Digital Media and the Future of Philatelic Publishing – Part 2

Richard Drews

John Hotchner and I have given two seminars on Challenges and Opportunities in Exhibiting and Judging Philatelic Publications. As a result of the participation and feedback we have been given the task of establishing ongoing colloquiums on philatelic publishing. We will also be producing a proposed new version of our Judging Manual for philatelic publications. The active participation of the Writers Unit is imperative. We must question the use of term “philatelic literature”. Given the many ways we distribute information today we need to expand our concept to “philatelic publication”. Many groups have already adopted a broad concept of publication even though our copyright laws are anachronistic. defines publication as “Communication of a message, statement, or text through any means: audio, video, print, electronically as an e-book or on the web.” gives the derivation as late Middle English (in the sense ‘public announcement or declaration’): via Old French from Latin publicatio(n-), from publicare ‘make public’, which is exactly what we do when we publish. Our job is to learn how to best use and evaluate philatelic publications in all their forms.

There are serious discussions about offering the nearly completed update of the Stampless Cover Catalog by subscription only. One suggestion is to offer it for an upfront payment the first year with no provision for downloading or printing the catalog, just web use. In the first year the subscribers would submit additions and corrections through the Internet. During the first year the catalog would be regularly updated. In the second and subsequent year subscribers would pay a lower annual fee and have the ability to download and print whatever portions of the catalog they wanted. New subscribers would pay the larger first year subscription price and then the ongoing lower fee in subsequent years. Judges would be judging a dynamic and interactive work in progress. If entered in a show within weeks of release, the catalog might have some errors that are corrected by the time final judging occurs. Do the judges give credit for these ongoing actions to keep the catalog current and accurate? How much might this make up for minor vs. major errors or omissions in the publication? These and many other considerations must be addressed.

Everything I am suggesting here already exists and is being done, but only on a very small scale in the world of philatelic publishing. The Collectors Club has started posting the handouts and PowerPoint presentations brought by their speakers. They are even recording the entire presentations for viewing on their website ( The Collectors Club of Chicago is launching a new website with a section for members to post every exhibit they choose to share and a listing of publications ( They were also given a commendation for creativity in the recent IPHLA literature competition in Germany. The author of one of their publications included his exhibit on digital media as part of the book.

The most aggressive use of digital media comes from the commercial side of the hobby. Jim Lee, a good friend and President of the ASDA, has cut his show schedule down to 6 or less per year while doing most of his business on the Internet. His regular email blasts sell 80% or more in the first few hours. Scott Trepel of Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries Inc. has gone a step further. Their website Power Search feature locates comparable items going back to 1930 with prices realized. It includes extensive articles, census data found nowhere else, links to other philatelic tools and scans of major exhibits. The catalogs refer to and are supplemented so thoroughly by research on the website that 3 of the catalogs won a gold and two vermeils in the 2012 Chicagopex literature competition.

Richard A. Frajola has taken another digital approach. His website is anchored by a message board that is followed by serious postal historians worldwide. Post a problem item with a scan and within a few hours you have an education that it would take decades to acquire. Members of the board have also posted dozens of the finest classic exhibits and over 20,000 covers to assist other members. Amos Press is researching how to not only sell catalogs but to supplement them in a digital fashion. One initiative involves taking all the articles produced over the years for the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers and making them available to purchasers online. New issues could also appear online and digital versions of the catalog could be sold by subscription. End of article marker.
To be continued…

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Posted in digital philately, dps study, education, literature

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