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by Lloyd A. de Vries

Vol. 6 - Stamps vs. The Internet

My, how times have changed. Four years ago, as the Microsoft Network canceled the contract for its collectibles forum and turned me down for a philatelic forum, I was told, "There's no interest in stamps on the Internet."

While philately may not be the biggest hobby area on the Internet - coins give stamps a run for the money (sorry), and interests like genealogy, arts and crafts and various "needlearts" leave us in the dust - I don't think there's any doubt that there's a great deal of interest in stamps. (There was in 1998, too.)

In fact, it can be argued that the Internet may be the salvation of stamp collecting.

"Huh? E-mail is going to kill snail mail!"

Two major philatelic organizations, the APS and the American First Day Cover Society, both say their major source of new members is the Internet. Run through a dealer directory, in print or on the Web, and count the number of e-mail addresses and Universal Resource Locators (URLs or web addresses) you see.

I know that I personally have met many collectors on the Internet who don't belong to stamp societies or clubs and don't subscribe to stamp newspapers, but consider themselves collectors.

The Directors of the American Philatelic Society have held discussions via e-mail. (I am Secretary.) All of us have e-mail, and use it. I think a "chat" (real-time conversation using typing) for the Directors of a major philatelic organization is just around the corner. I know I've used Instant Messenger to discuss APS issues with a fellow director and concerned members.

The APS offers stamp collecting courses on the Internet, and a version of its sales circuits at StampStore.org

And during major shows, we at the Computers in Philately booths get a number of people who just have to check a lot or bid on a lot on eBay.

Stamp collecting is now more global than ever: A would-be student in Brussels heard about the APS Internet courses much more quickly via the Internet than he would have in the print media or via regular mail, and was able to ask a question and get an answer much more cheaply than telephoning across the Atlantic. I have sold and shipped U.S. first day covers to collectors in the Netherlands, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

As for e-mail versus snail mail, I don't think the end of current usage of stamps would necessarily mean the end of collecting older stamps. There are still people who collect blue glass bottles and ride steam locomotives, for example.

However, until I start carrying a small computer and printer with me on vacation to print e-postage for postcards back home (I know I can, but why?), I think rumors of the death of stamps is premature.

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