I have been collecting stamps for over fifty years. But I was only ever a member of one “club”…the Irish Philatelic Circle ….for a three year period in the mid 1980s. It was enjoyable and I had no real reason for leaving except one year, I never really got around to renewing my subscription.
Standard advice to any beginner to Stamp Collecting is to join a Club…more likely described as a “Society”.
There are effectively two kinds of Club. One is “geographic” …the local town or county, meeting on a monthly basis in the local library. The other is “thematic”, which connects people who collect a specific country (say Belgium or Mexico) or who collect a “topic” (say the Olympic Games or Horses). Typically a club for thematic collectors will have members all over the world…connected by correspondence or the Internet.
As a juvenile or young adult collector, I was never really keen to join a club. In part I found adult collectors to be too “posh” and socially and politically conservative for my personal tastes.
Is it fair that I buy into this stereotype of stamp collectors being white, middle class men with political views somewhere to the right of Attilla tthe Hun?
Well yes…and no.
Are the majority of Stamp Collectors…Men? Yes. But not historically surprising and wonderful to see so many more women involved than previously.
Politically “Conservative”? …Well I am an unrepentant socialist and republican and many working class people or from working class backgrounds collect stamps.
But there is a genuine problem with “politics”. To collect a country such as France implies Francophile feelings. Would it be possible to have an interest in stamps of USA and not buy into the norms of American values? Or “old” South Africa?
In the British context, there seems an over- fondness for a bygone age when most of the map was coloured “red” and Sri Lanka was Ceylon, Zambia was Northern Rhodesia and there was honey still for tea.
In some ways, this is no different from any hobby with a high quota of Nostalgia. The British collector who buys up all those omnibus issues (from Ascension to Zimbabwe) to celebrate a “Royal Marriage”, “Royal Baby” and “Royal Funeral” are in some ways trying to find reassurance that the world has not changed. Not to mention Centenaries for First World War and Bicentenaries for Waterloo.
Nor is this unique to Stamp Collecting. I also collect Toy Soldiers and while the bizarre nature of adult men with an unhealthy fascination for Warfare is merely embrrassing, the fascination of militaria enthusiasts for discredited regiments like the Waffen SS or discredited causes like the Southern Confedracy is actually disturbing. History or Hate? Heritage or Hate?
Membership of the Irish Philatelic Circle was rewarding. It came just at the right time as I was making the transition from adult collector into “serious” collector. Membership was actually more English than Irish and I attended three successive meetings. They rotated between England and Ireland. There were of course members from other countries.
On reflection, I think the quarterly postal auction was the best part of being a member.
But I think Groucho Marx got it right. I am hesitant about joining a stamp club that would have me as a member. I am a friendly, sociable kinda guy. But membership of a club is a very arbitrary thing.