Kids and stamp collecting: A primer to increase involvement

The idea of kids and stamp collecting has been quite a topic on the stamp collecting boards and in the magazine for quite some time.

Most collectors want kids involved. Just about everybody has an idea of how to pull it off.

kids and stamp collecting
Some dealers, like M&S Hobbies of Indianapolis, have always treated my daughters like serious collectors and customers.

But here’s the deal. They’re wrong. Here’s how you merge kids and stamp collecting.

The kids and stamp collecting – a little background

I have three daughters. Their first exposure to stamp collecting came one day when I was downstairs and they were in the loft near a bookshelf with my stamp albums.

“Hey guys! I found stamps!” The shout got me out of my chair and up the stairs in record time. It started a conversation about “doing stamps” and a little playtime with these colorful, fun, pieces of paper.

By the end of the day, they had their pile of stamps and were busily gluing them – yes I said gluing – onto blank paper in all sorts of arrangements. Their first album pages.

The show

Naturally, the girls wanted to go to a stamp show. That’s a sight and you learn that folks don’t really know how to get kids into collecting, or they don’t think kids and stamp collecting mixes well.

The girls had done well and been well-received at the Nashville Philatelic Society’s annual stamp show in Nashville, so we ventured bigger and farther, attending the Ameristamp Expo in February, 2018, in Birmingham, Alabama.

We’re walking from the concession stand back to the bourse area and my oldest (yes she’s a twin and the oldest by about a minute or two, but that is a very important minute or two, at least to her) said, “Do you think I can get a binder here?”

You’d have thought she was giving away a free meal.

Little old man after little old man came up to us and they all had the same thing to say. You don’t need a binder. It’s called an album.

Finally, after one left, my daughter looks at me and says, “Let’s leave.” I asked why and she complained that all these “stamp collectors” – her quotation marks – were lecturing her about albums. She declared she knows what an album is and she needs a binder and by gosh she knows the difference.

Daughter number 1, who is the most serious collector of my three daughters and has a strong creative streak, houses her collection in Vario pages. She then buys three-ring binders with the clear fronts, makes her own covers, and voila, a stamp album of her own creation.

Not one single well-meaninged collector gave this child the benefit of the doubt. They all lectured her. And she was not amused.

The real solution

I’ve noticed when a kid shows up at a stamp event, two things happen. First, free stamps are given to the kid. Second, the whole bloody stamp universe turns into teaching/lecturing mode.

Kids and stamp collecting should be about doing and it should be about fun. Kids want you to collect stamps with them, not around them. What I’ve learned is that when you collect stamps with children, the teaching comes organically.

A time will come when they ask about an album, or hinges, or what is that smelly liquid and why are you putting your stamp in it? Don’t lecture. Allow the kid to explore philately and let learning occur organically.

That’s how kids and stamp collecting goes from something tried as a young one to a hobby that spans years and perhaps generations.

My daughters started with gluing worthless “pretty” stamps onto pieces of white paper when they were 3 or 4 years old. All three have stockbooks and the eldest also has binders with Vario pages and a well organized collection of butterflies and flowers on stamps. She and I have begun to put together an exhibit.

My eldest, who is only 11, is growing into a serious stamp collector who views philately as a conduit for her creativity. She’s grown into a philatelist without lecturing from me, and despite some well-intentioned lectures from other collectors.

With, not to, will grow the hobby. Lectures will speed the death knell.

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