This rarely gets discussed, so I'm going to take this opportunity to give my blunt, depressing assessment. No doubt this will antagonize the true believers.
As much as I love the hobby of stamp collecting, as much as it has taught me, I see it as an endangered species tettering on the edge of extinction. For those willing to face facts, there are some telling signs: - I've spent many years in a major city as a member of a very robust stamp club. But by my estimate, 85 percent of the members are over 60 years old, and more than half are well into their 70s even 80s. At 56 I'm one of the youngest members. - The new faces we see at the bi-monthly club shows are almost entirely of 20- or 30-somethings bringing in an inherited collection to sell. More often than not, when they learn how little the value is they donate it. For this age group, stamp collecting is at best a disappointment, at worst a foolish waste of time and money. - The vast majority of stamps have dropped in price over the last 20 years. The catalogs refuse to reflect this, but we all know how easy it is to buy common items for 50 to 70 percent off cat. There's virtually no market for FDCs, plate blocks or UN material these days. Dealers buy mint U.S. at half face and sell for 80 percent of face, some going back to the 1920s. - As buyers drop out of the local market, dealers are losing the ability to sell their stock at shows. The good stuff still moves, but when it comes to supply and demand, the scales tip heavily on the supply side. eBay has created a vast bazaar where even scarce issues are easily found and competition continues to drive down prices.
Among my dour observations are a couple rays of hope: - Topicals are one of the only accessible in-roads for our hobby. Kids like them because they're easy and fun to collect. But whether the next generation continues into more mature aspects of philately depends on one thing: - Regular, positive exposure to stamps is critical. And that means grandparents need to lead them by the hand. There must be online forums and websites that are fun and welcoming for all ages, particularly youngsters. There has to be more than a willingness to just have kids around -- all collectors must actively engage them.
I think a real barometer for the health of the philatelic hobby is going to be the World Stamp Show in New York coming this spring. The amount of visibility this once-a-decade show gets *outside* the hobby will be very telling. If the philatelic community can leverage it to tell a compelling story of why stamp collecting is relevant, then there may still be some hope. For those planning to go, take a moment while you're there to look around the bourse and do a mental estimate of the collective age of the average attendee.
A continuing focus on the age of the average collector, coupled with an insistence that bringing kids or teens into the hobby is the "fix," seems misplaced to me. If the number of collectors remains strong, the market for material is robust, and the shows well-filled, who cares how old people are? The fact is that stamp collecting is costly, and in many ways sedentary and intellectual. It tends to appeal to people who have advanced education either in school or in "life," who have transitioned from triathlons to less vigorous activities, who have the means to spend on their interest, and who enjoy talking to older people rather than twenty-somethings who are full of piss and vinegar. What I have seen is that the ranks are old, but they are continuously filled in. In contrast, kids and teens don't have the dollars that are needed to spend on the hobby to pursue it, and frankly should be pursuing a variety of other things with their spare time such as music, debate, drama club, or athletics to ensure they develop as well-rounded adults. I think any club would welcome 3 new age 50+ members for every one teen, because the older folks are the ones who will buy at the silent auction, write articles, and work on the local show.
The APS monthly journal recently had to switch from stapled binding to perfect glued binding because of an increase in advertising page count. There are auctions, full of material, at the large auction houses once a month. Online auctions offer millions of items.
My local club hasn't skipped a beat and even increased member headcount last year. At a local show just this past weekend, there were 20 dealers in attendance, one of which had a triple wide booth with 10 chairs for customers--and I couldn't get one.
As for World Stamp Show-NY 2016, have you looked at the schedule? Check this out: http://www.ny2016.org/pdf/NY2016_me...d_events.pdf It's the printable show schedule with all society and special interest meetings shown. The number of activities is mind-boggling, and there will be plenty of people at them. Have you printed out the list of dealers who have committed to the show? It is 34 pages long. The commitment by all these groups, and the a good enough barometer for me.
i have to agree it will still be around, you just don't see many younger folks in it because they are busy. Busy with life, kids, practice other athletic endeavors. What I see is many "older", forgive me here, folks that their kids are out of the house and college who cannot "play" as they used to and are looking at a hobby they can enjoy without spending big dollars unless they want to. I see this at many of the shows I go to and when talking to people they are getting back into something they did as a youngster - before 12. I do notice I am one of the younger ones 58 especially some of the dealers but just last year at one stamp show a couple of the new dealers were all under 55 and most likely retired from a previous job. So I think it will stay around, will it change absolutely change will happen no matter what. As to new US stamps buy them from the post office and when you purchase stamps that require a SASE use the "new" stamps this way not only does the person you are ordering from get a "new" stamp but so can you, and yes I collect used WW. Don't forget to tell people you know you collect stamps it is amazing what that can do for you.
I just wanted to say that I went to a local stamp show yesterday and it was packed! I actually had trouble finding a parking spot. Most of the dealers tables were full. One of the dealers mentioned that this is "like shows used to be"
Yes, there were a lot of "older" people, but there were also a fair amount of people my age (mid-50s), there was a kids area, and I actually saw quit a few children there too.
I can't really say anything about the future of stamp collecting, I'm just reporting what I saw.
Up to about 20 years ago I was an active Shortwave DX'er. Loved to tune in to the VOA, BBC, Radio Moscow, Radio Netherlands International, etc,..and spent countless hours searching the bands for exotic stations from far away lands. I collected their QSL cards, sent them reception reports, kept logs, etc. Unfortunately, the Internet (technology) essential killed the hobby. The SW bands today are practically silent. Virtually any governments transmit via the radio waves, except for a few that direct their beams to Africa and Southeast Asia (Vatican Radio, China Radio International, VOA, BBC and some others). I fear that stamp collecting is headed the same route. Years from now, it will still exist, but at very different and smaller scale than today. What can we do? Get your kids, grandkids, nephews and nieces involved. Take them to club meetings, stamp shows, oh, and the Post Office! We need to pass the buck on the next generation and to the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter lovers of today. This is what the death of a hobby sounds like...Radio Netherlands International last English language broadcast. Let's not let philately fade away...
Made me tear....
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There's no reason stamp collecting will dwindle. OK, many collectors are in retirement, but there will always be people entering retirement and entering/re-entering the hobby. It's not as if the current crop of collectors started it and will just disappear - it has been a hobby for 150 years. More will come. In fact, thanks to eBay and the like, blogs, forums like this, and what-have-you, the collecting environment is pretty engaging these days. I think the outlook is positive.
Oh, I'm certainly a positive person. But a realist too. And the reality is that the hobby just does not attract nearly as many enthusiasts as it did some decades ago. Why did I start collecting when I was about 13? Because I was curious about far away countries, colonies, languages and cultures. Stamps brought them alive for me. If I couldn't go there, I could have something from there that showed me what they were like. The same applied to DXing. Nowadays, it's all in the internet. And most younger folks would rather spend hours surfing the web and Facebook rather than organizing a stamp album. I certainly want to help our hobby grow and thrive. I'll gladly do my part!