthly President's Message in The American Philatelist.


APS Central Office is Established

At the 1944 convention in Milwaukee it was announced that the APS was seeking applications for the position of Executive Secretary to establish a central office effective April 1, 1945. H. Clay Musser of State College, Pennsylvania, was selected and the APS office was established there.


FIP Membership

The American Philatelic Society was elected to membership in the Federation Internationale de Philatelie (FIP) as the United States representative in 1947.


APS Sales Division Moves to Headquarters

In 1958, the Sales Division, having been operated for thirty-seven years by J.E. Guest in Dallas, Texas, became one of the additional responsibilities of the Executive Secretary, and the operations were moved to the headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania.


Official Expertizing Services Established

The APS Expertizing Committee had been issuing certificates since 1903. In 1965 an official Expertizing Service was established to coordinate the work of the Expertizing Committee. The service began operations from the headquarters building and became a joint operation in 1970 with the American Stamp Dealers' Association when the ASDA formed a professional panel to assist the APS Expert Committee.


Research Library is Incorporated

The American Philatelic Research Library was incorporated in 1968 as the research and educational arm of the APS. The APRL has been recognized for decades as a top-ranking library available to all regardless of philatelic affiliation. Edward L. Willard of State College, a former APS President, was the APRL's first President.


Philatelic Literature Review

The Philatelic Literature Review becomes the quarterly journal of the American Philatelic Research Library.


APS 1st Headquarters Building

One of the major milestones in APS history was the dedication of the American Philatelic Building in State College on September 12, 1972. For ten years, this modern two-story building provided quarters for the APS on the second floor, and the APRL on the first.


Editorial Offices move to Headquarters

Upon the death in 1976 of The American Philatelist editor, James M. Chemi of Phoenix, Arizona, the editorial offices were moved to the State College headquarters as the consolidation of APS services continued.



The annual convention of the American Philatelic Society in 1977 was the first 'STAMPSHOW', and the site for the honoring of the 'Champion of Champions' of the World Series of Philately.


First Summer Seminar

The American Philatelic Society's first annual week-long Summer Seminar in Philately met on the campus of The Pennsylvania State University in 1980. The program continues, with nearly 100 students each year.


Headquarters Moves to Oakwood Ave.

Rapid expansion of membership in the late 1970 led to expansion of the national headquarters in February 1982. A new American Philatelic Building was dedicated on a five-acre site on the outskirts of State College, providing more that 20,000 square feet of floor space. The growth of the APRL led to an addition to the building in 1989. Although this expansion was originally for the library alone, the creation of the APS Education Department lead to conversion of other space for this office, and part of the addition became storage space for the APS.


APS 100th Anniversary

In 1986 the APS hosted the first day ceremony for a new issue of postage stamps honoring its 100th anniversary.


Education Department Created

Our Education Department is created to run the Summer Seminar and provide audio visual programs for clubs.


AP First Full-Color Article

The American Philatelist publishes its first full-color article, "Heroes and Dragons: Myth Meets Reality in Prehispanic Mexico."



Information Services Department Created

By 1995 computers were vital for efficient operations, and an Information Services department was created. The APRL card catalog was the first in-house generated website, although an APS web-page was established and has been available since 1995.


First Stamp Saturday

The Education Department held its first 'Stamp Saturday' at the annual convention in St. Louis in 1995. Stamp Saturday is a hands-on beginners courses for adults. The Education Department added a youth coordinator in 1998 to manage the All-Star Stamp Club program.


Expertizing Crimescope Purchased

Technological advancements were made in the Expertizing Service in 1996 when a 'crimescope' forensic light source was purchased to assist in the detection of altered materials.


AllStar Stamp Club Created

The AllStar Stamp Club program is created to support youth club leaders.


StampStore Launched

Out Internet StampStore is launched in September with fewer than 15,000 items. Today annual sales approach $1.5 million with about 300,000 items available for members to peruse and buy.


Purchase of the Match Factory

The American Philatelic Society and American Philatelic Research Library boards agree to purchase and renovate a six acre 18 building complex in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania to serve as their new headquarters and provide tenant space. The complex which served as a Match Factory from 1900 to 1947 is listed on the National Registry of Historical Places.


APS First Tenants

Renovation of the non-historic "block warehouse" is completed and the first tenants move into what is now called the American Philatelic Center.


APS and APRL move into new Center

With completion of phase two, the APS and APRL move into the American Philatelic Center.


YSCA and Quick ID are Launched

The APS creates a new internet-based program called Young Stamp Collectors of America to promote the hobby to youth collectors.

The Quick ID program is introduced which offers a quicker and lower cost option than the Expertizing Service. A scan of the item is provided by e-mail with results usually provided the next business day.


Postal History Symposium Begins

The APS, APRL, and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum (NPM) start a joint venture to draw together historians, scholars, academics, and philatelists to present papers on diverse aspects of postal history. The Postal History Symposium alternates between the NPM and the APS.



Headsville Post Office moves to APC

The former Headsville, West Virginia post office and general store on loan from the Smithsonian Museum of American History, opens as a contract post office in the American Philatelic Center. The building served as the post office for Headsville, West Virginia from 1860 to 1914 and a contract post office at the Smithsonian from 1971-2006.







APS 125 Years!
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