February 14, 2005
Michael Aldrich began collecting stamps when he was 11. In time, his hobby evolved into a business, one that he has happily been stuck on for three decades.
Aldrich, who runs Michael Aldrich Inc. of Carefree, continues to make a decent living in an evolving industry. Children aren’t getting hooked on stamp collecting the way many did during the 1960s through the 1980s. Rather, people in their 60s and older comprise the world of philately, according to Aldrich.
"The hobby has gotten older," Aldrich said. "There aren’t near the number of kids coming into the hobby that there were even 20 or 30 years ago. The average age for a stamp collector continues to rise. It’s a solitary hobby. There are a lot of introverts."
Especially with online sales — Aldrich said a collector in Iowa is able to buy stamps from dealers around the world with the click of a mouse, never having to visit one of the dwindling number of shops and even more rare stamp shows.
Aldrich thinks the introduction of video games, cable television and the Internet has kept children from getting involved in stamp collecting the way their parents and grandparents did.
"Kids have more distractions now than we did," said the 48-year-old Aldrich. "Kids just aren’t getting exposed to stamp collecting the way our generation did. There aren’t the stamp clubs in schools anymore."
Aldrich said some of the children of the ‘60s and ‘70s who collected are finding their way back into the hobby. As they get older, they recall their childhood pastime and yearn for those halcyon days.
Aldrich said the U.S. Postal Service prints so many stamps that most aren’t truly collectible. Even a Ronald Reagan stamp, issued last week, won’t be worth much more than face value, according to Aldrich.
He said stamps of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe were big sellers, but even they haven’t appreciated much beyond face value, if at all.
Aldrich said pre-1900 stamps from the U.S. and foreign countries are still difficult to find in mint condition.
Also, pre-1940 U.S. stamps can be hard to find and valuable. Otherwise, a stamp collection is easy to start.
Aldrich calls the post office the world’s largest stamp dealer. He said its stamp business has declined with people paying bills on the Internet, using meters and buying postage online.
"Some say it’s a dying hobby," Aldrich said. "I’d say it’s more of a renaissance. People from around the world can get stamps on my Web sites (www.aldrichstamps.com and www.rarestampexchange.com) and others. It’s still very much alive."