It is interesting that there are many in the hobby that are here the second time around. It is a fact that a great many collectors come back after their lives settle down. That is, they collect as kids, for whatever reason -- it was once that many started a stamp collection to fulfill the requirement for a Scouting merit badge. In some cases it continued after scouting days, but mostly they are left to languish on closet shelves and in attics until the collector comes back to them after carving out a place in the real world.
Simple Stamp Collecting: Once Always There
It was once simple enough to get back into. Things didn't change all that much in the stamp collecting world for decades. The collector who started collecting in the early part of the twentieth century could come back and restart without missing a beat until about the early 1980's. Most of those early collectors started by collecting worldwide and were still doing that when they put the album away when life responsibilities left them no more time for stamps.
It was easy for earlier generations to give up stamp collecting and come back to it, as there was much of excitement occurring in the 20s and 30s as the world was still being discovered through airmail routes. Of course it was also a time of empire, with the world parceled up by major powers like the UK and America more than it has been since. This created a great variety of stamps, including Britain's omnibus series, those issues for coronations, birthdays and other national and royal events, marked by all colonies and possessions philatelically.
In fact there is so much of interest from the so-called golden age of collecting that it created the unusual situation of most collectors these days being golden aged themselves. Some in the hobby worry about the ranks of stamp collectors thinning almost to nothing, but there are a couple aspects to the situation that nearly guarantee this will not occur.
Stamp Collecting Revitalizes Itself
There will be another speculative fever period, as there was triggered by the zeppelin stamps, errors and other philatelic items in the 1980's. The financial excitement that the philatelic world engenders is great in bringing out the curious, many of whom will get involved with dollar signs in their eyes, but find there is enough of interest in the hobby to keep them around.
The other is that dealers and collectors who have been holding onto items waiting for the big recession so that they might cash in (stamps hold their value in such times, unlike world currencies) have started dumping their items on the market -- more exciting classic philatelic material available brings the reticent out to buy, as the news hits the media. Investors looking to diversify will be looking for tangible assets to add to their portfolios, and what better than rare and valuable stamps?
Saving the Post Office
The other thing to give a boost to stamp collectors, although no one can pretend it will add millions of stamp collectors to the ranks are the mail artists and letter writing organizations like Save the U.S. Postal Service by Writing More Letters who are calling attention to the joys of stamps, if not exactly stamp collecting.
As usual, our world is stressful (it has been since the beginning, just in different ways from generation to generation) but there has always been a great stress relief found in stamp collecting. There may be fewer serious stamp collectors these days, but there are also more interested in stamps in different ways. It has become an almost rebellious thing to communicate in ways other than electronically. The young are always interested in doing things in a different way from the norm. Who would imagine that putting a stamp on an envelope could be seen as an act of protest? Stamp collectors as rebels?
Perhaps now is the time that first day cover collecting shoots up in popularity, as collectors frustrated with the hassle of saving a single example of a self-stick stamp from sheet, coil roll or booklet, decide that the stamp on cover is the way to go.