– Hello Michael, and thank you for enjoying the idea of an interview for the readers of ’Blog de timbrofil’. In your opinion, what makes collecting stamps interesting in our days?
– This is a very big question because the answer depends on who is collecting. Each collector will have a different reason for collecting and a different perspective on what is interesting.
I think what makes stamp collecting interesting in general are the designs and images and subjects that are shown on stamps today. I would say many collectors enjoy stamps for these reasons, and for the geography and history being shown on stamps, especially as so many stamps these days seem to commemorate some event or person from 50, 100, 150, 200 and more years ago. Lots of opportunity there for stamp designers and stamp issuers to produce stamps.
On a personal note, and I appreciate this might only apply to some segment of the stamp collecting community, I think a more focused area of interest, or a thematic as it is referred to in philately, that is an area of collecting on a particular subject matter is something that appeals to a lots of collectors.
Using me as an example I collect and find my real interest in three subjects, Great Britain, George V 1911-12 Downey Heads and the varieties associated with this fascinating issue of just 2 stamps and, as my thematic subjects, aerophilately and airmail flight covers, especially related to the early years of aviation and finally GB Machins Security issues.
– When and why did you start collecting stamps?
– This will surely age me, LOL but I started collecting some 42 years ago. I was in Scotland on holiday with my parents, and remember buying a new issue to commemorate the opening of the Forth Road Bridge. I had a few stamps somehow collected but this issue was my first new issue that I could afford with my pocket money and of course it was an issue being sold at a Post Office near the Bridge and with a special handstamp to mark the occassion.
My father also took me to a stamp shop in Edinburgh near where he lived and I bought a few more and somehow that was it, I was interested and wanted to collect more. Interestingly I remember buying some GB George V stamps from the shop, and to that day GB George V has been my real collecting interest.
– I know about your ’Cddstamps’ project, and about the store you manage on Bidstart or Hipstamp. What is the decisive factor when you purchase a stamp?
– The decisive factor for me is, do I need this stamp for my collection, to fill a gap, to enhance the collection? If yes and the quality is what I can accept and the price is right then I will buy. Interesting you should mention cddstamps online store. I try to offer exactly that to my customers, the opportunity to fill a gap in their collection with the quality they want at a competitive price. As you know Bidstart is closing, it is now merged into the new platform called Hipstamp and I am there, now with over 22,000 listings.
– As a dealer, what has been your greatest philatelic work challenge ever?
– Promotion of the online shop is my biggest challenge. The reason being is that generally speaking it is very expensive to pay for advertising. If I paid the going rates for magazine and even online advertising I would be challenged to make any money. It is a catch 22 situation. If I don’t advertise collectors will not know about my online shop and if I do advertise my stock sells just to pay the advertising costs. I would like to clear a few dollars to help me offset the cost of material I want for my collection and to fund the cost of the postage for the stamps I send for free to new collectors around the world.
There is another challenge and that is making sure the stamps I sell get to my customers in the condition I sent them. Some years ago I lived in a remote area with a mail box that was partially open to the weather and with very bad rains mail could sometimes get wet. Often the mail sent to me would get wet and on one occassion I had some stamps delivered which were not well packaged. I learnt from that and always send my orders wrapped and sealed in a plastic envelope so no mater where they are being received or what type of mail box my customer may have I can be pretty sure their order will arrive in the condition I sent it.
– You started your blog, cddstamps.blogspot.co.ke, in May 2006. How do you think the philatelic blogging changed after more than 10 years?
– Actually I have been writing a blog for much longer than that but yes cddstamps.blogspot.com has been around for 10 years now. The old blog platform I used closed down so I started with Blogspot.
There have been many changes. The first, as to be expected, is the number of philatelic blogs that exisit, that come and go, and that now discuss every aspect of stamp collecting.
When I first heard about blogs in the late 1990s, at the same time as I was writing my web site cddstamps.com I searched the internet and could not find any philatelic blogs. That may seem hard to believe but it is true. I honestly believe I wrote one of the first philateic blogs. Somewhere in my old files I should be able to find some materials. One day when I get some time perhaps I w ill do that.
Perhaps the biggest change has been the quality of the material that is now written. There are some real experts in their fields writing and for the new or reasonably experienced collector there is a wealth of experience and knowledge being shared by the people writing philatelic blogs.
