The Worst Thing About Stamp Collecting?

I have come to the conclusion that the worst thing about Stamp Collecting is….stamp collectors.

I take the Groucho Marx approach to joining clubs. Memorably, Groucho said that he wouldnt join a club that would have him as a member.

There are two ways to go about Stamp Collecting…operate under the radar as an individual or ….join a club. As a general rule, I avoid groups. Although I am a very sociable person, I actually like very few people in the hobby. Perhaps they remind me too much of myself.

Sadly few young people are involved in collecting. Most people are as old as I am….64 years old. And if I have learned one thing as I get older… is that people over 60 are very boring and opinionated people. And the realisation that I might be one of them annoys me greatly.

Of course, it is also true to say that (in Britain and Ireland at least), Stamp Collecting is also very male-orientated and that compounds the irritation.

Groups tend to produce a “group think” and there is a tendency for a dominant narrative to emerge which can at times embarras people who hold a minority view. Groups are not just about a specific subject matter …the nature of social inter-action is that people….ie elderly men talk about things such as History and Politics.

Take another hobby in which I am interested…Militaria. It should be about the memorabalia, the artefacts of military history. But to its enthusiasts, it is often a worship of war itself, dubious ethics of buying and selling items looted on the battlefield and an unhealthy interest in Nazism and the American Confederacy. Is it really possible to admire the artefacts of the Third Reich and the Confederate States of America without buying into the anti-Semitism and Racism of those awful regimes, which belong in the dustbin of History.

So…being involved in the rather childish hobby of collecting Toy Soldiers has meant I have spent too much time with SOME people who are (to use a current phrase) “a basket of deplorables”.

Of course, it could be argued that Stamp Collecting is a much more benign and neutral activity. Well, yes it should be. But the “nostalgia factor” means that too often, collectors hark back to a simpler view of imperialism and “French North Africa”, “Indian States” etc. The bizarre obsession that the hobby has with the English “royal” family and the marriages, anniversaries, births and deaths featured on the covers of magazines is a turn-off to many people.

The current narrative in United States of “making America great again” is a noisy, dominant narrative that marginalises Reason itself. Best not to hear it in stamp clubs or online stamp communities.

The “group think” is a deterrant to joining groups. And paradoxically the societies and clubs struggle to promote Stamp Collecting.


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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5 Responses to The Worst Thing About Stamp Collecting?

  1. Timbrofil says:

    So true! I don’t know why, but the facts are the same all over the world, including my country. I am 38, but I noticed there are few young persons who collect and/or study stamps. I want to believe that them have another hobbies, but I guess this isn’t the right answer to my question. Oh, and another thing: I don’t see many people over 60 years to write on the blog, or social media. So, my congratulations! Warm regards, Catalin

  2. keijo says:

    You’re definitely thinking some big thoughts in there, and I had to think for few days before responding.

    I agree with you that we stamp collectors are our worst enemy, especially when getting together in groups. Homogeneous groups promote homogeneous thinking, and when everybody is thinking the same, nobody is really thinking.

    Of course one can remain as the ‘odd duck’ – think, say or do differently than others. But based on my personal experiences it just recreates the schoolyard scene or some other kind of unnecessary and silly power play. I wish I could say that we grownups would behave differently, but we all know its not happening.

    And maybe that’s why ‘thinkers’ like you and me like and love solo action. I’m not saying we’re better or smarter. We’re just different.

    PS. Love reading some smart (maybe even intelligent) blogging about the life of a collector.

    • John says:

      Thank you for this comment.
      I have just arrived home from Dublin. I will write a report on the annual Exhibition over the weekend. It is sad that I was one of the younger folks there and I am 64!!!!
      Certainly the average age well above 60.
      This is worrying for the future of Stamp Collecting but it is also a very narrow base.
      In part collectors are not typical of Society as a whole. As a senior citizen, I feel a little alienated from 21st century.
      I dont know if you are familiar with the cartoon series “The Simpsons” ….I used to be “Homer”. Now I am “Grandpa”.
      When a lot of Grandpa Simpsons gather together, it is NOT a good thing.
      Its notjust numbers we need. We need a diversity.

      • keijo says:

        Hi John,

        let’s not forget that most people of my age were likely at work on Friday. Possibly the weekend could have showed a slightly different profile, maybe not. Collectors attending shows/exhibitions have always been mostly gray-haired in western world (AFAIK in Asia it’s a bit different thing). .

        Not sure if you’ve given Facebook a chance, but there are plenty of stamp related groups where majority of members are in their 40/50s with random younger and older folks. So I’m not that worried about the future of stamp collecting. It’s well and alive. Only the organized (society etc) part of it is struggling – and it does not limit to stamp world only, but also sport clubs etc. are having hard time in attracting participants.


      • John says:

        Yes, you make a good point about the Friday attendance. But I need to process the random observations and conversations from yesterday.
        On a personal level, I was pleased with my day out …some nice purchases.
        On a “state of the hobby” level, I was a disappointed.

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