US Stamps

APS, APRL hold joint board meeting Aug. 24 before Great American Stamp Show

Aug 31, 2022, 7 AM

By Charles Snee

The American Philatelic Society and American Philatelic Research Library held a joint board meeting Aug. 24 in conjunction with the Great American Stamp Show that is being held Aug. 25-28 at the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center in Sacramento, Calif.

Board members and others who could not attend in person participated via the Zoom online platform.

Following a roll call of both boards, the minutes of three board meetings (APS board only, APRL board only and joint APS/APRL) held from October 2021 to April 2022 were approved unanimously.

Kathleen Yurchak, attorney for the APS, said there was no current litigation before the society. “We are in a bit of a transition year,” she said, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. She offered compliments to APS executive director Scott English and his staff for their efforts.

In their report, APS treasurer Bruce Marsden and APRL treasurer Ken Nilsestuen gave a generally upbeat assessment of both organizations’ financial health.

Combined total assets are up $774,000, but what Marsden termed smaller legacy gifts are down $600,000 from 2020. Tenant vacancies at the American Philatelic Center have affected rental income, which is down by $172,000.

Marsden said there was good news on the society’s balance sheet: a cash balance of $2.37 million, which he called “more than adequate.”

Marsden and Nilsestuen also put forward a recommendation to reduce investment management costs by switching from paying a substantial annual fee to an investment manager to directly investing funds in a moderate growth fund. This recommendation will be taken up by the incoming APS and APRL treasurers and new board members.

Following the treasurers’ report, the APS and APRL boards voted to approve the 2021 audit report for the APS and APRL.

Scott Tiffney, director of information services for the APS and APRL, gave an overview of the library’s performance so far this year.

Library requests are averaging 173 per month, with 74 percent of those requests receiving a response within 24 to 48 hours. “The staff’s response time overall has been good,” Tiffney said.

The library’s collection has added 1,189 items as of late August, which represents a 1.8 percent rate of growth. These numbers are in line with collection growth for the past two years, according to Tiffney.

He reminded the boards that the base subscription rate for the APRL’s quarterly journal, the Philatelic Literature Review, was raised by $3 in the first quarter of 2022.

Tiffney said the bump in price was necessitated by increases in printing and mailing costs and lower ad revenue.

So far this year, 66 people have subscribed to the APRL’s journal, bringing the total number of subscribers to 1,754.

Processing of the massive donation of philatelic literature and catalogs from Herb Trenchard continues, with 11 of the 24 pallets of material processed.

Tiffney reviewed the continuing growth of the holdings in the Robert A. Mason Digital Library.

Thus far in 2022, the Mason library has been accessed 8,792 times. Of these events, 2,735 (31 percent) are from unique users. A total of 744 (27 percent) of the unique users are first-time users, Tiffney reported.

Of the 9,096 digital journal issues available to the Mason library, a total of 1,577 issues have been uploaded. Tiffney said the timeline to complete this project is approximately 31 months.

Last on the meeting agenda was Scott English with his executive director’s report.

English said that as of the time of the meeting APS membership stood at 25,891, which is down about 9 percent from the 2018 total of 28,250 members.

English cited a number of factors that have affected membership in recent years. The APS is facing a headwind from lingering effects of COVID-19, supply chain challenges, higher travel costs, inflation and a competitive job market, he said.

“Inflation is hurting us, and we need to look out for our staff and continue to be an appealing place to work,” English said.

He also hinted that Great American Stamp Show could show a small loss and indicated that revenue from dealer participation was noticeably down.

“We’re not performing the way we wanted to for this show,” he said.

English reviewed the society’s financial condition through July 31. “This is what keeps me up at night,” he said.

Total revenue stands at $1.91 million, $120,000 less than budgeted. On the plus side, expenses, also at $1.91 million, are $116,000 below budget.

Overall, there is a slight operating net loss of $1,100 through the end of July, which is $3,400 below budget.

English noted that the society’s top financial performers are education ($43,600 above budget), expertizing and the reference collection ($20,000 above) and membership ($14,600 above).

He cited the monthly APS journal, the American Philatelist, a “general” category (various revenue streams) and circuit sales as weak performers. These three areas are $36,000, $22,600 and $18,300 below budget, respectively.

English then provided a brief review of the origins of the APS in 1886, noting that an organized group of collectors would bring national recognition to the hobby, connect collectors to exchange ideas and information, protect against counterfeits, and lower market prices through competition.

He then returned to the declining membership going back to 2001, with particular emphasis on significant drops that occurred beginning in 2003 when annual dues increased from $25 to $35, and again in 2008 when membership dues jumped another $10 from $35 to $45, which is the current rate.

A total of 80 percent of APS members are over the age of 60, English said.

“We need to diversify our revenue and be more efficient with delivering services to our members,” he said.

“The more we can get people to engage with the APS, the easier it will be to get them to join.”

English drew attention to the many younger collectors who engage with the hobby online but aren’t necessarily a part of organized philately.

The purpose of the APS, he said, is to connect by building a sense of community, educate by providing collectors knowledge, and engage through a call to action.

To do this, English continued, it’s important to grasp the habits of a stamp collector, which first means understanding what we collect, how we collect and why. He then listed four habits of stamp collectors: acquisition, disposition, education and socialization.

“We are all collectors by nature, whether it’s stamps, coins, matchbooks, what have you,” he said.

English concluded with four steps that will move the APS closer to fulfilling its purpose.

First, the completion of the new APS website, originally scheduled for the end of June, is slated for the end of September.

Next English discussed the recent partnership between the APS and the online commerce site HipStamp that will entail moving the items listed on the APS StampStore to the HipStamp platform.

One driver of this partnership is the aging StampStore infrastructure, according to English.

“It’s old and breaks down, and downtime continues to grow,” he said.

APS staff members will continue to do all they do now for StampStore sellers, but the items will be listed on HipStamp, English said.

The third step involves the creation of an online philately advisory group that will work strategically with the digital philatelic audience, according to English.

Lastly, English discussed building a stamp marketplace that will cater to and strengthen connections between the APS and dealer organizations and online dealers.

The APS is the nation’s largest organization serving stamp collectors. Additional information and a membership application are available on the APS website.

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