This winter, APS Development Assistant Erin Seamans spoke with Michael Cortese about the Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship program (YPLF), a scholarship program run by the American Philatelic Society (APS). 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.
Michael, a 2014 alumnus, is currently the Vice President of NobleSpirit, selling rare collectible coins and stamps. NobleSpirit has been on eBay since 1998 and currently has a full-time staff of 15 employees. Michael is also a host on the YouTube podcast series, Conversations with Philatelist that just won a 2020 Digital Chatty Award for Digital Philately.
Why did you choose to apply for YPLF and what did you expect to accomplish?
I applied to the YPLF because my experience was previously centered entirely around e-commerce business; I had very little connection to the physical, in-person world of philately, and I wanted to remedy that. After a brief conversation with Alex Haimann, it became clear that the YPLF could offer me the kind of future in philately that I had hoped was possible – one more centered around a community of people who are passionate about the hobby.
What did you learn about philately through YPLF?
The most important thing the YPLF taught me was the inner workings of organized philately; dealers talking to dealers, experts talking to experts, the connections that are built in the world of philately. The philatelic community is almost as priceless as the stamps that the community collects.
In what ways have you been involved in the philatelic community since graduating from YPLF?
I have been an APS member since first joining the YPLF in 2013. Since then, I have become more and more active in the philatelic community with each passing year. I attend shows and make as many connections as possible with fellow dealers, collectors, and experts. Most recently, I have started a philatelic podcasts called Conversations with Philatelists, alongside my co-host and fellow YPLF graduate, Charles Epting, who is also the President of HR Harmer. We interview collectors, dealers, exhibitors, and authors in the philatelic community.
What did you learn during your time as a Fellow that serves your involvement in the hobby today?
The experience I gained from the shows has been instrumental in furthering my expertise in the field. I was also advised to never stop reading research books; no matter your specialty or experience level, you can always benefit from reading the studies of other philatelists. I see that you currently work as a full-time dealer.
What drew you to work in this position?
My father has been a collector his entire life. When he came to America with my mother in 1992, he began buying and selling stamps full-time. After college, I joined the family business, NobleSpirit, and began buying and selling stamps for the company full-time. It has been an incredible experience and I’m looking forward to a long and prosperous life in the hobby.
How has your time as a Fellow informed your work at NobleSpirit?
My time as a fellow opened the door to help me make life-long connections in the hobby. Without the fellowship, I may never have had the opportunity to meet and network with so many great philatelists. These connections helped me expand NobleSpirit, alongside my father, from just 2 employees to 15.
What are your long-term goals in philately?
My long-term goals in philately are to help grow the family company, NobleSpirit, while promoting and becoming a positive voice for the hobby. Additionally, I hope to be a more constant presence at physical shows in the future.
What would you say to someone considering joining YPLF?
For anyone considering joining the YPLF: don't hesitate. The connections I made and things I learned have been absolutely invaluable to my philatelic future. It is an opportunity that all young philatelists should seize in order to better involve themselves in the hobby. There is no substitute.