December 21, 2010, - 2:55 pm
This might be a higher-tech case of “video killed the radio star.” But, whether the Internet is to blame or not, I lament this story–if true–about the death of stamp collecting among American kids. As a kid, my dad got me interested in stamp collecting a/k/a philately. I still have my stamp collection, even if I damaged some of the stamps and most of them aren’t worth so much. They were fun and beautiful to look at, and they helped my father give me a background on the historical figures, events, and cultural phenomena depicted on them. They were a great educational tool. And the “First Day of Issue” special envelopes were cool, too. Plus, my father got me books on stamps and coins from Israel and enrolled the two of us in the Biblical Numismatic Society.
I’ll bet numismatics (coin collecting) is probably not as dead, due to the heightened value of many gold and silver coins. But collecting American stamps and coins, with my father’s active encouragement, taught me a great appreciation for America, our founding fathers, our great inventors and entrepreneurs, etc. And many of the stamps overlapped with our pop cultures loves: Frank Sinatra, comic books, etc. The Israeli coins and stamps depicted centuries of Jewish history and events in Israel, none of which had anything to do with the politically correct group of invaders now called, “the Palestinians.”
Stamps also helped develop my pride in being an American. You can send e-mail anywhere in the world. There are no national borders (except maybe when you send to some Muslim and communist nations, who block you). There is no nation-specific currency or postage to send e-mail messages. America had its own, unique stamps, which were emulated and collected all around the world. It was a big deal to get “stamphood,” which in my view was more prestigious than knighthood (heck, Tom Jones and Paul McCartney got that). The stamps exuded a brash, unapologetic pride in the great things, people, and happenings that are uniquely American. Maybe the death of stamp collecting correlates with the lessening of pride and patriotism in America and the rise of apologism against it, in our younger generations.
Modern day kids will lose out on all of that–on all of the stimulation of curiosity and learning that I got through stamps (and coins). It’s yet another aspect of the dumbing down of America and its escalation with each generation . . . and each generation of technology, from dumb videos on MTV in the ’80s to obnoxious reality shows that began in the ’90s, to texting and Facebook today. None of these will replace what I got from collecting stamps.
The advent of self-adhesive sticker stamps, mass production (neither of these are mentioned in the story, but I know they are two of the reasons), and e-mail all contributed to the aging demographic of stamp collectors and the lack of interest among younger generations. I’d bet the dumbing down of who and what is depicted on U.S. postal stamps probably contributed, too, though that’s not mentioned in the story. Ditto for the fact that the U.S. Postal Service allowed you to go online and make your own stamps, putting any pictures you wanted on them. That makes it all too commonplace and devalued stamps, in my view. (So did “Forever Stamps,” but I like those.)
And with today’s premium placed on sex and violence, I guess stamp collecting is considered too geeky and unhip. You won’t be able to keep track of which sperm donor the Kardashian skankubines are sleeping with this week. It won’t clue you in on what the Jersey Shore morons are doing. And the day any of these glorified nothings are on a U.S. Postal stamp is truly a sad day . . . a day I fear might be coming soon because it’s probably the only thing that will get the interest of the young ignoramuses populating America.
The public’s growing fascination with wireless devices and sports could spell the end of stamp collecting, a hobby noted for its slow pace. . . .
“There used to be a lot more younger people,” said Fred Levantrosser, president of the Motor City Stamp Club, based in Dearborn Heights. “With sports, TV and computers, the younger people have different tastes now.”
Levantrosser, 72, said another club he belongs to, the Dearborn Stamp Club, canceled a show set for May 2011 because it lacked young, fit volunteers to put on the event. The average age of the club’s members is in the 80s.
“There weren’t enough people to do enough work to make the show viable,” Levantrosser said.
Metro Detroit stamp collectors say they’re trying to attract younger people to their clubs. Members meet monthly to discuss their collections, including stamps and first-day covers — stamped postcards or envelopes processed where the stamp was issued. . .
“It’s really the older folks that have a passion for it,” said Henry Czerwick, 73, a former member of the Dearborn Stamp Club. “When they started stamp collecting, there wasn’t the Internet. There weren’t all the activities they have nowadays. In the old days, it was the way you learned about the world.”
Did or do you collect stamps? What’s your favorite stamp (could be from a foreign country, doesn’t have to be from the U.S. Postal Service)?
Like I said, this development makes me sad because it’s not just the death of stamp collecting. It’s the death of interest in learning about America, overwhelmed by the interest in “learning” about Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Tags: aging demographic, America, American, death of stamp collecting, history, Numismatics, older demographic, philatelic, philately, stamp collecting