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Saturday, February 04, 2012

The "Relative" Popularity of Stamp Collecting

I was born and raised in Denmark, and lived around Europe till I was 20 years old. Since I started collecting stamps when I was six years old, I can safely say that my original impressions of philately were shaped in Europe, and mainly in Denmark.

I have lived in the US since 1981 (I originally came here to go to University), and it has never taken a degree in rocket science for me to understand that stamp collecting in the US is just not as popular as it is in Northern Europe.

The American Philatelic Society (APS), of which I have been a member since 1984, has a group and discussion page on business networking site LinkedIn. Recently, there has been a fairly active discussion about stamps clubs and membership in stamp clubs.

Since we now have the Internet, access to "facts and figures" is much more convenient than in days of old, where writing letters and journeys to the library were required. So I decided to do a quick comparison study of the (apparent) popularity stamp of collecting in the US vs. stamp collecting in Denmark, just using "public" information.

Denmark is a small country, with a population of about 5,544,000 people. The primary organization for stamp collectors in Denmark is Dansk Filatelist Forbund, which currently has in excess of 6,000 members and 112 affiliated local and specialist stamp clubs.

The US is a large country, with a population of about 307,000,000 people. The primary organization for stamp collectors in the US is the American Philatelic Society (APS), which currently has right around 35,000 members, and somewhat in excess of 500 affiliated local and specialist stamp clubs.

If I "do the math" on this, the population of the US is 55.4 times greater than the population of Denmark. Applying that multiple to to the "known" stamp collector data from Denmark, we end up the "fact" that in order for philately's apparent popularity to be the same between the two countries, the APS would need to have 332,400 members and about 6200 local and specialist clubs.

Loosely speaking-- at least on paper-- stamp collecting appears to be ten times more popular in Denmark, than in the US.

But is this "The Truth?" What other factors could play into these numbers? Are Danish stamp collectors merely "more organized?" More likely to join clubs? Hard to say...

One possibility is that the US is-- geographically speaking-- a huge country. The population density of the US is about one-quarter that of Denmark. Access to, and distribution of, information, news and announcements-- regardless of the advent of the Internet-- tends to go down, as population density goes down. People who are widely scattered tend to communicate less-- regardless of what the topic might be. As a result, I believe there are far more "solo" (as in, non-club, non-society, collect in isolation) stamp collectors in the US, than in Denmark.

That's just a theory, though.

One of my great interests in life is "building communities," virtual, or real. The "fellowship of stamp collectors" is a community-- and I am very interested in what we (existing stamp collectors) might to do help our greater community of philatelists not only maintain in the 21st century, but even grow and thrive... in an era where "sending snail mail letters" is rapidly declining.

I look forward exploring the issue of how to help build the stamp collecting "community" in future articles on this blog. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Jim said...

Just discover your blog, and am enjoying it very much! Interestingly, I was just transferring my Denmark collection today into a new album (Steiner)-What a coincidence.

I like the combination of specific (Scandinavian) and general blogs that you provide-very useful.

I also write a blog about classic era world wide collecting, and I find there are not a lot of blogs that give good information in a nice conversational way-your's does!

I will come back to catch up on your past blogs.

Jim Jackson