Where have all the pint-sized collectors gone?
Most kids today don't collect stamps and baseball cards as their parents once did. Does it matter?
Angela Watson remembers the pleasure of childhood stamp collecting. Whenever friends and family gave her stamps, especially from foreign countries, she would study them. Then she would turn to the Encyclopedia Britannica for more information.Skip to next paragraph
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Today far fewer youngsters are involved in the traditional "big three" of children's collecting – stamps, coins, and sports cards.
As Watson explains, "Getting kids interested in 'traditional' hobbies can be very difficult because we are competing with video games, skateboards, and TV."
That leaves adult collectors scrambling to find ways to draw a new generation of enthusiasts. Stamp clubs, Watson notes, are trying to attract children with free stamps and appealing activities.
"Kids used to collect stamps because it was a glimpse into a world you couldn't see just by turning on a computer [as they can today]," says Will Seippel, a father of five and CEO of WorthPoint, a database for collectibles. "If you were growing up in Baltimore, a stamp was a way to see Cameroon. Today there's not the primary lure of the distant land."
People collect for three reasons – nostalgia, decorative purposes, and investment, says Gary Sohmers of Framingham, Mass., who appraises collectibles for the Antiques Roadshow on PBS. He finds that collecting teaches children about maintaining objects and sharing their collections with friends and family. It also offers lessons in fair trading.
Mr. Sohmers's 12-year-old son, Thomas, is an avid collector of NASA memorabilia, computers, video games, and penguins, both figurines and stuffed animals.
For a time, baseball cards became more popular than coin collecting for children, says Mark Albarian, president of Goldline International, a rare coin and precious metals trading firm. "Now that's changing because of the United States Mint. The state quarter program, new gold and silver coins, and the new Lincoln pennies for 2009 have brought coin collecting to center stage."
In sports collectibles, Major League Baseball and the sports card companies have conducted advertising and marketing campaigns in recent years to continue to attract young people to the hobby.
The Internet is also changing the world of collecting. As founder of CoinTalk.com, an online community of coin collectors, Peter Davis provides a way for older collectors to mentor the younger generation.
"One of the things younger collectors have to face today that older folks didn't is the massive influx of Chinese counterfeit coins into the hobby," he says. Online "marketplaces such as eBay have made it very profitable for Chinese counterfeiters to sell directly to the collecting public in the US, or to middlemen who pass counterfeits off as the real thing."