By Jesse Robitaille
The RPSC’s 91st convention – to be held June 21-23 in Mississauga – is the first step in a plan slated to culminate with a quasi-international show in 2021, the midpoint between the World Stamp Show in New York three years ago and the one coming to Boston in 2026.
“What we’re talking about with The RPSC is establishing what I consider to be a foothold in the worldwide community,” said APS Executive Director Scott English, who began in that role nearly four years ago, before the August 2015 StampShow in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The partnership will “go beyond” the APS’ current ties with international organizations such as the Royal Philatelic Society London (RPSL), English added.
“We have recognized World Series of Philately (WSP) shows that occur in Great Britain, but it’s never reached beyond that.”
Rather than “a mutually beneficial exchange of exhibiting” – something the APS already shares with Canada, which hosts a handful of WSP shows each year – the plan is to foster a “wholesale partnership to promote the hobby around the world and make as many doors as possible for people to get into the hobby,” he added.
“It will be more comprehensive than anything we’ve done before.”
The partnership will kick off this June with the first of many co-promoted conventions. The APS will send Scott Tiffney, its director of information services, to this June’s Royal Convention, where he will man a table on the bourse and lead a seminar on the American Philatelic Research Library, which he also serves as library director.
Tiffney also spoke at last year’s British North America Philatelic Society (BNAPS) Convention in Québec.
In turn, The RPSC will also send representatives to major U.S. shows beginning this fall.
RPSC STRATEGIC INITIATIVE
From The RPSC’s perspective, the partnership with the APS ties into the former society’s reinvented strategic initiative, which was unveiled at the 2018 Royal Convention in St. Catharines, Ont.
Executives of the Canadian society are hoping “to appeal to everybody in the broadest way possible,” said RPSC President Ed Kroft, who added there is a “need to increase our membership because we want to offer more things to more people.”
Canada is a “natural fit” for the APS’ plans, Kroft added, because of the two countries’ close ties both culturally and geographically.
“We go to one another’s shows, and our dollar is cheaper than the U.S. dollar, so if Americans want to come to Canada, attend our shows, patronize our dealers and offer things to our members, we welcome it.”
Kroft is also the immediate past president of the Society of Israel Philatelists (SIP) and previously worked with English and the APS while at the helm of the SIP, which was the first society to use the APS headquarters in Bellefonte, Pa., as its office.
These national and international partnerships, he added, are vital for the hobby going forward.
“Philatelic organizations need to co-operate with one another in order to keep the hobby strong and attract new members,” he said, adding The RPSC’s top demographics include baby boomers, who are retiring, and the preceding cohort, Generation X.
“I’m very excited about this partnership with the APS because it’s part of The RPSC’s philosophy to partner with different organizations.”
One of nearly 100 members of the Fédération Internationale de Philatélie (FIP), The RPSC also maintains close ties with many Canadian philatelic organizations, including the Toronto-based Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation.
“The RPSC is fortunate to have the benefit of working with the Greene Foundation. It’s like Bellefonte – it’s really the Canadian equivalent – and we’re grateful for that relationship,” said Kroft.
“We’re trying to be connected to as many people throughout the world – including in Canada – to grow our membership and serve our existing members. We want people in Canada to benefit as well.”
None of these plans will come at the expense of The RPSC’s Canadian members, he added.
“By virtue of saying we’re connected and we have these partnerships, people will say this is an organization people need to belong to.”
A majority of today’s stamp collectors acquire material online and forgo all aspects of “Organized Philately,” including joining a club, Kroft said.
These are the people The RPSC’s new initiatives are hoping to attract.
“We’re trying to promote the hobby to different people, not only each other’s members but also to a broader base of the unaffiliated community,” Kroft said, adding The RPSC’s current board of directors reflects that aim.
“If you look at the board’s composition, I’ve brought on people who are connected to different organizations in the stamp collecting world. All of these different people are connected in some way, shape or form to different levels of ‘Organized Philately’ in their provinces, and we need all of these people to pull together because we’re trying to make The RPSC appealing to everybody.”
RPSC HEADING SOUTH
Following the APS’ attendance at the Royal this June, The RPSC will send representatives and exhibits to the APS StampShow on Aug. 1-4 in Omaha – Nebraska’s largest city.
About 1,100 kilometres west of the Canada-U.S. border at Windsor, Ont. – and even closer to Thunder Bay and Winnipeg – this 133rd annual APS convention will boast more than 110 dealers, nearly 15,000 exhibit pages, a public auction, first-day ceremonies and participation from about 50 philatelic societies.
