Monday, May 03, 2010

Is Stamp Collecting Becoming Cool?

Britain's Independent ran another good story over the weekend about stamp collecting, Stuck on you: How The World Fell in Love with Stamp Collecting Again.

In it, author Peter Stanford scribes, "Philatelists of the world unite! (Yes, all 2.5 million of you.) There's no need to feel embarrassed about your hobby, because stamp collecting is officially cool – and investors looking for a sure thing are driving up prices for the artistically admired little squares..."

Tim Hirsch, director of auctions at the stamp specialists Spink, confirms that the demographic is changing. He's quoted as saying, "In the past couple of years, we have seen many more younger buyers than before. What is particularly noteworthy is that many of them didn't even collect stamps as children [known in the trade as 'returners']. These are people being drawn to stamps for the first time."

"So what is transforming stamp collecting from something that even its estimated 2.5 million devotees were slightly ashamed to own up to in public, to being, as one new convert puts it, 'the new knitting'?" writes Tim.

He suggests two reasons. The first is financial – and another consequence of the global economic meltdown.

"As collectables," he says in the article, "stamps have continued to show steady, robust increases in value, year on year, without violent swings. So in these uncertain times, they are undeniably attractive to investors. The second factor bringing new life to what had been a stagnant and ageing a rediscovery of the intricate aesthetics of stamps."

According to Tim, "It was a different sort of emotional journey that brought 58-year-old design guru Stephen Bayley back to stamps. He was clearing out his parents' house after their deaths when he rediscovered his childhood stamp albums and re-engaged with them.

Stephen sees the crucial factor in today's revival in interest in stamps as neither financial nor aesthetic.

"It is the elegiac aspect that is important," he stresses. "For some there is a nostalgia for their own past, but more widely people are realising that stamps are not likely to be with us for very much longer. They are rather like other minor art forms – such as ashtrays in pubs – that are soon to be lost. That realisation generates a wish to collect them, to preserve them as part of a disappearing culture."

Shown above, Stephen Bayley with his childhood album.

To read the entire article, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM