Our hobby has problems – an aging dealer population, fewer shows with lower attendance, local clubs struggling to find volunteers, and an uphill battle against our image problem (Stamp collecting is for old men, haven’t you heard?).
But – our hobby also has bold leaders, great ideas, energy, and – most importantly – a willingness to move and grow, even if that means changing the norm.
Doom and gloom can get old, don’t you think? While planning this issue, I wanted instead to hear from the folks out there who are putting in the hours making change, solving problems, and addressing the needs of the hobby in a forward-thinking way. This issue celebrates the good things that are happening in our hobby and continues the discussion that many are having about the future of our hobby.
In this issue
Alex Haimann talks “Clash of Empires – the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War,” the landmark monthlong exhibition at the Royal Philatelic Society London. Aside from being an ambitious project that used philatelic and non-philatelic artifacts to bring to life a fascinating historical period, the “Clash of Empires” exhibit was also a triumph of marketing and outreach. And, essentially, didn’t rely on classic exhibit frames.
What’s the deal with local clubs these days? A year ago I asked APS members who are involved with active, thriving clubs to write in and tell me what their clubs are doing well, and how they are innovating. This issue published three of your responses, plus I share my own thoughts on the matter.
We have two articles on shows. The first is our recap of Great American Stamp Show, held in August in Cleveland. GASS was exceptional this year – and I can promise that the APS staff are already on the move to make next year’s show at Hartford even better. The second article is more of a retrospective. Four years after the event, STOCKHOLMIA 2019 is widely considered one of the best shows put on in this century. The show’s exhibition manager Jonas Hällström writes on putting the show together, and some of the elements that he thinks contributed to its success.
Finally, Steve McGill makes an impassioned defense of the art of exhibiting. This is everything you need to know (that wouldn’t fill a book) about philatelic exhibiting, laid out in easy-to-understand terms and with helpful advice.
A few things influenced this issue’s creation. The first is a long-term influence since my first days of editing The AP (March 2020, “The Hobby of Kings and Queens”): Stacy Adam, whose research and thesis on women in philately shows that there are a lot of collectors out there who aren’t necessarily engaged with organized philately, but who might be an interested audience if we’re willing to meet them where they are.
Another (more personal) influence is my own involvement with my small-town, less-than-35 members church. No, I’m not going to talk about religion. But I’ve noticed many overlaps between the struggles of my church and the struggles that local stamp clubs face. (Read, lack of leadership, declining and aging members, and a few volunteers who take on the bulk of the work.) My church, and again I’m not going to talk about religion, is addressing these struggles by rethinking our mission and priorities. You’ll note in this issue’s articles about clubs that many currently thriving clubs have come to this conclusion and undergone the same soul-searching.
Finally, I’ll point to a presentation that Charles Epting gave at Summer Seminar this year. Charles, who is a member of the APRL Board of Trustees, spoke on 10 changes that he thinks could improve the hobby over 10 years’ time. Several of Charles’ talking points line up quite neatly with the conversation that is happening in this issue.
Charles’ suggestion No. 6, modernization of exhibiting, might get some gasps of horror from those of a more traditional bent. But he pointed out that the exhibit-frame style is not always the best way to tell a story to non-philatelic viewers – and “Clash of Empires” is a prime example of a different way of doing things.
Charles’ suggestion No. 4 is to consider a new business model for stamp shows that prioritizes experiences over the dealer bourse. While this issue doesn’t address dealer bourses specifically, I think it’s clear that shows that have exciting events and interesting speakers will more easily draw in crowds. Perhaps not all of Charles’ suggestions would be popular if implemented: consolidating stamp shows, modernizing exhibiting, shifting away from the printed page? But what about the way we’ve always done things? What about my treasured print magazine?
It is easier not to change.
It’s hard work to take an honest look at our community and traditions and evaluate whether they are still serving our needs, or should be improved, adapted or added to. The process should be free of judgment, and filled with compassion, because traditions are important, and there for a reason. Think of Marie Kondo’s famous KonMari method of tidying up. You consider each item carefully and with compassion, letting it speak to your heart. If it no longer sparks joy, thank it for its service – then let it go.
The APS is committed to forward thinking. Don’t take my words the wrong way – we’re not nixing programs or services, or giving the printed journal the boot (thank goodness!). But having these conversations, with honesty and openness, is our priority. I sincerely look forward to your responses to this issue.
New magazine in the works
Speaking of change, you may have heard (or read in Scott English’s column “Our Story” this month) that February 2024 will see the launch of a free brand new quarterly digital magazine, StampEd.
StampEd will have a balance of entry-level practical collecting advice, art-forward and digital-forward articles, and stories that celebrate the connections between stamp collecting and other interests.
This magazine is for those stamp collectors who are not necessarily the APS’ usual audience. As you know, APS membership skews male, white, and above age 60. Yet we know there are MANY collectors who don’t fit this demographic. StampEd is for this digital generation – younger, curious, tech-savvy, and perhaps with collecting habits and interests outside the norm.
If the digital generation describes you, we hope you check out StampEd. And you know what, if “digital generation” doesn’t describe you, I think you’ll like it anyway. After all, it is free.
To reach out about the new magazine, contact us at [email protected]. I’d love to hear your ideas as we develop the first year of issues.