Hot Links
Message Board
Article Archives
APS Application
AFDCS Application
APS Chapter Homepages

Message Board Home Bookstore Links

by Lloyd A. de Vries

Vol. 9 - The APS and the Internet

The six years that I've been a Director-at-Large for the American Philatelic Society have seen a much greater acceptance of the Internet and what it can do, both for the APS and for stamp collecting in general.

First, I think we're seeing much greater activity in philately, due to the Internet -- or at least we SEE much more activity. Maybe the activity is no more than it ever was, but now we know We're Not Alone Out There. I suspect it's both, helping each other.

If a mother in the wilds of western Minnesota wants philatelic help for her primary-school son, she can find it on the Internet. If a collector of some obscure specialty wants to share his excitement about a discovery or acquisition, chances are good he can find someone else who also collects that obscure specialty. (I used to use "left-handed midgets on stamps" as an example, but I got complaints. I'd come up with something even more exotic, like Turkmenistani hermaphrodites on stamps, but they probably have an interest group, too.) If a collector is looking for a dealer of T.H. stamps, it's easy to find one, and if a dealer in T.H. stamps is looking for customers, that's possible on the Internet, too.

Second, there's loads of information on the Web for use in stamp collecting.

Need some background information on a stamp subject? Search the Web. Sure, not all the information is accurate, but stick to the major organizations' sites and it's amazing what you can find.

In making my first day cover cachets, I used to run to the art store to buy a clip-art book, or turn my office upside-down (my family would tell you that if I turned my office upside-down, it would look better) looking for that clip-art book I bought last year. Now, I subscribe to the online clip-art service ClipArt.com that costs me the equivalent of 2-3 books a year.

(By the way, the online service bought the rights to use the images from the clip-art books I used to buy.)

Want to check the latest stamps from Latvia? That country and many others have informative, illustrated Web sites in English. You can order other countries' stamps online from their postal agencies, and ask questions, too.

A number of those attending AmeriStamp Expo in Biloxi, Miss., at the end of February are making their reservations online (including the VSC's own link to Travelocity's Flight Deals). We also use the Internet to find about airport-to-hotel transfers, airport parking, and what else there is to do in Biloxi.

Of course, it's not just for AmeriStamp Expo that we make travel plans on the Internet.

More and more publicity and publicity releases are distributed via e-mail. More and more philatelic newspaper and magazine articles are submitted via e-mail. So are the illustrations: I'd much rather send a picture file of one of my first day covers than risk the actual cover.

(That's not necessarily a slam on the Postal Service: I had one editor tell me the staff had enjoyed one of my FDCs so much they had considered telling me it was lost so they could keep it. Another columnist I know quit a paper when it lost her illustrations.)

Perhaps the most amazing changes wrought by the Internet, though, are in the American Philatelic Society itself.

Some of the changes are apparent: The Stamp Store, where even non-computing members can list stamps and covers for sale on the Internet.

The Society's Web site has really come into its own in the last several years, too: Once run by a team of volunteers using those free Web sites Internet Service Providers give away, it's now housed on servers at APS headquarters. The URL ("Universal Resource Locator" or address) has changed from a hard-to-remember string to simply "stamps.org" (which was being used only by the American Philatelic Research Library in 1997).

You can apply online for membership in the APS, either here at the Virtual Stamp Club or on the APS site.

Much of the APRL's catalogue is online. You can pay your dues online.

Other changes are not so obvious. You can now reach practically any staff member via e-mail, and there are some general e-mail addresses, too: complaints@stamps.org, youth@stamps.org and so on. All the Directors have e-mail addresses, most well-publicized (see a recent copy of AMERICAN PHILATELIST or the Web site), giving members greater access to their representatives.

And more and more of the Board of Directors' business is being conducted in e-mail. When I joined the Board, one of the Directors refused to use e-mail.

Any votes that needed to be made between the Board's two annual meetings were "discussed" first via regular mail; then the executive director would telephone each Director for his or her vote. Side discussions were held via telephone or in person at stamp shows, and sometimes in e-mail.

Now, almost all between-meeting votes are conducted via e-mail. Discussions among the entire Board are held in e-mail, too, and side discussions take place in e-mail, by telephone, at shows, and even America Online Instant Messenger, a system that allows you to "chat" one-on-one with another person.

Not only is that more efficient and "cutting edge," it also saves the Society money.

(By the way, all 11 members of a Board of Directors, no matter what their titles, are directors; that's why it's a board of directors, versus a board of aldermen or a board of giraffes.)

What's next?

Predicting the Internet is hard, and if I were any good at this Internet prediction stuff, I'd be rich.

However, I think I can hazard a few guesses about the APS and the Internet. I caution you that the following are all my opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints or predictions of any officer or staff member of the APS. These guesses are not based on any "insider" information that isn't public knowledge, either.

  • I think before the decade is over, the APS Board will "meet" in a real-time "chat" (discussion) on the Internet. The big question for me is whether the APS will be the first major stamp society to do so, or whether it will be beaten to the punch by another organization.
  • Directors receive hundreds of pages of briefing materials before each of the semi-annual meetings. Each set I receive before a meeting costs more than $5 to mail to me. I predict that in the near future, directors will receive Adobe Acrobat Reader files (.pdf format), which they can print out if they wish. (I often read mine on the plane going to the meeting.) It may not save much paper, but it will save postage. (It also takes less room to store a .pdf file in my office than a three-inch thick looseleaf binder.)
    I first made this prediction in December 2000. In fact, APS directors are already receiving some materials before votes via e-mail, in various file formats.
  • Online voting: It costs thousands of dollars to mount an election in the APS, and turnout is poor. What about voting via the Internet?
    I don't see this one happening soon. A major problem is balancing online voting with voting by regular mail, without disenfranchising those voting in the traditional method while making sure no one votes more than once. It can be done right now, but it wouldn't be easy.
  • Online access to APRL materials: As more and more of the Library's holdings are electronic, it will be easier to "ship" something to a user via the Internet, without risking the actual resource. I also expect the APRL to use the Internet more to distribute paper-published documents, and to feature selected materials on the Web.

Check with me in 2010 and let's see how many I got right!

Lloyd A. de Vries, the founder of the Virtual Stamp Club, was elected a Director-at-Large of the American Philatelic Society in 1997, was re-elected in 1999, and became Secretary in 2001. He is currently running unopposed for a second term as Secretary, making his chances of re-election very good.

Virtual Stamp Club Home Page