APS, APRL joint board meeting Oct. 19
By Charles Snee
The boards of directors of the American Philatelic Society and American Philatelic Research Library conducted a joint meeting Oct. 19 at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, Pa. Those unable to attend the public session could participate via the Zoom online platform.
The meeting took place one day prior to UN Expo 2023, a World Series of Philately show held Oct. 20-21 at the American Philatelic Center.
A brief welcome from APS president Cheryl Ganz and APRL president Melanie Rogers was followed by a roll call of those board members in attendance.
Both boards, in separate votes, unanimously approved the minutes of the APS/APRL joint board meeting held Aug. 9 in Cleveland the day before the Aug. 10-13 Great American Stamp Show.
Kathleen Yurchak, attorney for the APS, reported that the APS has a signed contract with APS executive director Scott English, who will serve through Dec. 31, 2026.
Kathy Johnson, treasurer for the APS and APRL, said the 2024 budget has been presented and approved. She also announced three new appointees to the APS/APRL joint finance and auditing committee: Jere Dutt, Mark Loomis and Mark Schwartz.
Overall, the financial picture for both the APS and APRL is looking good, Johnson said.
A trio of presentations followed Johnson’s report. First up was Scott Tiffney, APRL librarian and director of information services.
Tiffney sounded an upbeat tone on the library’s ongoing efforts to expand the holdings of the Robert A. Mason Digital Library, which now includes more than 8,100 journal issues.
He noted that 82 percent of users access the APRL online or via email; the remaining 18 percent use the phone, send a letter or visit in person.
During 2020-23, 68 percent of APRL user requests came from the United States. Users outside the United States accounted for 32 percent of requests, an increase of 11 percent, Tiffney said.
When considering only members, men account for 78 percent of library users, women 22 percent. Tiffney pointed out that more women are using the library, and they tend to be younger. Among women users, 81 percent are between the ages of 30 to 65.
Among subscribers to the Philatelic Literature Review, 85 percent are men, and 15 percent are women.
For both the online catalog and the Mason digital library, Tiffney intends to produce how-to presentations that will assist users in their efforts to obtain the information they seek.
A prime objective is a digital librarian for the Mason digital library. “I have a promising prospect who would be perfect for the position,” Tiffney said.
Tiffney provided an update on progress toward digitizing the contents of the philatelic estate of Alfred F. “Al” Kugel (1930-2022), which was donated to the APS.
He said that material from the Kugel donation, much of which is still mounted on exhibit pages, fills 23 boxes.
The goal is to get all the material scanned and placed into searchable files. Scanning began in October and should be complete by January 2024, Tiffney said.
Tiffney said that work continues on the development of an exhibit about airmail in the local Bellefonte area that will be on permanent display at the American Philatelic Center. The exhibit will draw from the Hines airmail collection, the archives of the American Air Mail Society and local archives.
Tiffney concluded his presentation with a brief overview of the postal history symposium to take place Nov. 1-2, 2024, at the American Philatelic Center.
The theme of the symposium is the Universal Postal Union. It will be sponsored by the APS, APRL and the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society.
Susanna Mills, editor-in-chief of the American Philatelist and Philatelic Literature Review, introduced attendees to StampEd, a new quarterly digital-only publication for “the new generation of stamp collectors” that is set to launch in February 2024.
“StampEd is a quarterly digital magazine for the new generation of stamp collectors — online, community-oriented, curious, and engaged with stamp collecting in new and exciting ways,” Mills said.
According to Mills, StampEd will intentionally target the digital generation by providing practical, entry-level collecting advice and mentorship.
StampEd is aimed at ages 20 to 50, with 60 percent of readers being female and 40 percent male.
Mills also hopes StampEd will attract nontraditional collectors, including people of color and LGBTQ individuals.
The publication’s content will focus on design, connection and skills, which Mills referred to as “DESIGNed,” “CONNECTed” and “SKILLed,” respectively.
Design topics will emphasize art and include interviews with designers as well as other aspects of stamp design. Plans call for columns about stamp artists and topical collecting.
Connection topics “could range from historical stories, genealogy, connections to other hobbies, pop culture,” Mills said.
Among the columns planned for this area are one about youth engagement and another about getting involved in the hobby. The latter is to be authored by Linn’s U.S. Stamp Notes columnist John Hotchner, according to Mills.
The section devoted to skills will be filled with practical advice focused on hobby basics and general collecting knowledge. Titled columns include Stamp Apprentice, Trade Talk, Toolbox and APS Today.
Mills said StampEd will provide opportunities for interactivity among readers via videos and surveys; community building by connecting readers with education courses, stamp chats and beginner newsletters; and outreach by making the publication easy to share and accessible.
StampEd will also provide opportunities to learn more about its target audience and their needs and wants, she said.
Mills encouraged attendees to learn more about StampEd and provide feedback in advance of the launch by contacting email@example.com.
English opened his presentation with a brief anecdote about his efforts in 2004 to develop and introduce a state budget in South Carolina for the first time. That budget was for the state’s 2004-05 fiscal year.
English’s point was that budgetary issues are of prime concern.
“Since 2008 membership has remained at $45 per year,” he said. “If we raise it, 5 percent of members will leave; so we have to focus on budget.”
