There’s been a considerable discussion of late about getting kids interested in collecting stamps and the problems inherent in such. Most stamp collectors are stodgy old men who have been doing it for decades, finding stamp collectors under 50, in most cases, is a difficult task indeed. Lots of people have, through their own wishful thinking, said that we should make a concerted effort to introduce more kids to stamp collecting as a means of passing on our hobby to the next generation.
I say it’s a waste of time and here’s why.
The first problem, most kids have little or no access to stamps. They use e-mail, not postal mail. They very rarely ever see anything with a stamp on it, it’s highly unlikely that they’d ever get interested in such things that they are uncommonly exposed to. My kids get actual mail maybe once or twice a year. They don’t care. They have never actually sent a letter or put a stamp on an envelope in their lives. I can’t see them ever having a connection to stamps in the same way that I did growing up.
Secondly, of course, is that modern stamps, at least in my humble opinion, are crap. They are, in the United States at least, photoshopped garbage intended as a cash grab by the USPS. They are not the finely engraved, beautifully created stamps of the past, they look no better than things you can see on Deviantart. One of the things that drew me to stamps initially was the beautiful engraved designs. Today, they’re just quick and ugly. If I had to look at things like modern stamps when I was starting out, I’m certain I never would have gotten interested in the hobby.
Third, I don’t think most modern kids have the collecting gene, at least I haven’t seen it. My oldest daughter ostensibly collects Pokemon cards. Well, not so much collects as accumulates. She buys some packs now and then, she puts the ones she needs into a notebook, she tracks what she has, but she shows no interest whatsoever in getting cards she’s missing. She doesn’t trade. She doesn’t look at card sites. She looks at what she has, she doesn’t seem particularly interested in getting a complete set. This is common among most modern kids I’ve encountered and I asked my daughters and they both say the same about all of their friends. Collecting seems to be out of fashion these days.
Fourth, and I have to agree with a lot of others who have made this point, the majority of stamp dealers really don’t want kids around. Kids don’t have the kind of disposable income that adults do and a lot of dealers just don’t want to deal with a couple of bucks here and there when their adult clients may spend hundreds of dollars at a sitting. This is true of approval companies too who really don’t want to waste time for a few purchases a month. They want big bucks. I don’t blame them but that’s the reality when dealing with a younger buyer. Therefore, a lot of the problem does come from dealers who either don’t understand the financial realities of young collectors, or just don’t care.
Fifth, I think that modern kids never get to see stamps as a viable hobby. Growing up, there were stamp counters in major department stores, I got to see them when I was shopping with my parents. In fact, some of my very first stamp purchases came from those stamp counters. There were physical stamp shops everywhere. Today, as I wrote recently, there are very few and most of them are stamp shops in name only, they don’t actually have many stamps available. There’s really nowhere in the real world to go to look at or buy stamps these days.
Finally though, and this is entirely self-serving, I really see no point or purpose in passing what I collect to the next generation. Having someone else pick up the hobby has no impact on my collecting habits. I need no validation, I don’t get anything out of new people entering the hobby, it really doesn’t matter to me. As I’ve said before, when I die, I couldn’t care less what happens to my collection. I don’t care if it’s sold, I don’t care if it’s thrown in a musty attic, I don’t care if it’s set on fire. I’m dead, what do I care? It exists, like any of my various and sundry collections, for my personal entertainment right now. I have no interest whatsoever in posterity.
I suppose a lot of old collectors want to feel like they haven’t wasted their time and money over the years, they want people to respect what they’ve built and fondly remember the collectors of yore. However, I don’t need any of that. I don’t care what people think of me. I don’t care about respect or admiration or anything of the sort. I collect because I enjoy collecting. That’s all. If stamp collecting went away tomorrow, it wouldn’t affect me one bit. I wouldn’t care and maybe more people ought to take that kind of self-assured perspective on these things. While it is likely that someone will always collect stamps, as a wide-spread hobby, it is pretty well dead, especially after this rapidly aging generation of philatelists goes to their grave. This is, I’m sure, the last generation of serious and sizeable stamp collectors. It will sink even further into a niche hobby as time goes on and I’m entirely fine with that. Postage stamps had a good run. It’s largely over now. Time to move on to something else.
Maybe we ought to let our kids find interests and hobbies of their own instead of trying to convince them to take up the mantle and carry the banner of hobbies that would otherwise fade into obscurity. It happens to the best of them. Let it happen here.