“We made a concerted effort over the last couple of years to make our show the national show,” said English, of StampShow, adding it’s “a forum for more than just the APS.”
At last year’s StampShow in Columbus, the American Topical Association (ATA) played the role of co-host, something it’ll return to this year.
“This plays nicely into the 150th anniversary of the ‘golden spike,’ and we’ll have train-related topical exhibiting and intellectual firepower in the form of seminars and journal articles,” said English, of this year’s StampShow theme, which marks the sesquicentennial of the 17.6-karat gold final spike being driven to complete the first transcontinental railroad across the U.S.
The ceremonial spike, which connected the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads, was driven on May 10, 1869, in Utah.
The following year, in 2020, the APS will further expand its partnership model by including the American First Day Cover Society (AFDCS), which – along with the APS and ATA – will hold its national convention in conjunction with that year’s StampShow.
“We’re expecting a lot of cross-over,” said English, who added he’s expecting ATA and AFDCS members who aren’t members of the APS to experience StampShow “for the first time, or for the first time in a long time.”
The RPSC is also slated to attend StampShow 2020, which will be held in Hartford, Ct.
‘AN INTERNATIONAL TWIST’
These plans will “build to an eventual logical conclusion” at StampShow 2021, which will be held in Chicago, one of the largest cities in the U.S. and only 450 kilometres from Windsor, Ont.
“It’ll be our first national show with an international twist, and we wanted to include Canada because we have a wealth of members from there,” said English, who added the APS has nearly 1,300 Canadian members.
“That’s a sizeable population and a lot of commitment from Canada for the APS. We continue to open the road for every different affiliate and collecting specialty to have an outlet at our show, and this is reflective of that,” he said, also referencing the APS’ partnership with BNAPS, which recently announced a $1,000 scholarship for young philatelists to attend the annual Summer Seminar.
Running for more than three decades, Summer Seminar offers courses on different aspects of philately; a wide range of services at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte; and social events “at which many members have forged lifelong friendships,” English said.
“It’s really important to bolster this work with The RPSC and APS and strengthen that network to the degree we can. We’ve been very impressed with what The RPSC has done in growth and outreach, and we want to be a part of that.”
As the midpoint between New York 2016 and Boston 2026, StampShow 2021 will halve the “substantial” decade-long gap in international shows in North America.
“Our goal is to come together with an international show, and not only will we have our traditional StampShow but we’ll extend invitations to The RPSC to be a part of it, bring exhibits and have a major presence.”
In addition to the APS, ATA and AFDCS, other societies slated to participate in StampShow 2021 include the Cuban Philatelic Society of America.
“Given the history of the two countries, it’s important to create a platform for Cuban exhibitors to enter the U.S.,” said English, who added there’s a “very active group” of worldwide philatelists, including himself, who specialize in Cuba.
“We want to be able to highlight Cuban philately throughout time, including as a part of the Kingdom of Spain, as a U.S. protectorate, as its own independent country and under Castro’s rule.”
The RPSL has also “expressed interest” in StampShow 2021, to which it will commit 50 exhibit frames.
English is also eyeing participation from philatelic organizations in South American countries.
“South American philately is something – at least for us in the western hemisphere – that doesn’t get enough promotion and attention as it deserves,” he said, adding countries such as Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras are of high interest to collectors. “You name it – a lot of people collect it.”
‘A RISING TIDE’
As for the benefits of planning this new international show, English said succinctly: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
“People often talk about the branding challenges of being ‘this’ or ‘that’ philatelic society, but my feeling is ‘philatelic’ is the least confusing word,” said English.
“We are an international organization with members in 100 countries in the world,” he added, of the APS, “and while a lot of activity is with U.S. stamps, we also have 40 per cent of our members here and abroad who have an interest in other countries.”
The international show planned for 2021 is a “good opportunity to promote worldwide philately,” he said, adding “every philatelic organization in the world” expresses concern over dwindling membership numbers and a seemingly downward trend in philately’s interest.
“I disagree with that, but the way to overcome it is to use our resources to the greatest degree we can, and standing together, we have a louder voice than standing alone. Building partnerships and leveraging the strength of each organization will make stamp collecting accessible to everyone no matter where they live.”
Jesse Robitaille is a multi-media reporter with Canadian Stamp News and a volunteer member of the Royal*2019*Royale organizing committee.