English then reviewed the APS’ six core values, which he first introduced at the Aug. 9 APS/APRL joint board meeting in Cleveland:
“Collecting Matters: We fight for our members to collect safely by demanding strong ethics.
“Every Stamp Should Have a Purpose: We work to ensure every philatelic item is used for its highest purpose in philately through collections, research, education, or combatting fraud.
“Stronger Together: We open every door to collectors. Our common interest means nothing without community.
“Through All Things, Teach: We connect the generations of knowledge to the collectors of the future.
“No Boundaries: We leverage technology to increase access within our community.
“Remain Relevant: We rise to meet the changing needs of collectors and collecting.”
With regard to combatting fraud, English voiced serious concern about the damage that modern counterfeit stamps could have on the hobby.
Throughout his presentation, English emphasized the importance of fostering connectivity among collectors.
“It’s hard to deal with walls erected in the hobby,” he said. “We have to go the members, we can’t expect them to come to us.”
Through Sept. 30, APS membership stood at 25,505, with new members totaling 1,211. The new member total already exceeds the 1,177 recruited in 2022. The APS is doing better with recruitment after the COVID-19 pandemic than before, English said.
Roughly 61 percent of APS members are age 56 to 75, and about 32 percent are 76 and up. Just 7 percent are 55 and under.
English stressed that 59 percent of APS members are not a member of a local APS chapter club. “That’s a vast amount of isolation within the hobby,” he said.
In a continued push to get more collectors to embrace the digital world, English announced that the annual APS digital membership is dropping from $45 to $35.
A soft launch of the drop in the digital membership fee began in October, and a major promotion will take place in November.
English estimated that 1,800 APS members will switch to the digital option. “Every digital member saves $13 in production costs for the American Philatelist,” he said.
Overall, the boost in digital memberships is expected to lower production costs for the society’s monthly journal by $40,000, according to English.
Generous donors have contributed $20,000 in seed funding for StampEd, English said. That money will allow the quarterly publication to be free to subscribers for the first two years.
According to English, StampEd is projected to generate $20,000 in advertising revenue per year, with a goal of 300 premium members in the first year, which should generate income of $3,750. Annual expenses are expected to be $7,000.
StampEd is expected to be sustainable by the third year of publication, with more than 1,000 premium members, English said.
Objectives for the society’s online education efforts are centered on beginner education (via Stamp Chats and StampEd), intermediate courses through the Collecting and Connecting Central Academy (C3a) and member services (the American Philatelist, newsletters and the APS website).
English stressed that to reach those objectives delivery of online content must be without limitations; consistent (all year versus event specific); available at any time; and, in a nod to one of the society’s core values, relevant.
English then spoke in greater detail about Stamp Chats, which were restarted this year.
To date, 14,350 live watches and rewatches have taken place, and the total viewing time is approximately 104 days (almost 2,500 hours).
In 2024, the goal is to expand the content of live and recorded chats, with a target range of 15 to 24 presentations. The emphasis will be on “new and beginner collectors, and intermediate specialty topics,” English said.
Continuing his online education review, English said there are 3,200 active accounts with the Collecting and Connecting Central Academy. Goals for the academy in 2024 include rebranding, a redesigned interface to improve ease of use, and adding more content to increase education revenue.
In addition, the in-person Summer Seminar on Philately is scheduled to transition to multiple online events held throughout the year.
English discussed the progress made since the APS moved its Stamp Store interface to the HipStamp online commerce website in late December 2020.
As of Sept. 30, the store is over budget by $7,000, but sales commissions exceed budget by $1,100. The number of orders, 11,400, exceeds by 5,000 the total for all of 2022 and is the highest order total for the past 10 years, according to English.
Some users have complained about the difficulty of locating items (postal history, in particular) on the APS Stamp Store since it moved to HipStamp.
In response to those criticisms, HipStamp expanded the title field for covers from 80 characters to 128 characters, and the APS modified its data transfer protocols to allow searches by country name, Scott catalog number and item description.
The APS is also launching a plan “to help sellers maximize searchability on HipStamp,” English said.
The next steps for Stamp Store include developing an item description convention that allows for consistent identification and efficient use of the description space, instituting posting fees, and developing a commission structure.
English concluded his presentation with an update on the $1.8 million Kugel estate that was donated to the APS for eventual sale.
Requests for proposals were sent out Aug. 28, and the APS received seven responses, English said.
“We will narrow down the field and seek additional information from proposers,” he said, noting that discussions with proposers will close Dec. 1.
The society’s joint finance and audit committee will review the accepted proposals and make a recommendation to the APS board by mid-December.
Final approval from the board is expected by the end of December, and the announcement of a final contract is scheduled for early 2024, English said.
Following English’s presentation, Ganz announced the appointment of Stephen McGill as a director-at-large to fill the vacancy created by the Oct. 11 resignation of Matt Kewriga, who recently started his own stamp auction business.
“I am overcommitted in organized philately after starting my own business,” Kewriga told Linn’s.
“Having my first auction at [Great American Stamp Show] was great and successful, but it also showed how overcommitted I was,” Kewriga said. “I really just need to take a step back and concentrate on my family and the new business.”
The APS is the nation’s largest organization serving stamp collectors. Additional information and a membership application are available online.
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