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The Future Of Our Hobby - Collector's Club Of New York Discussion Sept. 21, 2022

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Posted 09/27/2022   1:02 pm  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
...every metric we have shows it's going down. APS membership, bourse attendance, the number of career stamp dealers, all of it is going down...

The metrics that are being presented above are pre-internet metrics and ones that are likely to be impacted by the internet.

Pre-internet, the only interface hobbyists had with the hobby was with an APS membership, Linn's subscription, a local club, an occasional show. After the internet, many hobbyists found it far easier (and cheaper) to interface with the hobby online.

Every single person that I have met in the last 20 years who is pessimistic about the future of the hobby drags out the same old metrics but more importantly ignores the impact and growth of the online aspects of hobby today.

One important issue is that NO one has a handle of the online strength or health of the hobby; these metrics do not exist. There are some indications such as the amount of online business activity, the number of websites, and traffic to those website. Unfortunately, these types of metrics are not widely understood and are OFTEN misused by those who have a vested interest in making them look good.

But to ignore the online aspects of the hobby when talking about its health is to leave out perhaps one of the most important things to understand.

Anecdotally, I can say that this community remains strong and heathy, the traffic and number of new members joining remains quite healthy. It averages at least 4-5 new members each day and this has been going on for years. In many ways it is probably one of the largest stamp 'clubs' that has ever existed. A 'club' that meets 24/7/365 and always has plenty of members in a meeting.

I can also report that I started Stamp Smarter from scratch about 8-9 years ago and it has grown far beyond what I expected. It will easily get over 3 million pages views this year; this hardly seems to be a hobby in poor health.

Yet we continue to hear from folks who are ignoring the online segment of our hobby when discussing its health and future. I wish there was a single comprehensive metric to point to that communicated the breadth and width of online philately but until then we should at least acknowledge its existence and hesitate from making conclusions without this critical understanding.
Don

Edit: The demographics of this hobby have always been older other than a brief period of popularity among younger people in the 1940s-1950s. For example, here is the APS meeting attendees from 1968, clearly mostly an older demographic.

So the hobby has been largely an old demographic since the 1960s, that is 60 years and it somehow has not collapsed without young people. This hobby, much like investing time in family history and ancestry, tends to be something that is done later in life when our lives slow down we have time for reflection and self.
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Posted 09/27/2022   1:13 pm  Show Profile Check jamesg's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add jamesg to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I wonder if there's a count available from ebay/hip/delcampe/mystic about how many individual/unique users buy stamps annually?
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Posted 09/27/2022   1:50 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
It may be a simplistic view, but I measure the hobby's health by a few indicators.

One is the amount of large lot material being sold by traditional auction houses because that material feeds a large share of the internet retailing machine. It is a robust market with ever increasing realizations and very few if any passed lots. Everything gets bought and competition for that material is usually quite fierce. There are also an ever-increasing number of auctions. Stamp Auction Network (SAN) reports steady increases in the number of users and at any given time there are dozens of auctions from around the World posted. Aside from the odd duck all of the houses have been around for years, and nobody is closing up shop.

Another is the retail market for supplies. White Ace called it quits but the pages are now being produced again by a new owner to the rights. Other than that, you do not see manufacturers and retailers closing up shop even with the advent of self-publishing ala Steiner. Michel, Scott, Lighthouse, Palo and a host of others are humming along just fine. You see a constant flow of members of this forum enquiring about new products that they are planning on purchasing.

A third indicator is the expertizing agencies which show no signs of calling it quits due to a lack of submissions. A review of their databases when available show ever increasing volume if the certificate numbering system is used to extrapolate how much business they transact.

There are other indicators but these three by themselves do not point to a dying hobby.
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Posted 09/28/2022   06:46 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add angore to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I see the hobby as a lot more diversified - less activity through clubs, societies, dealers, societies, etc.

COVID forced (accelerated) changes in organized philately that they intentionally avoided doing previously. I realize the acceptance would have been slower but they may have been more ready.

I consider this a great time to collect. I consider the ability to see the discussion at the CCNY as a perfect example. I still remember trying to help APS convert their old slide presentations to digital.
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Al
Edited by angore - 09/28/2022 06:48 am
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Posted 09/28/2022   08:53 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add funcitypapa to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I viewed the discussion from the collectors club initially with interest but ultimately with boredom. I think it is important to make a distinction between the hobby and the business of philately.

