Who are our hobby's "key players"?Certainly, the American Philatelic Society is one. It is the largest nonprofit society for stamp collectors in the entire world.
But who else? What about the 630 APS chapters? Most of these local stamp clubs individually may have fewer than a hundred members, but collectively the chapters have more members than the American Philatelic Society. This is why I keep stressing the importance of local stamp clubs, each of which can be a powerful promoter and preserver of philately in their local communities.
There are also numerous specialty societies, many of which are APS affiliates. These organizations may be quite large; the largest have a few thousand members. Examples are the American First Day Cover Society, the American Topical Association, and the U.S. Stamp Society. The smaller groups may be less well known, such as the Fellowship of Samoan Specialists, but every one of these specialty societies promotes philately and philatelic scholarship.
How about stamp dealers? We collectors seem to have a love-hate relationship with dealers, but without them our hobby would surely falter. We need stamp dealers and we need the hobby marketplace to stay strong and vibrant. Taking this to the gut level, to whom will we sell our collections when it is time?
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is also a hobby leader, and yet another "key player" with whom collectors have a love-hate relationship. We seem to want the USPS to promote stamp collecting, youth philately, and stamp shows; but at the same time we criticize virtually every stamp-related decision they make.
The philatelic press is also a key participant in philately. With so much information available on the Internet these days, do we still need a healthy philatelic press? What is the role of the weekly and monthly philatelic periodicals we receive? Does the philatelic press support philately or diminish it?
The Smithsonian National Postal Museum has only been around for ten years as a separate entity, but it curates the largest stamp collection in the world, and that fact alone makes it a key player in philately.
I mention all of these organizations because each has a vested interest in the future of philately. Recognizing this, many of the aforementioned groups have produced public relations programs, publications, and educational materials in an effort to be a positive influence for philately. I applaud these efforts!
But here is a question I want you to think about. If each of these organizations pooled their resources and united in the common goal of promoting philately, could we achieve more? If you answer "yes" to that question, you can probably guess my next question.
Let's say that the cumulative promotions and public relations budgets for all of the above mentioned groups is a quarter million dollars. If all of this money was pooled for the purpose of doing a unified promotion, what would that promotion be? Do you think it would benefit philately? An earlier attempt at doing this was called COPO (Council of Philatelic Organizations). After a few years, COPO ran out of funding and it is unclear to me what lasting effects were achieved. What we have today are many individual efforts and no way of really gauging success.
That's not the only problem. We also have developed a hobby culture where many of the people and groups working in these individual efforts have become to believe that they "own" them. In other words, we have some philatelic fiefdoms where others who venture too close to the border with their own pet projects are escorted away and asked not to return.
This damages the hobby in many ways. New ideas and creative thinking are discouraged. Enthusiastic hobby leaders are turned away leaving nothing but hard feelings in the wake. This is not the way to promote philately!
So what can we do about this? First, each of us who is involved as a key player with a stake in the future of philately (and let's face it, that is all of us!) needs to begin right now to build bridges. We need to start talking with one another, trading ideas, and working together for the benefit the hobby.
Let's look for ways to build up philately, not tear it down. Do you have ideas on ways that all "key players" (and remember, that includes you!) can work together to build a sound and healthy future for philately? How can we get all of the above named organizations to work together towards a common goal? Let me hear from you! You can contact me at P.O. Box 250, Pleasant Plain, OH 45162 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll share your letters with the APS Board of Directors.