The Last Year

The annual APS convention (which is this weekend in Richmond) is held each year in August and it provides a good opportunity to look at some of the trends in our hobby over the last year. Organized philately has taken a hit as membership in the APS slid another 10%. If the society keeps up its record of dues increases it will soon find that it has no members at all. In the age of the Internet, one can collect stamps and be part of the philatelic community without philatelic society membership. The APS needs to find some way to make itself relevant to modern philatelic times. I think members want services like fast efficient expertizations, inexpensive insurance, and rapid turn around sales medium. They don’t need a philatelic Parthenon in Bellefont.
Stamp prices and collecting interest have been very stable in this difficult economic climate. Though the dollar has gained about 20% against the Euro, the price of Foreign stamps has remained strong. Unusual or scarce collector material of the kind that is not often seen in the philatelic marketplace is very strong while more ordinary material of the kind found in every dealer stock is weaker.
The year has taken its toll on the ranks of professional stamp dealers and auctioneers. Several years ago the Greg Manning Company purchased H R Harmer one of the most venerable names in philately, a firm that had been holding wonderful stamp auctions in New York for over sixty years. When Manning had its Afinsa trouble, it changed its entire name to Harmer and moved the auction to California. It was a death spiral. Harmer has let go nearly all of its staff and will be holding only infrequent auctions from now on. And the Heritage Company which made a foray into the philatelic market has, rumor has it, backed out realizing that even a successful stamp auction business could add little to a coin behemoth that does nearly a billion dollars annual business.
As we start the philatelic year 2010-2011, Apfelbaum continues to do what we have done for over 100 years, offer quality stamps and service at fair prices. “It may seem obvious but a successful business should always have one clear goal- treating people well” Earl Apfelbaum said in one of his earliest Apfelbaum’s Corners in 1960. Maybe things haven’t changed that much at all.

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