Philately as a hobby was hugely popular up until the 1990s. Children and adults alike, especially aged people, made a hobby out of philately, or what was more commonly known as, stamp collecting. There was an entire ritual around this particular hobby. For those who collected stamps, mail was eagerly awaited at home, not for their content, but for the stamps that they came with. These stamps were then carefully prised off the posted item and added to the stamp collection, which was usually an album.
This was just the first step in case you grew up to be a serious philatelist in your later life. Philately as a child is very different from when you are an adult. As a child, you’d simply wait for the post, or ask people you knew who weren’t interested in the stamps they received with their mail. And if this was a real passion for you, you would start noticing the countries the stamps they came from, when they were issued and why.
As an adult, philately is a far more complex activity than mere collection. People buy rare stamps at auctions and online sites because they want to add to their collection which they’ve been building since they were children. There are catalogues for stamps which classify and state their value in the market. Stamps are sold at auctions and collections change hands all over the globe because philately is a serious hobby. However, it is also a hobby that is on the decline.
Philately is still around as a hobby because children who collected stamps have now grown up into adults who pursue it as a serious endeavour. But children who are growing up in the 21st century are increasingly being alienated from this pursuit.
One of the main causes for this unfortunate truth is the lack of mail that we receive at our homes. We rely more on emails, text messages and instant messengers to communicate with each other rather than on the postal service. No one posts anything anymore so children no longer have the option of considering philately as a hobby any longer. If mail is at all delivered at home, they usually come in prepaid envelopes from different companies. Personal mail is fast becoming a thing of the past. Philately is fast becoming unpopular and people who are actively involved in philately are in despair over this fact.
According to a national organization in the United Kingdom called Kidstamp, there were about a 100,000 children enrolled with them in the early 1990s but now in the 2010’s, only about 1000 children are enrolled. Until a couple of decades ago, almost all schools would have their own philately club that promoted the collection of stamps and learning about them. Now there are no such clubs in schools because children no longer are aware of the existence of stamps. Communication is instant and very cheap and stamps and letter-writing seem unnecessary. The fact that mail with stamps have decreased by 35% in a country like UK in the last five years indicates that stamps are a replaceable item and philately is a dated hobby.
Another reason why philately is being confined to the halls of ignominy is because it is seen as old-fashioned and out of date. Nobody has the time to send a letter or a package when you have emails, text messages and courier services. Also, children nowadays are more involved with the technology in their reach. They feel they do not have the time for something that they consider pointless. Stamps have never been a part of their experiences in life so they fail to understand the significance of collecting them.