Reports of stamp collecting's death are greatly exaggerated. Though as anyone who has been to a stamp show in the last ten years and looked around knows, it is clear that the greying of the hobby is a reality.
The numbers in the American Philatelic Society's Stamp Survey of 2007 bear this out: In 1982 the percentage of APS members age 60 or older was 31%. In 2007 it was 70%. One of the survey's conclusions was that "the APS has the well-regarded services, excellent reputation, and membership size to ensure philately is there for older Americans as they become the defining demographic."
It's hard to argue with the numbers, though recent events in the world economy may have made greater changes than could be foreseen in 2007. It is a fact that stamps have held their value while many financial instruments have sent savings accounts and nest eggs into the basement. Those savvy enough and frankly, quick enough to participate in online auctions have caused eBay to see an approximate 30% increase in stamp sales in the past year. Evidence suggests that these buyers are the beginning of a trending toward a younger hobby demographic.
Casting a gaze back to the 1930s - 40s, when collecting was hitting its peak, one can see a great deal of fine collections being started by kids that are now facing mortality. Those collections are coming on the market and the thirty and forty-somethings of today, who have an eye towards acquiring fine philatelic items, might currently be seeing some of their greatest opportunities for philatelic investment.
But collections don't grow on trees, although in a way they do grow organically. The fact is that most collectors start young, give it up in their 20s, and after becoming settled and financially comfortable, return to the hobby and reconnect to their collections. Like a living thing, a collection has a life cycle, which includes an enriching period in later years, when the adult's collection is added to, acquiring meaning and value.
At the other end of the equation, to keep the line of perpetuation going, young collectors must be brought into the hobby. And the APS is aware of this and has a youth division called Young Stamp Collectors Of America. Its perks include email support, e-meetings, a newsletter, a free getting started package with stamps, a first day cover and "other freebies" -- not to mention the benefits of the club being overseen by the largest and most respected collector's organization in the country. So if you're under 18 years of age and are starting to feel that stamp collecting itch, why not check it out?