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Friday, July 12, 2013

The Uneasy Relationship of Stamp Collecting and the Internet

Over the past few years, I have been writing quite a bit about stamp collecting and its future... outside the confines of this blog.

Whereas there is little doubt that the Internet has changed the nature of stamps collecting, I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that the online environment has helped save-- and continues to help save-- our hobby.

That said, I also see an interesting duality that has developed... a sort of rift between the "tech" and the "non-tech" stamp collectors of the world.

What do I mean by that?

Whereas there are many philatelists who have embraced the Internet as part of their collecting experience-- and actively use online stamp marketplaces and social media information to help build their collections-- there are also many who are still stuck in a "we don't NEED that" mindset.

Whereas I can appreciate we tend to adhere to the ways we are accustomed to, I can't help but think that stamp collectors who are not using (or "don't need") the Internet are going to end up going the way of typesetters and horse drawn carriages. Maybe that's just a "fact of life" but it makes me sad because these collectors have a wealth of knowledge to share with future generations of collectors.

The easy "argument" is that these collectors are primarily in their senior years, making them more resistant to embrace modern trends. In fact, I used to think that, myself... but on deeper examination, many of these folks who reject technology for stamp collecting are quite actively involved in online genealogy research and communities while using Flickr to share photos with their grandkids. So it's really not a "computer issue." Or an "age issue."

I have a twitter account... and a Facebook page... and a number of other online "presences." I belong to several online stamp collecting forums and communities. This morning, I was checking twitter and was once again just amazed by the low number of tweets relating to anything philatelic. The American Philatelic Society (APS) has 30,000+ members, but only 383 twitter followers. That's about one percent of the membership. What's silly about that is that I-- as an individual stamp collector-- have more twitter followers than the APS.

Maybe it's just "the nature of the beast." Stamp collectors tend to be solitary practitioners. They will often "join" things, but be non-participants. And maybe that is really the greatest challenge facing the stamp collecting hobby.

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