American Philatelic Society

Planning for More Educational Opportunities

Volunteers Can Help APS Fulfill Wish List for More Classes, Seminars

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     Second president John Adams once said, “There are two types of education … [o]ne should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.” The goal, as he states it, being to teach technical proficiency or lessons that can be applied to your personal life. With our education courses, we can provide each individually or both together.

      At the time of this writing, we have just finished the weeklong annual Summer Seminar program here at the American Philatelic Center. This year, we had students travel from across the country and we had a visitor from Canada to participate in a series of courses ranging from stamp technology to exhibiting. At the same time, those who attend also socially interact through stamps and beyond to build friendships that have, in some cases, lasted a lifetime. We had great participation at both the instructor and student level, including current Director-at-Large Nick Lombardi, who talked about stamp theft; Director-at-Large Steve Zwillinger, who taught courses on exhibiting; incoming Director-at-Large Rich Drews, who taught a class on expertizing techniques with our own Mercer Bristow; and current vice president and incoming President Mick Zais, who participated as a student. Our distinguished philatelist, Alan Warren, shared a lifetime of the hobby with our students at the big Thursday night dinner. Our latest Luff Award winners, Diane DeBlois and Robert Dalton Harris, taught a course on telegraph postal history, and Dennis Gilson, a course on the Washington-Franklin series.

      We were also honored to have U.S. Postal Service Director of Stamp Services Mary-Anne Penner, and local legend and nationally recognized Mike (Herr) the Mailman, who gave us some great stories about serving the students of Penn State University for four decades. In total, the knowledge of those present is one of the best opportunities a member has to gain knowledge in the field of philately.
      There is no shortage of social elements that come with the Summer Seminar, but at its core, it is the exchange of knowledge and experience between stamp collectors. That is one of the most valuable and, at times, least discussed parts of organized philately. Part of the challenge is helping some understand that education requires different levels of instruction. For those just entering the hobby, equipping them with the basics is important so that they can actually participate beyond the accumulation stage. At the same time, once you get past the watermark and tongs stage there is still much to learn and that is why we are working to build greater education services, both in person and online.
      Aside from Summer Seminar, we also offer On-the-Road Courses at stamp shows around the country. Typically, it is a one-day course before a show begins, on a specific subject. We have booked all of our courses for this year and are working on identifying shows and instructors for the 2017 calendar of shows. We have some incredibly dedicated students who attend and participate in the courses. I have one particular member who reminds me every time I see him that we need to do more courses. That level of enthusiasm is hard to match and we want to see that continue to grow.
      Though we are only halfway through 2016, we are preparing in 2017 to offer a greater number of courses, both in person and online. In January of this year, I wrote a column on meeting the education challenge. That column did provide an overview of the programs we offer and where we are taking those programs.

APS Members Can Help Educate
      This column is a little more direct in the actions I am asking from our APS members. As we move forward, we need instructors, students, and insights into the courses we offer. In addition, we are asking for local show organizers to work with us on creating and promoting educational opportunities in local areas. Finally, we are looking to add volunteers to development and recruitment for our education programs. To learn more about how you can help with our education programs, contact our education director, Cathy Brachbill, at or 814-933-3803, ext. 239.

New APS Market Research Planned
      I am pleased to announce that the APS is moving forward with a market research study of members, non-members, and collectors that have never belonged to the APS. From time to time in our past, the APS has performed a survey along these lines to get a better understanding of how we serve our members and how we can be appealing to those who are not currently active with the APS.
      Our last survey was done in 2007 and provided some insights into the hobby as far as those who participate in organized philately and those who have opted to go on without us. While the survey performed in 2007 did offer some suggestions about moving forward, the unfortunate timing of the global market meltdown, known as the Great Recession, put many suggestions on pause. There is still value in the study and members can read it online at: under the heading “APS Survey Results.”
      However, in the time since that study was done, more and more collectors have moved to actively participate online through auction sites, gathering information, and social media, which was virtually non-existent and has become far more common. Yet, there are differences in terms of how we can better serve our members and better attract new members that are absolutely essential.
      The plan calls for a series of focus groups, first to gauge what is on the mind of our members, those who have been members, and finally those who have not joined. What we could discover is that we need to put more resources into educating through the existing benefits or that we need to have a better presence online. From there, we will implement a survey to gather data from all three groups on where the gaps are and how we can best approach them going into the future. Our strategic plan lays out goals we would like to achieve over the next five years, but how we implement those strategies should be shaped by what we will learn. We plan to have the data collected and report ready no later than our AmeriStamp Expo in Reno in March.
      However, if the report can be concluded sooner, we will present the findings to the APS Board of Directors and the membership as soon as possible.

A Year of Learning, Immersion, and Collecting
      At the time of this column, I will have concluded the first year as executive director of the APS.
      In that time, I have been able to visit members, not only at our national stamp shows, but also at shows in local communities, and the dozens of local stamp clubs happening nearby. The generosity of time and the enthusiasm for the hobby and the APS has been incredibly humbling and I thank all of you for the warm welcome.
      After a year, I can officially shed the title “new guy” and be considered a fellow member of the APS.
      I have also become a part of several of our affiliate communities, including the American Topical Association, the American First Day Cover Society, ESPER [Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections], and the Cuban Philatelic Society.
      In my first column, I offered that I was not a stamp collector, yet. Fast forward to today and not only have I started building a collection; I wear the badge of collector with pride. Thank you to all of the members and teachers along the way and I look forward to sharing more with each progressing day.
      If there is ever any advice or questions you want to share, you are always welcome to contact me directly via e-mail at or write to me at APS, c/o Scott English, 100 Match Factory Place, Bellefonte, PA 16823.


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