Groucho Marx famously said that he would not join a club which would have him as a member. I feel much the same way about Stamp Collecting clubs.
I am saddened that “collectors fairs” promoted by clubs in Sligo, Limerick and Dundalk are no longer part of the Irish scene. I suppose that older collectors are dying and there are no new collectors. Yet I was never seriously tempted to join a local club.
To be clear for about four years in the 1980s, I was a member of the Irish Philatelic Circle. It was not a “local” club. It was a club for people with an interest in Irish stamps, so it had members in Ireland, Britain, United States and several other countries. As I recall, there were about 400 members.
I was at three annual meetings, two in England and one in Ireland. There were also regular regional meetings in London and Dublin but I never attended any. There was a Newsletter sent out four times a year.
Even back in the 1980s, when I was in my mid-thirties, the other members seemed like men (I only ever saw a few wives) in late middle age and indeed old age. When I go to stamp fairs now, I still appear at 64 years of age to be one of the younger folks.
Of course in the 1980s, I was a young and inexperienced collector. I felt a little intimidated by the older and more knowledgable collectors. While some were quite friendly, I never really felt at ease in their company.
I am not easily intimidated in 2017. And yet I feel uncomfortable with other collectors. I feel different. I think there is a “group think” within organised Philately. A core group can dictate a narrative. I am politically left of centre, a socialist and while it would be unfair of me to categorise ALL stamp collectors as being to the right of Attila the Hun, it is too often the case that a stamp fair is the wrong place to wear a Tshirt endorsing Che Guevara and Nelson Mandela.
While there are many familiar faces at Irish stamp collecting gatherings, I dont think that (excluding dealers) I could put a name to more than five or six faces. I just dont really want to know other stamp collectors, even if it can be beneficial to me as a collector.
There are two “societies” which promote collecting Irish stamps. One, the Éire Philatelic Assciation is based in USA. The other, the Irish Philatelic Circle is Irish based. The IPC has an annual meeting and it is rotated. Next Sunday, it meets in Belfast, which is 25 miles from me. I am tempted to join but I keep hearing the voice of Groucho Marx. I like Groucho but I really like his brother…..Karl Marx. So I dont think I will be joining an “association”, a “circle” which are really upmarket “clubs”.
On Saturday, many members of IPC are likely to attend the Stamp Fair, about half a mile from their hotel. I hope they and their wives and husbands have a good weekend.