There is nothing wrong with the hobby if by the hobby you mean a pleasurable pursuit that you pick up and put down when it suits you, keeps you interested and engaged and has the capacity to teach or at least initially expose you to the world, geography, culture, world money systems and history—-all subjects not really covered in basic education these days.

The business of philately, which is primarily what these gentlemen were talking about—is something else entirely. The high end seems to doing fine ; the low and middle ends are probably suffering, but only if you are expecting a financial return and viewing as a monetary investment—which would be a mistake.

I do think a new collector needs a mentor to introduce them to the product; else where is one to come in contact with stamps—with so little snail mail being sent and only the most basic bulk stamps in general being used for routine mail.

With all of the internet resources available, it still requires personal interest and initiative needs to be employed to take maximal advantage of these resources. Not everyone has these skills.

The speaker from Harmers makes a big pitch for history and I certainly would second that. But stamps alone cannot teach you history, but they can spark a question that further research will answer. If you look at the cent green stamp from 1936 Army/Navy issue that shows portraits of Geo Washington and Nathaniel Greene, you might wonder what the two have to do with one another. If in addition to collecting stamps, one read David McCulloughs book "1776", you would know all about Greene, Henry Knox and a host of other people.

McCullough who recently passed was a huge asset for those interested in US history but wanted it to be presented in a friendly, easy to digest format, in the form of a story. Ken Burns has the same gift. You want to understand the effect of racism on society and the use of a segment of the culture being used as a testing ground and wedge for gradual tolerance and acceptance for the greater society—one need only watch Ken Burn's "Baseball" and try to imagine what was going on with Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers. Sure JR is honored in an American stamp. That might lead the novice to question who he was and what he did. That sparks the question that leads to individual research.

McCulloughs and Burn's gift is to tell the facts but to do so in an entertaining but accurate format in the form of a story. They both overflow with a love and passion for their mission and craft—something that some professional historians (Phd) do not understand—and which is why McC and Burns sell and they do not.

As McCullough says and Burns shows is that history is about people. Make a story about people and interest likely will be shown. You don't have enough story tellers in philately to spark interest; the material alone won't do it. Even on this forum, very few personal collecting stories are shared.
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Posted 09/28/2022   5:25 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Cephus to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
My only complaint about the video, and I realize that it's aimed at a specific audience, but they were really only talking about high end collectors. Auction houses and dealers are really after people spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a stamp at a given time, but that's not the overwhelming majority of the hobby. Most collectors are picking up stamps for a couple of cents or a couple of dollars and that's what I'm not seeing addressed. Virtually no philatelist started by throwing ten thousand dollars for a high end stamp. These things have to develop from a generally young age and that's the part that most people seem to be missing. How do we get the young collectors interested, not in investing in stamps, but in just collecting these colorful pieces of paper? Sure, there will be lots of stamps out there for a long time, mostly because we're seeing a lot of old collectors dropping dead and their collections going up for auction, but you can't focus on that small portion of the hobby because it's just not sustainable. Most of the people who are buying the collections of the old, dead collectors are old themselves. Sooner or later, they're going to be dead too. Who replaces them? That's the real question that needs to be addressed. We need lots of people. Where do they come from?
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Posted 09/28/2022   9:02 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add funcitypapa to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Cepheus: I agree that the discussants emphasized high end buyers which is understandable since they operate on commission and if the lot doesn't realize anything the commission wouldn't justify listing the lot.

On the other hand, you mention that the vast majority of collectors spend a few cents to a few dollars on an item, which is perfectly fine with me but won't sustain a strong market. But if you are collecting for enjoyment, why should you really care what the market does—your economic exposure is relatively small and you are not in the game for economic gain.

I think a perusal of the comments on this forum gives me a general idea of what percentage of the overall collector population constitutes these two groups of collectors.

You are unlikely to have a huge influx of younger collectors to replace those older collectors that you mention because postage stamps and letters are a diminishing means of communication and with the explosion of technology and the internet, there are too many other distractions for young people today for stamps to attract more than a small slice of the younger population. Postal history may have a brighter future than stamps but I believe still quite limited once the baby boomers are gone.

By the way, I am one of the older collectors you refer to, with older collections whose demise you are anticipating. For the record, I spent a fair penny on classic US stamps between the late 1980's and the early 2000's but then did a U turn and started collecting the world pre 1940. My emphasis in the US collection is really Scott 1-313 and I have spent much more on these issues than I have on my world collection for which I may fill a few spaces in an album a week, whereas the US collection resides on dealer stock pages rarely touched.

