You may have heard that stamp collecting is a dying hobby. However, millions of stamp collectors worldwide continue to inspire younger generations who might want to give this “old-time” hobby a go. But is stamp collecting really dead?
Stamp collecting isn’t completely dead. Many (older) stamp collectors still visit various stamp shows and forums to collect more stamps. Although younger generations have found technology-related hobbies, stamp collectors have never been more connected, thanks to the internet.
In this article, I’ll talk about the popularity of stamp collecting in the 21st century and explain why this hobby is still a part of many people’s lives. Also, I’ll mention different factors that affect the popularity of stamp collecting.
Reasons for the Dwindling Popularity
Stamp collecting isn’t the most popular hobby nowadays, although there was a time when stamp collecting was like a rite of passage from middle age to old age. This was true primarily for men back in the day.
When we look at Statista’s poll of the most popular hobbies in the US for the year 2022, we’ll reach the end of the list before we find the entry for stamp collecting. It seems many people were more eager to learn how to cook than to start looking for some old stamps.
In general, people are no longer eager to send letters. Unfortunately, no letters mean no wide use of stamps—at least not for a practical purpose. The shift away from writing and sending letters is inevitably tied to the decline of stamp collecting’s popularity.
Changes in our technology and society have also led to a continuous decline in the number of stamp-collecting enthusiasts and experts. Combine this with the diminishing overall value and inaccessibility of stamps, and it’s no wonder many younger people don’t even know what stamps are used for. Some don’t even realize that you can collect stamps for no apparent reason.
The younger generation’s disinterest in stamp collecting has led to cheaper and fewer stamps being produced, which means devalued stamps—meaning you can no longer invest in them as profitable, collectible assets.
Why Stamp Collecting Is Here To Stay After All
Although there’s a visible decline in stamp collecting, we can’t say it’s dead and gone for good. Stamp collecting continues to be a part of many people’s lives, and it doesn’t show a sign of stopping—let alone being dead. Many stamp collectors will even say that the decrease in the number of collectors is actually good. How so?
Well, the declining popularity of stamp collecting means there’s less competition among collectors. It’s hard enough to find a rare stamp without having to “fight” tooth and nail against other collectors for it. This way, stamp collectors may save more money when rare pieces find their way to various auctions.
Stamp collecting will never die entirely, just like every other “old” hobby. Someone will always be eager to collect stamps, be they new or old pieces. Of course, you might not get rich overnight by collecting stamps, but sentimentality and passion are just as good for many collectors.
So, how do we know that stamps are here to stay? For now, let’s examine the two common “culprits” that keep this hobby alive.
The Internet Has Become a New Platform for Stamp Collectors
Various websites have connected millions of current and potential stamp collectors all around the globe! They can now share, expand and sell their collection with other collectors.
Before the internet, collectors would only meet at stamp shows, which were limited in their capacities. Due to geographical limitations, some collectors can’t participate in these events and miss out on the chance to meet others in the community.
With the arrival of the internet, some hobbies fell by the wayside, but most of them have survived. Not only that, but some hobbies also thrived in their small global communities across different forums and groups.
Additionally, the internet has made it possible to find countless stamps in minutes! In the past, searching for a stamp could take hours of digging through boxes at a local flea market or antique shop.
Other Countries Have Taken an Interest in Collecting Stamps
We also need to look at stamp collecting from a global perspective. Just because this hobby decreased in popularity in the US doesn’t mean it’s dead.
Many other countries see a rise in stamp collecting hobby. Asia, in particular—as a growing economic continent—has seen a rise in the popularity of stamp collecting. This trend is especially visible in countries like China and India.
Many countries that didn’t have high numbers of stamp collectors historically are now beginning to see new collectors who were introduced to the hobby for the first time. Many of these collectors are interested in stamps depicting their native country, monuments, or famous people. They’re also interested in stamps from other countries.
The Rise of Self-Adhesive Stamps and the Downfall of Stamp Collections
While some blame modern technology and new forms of entertainment for stamp collecting’s downfall, others blame the invention of self-adhesive stamps.
As the name suggests, these stamps come with a plastic layer you peel off to reveal a sticky backside. The adhesive on these stamps is quite strong, and—ironically—it causes problems for stamp collectors.
Once you stick a self-adhesive stamp onto an envelope, it stays there forever. Used stamp collectors are furious because of this. Whereas older water-based stamps were removed from envelopes by soaking them in water, it’s virtually impossible to remove self-adhesive stamps.
Self-adhesive stamps have made stamp collecting just a bit harder, which is why many collectors refuse to collect used stamps. On top of that, the aggressive adhesive can cause stamps to become discolored over time.
In many aspects, self-adhesive stamps decreased the popularity of stamp collecting since people can’t take them off envelopes without damaging them in the process.
If you’re interested in this topic or want to know how to remove self-adhesive stamps from envelopes, here’s a useful video explaining that in detail:
Another modern invention in stamps’ design is QR codes. Check out my article discussing QR codes on stamps for more information: Why Do Some Stamps Have a QR Code?
Reasons Why Stamp Collection Is Still With Us
Another fair question is: Why is stamp collecting still here if it isn’t dead yet? There are many reasons why stamp collecting has continued to persist, but let’s see the three most important ones.
People Collect Stamps as a Form of Therapy
A key reason why stamp collecting is popular among older generations is that it requires time and patience. For those of us living fast, busy lifestyles, we can turn to stamp collecting as a rewarding hobby that allows us to slow down.
Collecting stamps lasts a lifetime; it can take a while (years) to find all the stamps you’re looking for. Stamp collectors also need immense patience when arranging, preparing, and gluing new stamps to their collections. The hobby isn’t something you can rush and doesn’t offer instant gratification.
Because of its nature, there’s something therapeutic about stamp collecting. Collectors don’t rush to do anything. The final result—a complete collection—is as satisfying as collecting the pieces.
There Are Still Some Valuable Stamps Out There
We’ve established that stamp prices aren’t what they used to be, although they were never particularly high. This change in value has certainly played a major part in the declining popularity of stamp collecting.
However, many rare stamps—used and mints—are still valuable. Some collectors can still make money selling those rare stamps to the highest bidder. For them, it’s a worthwhile hobby that’ll never die.
Check out my dedicated article covering the various places where you can sell your stamp collection for more information: 13 Best Places to Sell a Stamp Collection
It’s All About the (Modern) Design
Stamps aren’t obsolete items that have nothing to do with our present lives. They may no longer be as popular or useful, but stamps are still mass-produced in every country. Some older stamp collectors don’t like to collect new stamps because they’re not vintage pieces.
However, some collectors appreciate the look and feel of modern stamps. They’re definitely in better shape than vintage pieces. Also, you can buy them for a few cents and build an amazing collection.
Younger collectors collect modern stamps because they depict scenes and people they’re more familiar with. Instead of looking for a stamp with a British monarch from, say, the 19th century, these collectors would prefer to have some famous person that’s more familiar to them.
Contrary to popular belief, stamp collecting isn’t dead yet. Many stamp collectors are still passionate about this hobby, although the number of collectors is starting to dwindle.
Some reasons why we can’t say stamp collecting is dead include the following:
- Collecting stamps is therapeutic
- Collectors can still find high-value stamps
- Modern stamps are still issued, and many collectors like to collect them.
Even though teenagers don’t usually collect stamps, the internet connects many younger generations who are passionate about this hobby, making stamp collecting not only possible but more entertaining.