Yeah I mean I have sat down with dealers who were nothing but nice with me and sharing with information and items. It is just that ice breaker that is a little hard because they aren't the most outgoing people at times. Don't be put off by my statements thought because I have enjoyed myself and found some items for my collections. As other have said, it is what you make of it.
I think this applies to the collecting world in general. A friend of mine moved to Melbourne and had stalls at record fairs, at one of which his wife helped him. "Christ", she said, balefully surveying the prospective punters, "I''ve never seen so much unwashed hair".
My own experience is that there are no strangers at stamp shows, or at least very few. (that's a phrase I first heard from Scott English, and I think he's right). This said, a show can be intimidating for a newcomer, and the APS "stamp buddy" program was intended in part to combat this.
Just to throw the question out - what other ways are there to make shows more welcoming?
[I don't see a lot of show customers dressed up, unless they are judges or dealers; those folks are "working" and I think it's fair that they present themselves professionally). I don't particularly dress up for shows unless I'm coming from work or don't have time to change before an awards banquet, etc., including having spoken at APS membership meetings and presented to the APS board without a tie in sight.]
It is cute saying about no strangers at shows but shows can be intimidating for introverts. Regulars can be chummy (not a bad thing) and people walking around in suits/ties often with badges and colored ribbons with an air of elitism. I think established collectors know what they want but do not see it inviting for non-collectors and whether one likes it or not a collector does not need to attend a show. Many do not.
Quote: ... It is cute saying about no strangers at shows ...
I think that Al's got this right.
In every field of human endeavor, not every veteran is good at handling newbie inquiries or listening to newbie nonsense or gently guiding newbies away from typical newbie mistakes ... and, yeah, the "not every" was me being kind.
On the other side, after a few rude shocks (the resale value of CTOs, the resale value of all-but-the-rarest FDCs, the "kids collect that stuff", etc) not every newbie's cheerful, open & eager-to-learn disposition survives ... if they came that way.
It is not an easy dance.
It probably goes better at a local club, where the old guys who like to work with the new guys can step forward.
When I first started attending shows 40 or so years ago everyone was a stranger. I quickly came to dislike the dealers' standard query "What do you collect?" I disliked it because, then, I didn't collect much of anything and I didn't know how to respond without repeatedly confessing that I was a beginner with no collecting focus. I still dislike the question, but now I have learned how to reply with reasonable self assurance.
The shows I attend are in larger urban areas and a high level of anonymity is par for the course. I have come to know a few of the dealers by name and I sometimes see a collecting acquaintance or two, but for the most part, the show is still filled with strangers. There is occasional small chat with the collector sitting next to me at the bourse tables, but I rarely know them or ever see them again.
I will say, when I went to the APS show in Grand Rapids last year, James Weigant, who heads the Young Friends group, met up with me at the APS booth and showed me around. It was a nice touch and the guy has enthusiasm and a persona that helps connect with younger collectors. Thumbs up there.
I'm a pretty painful introvert and have social anxiety, so entering a room that has a lot of people being really quiet in it makes me feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. I'm also a woman, and I look really young for my age.
Maybe I'll buy one of those stamp ties the APS sells and wear suspenders. Just, you know, to fit in. :) I'll probably actually look more like I'm doing some really unusual cosplay and wandered into a stamp show instead of ComiCon by mistake, but oh well. It'll be memorable.
As to "what do you collect?" I could see myself being like, "uuuuuuhhhhhh.... stamps?" I do have a collecting focus (classic US, polar exploration, British colonies, and Captain Cook), but I'd kinda want to just look at what they had, too. I'm fairly new as well.
At the stamp shows I've attended; mainly Rocky Mountain Stamp Show, but also went to the CHERPEX small-scale show in September; I already know that few dealers carry what I'm looking for the most (Portuguese colonies). At CHERPEX, I did get a couple reasonably priced P.C. postal history pieces from a local dealer who had a few items strictly as add-ons to his main US postal history business. So, no problem for me with show dealers.
