APS/ASDA Merger Not Our Best Option
In September 2022, I outlined several significant challenges for our hobby and the APS, which I reiterated in a December 2022 column in The American Philatelist:
- The changing nature of the marketplace. As more collectors buy online, the APS should work to protect their interests. Our Code of Ethics has served the hobby well for more than 136 years, but we have to extend its reach to all channels of the philatelic marketplace.
- The changing nature of organized philately. We have a maze of organizations, some doing well and others challenged by declining membership. We have to ask whether those organizations can still serve the larger collecting community or if they exist out of tradition.
- Our aging pool of dealers and experts. We are fortunate to have knowledgeable philatelists who help sort through fakes and forgeries and serve to educate future generations. The reality is that time comes for us all, and dealers and experts are no exception. We should ensure that knowledge and preserve expertise for future generations.
There are several ways to meet these challenges. The proposed merger with the American Stamp Dealers Association sparked a conversation that’s been long overdue. A merger presents both risks and opportunities for the APS and collectors. However, it is not worth pursuing if the risks outweigh the possibilities. After gathering more information on the ASDA, soliciting feedback from APS members, evaluating all options to achieve our challenges, and performing due diligence with the ASDA, I have outlined a plan for the APS Board of Directors.
The APS/ASDA merger is not our best option to move forward. Looking at the risks and opportunities of a merger, the scale tilts toward the risk side. We’ve spent years getting the APS and APRL fiscal house in order, and a merger with the ASDA will not further what we’ve accomplished.
We should live by the credo of the U.S. Army, Mission First, People Always. We will meet our mission if we take care of collectors. In our most recent member survey, 43 percent of members supported a merger, while 22 percent opposed the merger. We should not ignore the concerns of those who oppose the merger by rushing ahead. Doing so takes the focus off the critical challenges we face in this hobby and only kicks the can further down the road.
The APS already has a dealer member program, with hundreds of APS members registered as dealers and a Dealer Advisory Council established by the APS Board in 2016. Both programs should be more effective in serving collectors and dealers.
We found consensus, with 85 percent of members responding agree dealers and collectors should work together to create more ethical practices in the hobby. With that, I will present a plan to the APS Board of Directors at our Spring Board Meeting in St. Louis on March 23, 2023, to address these issues. Specifically, a reconstituted Dealer Advisory Council, appointed by the APS President and confirmed by the APS Board. With the resolution, the group will work with APS leadership to refine the dealer member program to:
- Establish clear professional standards,
- Improve dealer benefits, and
- Recommend programs to train future experts.
Through this revised council, we will also build a coalition of online sellers and identify best practices to allow collectors to buy with confidence online.
We are fortunate to have three professional philatelists elected to the APS and APRL Boards, Matt Kewriga, Michael Cortese, and Charles Epting. They have already stepped up to participate in this critical discussion. I thank them for their leadership and look forward to working with them.
This proposal is the best option to meet today’s challenges in the hobby. Our collecting community and organized philately have work to do, and it’s time to start doing it.