Philatelic Journalism

There is no doubt of a decided improvement in the Philatelic press during the past year. If this much-wished-for state will only continue, it will be the means of advancing Philately in the eyes of the people who are always ready to laugh at those making a scientific study of stamps. With the amateur sheet, printed by the small boy upon his own hand press, we will say nothing. Suffice it to say that the day of the usefulness of embryo publishers is over. With such high-class magazines as The Canadian Journal of Philately, the American Journal of Philately, and the Philatelic Journal of America, we have exponents worthy of our support. There are others also which are deserving of praise for their refined and business-like appearance.

There is no money to be made in publishing an inferior stamp journal. Would-be publishers can take the advice of those who have had experience, and leave the publication of papers devoted to Philately to those able to devote time and money wholly to making a success of the undertaking. Better to have one really good magazine, costing three or four dollars per year, than a dozen little fancy-covered pamphlets devoted principally to dealers’ interests. A worthy publication has to provide crisp and fresh manuscript in order to satisfy the tastes of those in search of originality. In order to do so, it takes money to pay writers for their time and trouble. In this respect there are a number of journals who pay cash regularly to a large staff of contributors. Beside the journals mentioned above, the following are managed on professional principle, paying well for original MSS: Quaker City Philatelist, Eastern Philatelist, Mekeel’s Weekly Stamp News, and one or two others. In all cases the amount is a certain fixed rate per thousand words or per page, and compares favorably with the large cosmopolitan magazines with their staff of experienced collaborators.

No person can sit down and write out manuscript by the yard. It takes time to think, and if you want to obtain credit for originality you must tread in an unbeaten path. Statistical articles and catalogues of certain countries’ issues are well enough in their place; but this kind of material is not editorial. The editor must be able to grasp the current topics of the day, and dilate upon them in a pleasing style.

A model publication is one on the line of the Century, Scribner’s, or any of the leading magazines of the day. They must be so fixed that in binding none of the flaming advertisements will appear sandwiched in to mar the beauty of the volume’s pages; a gaudy cover is not necessary. An illuminated title page, and volume neatly bound, containing in its pages solid reading, as well as good articles for reference, will be a book much used in the future. The sea of Philatelic journalists have given us a perfect labyrinth of articles, some meritorious, but more of them unfit for preservation. A selected article from an inferior paper is sometimes of advantage, where there is merit.

The publisher must exercise great care in the advertisers whom he allows to use his columns. He must use his judgment as to their reliability, to their standing, and to their ability to give what they state; thereby protecting his subscribers, who may wish to place their orders with an advertiser. The curse of Philately is the small dealer-collector, whose stock-in-trade would not be worth a week’s board. This individual patronizes the papers who can give him advertising at fifty cents an inch, for three months. Often many of these petty dealers are writers, and in lieu of the cash for their productions they will receive a “two-inch advertisement” for the article. Nothing has so retarded the growth of stamp-collecting, or tended to degrade it, as the numerous petty dealers, with their sheets on approval. “No reference is required,” “fifty per cent commission,” “rare stamps free,” “a packet free to every applicant” are quotations we frequently see. By the Philatelic press alone can this evil be mitigated. In England, there is at present an agitation to prevent the dealer-collector from advertising his bargains. The fact is that some publishers are so anxious to catch the almighty dollar that they care not whether the advertiser can fulfill his promises. The large number of approval sheet frauds, stamp thiefs, etc., are brought into existence by these methods; the poor school-boy is tempted, and when too late he repents his step – his honor is lost by publication, probably his whole life’s hopes wrecked, and he is looked upon as an outcast. The petty dealers, aided by irresponsible publications, are responsible for aiding and abetting a crime. They compound the felony, the weak youth steps into the gilded trap and is caught. No dealer should be pitied who is caught by his own chaff, and tempts the small boy.

Let good magazines be supported liberally by subscribers and advertisers. The good done will return to both a hundred-fold. While our hobby advances, it means money to everyone who holds stamps, no matter whether they are dealers or collectors, so nothing is lost should the pleasure forsake you.

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