When I go to the RMSS, I'm sort of a "kamikaze buyer." After a quick walk-through the mostly boring exhibits (sorry, but most exhibits don't "ring my chimes" at all), I hit the booth for my P.C. dealer if she's attending; and now have a British Colonial dealer that I've worked with some. After that, I'm gone.
Especially before the internet, dealers at shows, in person, by default were major ambassadors for the hobby. How they acted reflected on the whole hobby - and it still does of course, just a bit less so, due to so much online commerce now.
For me, I would usually be quiet and try to be polite, in asking to see something from a particular dealer. Unfortunately, you never know the personality of the particular dealer until you actually interact with him yourself. I found that I was often ignored, in favor of high-dollar customers, or people who were louder than me. Eventually, I kind of made peace with this, and told myself that I'm doing this because I want to enjoy it. If it isn't fun, I'll cut that part out. So, I simply skip dealers who don't seem responsive, or who really bug me. Usually there is someone around who is willing to talk and help me out. That person might not have the best stock in my area, but I'd rather do business with them, and interact with that person, than the obnoxious person who has great stock.
So my one suggestion for going to a bourse, if you are shy, is - try to size up the room on your own, first. Watch the dealers, and see if you think there is one whom you might be better able to interact with than another. That might help.
I posted quite a while ago that, being newly back to the hobby after a long hiatus and therefore a beginner again, I was a bit intimidated to walk up to a dealer's table at a bourse. It took my attending a few shows to get comfortable sitting down amongst all of the other folks at a table who appeared to be, by their manner and interaction with the dealer, very experienced and focused on what they were looking for. The dealers I did interact with were all over the place with regard to their "customer service". One dealer from whom I purchased a few hundred dollars worth of covers simply snapped the bills out of my hand and turned away to the next customer without so much as a thank you. In contrast, a dealer from whom I bought one cover for a dollar thanked me profusely and wished me well. Another dealer who had no other customers was more than willing to chat about what I was interested in. The dealer behavior seemed to correlate, perhaps not surprisingly, with how many customers they had and how expensive their material was.
At one show, a dealer ignored me completely after sizing me up, apparently deciding that I didn't know what I was doing and/or had no real money to spend. I walked away from that table as fast as I could. At the same show, there was another cover dealer who was very helpful even though I was dressed the same and behaved the same as with the dealer who snubbed me. His material was very organized by category and, for a cover that fit more than one category, would place the cover in the most logical category and then would put cards in the other categories where the cover would also fit indicating where the cover actually resided. I saw a card for a cover in the colleges/universities box that I was interested in and asked the dealer's assistant to pull the cover from the box where it had been placed. He couldn't immediately find it there so he asked the dealer about it. Despite there being many customers at his tables, some of whom were obviously previous customers of his, both the dealer and his assistant took the time to look through all of the possible places the cover could be before determining that it must have been sold already. They then apologized and inquired whether there were other types of covers that they could help me find. I greatly appreciated their efforts to help a new collector, so I kept looking through their material until I found some items to buy.
So one never knows what the experience will be, so I've learned to brace for any possible kind of reaction and just take the plunge.
This turned into a psychological analysis of how difficult it is to deal with other people, didn't it? I'm not really sure how this relates particularly to collecting stamps or to stamp shows? Should shows have an official greeter who slaps you on the back and welcomes you? Should dealers be ordered to be "friendlier"? Should dress codes be standardized -- no ties or jackets -- so anyone in a tee shirt (like me) feels they fit in? Is the quietness of a stamp show offputting to you? I like quietness. It gives me a rare (today) chance to wind down a little. If stamps shows sounded like basketball games or had music playing, I'd be put off. It's a bit of an academic hobby in some ways, and some thought and talking are necessary.
