Changes in Importance of Stamp Societies

Image result for american philatelic society, Sept 14, 1886Unbeknownst to a mass of collectors, one of the major changes brought about in our hobby as a result of the Internet age is greater democratization. In the pre-1900 period, philatelic organizations didn’t count for much- there were few of them, and they had few members. The American Philatelic Society began to become powerful in the 1950s, and membership in the society became critical to success as a stamp collector or dealer. Stamp insurance was very difficult to obtain back then if you weren’t an APS member, as APS stamp insurance was not only inexpensive but had expansive coverage limits and easy underwriting requirements. In this period too, most better stamps were sold at Public Auction, and extensive philatelic references were required by most auctioneers before your bids would even be accepted. APS membership provided the credentials that collectors and dealers alike needed to vet the transactions that were necessary to the hobby. As the societies became powerful, the coterie of men (and it was nearly always men) who ran them became powerful too. There was a line through the APS elected ranks, from Director through Vice President to President, that all aspirants for higher office had to follow, and, in the era before term limits and the end of job shifting, the few powerful people with name recognition stayed on top of the organized philatelic heap for years.
The Internet and modern financial services has reduced the importance of national philatelic societies for collectors and dealers. Insurance can be had competitively for non-APS members. Credit cards and wire transfers are far better credit references than any society membership. And the unlimited philatelic offerings on the Internet, the smörgåsbord of philately that bombards our senses, has made print media increasingly archaic for stamp selling and buying. National philatelic societies will hopefully continue to exist, but they need to be places where collectors feel that they support the hobby and receive psychic rewards that are intellectual and come from a sense of community. The old model of stamp societies conferring business benefits on their members just isn’t needed anymore.
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