Is Philately Politics or Stamps/Covers?
by Dick Sine
The past months, if you use the VSC message board as a barometer, have shown organized philately to be a microcosm of the extreme level of nasty politics we are seeing played out over and over in the general media.
Is that the essence of the hobby?
Given that the VSC message board-we learn from watching the names of posters, including those who generally lurk and only rarely post-is heavily populated by the leadership of the hobby in the United States, observing the nature of the postings should be telling.
Other board, both in this country and abroad, tend more to discuss issues surrounding the actual collecting of stamps and covers. Here, it appears at least to me, when one of the hot-button philatelic issues such as perceived increased fraud in online auction sales arises, the pat response is to comment on how the APS or the USPS is responding to the issue.
Memo to all: stamp collecting is a participatory hobby and not a spectator hobby!
I have been involved in "organized philately" (dues-paying member, etc.) since about 1976. Between then and now I have seen the number of participants decrease steadily … subscribers to the remaining periodicals are down, generally organizational memberships are down, and generally stamp show attendance is down.
Relating the above to what I am seeing on the message board, is it possible that philatelists are typing while Rome burns?
How many actual volunteers are part of the APS' various operations? I belong to another hobby organization where the number of volunteers, when I last looked, numbered about 10,000 against a total membership of about 175,000.
Park that thought for a bit and consider another observation: Philately strikes me as an endeavor where trying something and failing is terrible and, therefore, if you don't try you won't do something terrible. Therefore, we just don't see many actual attempts to overcome various of the hobby's problems for fear of failure.
One more random thought: How did you become interested in philately? Was it the result of some organizational effort, or the result of seeing a single person enjoying collecting stamps?
Where am I going with all of this? I propose we move away from trying to come up with master plans to install the love of stamp collecting in all humans … stop trying to find ways to get large groups and agencies to begin some sort of indoctrination program … stop trying to develop the bionic philatelist to race from town to town, home to home, to spread the word. Rather, let's merely break up into a force of missionaries to spread the word on a one-to-one basis. I can point to many examples of where this has worked during my time as a philatelic journalist … with some great individuals who have been willing try new things-fail occasionally-and learn from experiences.
Unfortunately, others have not picked up on these individual successes to any major degree and the result is where we are today.
We can sit at our respective keyboards and type out missives of who is evil and bringing down the hobby as we know it … or, we can take the grassroots approach and actually go out and achieve something.
I am a big fan of online message boards, having participated in them for a whole lot of years. They are a great way to share information. When they become a substitute for action and activity, however, they become more of the problem than the solution.
What do you think? Is there too much talk and not enough action in philately? Are online messages board, like The VSC's, a reflection of the hobby or a problem for it? Log into, well, yes, the message board and express your opinion.