At least that’s the title of an editorial by Andrew Nelson that ran in the 5 June edition of the Wall Street Journal. ‘Of course,’ was my immediate reaction. Although it should come as no surprise to collectors, the hobby provides respite during troubling times (such as we are now experiencing on several fronts) and an opportunity to expend as much intellectual energy as you wish and inspiration for the imagination.
But reading the article brought a slightly different take than I had in mind. I’ve long known that Millennials (those born roughly between 1980–96) are beginning to find their way to the hobby as they head towards middle age, but only if they’ve had some form of exposure to it. Apparently, that exposure may be happening through the combination of unlimited internet access and a pandemic that – by necessity – limits travel and many other outside-the-home pastimes.
According to Scott English, Executive Director of the APS, the organisation’s website has experienced a significant jump in online search results – up to 1.2 million since March. Many other dealers I know who do business online have seen everything from a minor tick in business to a full-on surge.
Others, such as Gerard McCulloch, an Australian who bills himself online as the Punk Philatelist (punkphilatelist.com) has noted the appearance of more young people picking up the tweezers, including a higher percentage of women. ‘Sometimes you need the Zen of admiring a tiny piece of artwork,’ McCulloch was quoted in WSJ. And, indeed, the combination of history, differing cultures, graphic arts and visible political ideography form the perfect intersection for a large swath of population that still has some semblance of curiosity – not to mention a perfectly legal way to read other people’s mail.
Although not mentioned in the article, another heavy-hitter, in terms of appealing to a new generation of collectors, is South Africa’s Graham Beck, whose extensive series of ‘Exploring Stamps’ segments on YouTube are interesting, fun and make the hobby both accessible and appealing to outsiders. Beck, who has partnered with the APS, currently has more than 80 videos posted! They are all well worth viewing.
As has been noted by others, the new wave of collectors seems to be focusing more on topicals than anything else, usually related to real-life professions or interests.
Will this new spurt of interest outlast the pandemic and bear lasting fruit in terms of a new generation of collectors? I honestly don’t know. But let’s ride the wave and see where it takes us.
Article by Wayne Youngblood