Stamp collecting for children: interview

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Susan Henderson was recently appointed as the new Chairperson of the Stamp Active Network, the voluntary organisation which promotes stamp collecting for young people in the UK. We spoke to Susan and asked her about her background and the challenges of her new role.

How did you become involved in stamps and stamp collecting?

It was a family hobby started by my father, Fred Myers, and sister, Jean, in the 1950s. Dad was very involved in organised philately in Leeds, Bradford and the Yorkshire Federation so I grew up with stamps. I was a member and secretary of the Leeds Junior Society and was a successful junior exhibitor in Leeds, Yorkshire and the Melville Memorial Competitions.

Over the years as I have moved around the country I have been a member and secretary at Banbury, Newcastle and Tynemouth and Durham.

As a family we have supported and attended the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain for more than fifty years. I was joint organising secretary to Harrogate in 1978, Vice Chairman at Newcastle (1982) and Scarborough (1998). I was a member of the BPF/ABPS Congress Committee in the 1980s.

How have you been involved in promoting stamp collecting to young people?

My sister was secretary to the Stamp Active group; her grandchildren and my daughter all competed in the annual competition, so my involvement was via them. Sadly, as is often the case, none of them have continued with their collections as university and careers took over their time. But I am very pleased to have been asked to take on this role.

What aspect of stamp collecting really excites young people and captures their imagination?

Most of the children we see – either at school stamp clubs, via KidStamps or at events such as Stampex – are in the seven to twelve age group and want to collect stamps that relate to their other hobbies or interests so thematic subjects such as sport, animals, dancing are the most popular. Very few seem to want to collect by country.

What are the challenges facing the Stamp Active Network in the coming years?

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There are now so many more opportunities for young people to fill their leisure time. We are all aware of the influence and the amount of time that young people spend interacting with social media, You Tube etc. Technology means that most people communicate electronically so children have very little exposure to communication by post they and even if they do, they are unlikely to see a letter with a real stamp – and even more unlikely a commemorative stamp.

Stamp shops have disappeared and there are fewer stamp fairs. If they don’t know that something exists they don’t know about the history and that collecting is a possibility. We all know that it is a hobby associated with old(er) people so it’s not exciting and it requires a lot of work which some see as being too close to school work. Alongside this we really need some younger volunteers who can bring a different perspective and relate to the younger generation and appreciate how differently they do things!

My experience is that most extra-curricular activities in schools are around sport – football, gymnastics – which not all children want to take part in so there is potential in schools but it needs the input from teachers or volunteers to persuade schools and introduce stamp collecting as a leisure activity and show how it can enhance children’s learning and social interaction.

What tips can you give to collectors to help them encourage young people to start collecting stamps?

Very few children will become a postal historian from the outset so try to match collecting to the things they already have an interest in. Don’t be restrictive in making rules about how they should present their material. Introduce them to the different ways they can acquire stamps – for most via internet shopping. But most of all make it fun!

How can people donate time or money to help the cause?

People's time is probably the thing we need most. Obviously, the resources we can provide, such as the activity books or starter packs for anyone wanting to set up a school club cost money so donations are always welcome as are donations of stamps and other philatelic items but we need people to run these clubs or perhaps arrange a kids’ area at their local stamp fair. 

Find out more about the Stamp Active Network at their website.