Stamp Collecting…Is It Dying?

Is Stamp Collecting dying?

There is conflicting evidence. All hobbies are related to Leisure Time…and Money. All hobbies are a luxury.

Stereotypically, Stamp Collecting is rooted in late Victorian and Edwardian times. “Daddy” comes home from his London bank and gives some stamps to his son (it is rarely his daughter). Just what was the world like in 1900? Or indeed 1930? Or 1960?

Well, the number of independent nations was much smaller. China and Japan of course. But essentially there was a European world. And an Anglo-phone world and Franco phone world of imperialism…And a Latin world of former colonies, deemed inferior to the European states.

But there are two parallel stories from 1900 to 1960. One is decolonisation…the emergence of new nations. The other is the Rise of Leisure. Yet Stamp Collecting …certainly with young people peaked in the 1960s.

As Leisure Time and Money has actually increased since 1960, it might be assumed that Stamp Collecting would become more popular. Well obviously, it competes with other hobbies. Not just collectables. Indeed there are more things to collect…Toys, Bubblegum Cards, Phonecards and anything Computer related. There is also of course Computer gaming and a vast number of sports.

But is the decline of Stamp Collecting related to how the world is in 2014?

Well…is my basic premise that Stamp Collecting is in decline actually correct?

Well…in the “old” western world and certainly in Ireland…I have no doubt that I am correct. On the other hand, Stamp Collecting is actually growing in China, India and the Middle East.

Stamp Collecting is of course partly “retro”. Veteran collectors tend to deplore modern “wallpaper stamps”, filling their albums with a vague “golden age” …preferring eras to nations. Is it really possible for a Portuguese collector to be  interested in Portuguese Africa without giving tacit approval to Portuguese Empire. Likewise French, German, Spanish and English collectors who are interested in “colonies”.

Am I being unfair? Are such collectors approving of Empire? Worse, are they approving of the Racism and Exploitation that has underpinned Empire?Certainly, Stamp Collecting is a form of collecting Memorabalia. It is certainly possible to collect Confederate or Third Reich memorabalia without buying into the unsavoury aspects of those regimes. But a glance at the internet shows that there is a connexion.

The Western World is finely balanced between those who see things thru a broadly “conservative” or “liberal/socialist” prism. Indeed, happily this underpins our democratic way of life. Does Stamp Collecting reflect this balance? Is Stamp Collecting disproportionately “conservative”?

To some extent Stamp Collecting is apolitical. Or at least not overtly political. But I suggest that the optics and mood music is “conservative”.

Can I point to evidence beyond the a stereotype of Stamp Collectors as dull, middle aged, middle class men?

Yes. Take a look at British magazines. And the heavy emphasis on “Royalty”, “Royal” Babies, “Royal” Weddings and “Royal” 100 Birthdays, closely followed by “Royal” Funerals. I would suggest that it is not really possible to collect these stamps without having a regard for the Institution.

I think this lies at the heart of the decline of Stamp Collecting in the modern, western world.


About John

Dia Duit! Hello. My name is John. I am retired. I live in Ireland. I am on a five year mission to visit every city, town, village and place of historic and scenic interest in Ireland.
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3 Responses to Stamp Collecting…Is It Dying?

  1. merlinjr01 says:

    My father was a postmaster from the early 1960s through the mid 1980s, and I was an avid stamp collector through the end of the 1980s. Interest declined with (1) self-adhesive stamps, (2) the increased cost of postage stamps (went up faster than my income), and (3) the overt effort of the USPS to get in the business of marketing stamps to collectors. It is also very time consuming to do it properly and there are many other activities and distractions. Right now, I have cases of stamps to go through–something for when I can’t be as active as I am today.

  2. kish says:

    In Sri Lanka nearly every school has a “stamp club” so most kids are brought up to appreciate stamps but it is a rare few who continue this into adulthood. I myself ignored my collection from the ages of 16-34 and feel that it is a combination of 1) lack of time 2) almost no mail coming through which led to the situation. Collecting mint stamps is somehow not as exciting as watching the post but I have started doing it due to lack of choice. Pity.

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