American Philatelic Society

Are We a Bunch of Fuddy-Duddies?

We Hope Not, But We’d Like to Hear Your Suggestions on Magazine, Hobby

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     Until the 1950s, polio was one of the most widely feared diseases in the United States, ranking only behind the atomic bomb as the greatest threat to Americans. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, an APS member, fell ill to polio in the 1920s and suffered the effects of the disease until he died in 1945. Through the work of Dr. Jonas Salk, a vaccine was discovered and developed for the disease and by the 1960s, polio was fading as a threat. In the years leading up to the vaccine, as many as 45,000 Americans were affected each year. Within a year of the vaccine being put into use, fewer than 1,000 came down with the disease.
      In making this transformative discovery, Dr. Salk put it plainly, “What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.” For some time, the APS and stamp collectors have recognized a problem with membership and the overall state of the hobby. We reached peak membership in 1988 and have been losing ground ever since.
      In June, the APS Board of Directors approved our first survey since 2007 to solicit ideas and opinions from members, former members, and collectors who have never been members. Our first two steps toward that survey were to solicit input from recently dropped members and focus groups at our StampShow in Portland. Both of those surveys yielded many different thoughts that will help us with the next step, developing a broader survey of collectors, both members and non-members. The two reports developed so far can be found on our website under the “APS Survey Results” section at We would encourage you to read these reports and discuss them at an upcoming club meeting or with fellow collectors online.
      From the results so far, our magazine is the most well-known service among our membership. Generally, the feedback is positive and members are noticing some of the changes instituted by our editor, Jay Bigalke.
      The challenge is balancing the interests and the skills of our collective membership — so the insights have been instructive. As we were gathering the results of these two efforts, I received an interesting letter from Bill Sweitzer, a 36-year member of the APS. His letter really captured the discussions we heard in Portland and the feedback in our dropped member survey. I wanted to share a portion of his letter with you here:

      First, as I see it, the Journal is written by and for old fuddy-duddies. Although most of the articles are well written and the collateral material provided is excellent, they are much too long. I know there is a tremendous amount of work involved and it shows in the presentation but I would be curious (and maybe you know the answer to this) as to how many members really spend the time to go through the articles from start to finish. And of those who do, what are their ages. The point is that Millennials won’t take the time to read this much material.
      This is a time of minimal engagement. The thinking is that we need to do it quickly, and if possible, electronically. Look at the newspaper industry. Newspapers are closing down all of the time. News comes from the internet. To illustrate my position, look at the format for a news magazine by the name of The World [based in southwest Oregon]. Find one and read through it (forget their position, but look at the format) and see how they have addressed news in today’s Millennial world. They want short articles, sound bites, pictures, anything to make things quick, but newsworthy. They also have an electronic version and podcasts.
      Second, as a collector, even a longtime collector, I look for information about collecting. For the most [part], I get this information from the “Letters to the Editor” section. It seems that you make the assumption that most of your members know the “basics” of stamp collecting but in my opinion that is a wrong assumption. I would like information on tagging, different types of printing, new products on the market, etc. I am one of the “old codgers” that likes to collect but hasn’t invested the time to learn all of the ins and outs of collecting. I research things as it becomes necessary. One of the best articles you do is the one by Bob Lamb at the end of the Journal. It is short, informative, and packed with history. Well done!
We get many letters to the editor each month, typically focused on a particular article or event, but what readers think of the magazine and what they would like to see more or less of, not nearly as often.

      So this is an invitation to give us your thoughts on the magazine. We are soliciting feedback through our surveys, but the door should always be open to our members to share their thoughts.
      You can share your thoughts with me at or if you like traditional mail, our address is 100 Match Factory Place, Bellefonte, PA 16823.

Philatelic Summit in October
      After our elections in June, APS President Mick Zais and Vice President Trish Kaufmann began discussing the most important priorities for the incoming board. The three issues that came up were growing our membership, growing the hobby, and growing our finances for a long future.
      As a result of those conversations, Mick and Trish joined with Mark Reasoner, president of the American Stamp Dealers Association, to invite leaders in the philatelic community for a “Summit on the Future of Philately.” The Summit will happen at the American Philatelic Center on Friday, October 28 — just one day before the public grand opening of the new American Philatelic Research Library.
      The goal of the meeting is to discuss and develop actions for strengthening the hobby for years to come.
      There is no better way to celebrate National Stamp Collecting Month and a historic moment for our new library than leveraging our resources for a brighter future.

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