The new face of philately
Innovations and digitization are offering Post’s philatelic programmes increasing opportunities in what has become a multi-billion dollar market.
The invention of postage stamps revolutionized the postal service, simplifying the tariff system for paying the cost of letters service and cutting losses to postal operators. The world’s first adhesive postage stamp was released in the United Kingdom in 1840, known as the Penny Black for its price and colour.
Today stamps are so much more than just a means of paying for a service; they have become the focus of a global market comprising many different stakeholders.
According to UPU statistics, designated operators’ philatelic revenues reached 1.8 billion SDR (2.5 billion USD) compared to just under 1 billion SDR (1.4 billion USD) in 2004. The secondary market – occupied by traders, dealers, collectors and others buying second-hand philatelic products – is estimated to be worth as much as between 3 billion SDR (4.2 billion USD) and 10 billion (13.8 billion USD).
Olfa Mokaddem, manager of the UPU’s Philately Programme, explains that the invention of the Internet and e-commerce has contributed to increased interest in philatelic products.
“Online activities have opened up the market and accelerated growth,” says Mokaddem. “Philately has become a good business and Posts are starting to take advantage of this.”
Introducing stamps to the e-commerce market has granted global collectors easy access to purchase international stamps they may have had difficulty finding through traditional dealers.
Whereas traditional collectors were philatelists interested in the heritage and cultural value of stamps, she explains that e-commerce has led to the development of new types of collectors. For example, someone interested in collecting all items related to a specific subject can now simply search for the subject online and find numerous thematic products for purchase, including stamps.
Some 65 percent of 95 responding Posts in a recent UPU survey answered that they operated an online shop, showing that postal operators are working to take advantage of the opportunity to reach collectors. Posts have also ramped up their online marketing and communication efforts to reach new consumers, with 69 percent of respondents answering that they now use social networks to promote their products.
Though the Post has a monopoly on the primary market, Mokaddem emphasizes that they should not ignore what happens to their products after they’re sold.
“Posts have an indirect role to play in the secondary market and more operators are beginning to monitor the activities of dealers, collectors and other stakeholders in the second life of their stamps,” she explains.
As a result, more operators are beginning to improve their philatelic programmes, increasing the quality of their stamps with innovations in printing, materials and technological supports.
The World Association for the Development of Philately – led by the UPU – is working to facilitate relationships between all philatelic stakeholders through conferences and forums to ensure both markets continue to thrive and fuel each other’s growth.