This summer, APS Development Assistant Erin Seamans spoke with David McKinney about the Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship program, a scholarship program run by the American Philatelic Society. YPLF supports young philatelists, offers them unique opportunities to attend stamp shows across the country, and connects them with experienced mentors in the philatelic world.
David graduated from YPLF in the Class of 2012. He is now a Captain in the U.S. Army.
Erin: Hi David, thank you for joining me. Why did you choose to apply for YPLF?
David: In 2010 there was an APS show in Richmond, Virginia, and I met that year's YPLF fellows, Alex Haimann, and Jay Bigalke. I was a stamp collector in high school at that point, so after I met everyone at the stamp show, Alex took me aside and encouraged me to apply to be a YPLF fellow. I had talked to a bunch of other people as well at the APS and ended up applying to the program. I started the next year in 2011 as a fellow and graduated in 2012 from YPLF. I was just hooked - it brought an entirely different aspect of the hobby to me. I would not have been as avid of a collector or maybe even still be a collector if it weren't for the YPLF.
You said that you started collecting in high school. I'm curious who got you into stamp collecting at that age?
When I was a sophomore in high school, I loved skateboarding and the beach. One summer I broke my wrist on Memorial Day weekend and my mom said I couldn't go out to the beach with a cast. During that summer, we were clearing out the attic and ended up finding my grandfather's stamp collection. I loved history - my whole family loves history and enjoys it - and I couldn't do anything else that summer, so I sat there and organized the stamps and put together a stamp collection.
My mother was actually a stamp collector. She collected when she was younger and ultimately got back into it when we found the collection in the attic. So we started going to stamp shows. When I learned about YPLF, it took the hobby to another level for me. I just started getting more involved with collecting . . . and now I have more stamps than I know what to do with!
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I think who gets you involved in the hobby is such an important part of everyone's collecting story. It is very close to your heart, I can tell, with your grandfather and mother.
If you have a family member or a mentor to help you along the way, that can really help. My mom collected all the time, and when I was able to make friends in the hobby, that helped too. I think that a support structure, at least for the majority of people, keeps us collecting. I think that's why the APS and organizations it are so important - they provide a support structure to keep people interested and connected, so it really is a social hobby.
I also think that collecting is a really cool way to own a piece of history. Stamp collecting usually is a moderately inexpensive way to own a piece of history. Not only that, but you can study and learn about history while holding it in your hand. I now collect a lot of postal history and random postal cards and I think it is a cool way to learn about the world.
What did you learn about philately from your time as a fellow in YPLF?
Almost everything! I think one of the biggest things that has impacted me my collections of Soviet Union and German philately. I always tell people that I speak philatelic German or philatelic Russian. My interest in German and Russian stamps introduced me to people who already collect and write about items that I am collecting.
I would not have been as avid of a collector or maybe even still be a collector if it weren't for the YPLF.
You dipped your toes in during high school, attended stamp shows, and after YPLF you were in the ocean of all philately had to offer.
I was able to meet other people whose collecting areas overlapped with my interests and connect with them . . . if they are your age that's even better. I wrote a piece in The American Philatelist about the YPLF a couple years ago. I honestly think that the younger generation, when they are pulled into the hobby and meet other young people, will be friends for life. One of the biggest constants in my life has been the philatelic community. I'm still friends with the people that I met at that stamp show in 2010 . . . It's ten years later and I’m still talking to them.
In what ways have you been involved in the philatelic community since you left YPLF?
I was a Eagle Scout and I would help teach the stamp collecting merit badge at APS shows; I’ve been to a number of shows after I graduated YPLF in 2012; I've supported the Stamps in Your Attic booth during shows; I wrote for the AP which was a dream of mine and have written for Linn's Stamp News in the past 2-3 years. Jay and I went to Tahiti last year and visited the postal service there. I took a trip to Paris and London to visit a society and STAMPEX. I also did an internship at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum as a direct result of the fellowship. I received a Nick Carter Volunteer award in 2012. So all in all, I have traveled a lot and met a lot of really amazing people along the way. I love stamp collecting, history and writing and it has all come together in such a great way.
What are your long term goals in philately?
In the short term, I would like to get more involved and attend the Virtual Stamp Show (held in August). Long term, I would like to get more involved with programs, clubs and find a way to work professionally in philately. I am not sure if I am set on making the Army my career.
You studied English and Literature, so if you worked professionally in philately what realm would it be in?
I would like to either write or look into preservation and conservation.
What would you say to someone considering the YPLF?
I would really recommend it to anyone. YPLF has changed my entire perspective on the hobby and it quite honestly changed my life. I would say that if an individual has any interest in philately to at least apply and try the fellowship. It could change anyone into a professional collector and take you to the next level or could make you realize it's not for you.
I'm curious how philately has informed your work in the Army?
On a broad spectrum with communication and writing. When I was younger and at the stamp shows the age gap was pretty wide . . . that was something I hadn't been exposed to before but I found ways to interact with people from all walks of life. During the 2016 World Show in New York, I spoke at the first day of issue ceremony and a few other APS dinners . . . I would have never had an opportunity to speak to crowds like that in my life without YPLF. Those experiences improved my skills in public speaking.
Any memories or last words you'd like to share about your time at YPLF?
Two other fellows (Tim and Andrew) and myself all drove from Virginia to Milwaukee to go to a stamp show. We had the car packed full of so many stamps that we couldn't move and managed to drive through two snow storms as well. So I would just say keep collecting and enjoy the hobby and where it takes you.
Are you wondering if you or someone you know should apply for the Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship Program? Check out the exciting perks of being a Fellow!
- Receive a one-year APS membership
- Choose an area of interest: Author, Curator, Dealer, Designer, Exhibitor & Analyst
- Learn from an adult mentor
- Attend the Great American Stamp Show and Spring Meeting
- Attend Summer Seminar on Philately at the American Philatelic Center
- Interact with stamp collectors from around the United States