We receive with great regularity letters from readers who lament the graying of the hobby. With each passing year, they remind us, the average stamp collector is getting older.
They wring their hands and fret over the dwindling number of youngsters who find satisfaction and pleasure in collecting stamps.
Well, as the old saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun.
Similar complaints were voiced many decades ago. And if you peruse older issues of Linn’s and some of the now-defunct philatelic publications, you will see photos taken at stamp shows that reveal quite clearly that many stamp collectors were older folks with gray hair.
I’d wager that it always will be thus.
Of course, attracting a younger generation to the joys of our hobby is a laudable goal. Worthy efforts in recent years are showing positive results.
The Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship, for example, is doing a superb job identifying bright, enthusiastic teens who can take the hobby in new directions.
Some of these fellowship participants learn about the ins and outs of being a stamp dealer; others pursue the study of philatelic exhibiting or writing.
Of these three tracks, I’d wager the most important is the dealer track.
If stamp collecting is to be a vibrant hobby in the future, the key will be developing and nurturing new stamp dealers.
Dealers are the lifeblood of the hobby. Without them, we collectors would be hard-pressed to acquire the material that keeps our interests alive and thriving.
Now some might argue that there is no hobby without collectors. Yes, both collectors and dealers are needed.
If, however, the population of dealers crashes, the number of collectors heading for the exits will increase substantially. And let’s not mince words: If the dealers disappear, so will the stamp shows.
All of these thoughts came to the fore for the first time last fall when I attended the Chicagopex show in Itasca, Ill.
During the course of my rounds on the show floor, I struck up a conversation with a dealer who is a perceptive observer of the hobby from his side of the table.
I enjoy talking to him because he pulls no punches and doesn’t take himself too seriously.
It didn’t take long for him to voice his concerns about the state of stamp dealing.
“Look around the room,” he told me. “All of us are getting old, and I worry about who will take our place.”
As we talked, it occurred to me that this was the first time that a dealer had openly voiced such concerns to me. While I didn’t seek confirmation from other dealers at the show, I suspect that my friend was not alone in his sentiments.
So, my fellow collectors, it is essential that we support the stamp dealers of today, and do what we can to bring the next generation of dealers to fruition.
Dealers are the conduits through which stamps are united with collectors who will cherish them.
They also are vital subject-matter experts, adding to the storehouse of knowledge from which we all draw, regardless of our level of experience.
It’s also important to remember that dealers make this publication possible, through their advertising support.
Yes, the hobby is about collecting, but dealers make it happen.