Can We Shape the Future of Philately?On November 15, 2004, a group of 17 individuals gathered at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum (NPM) to discuss the future of philately. Why? Because philately and the number of active enthusiasts and participants are, by many indicators, in decline. These indicators include:
Invitations to what was called the "Shaping the Future of Philately Summit Conference" went out to a broad cross section of about two dozen industry and hobby leaders. Those who accepted the invitation were:
Donald Sundman (Mystic Stamp Co.)Allen Kane, NPM Director, served as moderator. Mr. Kane also invited a market analyst with whom he worked at the USPS. Her name was Beth Rothschild and she contributed a great deal of marketing expertise to the discussion.
In advance of this meeting, the following mission statement and goals were distributed to every invitee to identify the focus and purpose of the meeting.
Mission StatementIt was an exciting discussion and I was proud to be representing the American Philatelic Society. I was also proud that so many hobby leaders participated and that we spent several hours diligently working in harmony to achieve the common goal of a better future for philately.
So what happened? Ms. Rothschild instructed the assemblage on how to construct a model for growth. Michael Laurence contributed the data we used in this model from Linn's Stamp News annual market survey. We identified what triggers the marketplace, such as family interest and encouragement, clubs, an interest in history, a prospect of financial gain, the collecting "gene", interest in culture and cultural activities, attractive or topical stamp designs, peers, scholarship and educational aspects of collecting, and participation at events (such as First Day of Issue ceremonies and stamp shows).
From that we moved to discussing what we hoped to accomplish. Everyone was in agreement that we wanted to increase the number of collectors and the dollars those collectors spent on pursuing the hobby.
Is this worth making the effort? That, too, was considered and participants determined that growing the hobby would be beneficial to every group that was represented. It would lead to increased sales, perpetuating the hobby, an increase in association memberships, more educational opportunities, social benefits, better awareness of the US stamp program, and mental and physical health benefits for those who participate.
The conference attendees identified obstacles that would need to be overcome. Among them were cost, the difficulty of arriving at a group consensus, the possibility of alienating collectors, dealing with bureaucracy and politics, the possibility of a poor cost to benefit ratio, resistance to change, the time involved, and overcoming frustration with slow or lack of progress. Even considering all of these obstacles, those in attendance thought it was worthwhile to proceed with efforts to grow philately.
What are the goals? From the strategies, we set the following goals:
We then brainstormed on tactics to increase the number of collectors and the following were suggested:
My very small part in this august group resulted in an unexpected trip to the White House for Don Sundman, Allen Kane, and me in December to meet with domestic policy advisors about how we might move current philatelic youth initiatives into more schools in more states throughout the country. The meeting, arranged by Mr. Kane, was both instructive and encouraging. We received several excellent suggestions and we are following through with them as I write this.
I don't know where all this will lead, but I am encouraged. I have long felt that philately could accomplish more if we all pulled together instead of pushing each other away. Pooling talent, time, money, and energy to achieve common goals makes sense.
What do you think? Contact me at P.O. Box 250, Pleasant Plain, OH 45162 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
At the time I write this in mid-January, a tsunami of incomprehensible destruction has left a path of devastation throughout Southeast Asia. We who collect stamps feel a connection to all of these nations because they come to life in our stamp albums. I extend my personal sympathy and that of the Society to our members and their loved ones who may have been affected by this tragedy.