Last December, our intrepid Executive Director, Scott English, finally pulled off one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of the American Philatelic Society. As many of you know, the purchase and rehabilitation of our Match Factory Headquarters involved a relatively small initial outlay, but an enormous amount of money was spent to rehabilitate this then-dilapidated building. The Society had to borrow heavily on several occasions in order to meet our goal of turning a badly neglected structure into a modern headquarters. That process has come a long way. We are essentially finished with the transformation, which ended up costing the Society some 16 million dollars. The Match Factory Complex retains its historic look but is thoroughly modernized inside.
In order to accomplish this, the American Philatelic Research Library had to borrow repeatedly, and took out a series of loans on its own behalf and guaranteed by the Society. The Library also incurred a substantial debt to APS in this process.
Thanks to some extremely generous donations from our members over the last several years, and thanks also to the leadership of our Executive Director and the financial wizardry of our staff, including Rick Banks and the current Chief Administrative Officer, Jeff Krantweiss, the Society, on Christmas Eve 2020, paid off the last of a series of mortgage loans that financed the rehabilitation of the American Philatelic Center. The Society also erased the intraorganizational debt which APRL owed APS. As a result, both organizations are on a far more stable footing, which will now enable us to build our endowment and assure the financial future of both organizations.
It should also be stressed that the last portion of this financial victory was accomplished under extremely difficult circumstances. COVID-19 has necessitated the closure of the APS headquarters for a large part of 2020. We devoutly hope that in 2021 we will see the return of our headquarters to full function, and that the pandemic subsides to a distant, if a very unpleasant, memory.
One of the functions that we hope to get up to full speed in 2021 is the return of the Library to its primary role in promoting hand-on research in philately. Research can take many forms, from discovering errors and oddities in the printing of stamps to research on rates and routes and other aspects of postal history. All of these activities are supported by our Library, which will resume its role as the number one philatelic resource in the United States, and quite possibly the world.
You may not have done philatelic research yourself, but you surely have benefited from it. The catalogs and monographs, articles and special studies that are found in our great Library all exist because of the tireless efforts of researchers worldwide. Many of these researchers are not professionals. Some are just ordinary collectors who have made singular discoveries through exploring their own collections carefully and with curiosity.
Anyone, whether an amateur collector or a professional researcher, can achieve the thrill of discovering what no one else has seen before. Sometimes, research can lead to a “secondary thrill” among readers of the research. You may find something in your own holdings that previously appeared rather ordinary. Then you read about someone’s research on such an item, and right before your eyes it transforms into a remarkably rare or unusual piece that might have remained unappreciated but for the research of someone else. In fact, these are the exact experiences of more than one author within these pages.
Solid research is hard work. It is, as Thomas Edison used to say about invention, “Ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration.” Given the number of sharp-eyed collectors who belong to our Society, it is a rare thing to make an original discovery. But even if we don’t have that experience, we can surely benefit from the amazing discoveries of others and the cogent articles they write about what they have found.
Good luck, and hopefully there will be a good discovery or two that you may find in your own collection. If you are fortunate enough to find something new, please write about it for the AP!
The President's Column is reprinted from the February 2021 Issue of The American Philatelist, The Research Issue. If you are interested in joining the American Philatelic Society to gain access to members only benefits such as this highly acclaimed monthly magazine, visit Together We Grow today!