"I don’t see many young people here.” From at least one frustrated collector at every stamp show, I hear that young people aren’t attending the show or the local stamp club meetings. This observation is usually followed by, “Kids are only paying attention to their phones.” The bad news is that I don’t expect this to change any time soon. The good news is that young people still care about stamp collecting. How they do it is very different than those who came before them. Today, stamp collectors are actively engaging online: buying, selling, watching videos, and engaging with other collectors. So the future of philately remains promising.
Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been a number of writers and speakers on the topic of the future of philately, declaring that technology is king and organized philately is dead. They’re wrong. The APS has invested in expanding our technological reach, from the first website changes in 2018, the introduction of the C3a learning platform, creating a news room, increasing our outreach from monthly to weekly newsletters and introducing Stamp Chats during the pandemic.
The results have been pretty remarkable. Our annual web traffic grew from roughly 190,000 unique visitors in 2018 to 421,000 in the past year. We’ve had 72,000 viewers watch 11,000 hours of video content on our YouTube page. Just this year, we increased the distribution of our newsletter from 25,000 to 87,000 recipients. One-third of our website traffic is younger than 35 years old. The result for APS membership is, increasingly, more new applications, slowing the annual membership loss to its lowest levels in two decades. Technology is indeed king, but organized philately is far from dead.
Why We Matter
Not long after the first stamps were issued came the first stamp collectors. In the mid-19th century, collectors formed local groups to educate, share and study with fellow collectors. By 1886, those clubs formed a national organization to educate a larger audience and protect against fraud. Admittedly, organized philately has been slow to adapt to the technological needs of modern stamp collectors, but the need for philatelic knowledge and protection from fraud is greater than ever. We’ve accepted this challenge, but there is more to do. In the next year, we’ll make two major moves ahead on technology and philately.
A New Website
Though we made some improvements to our website in 2018, the underlying website has remained the same since it was built in 2009. In the coming months, we will unveil a whole new website to improve the user experience for current and future APS members. The redesigned website will increase our searchability to bring even more people to the site. It will allow us to generate more prospects to recruit and reach with philatelic content. For our current members, we will leverage newer technology to improve the experience, especially in the MyAPS section to track APS sales, expertizing, library requests, and eCommerce. There will be growing pains with the new site, but we will communicate with you every step of the way.
Bringing the Library to You
As our librarian, Scott Tiffney, shared in the October issue, we have developed a plan to build the Robert A. Mason Digital Library. Our first priority is to complete the run of the Philatelic Literature Review before the end of the year. At the beginning of 2022, we will launch Phase I of the digitization plan to add 51 more journals, 305 exhibits, and 13 books to the digital library. We’ll be sharing more as the project progresses, but the Mason Digital Library will become a critical resource for collectors doing philatelic research. Thank you to all the societies who have given permissions for us to host and share journals. We look forward to adding more content as time goes on.
There will be other initiatives tied closely to these two major projects that we will discuss in the months ahead. These changes will serve our current membership and bring more collectors into the APS community.
Please Renew for 2022
By now you have received your dues renewal for 2022. While so many other membership organizations have raised their dues in the past year, we’re proud to continue to deliver great service and more for the same annual rate. Building and retaining members is our best weapon to fight against future increases. If you have not renewed, please send your payment today or go to stamps.org to renew even faster. Thank you for your support of the APS and we look forward to an exciting year ahead!