If there’s one phrase that can be heard again and again at every collecting show, exhibition, or club get-together, it’s “How do we get kids interested?”
We always need to maintain an up-and-coming generation of interested and committed collectors to eventually take the metaphorical reigns. The American Philatelic Society has always had its finger on the pulse of this issue, and this is where the Young Stamp Collectors of America comes in.
When the YSCA was started in 2005, its purpose was to replace the Junior Philatelists of America, a group for philatelists younger than 18, and a group some of you may have been a part of. Members of the JPA were offered free membership into the YSCA at the time to build a bridge between the two groups.
Figure 1. The first YSCA newsletter.
Much like the JPA, the Young Stamp Collectors of America would circulate a newsletter (Figure 1) and hold meetings for members. Over the years as the internet became more accessible and the cost of circulating a paper newsletter proved to be too much, all newsletters and meetings switched to virtual settings. With the rise of C3a – the American Philatelic Society’s virtual learning platform – YSCA was able to provide online lessons and activities for members.
A favorite among members is the award packet that they can receive for participating in activities found within the newsletter. These award packets have a baggie of stamps, some first day covers and other goodies based on the month or topics in the newsletter. As expected, free stuff gets people excited and interested, but has never been enough to keep most members for more than a year.
Participation has waned and the group is at its lowest membership in quite some time. But this is not something to be worried about. In fact, the numbers were quite artificially inflated. A large portion of the membership was brought in through the APS Stamps Teach program, which gave students free membership. These members had fleeting or no real interest in philately. This led to a sizable membership, though many members were not invested in the hobby. However, there is still some hope.
Since I have taken on the role of education coordinator, even with dwindling membership numbers, our participation is higher than before. I attribute this to one change, and that is simply more interaction: more monthly emails, sending letters in their award packets explaining the items they are receiving, etc. This simple addition made a huge difference, so what else could we do to improve participation even more?
Now, I have always been a proponent of giving the people what they want. That may sound easy, but as I have freshly come into the role and found little recent communication with YSCA members, the task was quite difficult. So, I came up with a few ideas and floated them out to the membership.
After looking through some survey results, the facts were clear: YSCA members just wanted more philatelic-related content. It didn’t matter the format or the media, there just was a distinct want for information. They wanted videos, lessons, and the chance to write their own articles or thoughts down and have others read them. A big plus about philately is that there are more than 100 years of research and history for our members to explore and soak up like sponges. This led to a few ideas that I believe will greatly benefit the YSCA and its membership.
In 2022, we are going to start fresh to revitalize the group. First, we are bringing back virtual meetings. However, I want to add a bit more to these meetings. I want them to be sort of like classes. Now, I will not use the word “class” with members, as I know that word often makes the soul of many kids curl up into a ball, but they will basically be virtual learning events. The first one was at the end of January, in which we covered some stamp collecting basics and discussed some cool stamps for them to look out for.
These learning events are scheduled to be held every other month. Depending on interest and participation, we might make the events monthly.
Along with these meetings, we are going to produce videos on various topics for the members. The first video for January was a tour of the American Philatelic Center, and future videos will be on topics such as rare stamps, stamp shows and what goes on behind the scenes in producing stamps. There will also be a Young Stamp Collectors of America YouTube channel launching soon that will feature some recruitment and advertisement videos for the group.
Figure 2. The January 2022 newsletter. The newsletter has many ways for kids to participate.
Finally, I plan to invite members to write their own pieces for the newsletter or even create exhibits (Figure 2). Even if they just write a singular paragraph about their favorite stamp, they will have put their thoughts onto paper and connected with each other through philately.
With all of the growth and new things to come, it is hard not to be excited over the future of the YSCA. We are taking a step to make this group a cohesive and passionate one whose members are engaged in the hobby. These changes also will give us a great base to recruit future members of the Young Philatelic Leadership Fellows and the APS.
If you know someone who would be interested in YSCA, individual memberships are $10 for a year and family memberships (when you have more than one philatelist in a household) are $15 for a year. All new YSCA members will receive a Treasure Package with a U.S. album and stamps to help start their collection.
If you would like to support the goals of Young Stamp Collectors of America, you can join as a supporting member for $20 a year. With a supporting membership, you receive updates on the group, your name featured in the newsletter as a “Supporter of YSCA,” and writing or exhibits by the members as they become available. Visit stamps.org/learn/youth-in-philately to learn more and to register.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to email me at [email protected]. As always, thank you for your help in making sure philately can be enjoyed by anyone, and at any age.