Uniting the Hobby: A Proposal
At the Great American Stamp Show in August, I presented to the American Stamp Dealers Board of Directors to merge the APS and ASDA into a single organization. This idea is modeled after the American Numismatic Association, where collectors and dealers work together as one for the health of the hobby and integrity in the marketplace.
Following the meeting and the feedback of the ASDA Board, I prepared a confidential memo, sent on September 22, 2022, for the APS and ASDA Boards to begin a discussion of whether the idea had merit and was worth pursuing. Any proposal would have to be approved by the ASDA Board and submitted to the ASDA membership for approval, followed by some legal processes in the State of New York. The APS Board would also have to approve the changes.
In the memo, I outline how the transfer to the APS would work and propose a timeline of January 1, 2023, or as soon as practicable. The January 2023 start date is, to be candid, too ambitious given the approvals required. It is, however, an idea worth considering. If approved, it should enhance the collective strength of organizations and philately. So that APS and ASDA members can evaluate the merits, the memo is below. The proposal is, by no means, final but a starting point for a worthwhile and necessary discussion.
I look forward to the discussion ahead.
Uniting the Hobby
A Merger of the APS and the ASDA
Confidential Memo: ASDA Board of Directors and APS Board of Directors
From: Scott D. English, Executive Director, American Philatelic Society
Background: The APS, founded in 1886, and the ASDA, founded in 1914, have each worked to maintain a robust and trustworthy philatelic marketplace. Though the two organizations represent the buyers and sellers distinctly, there has been significant overlap in membership for the past 108 years. One of the ASDA founders, John Walter Scott, was elected APS President in 1917 and served until he died in 1919. At one point, the APS and ASDA collaborated to issue expert opinions. Though the formal relationship ended more than two decades ago, many ASDA members still serve on the APS Expert Committee. A critical service by the APS has been hosting annual stamp shows since 1977, offering buyers and sellers a meeting place to exchange information, buy and sell stamps among trusted members.
Times have changed. The storefront stamp shops which once were common have slowly shuttered. The stamp show dealer population is declining and now makes up less than a quarter of the ASDA membership. Online dealers dominate the marketplace, selling directly or on platforms like eBay and HipStamp. As sales migrate online, buyers and sellers must rely on the platform's policies, hoping for fair arbitration by knowledgeable philatelists. Instead, those bound by a code of ethics are treated the same as bad actors by clumsy policies undermining the 100+ years of knowledge and good practices established by these two organizations.
Failing to adapt and assert our collective membership value in the digital marketplace will erode consumer confidence and allow bad actors to profit from unsuspecting buyers. The APS and ASDA have a long history of accountability, transparency, and promoting good business practices within the philatelic marketplace; it is critical to continue. To remain effective, we should merge these organizations as one to leverage our respective brand strengths without wasting resources on duplication of administration.
Action Item: Merge the ASDA into the APS organization to form the American Stamp Dealers Alliance, a division of the APS. The target timeline would be by 1 January 2023 or as soon as practicable.
Identity: The structure would resemble the American Philatelic Society Expertizing Service, APEX. The American Stamp Dealer Alliance maintains an identity and logo for use within the hobby. We propose tweaking the name to better fit and preserve our 501(c)(3) status by avoiding having an Association within a Society.
Operations: We expect the current ASDA Director to rejoin the staff serving as director. The Director’s functions include member services for and recruitment of ASDA members, management of the annual APS Summer Show, and support of World Series of Philately shows. The ASDA Director would also be the relationship manager of the eBay and HipStamp partnerships. Finally, the ASDA Director will manage a revised Dealer Advisory Committee. The APS would include a shared employee (50 percent) with the Membership Department to assist with ASDA operations.
American Stamp Collector and Dealer: The ASC&D is a valuable asset, second only to the ASDA brand. For the first year, we expect no significant changes to the current operations of the ASC&D, overseen by the Editor-in-Chief with the contract editor. We plan to offer a discounted subscription to APS members in Year One. After that, we plan to provide members with a choice between the AP and the ASC&D with an add-on membership option to receive both publications.
APS Dealer Membership: The APS Dealer Membership does not have the same rigor or cost structure as the ASDA membership. Within 12 months, the APS will work with the dealer community to establish standards and a proposed tiered membership structure to meet the needs of dealers and stable long-term funding for the ASDA.
APS Dealer Advisory Committee: Revise the Dealer Advisory Committee to better represent the diverse dealer community. The Committee would advise APS leadership and the Board on dealer matters and maintaining a robust philatelic marketplace.
Institute of Philately: The hobby's future is to identify and educate dealers and experts to retain the knowledge needed for a trustworthy marketplace. Former ASDA President Stanley Piller embodied the expert dealer as a reliable source of quality philatelic material and a critical member of the APS Expert Committee. We should continue his legacy. Any available funds held by the ASDA combined with fundraising efforts would serve as the seed funding.
Possible Bylaws Change: Add a requirement for voting dealer representation on the APS Board of Directors. This change would be subject to the approval of the APS membership. For the 2022-2025 term, two ASDA members are serving as Directors-at-Large.
Conclusion: We are at an opportunistic moment where we have the knowledge and leadership to accomplish this merger as a meaningful partnership. The APS is the most financially sound it has been in decades and will continue to strengthen in the years ahead.