Much has been written about the death of stamp collecting. Everyone knows that stamp dealers are disappearing and that there are fewer shows. There are fewer dealers because it doesn’t pay to have a brick and mortar store when stamps can easily be sold on the Internet – why pay rent and when you can have access to tens of thousands of customers? This has been a common trend for a while, but it is not the only contributing factor towards the decline of collecting.
More nervously talked about is how kids are not taking up the hobby. Article after article discusses the lack of replacement generations of stamp collectors. And almost every one of these articles fretfully offer a suggestion on how to get kids interested in stamps. What can we do to get kids collecting? How can we make stamp collecting fun? When will our kids and grand kids turn their interests to our heirloom collections?
To be honest, I’ll guarantee you right here and now that this will never happen.
Why would a child want to spend their free time sticking small “pieces of paper” into a book? I like to use this analogy because a long time ago my 12 year old son was showing his friend my stamp collection. When he asked the value of one particular stamp, he then responded, “How is that possible for just a piece of paper?” The response may be laughable to the seasoned collector, but let’s try to put ourselves in that position and look at what’s going on in today’s environment.
Things are much different than they were 50 years ago, or even 25 years ago. Today’s educational system offers a multitude of extra-curricular activities for students from clubs, sports, community service and many other activities – all which nearly double in high school. I don’t know about you, but the only activity my elementary school offered was roller skating. When I was a kid, the only hobbies or activities we had were stamp collecting, coin collecting and baseball cards. Coin collecting was the hardest because it was too expensive.
Today we have the Internet and many think that this has a negative influence on kids. A while back, I heard somebody say, “Stamp collecting is more of an intellectual hobby and kids are being weaned on the Internet, not reading books.” Less education, thus less intellectual hobbies. However, I disagree; the Internet is incredibly educational and informative. Just think of what we could have done as children with all that information at our fingertips! Today’s adolescent child is more informed educationally and politically than we were at the same age, albeit in a new, roundabout manner. I’m not saying they’re smarter; I’m saying that they have more resources to learn from than we did. It’s no wonder that kids don’t care about stamps – there’s simply not enough hours in the day with the information overload.
But where does that leave the status of philately? If the kids don’t take over, who will? Here at Palo, we have a lot of customers in the 60-80 year old age range, but we also have many who are in the 40-60 year old range – younger Baby Boomers and Generation X. These social groups consist of individuals whose children are either in their early twenties or out of the house and on their own. They finally have more time to spend on hobbies because their parental obligations are greatly diminished. Unlike the elder age group, most of which never became too computer-savvy, the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers are comfortable using the Internet. They are the most active group in buying and selling stamps on the Internet. They tend to spend more money and are more concerned with quality material. The demographics of this group are ideal! These are the individuals that stamp clubs and societies should target for memberships.
Standing firm, unwilling to move with the times will only result in stagnation and loss of activity in any endeavor. Times change; and just like any other business or hobby, we need to adapt to change. So, don’t get hung up on your grandchild’s lack of interest in King George V – by all means, let’s share and expose our collections with those willing to explore, but children are not stamp collecting’s only salvation. That 45 year old guy with the BMW will do just fine for me.