– I know that your real home is Australia, but you lived a while in Hong Kong, and now in the Philippines. What’s the life of a stamp collector who must travel often?
– Actually my real home was London England, many years ago now. I moved to Canada in my late 20s, then Australia, then Seoul, then Hong Kong and as you say my home is now in The Philippines. These moves gave me incredible access to different philatelic materials at stamp shows, international exhibitions and local auctions where I could go along in person. Attending auctions in person is something I have done in Canada, Australia and Hong Kong on a regular basis while I lived in those countries. It has given me a chance to meet other collectors, other dealers and especially the auction house staff. And, in meeting them one is always learning something about philately.
The other opportunity I have had is that I have been able, especially over the last 10 years, to attend International Exhibitions. So much to see and learn from these. I am going to the Exhibition in Tapei in October. Something I am really looking forward to.
– I find on one of your websites the ’Children’s corner’, and I understand you have been sending stamps to children for more than 15 years! What’s your opinion about the future of stamp collecting?
– Interesting question and one I think stamp dealers and the Postal authorities need to consider. I actually think the future for stamp collecting is good in one sense and bad in another.
Good because there is a recognition and acceptance that stamps can be an investment and given there is a social demographic group that is interested in stamps, able to afford buying them and keen to do so as an investment, I think we can see a bright future for certain areas of the hobby. Also of course it is a hooby that just interests a lot of people so it will continue as a hoby I am sure.
However, generally speaking, stamp collecting is not going to bring a financial investment gain in the future. It needs specialised collecting to realise that and generally there is very little that I am aware of to promote the hobby.
The postal authories around the world have largely brought that about because of their relentless policy of issuing more and more stamps and convincing collectors to buy them so they, the collector, have every new issue. I myself was in that situation some 10 years ago. I foresaw that I was just wasting my money, other than having every new issue sitting in an album, and new issues that were becoming increasing expensive.
It is therefore difficult to get new collectors into the hobby because of the cost of new issues. In fact all these new issues are in my view a deterrent to new collectors, a new collector like I was 42 years ago, when in a year there were maybe 4 issues with perhaps 20 stamps or less. Young collectors, or lets just say new collectors cannot afford the new issues of 12 to 15 new issues a year with 70 to maybe 100 stamps.
Also it needs dealers, and stamp clubs and schools and other organisations to help promote stamp collecting for its interest and not purely for any financial gain.
One area I do see as positive is that when I attend International stamp exhibitions there is usually a very strong and visible presence of activities and displays focused to atrract yound collectors. Us there is a usually a large attendance from children accompanied by there parents. The interest needs to be more than just a one off, a one day a year visit but something that is further promoted after the exhibition.
I am afraid this is not happening to the degree needed as I see it. At least not from my reading. By example, 5 plus years ago stamp groups on Yahoo, and other forums that do not even exist now, were very popular and there was a very active stamp collecting community spirit. Yes there is still some activity there but as I see it the activity has dropped off, judging by the Boards I read. But not completely, as there is one group I know of Stamboard.com, that flourishes. More of that sort of stamp collecting community work brought to us by the founder and administrators of Stampboard.com is needed and especially to attract the new and younger collectors who will hopefully stay interesting in the hobby as they grow older.
– In your opinion, how is social media helping to popularize philately among young generation?
– I honestly do not think it is. As I said above, stamp groups were popular and active a few years ago but seem to be waning in popularity and activity. Microsoft closed down its forum that was used by many stamp groups and the Yahoo groups I read there seems to be less and less of a following. Twitter has some activity but largely what is posted there is more of an advertising nature rather than a discussion or promotion of the hobby. It certainly in my view, is not focused to the younger collectors or to promote the hobby.
– Many thanks for this interview! Please address a message to the readers of ’Blog de timbrofil’.
– My message to your readers is: Enjoy your collecting and enjoy talking about stamp collecting with others. When friends and people ask me do I have any hobbies and I say stamp collecting they often look surprised and at times I can sense them thinking, ’how boring is that’. It is not boring at all, it is not an old persons hobby as some would have us think. It is a wonderful hobby for everyone of all ages, that bring pleasure, learning, friendships and satisfaction to all who are involved.
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