Stampa is the highlight of the year for Stamp Collecting in Ireland. The three stakeholders in the hobby…An Post (the Post Office), Dealers and of course Stamp Collectors.
It is a recurring theme of this Blog that the hobby works best when the three stakeholders work together and one of the stakeholders does not seek an advantage over the other two. Inevitably there is some tension between them.
But Stampa seems like a time when normal hostilities are suspended and everyone is on their best behaviour.
First of all An Post…there is an ongoing debate about whether An Post facilitates or exploits stamp collectors. The Truth is probably that they do both. We need An Post more than An Post needs us. There are probably voices within An Post who would happily shut down the Philatelic Section and others who see it as an opportunity to make a lot of money. The debate will play out over the next few years. As we have seen Iceland will not be issuing stamps after the end of 2019 and it seems that other postal administrations will follow suit.
Dealers...ten in attendance this year. But one was purely a postcard dealer and one is a specialised auction house. Four dealers (two Irish from the only two stamp shops in Ireland), one from England and one from Germany carry top class Irish material. But it seems to me there will be a BREXIT effect in upcoming years. The loss of any one of these dealers would be a major blow in 2020 and beyond.
The other four dealers may not have top class material but they are perhaps more needed than the “Top Four”. When I started out as a collector almost sixty years ago, little packets of stamps were available in most “corner shops”. Being a stamp collector of sorts was a rite of passage for most boys and some girls. And later the middle-ranking dealer who catered for junior and novice collectors was part of the conveyor belt that allowed advancement into senior and even expert ranks.
Yesterday a Dealer told me how children used to be a feature at Stamp Fairs in the 1970s and 1980s and a fellow dealer considered them a nuisance as they spent hours to spend their limited pocket money. But as the middle aged collectors from the 1970s and 1980s are now elderly, there are very few people following us as we fall off the conveyor belt at the other end.
I was at Stampa on two of the three days. I had planned on buying two stamps from my wants list. And I did buy two but not the two that were planned. Availability and reasonable price is an issue even for the Top Four dealers.
Collectors…well essentially there are two kinds. There is the official collector who is an organiser, a team player and a member of one of the Irish-based societies or one of the two (German and American based) scieties that specialise in Irish stamps. Frankly I have little time for the foreign-based societies as they are out of touch with the reality of how Ireland is in the year 2019. So standing beside old men as they rant about Che Guevara being on an Irish stamp is disheartening.
Of course this is the nature with many old men. There is a cliché that we get more conservative as we get older. I am 67 and probably more radical and “left-wing” than at any time in my life. But all organisations are often affected by a kinda “group think” where an attitude to life is expected. And I do not like the “group think” in stamp collecting.
Exhibition…I have to say that the Exhibitions and Competitions were excellent. The key is the balance between being “worthy and expert” and being “accessable and fun”
Has Stamp Collecting a future?
I just dont know. The three stake-holders….Post Office, Dealers and Collectors …have painted themselves into a corner. And if there is to be any recovery, then there needs to be a co-ordinated response. People need to be on the same page.
Glimmers of Hope?
Well the admission to Stamps was free and hopefully this encouraged a small increase in visitors.
My own thought is that there is a connexion between stamp collectors and postcard collectors and especially PostCrossers.
There is the key difference that Stamp Collectors are not overly social. They look at the stamp on an envelope, steam it off and throw away the letter. The Postcard Collector reads the message and even within PostCrossing on profiles, people ask “tell me about the weather”, “do you have pets?” or “please use a colourful stamp” etc
Stamp Collecting distrusts the Internet as the “enemy”. PostCrossers have used the Internet much better to promote “snail mail” and recover and embrace the term “snail mail” as a positive social benefit. It is no surprise that many PostCrossers have a background in Pen-Pals.
We have the ironic situation that PostCrossers are breathing life into Stamp Collecting.
We are in this together.