If you're shy, like me, you have to make more effort to talk to people. Hardly a surprise there. But what does that have to do with collecting stamps? I'm sure it's the very same situation with coin collecting as with dozens of other hobbies. I go to old car shows, and you have to talk to people you don't know there, as well. Or not-since there's nothing wrong with just walking around and admiring. I've gone to some fancy pants stamp shows and mostly just walked around and stamp displays and ended up buying nothing. At others, I've spend hundreds with one dealer. Yes, more dealers ought to be friendlier, willing to chat, and so on. Maybe "What do you collect?" isn't the best greeting. I usually answer: "Japan, French colonies, most of Europe including Scandinavia, UN, Canada, the U.S. from beginning to end, you name it." Or "Pretty much everything." Just being honest. I figure they're just trying to start a conversation and be helpful.
Stamp collecting is a hobby that is mostly populated by older men today so it can seem a bit stodgy. Stamp shows can seem that way, too. Of course, I remember going to stamp shows in New York City in the 1960s in rooms filled with old men and cigar smoke -- so maybe it's not so different today. This might have to do with its general lack of "coolness" to most young people. Video gaming is "cool." Stamps seem for old people. Collectors do tend to be a bit geeky about small things like perforations, for goodness' sake. My wife thinks it's all very strange. We need a sense of humor about our hobby.
On the other hand, antiques are sophisticated and so is artwork, and society sees them as legitimate and elegant pursuits. Stamp collecting once had some of that cachet. King George V collected stamps as did President Franklin Roosevelt, and they were publicly proud of their hobbies as were any number of wealthy and important people, as well. I don't think it's the same today. Stamp collecting impresses the public only when a rare stamp is sold. It should impress because it's a thoughtful mental activity that requires intelligence and care as well as a sense of artfulness. These are not qualities admired by most people, unfortunately. I'm never apologetic that I collect stamps. To me, it's an intellectual activity. I don't apologize that I read books, either. Philistines!
Stamp shows can be elegant with most people wearing ties in fancy hotels or they can be local bourses at a small Elks Club with no one in ties (Sorry if I've offended any Elks). I think you just have to attend the ones you enjoy. And we have to live with the way stamp collecting is today -- a hobby that has faded somewhat from its elegant days, but which we love. If some dealers (and a few collectors) are stodgy or unfriendly, so what? That's true of everything else in the world, too. I've gotten up from unhelpful or busy dealers' tables and said, "Thanks, I'll come back later when you're not so busy." Just move on.
At the very pinnacle of collecting are the fancy philatelic clubs like the Royal Philatelic Society in the UK and the Collector's Club in New York. As a young person, I wanted to be a member of the CC in New York very badly. I figured I'd start a company, get rich, be invited to join and I'd get to hang out with the most successful collectors and use their library. One day when I was in New York in my 20s, I just went there (Mr. Shy Guy) and went inside. Maybe you can't do that anymore, but I did back then. I was greeted by a nicely dressed gentleman (in a suit and tie). I told him I had always wanted to see the Collectors' Club, and he showed me around even up to the floor with the Philatelic Library. It was quite a pleasant thirty or forty minutes seeing where the richest collectors in the country had been. To join you have to be sponsored by someone already in the club. I'm a teacher who lives in California, so no chance of that. I know no one in the Collector's Club. I'm sure that was the one and only time I'll ever be inside, but it was sure nice. Collecting can be very elegant and impressive like that, but it can also be just you looking at your beautiful stamps and mounting them in albums (or wishing you had time to mount them in albums). When I'm sick of people, stamps are a refuge. FDR used to end his long work days up in his "Stamp Room" in the White House, spending half an hour working on his stamps each night. I imagine that's me, too. What other things are this good? Watching TV just makes your blood pressure rise. I'd say next to exercise, hobbies like collecting stamps are among the most satisfying things we can do.
I would suggest to dealers that they create a way for any collector to approach their table to browse a little. Putting out cover boxes or albums of stamps to look through can allow quieter collectors to feel welcome. When a dealer's table is clearly organized only for the bluest of blue chip collectors, I feel like I've walked into a fancy restaurant wearing a tee shirt -- and I move on. Of course, I could put on a suit and tie and become a millionaire who's "just browsing" for a bit. No dealer would know any different.