The world collection, provides relaxation and pleasure even though I don't expect a monetary return from it. The US collection will likely bring a return although at a loss to cost of acquisition but is not actively worked anymore and is not a source of relaxation. Guess which of the two collections will be joining me in retirement?

By the way, both of my sons, of an age that you say needs to be recruited into the hobby have made it quite clear that they have no interest in the stamps, even as an inheritance.
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Edited by funcitypapa - 09/28/2022 9:29 pm
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Posted 09/28/2022   9:20 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
When researching how many estimated stamp collectors there are I always come across the same two numbers repeatedly, 5 million in the United States and 60 million worldwide. Does anyone know where these numbers are derived from?
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Posted 09/28/2022   10:03 pm  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
This hobby draws from 45-55 year olds, not kids. As we have all seen and even often been a pattern we ourselves have done, we may have been introduced to the hobby at a young age and then returned later in life but very few people stay active for their entire lives (exception being those who turn it into a career).

So I think that planting the seed in young kids is a good thing but expecting them to stick with it decade after decade is probably a pipe dream. I do not think that we are ever going to find a lot of teens, 20 or 30 years old folks in this hobby.
Don
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Posted 09/29/2022   06:04 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add angore to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I finally had a chance to watch the full video. I really did not hear anything new or unexpected. It does to appear to have been edited given some of the abrupt transitions.





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Al
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Posted 09/29/2022   4:40 pm  Show Profile Check Triangle's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add Triangle to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The novice and many collectors only spend a few pence on a stamp, but if a novice wants to sell it expect it to be worth thousands. How many times have we seen novice collectors or descendants of a deceased novice collector with a few cheap stamps expecting to get a fortune? I get friends who expect me to tell them that they are rich with a few cheap items, and the internet has many examples of this, as do most dealers!
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Posted 09/29/2022   6:31 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Cephus to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
The novice and many collectors only spend a few pence on a stamp, but if a novice wants to sell it expect it to be worth thousands. How many times have we seen novice collectors or descendants of a deceased novice collector with a few cheap stamps expecting to get a fortune? I get friends who expect me to tell them that they are rich with a few cheap items, and the internet has many examples of this, as do most dealers!


That's the whole "I inherited a Stamp Collection" forum, isn't it?
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Posted 09/29/2022   8:05 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rismoney to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Its even worse if you spend a few thousands and can't get 1/2 what you paid. Investing in stamps is largely a myth. You can buy bulk and splice, or create a retail markup, but if you just want to unload something, the velocity of stamp transactions isn't in your favor.

If you buy a $5000 stamp at auction, its darn near impossible for you to get more than $7200,+ taxes, delivery, handling, etc. out of it, unless you somehow know something that all the other bidders didn't at this generation of collecting. Or you can sit on it for decades.



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Edited by rismoney - 09/29/2022 8:06 pm
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Posted 09/29/2022   8:25 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
If you buy a $5000 stamp at auction, its darn near impossible for you to get more than $7200,+ taxes, delivery, handling, etc. out of it, unless you somehow know something that all the other bidders didn't at this generation of collecting. Or you can sit on it for decades.


Very true especially given that as a buyer at auction you add 20% more or less in commission and as a consignor you deduct 20% more or less in commission. Not an easy equation to overcome.

Also, I have tracked a great many items that were sold over the course of decades at auction and the lion's share don't increase in realization let alone keep up with inflation. You really have to go back 50 years or more to some of the great name sales to see prices that make you, with the benefit of hindsight, make you snicker. Some of those sales, such as the Ackerman collection of Russia, actually softened prices because of the sheer quantities of material coming into the marketplace at one time.
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Posted 09/29/2022   9:13 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add floortrader to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I think you guys don't understand a big percentage of expensive stamps are bought by collectors who are buying a reward for themselfs .

I don't know how to explain it better than to say most collectors are buying themself a "I seen that for years and always wanted it " . As for myself it has always been "I couldn't afford it in my early years ,but hell with it ,now I can ........It could be the Basel Dove ,the 5 pound British Orange or the WIPA sheet or used Italian Zepps . There is other reasons . Some buy the high price stamps and never tell anybody so it is a internal satisfaction of buying that stamp . A good friend purchased a St. Louis Bear and his reason was I could never afford the stamp but the picture of the stamp was in my beginner album as a kid . .

I think very little of todays high price purchases at auction is about reselling .
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