Youth Stamp Collectors

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Stamp Show Youth/Educator Area Guidelines

(for local and national stamp shows)
written by

Carol j. Edholm, Executive Director

Youth Stamp Collectors

Mountlake Terrace, Washington;

These are general guidelines for setting up and working with Youth, Educators and New Adult Stamp Collectors at a Stamp Show Youth Area (regardless of show size, from a local show to a WSP show).

Preparing for a successful Stamp Show Youth Area is a year-round job. There is much more to do than simply acquiring stamps. A good youth area manager and volunteers with positive, upbeat attitudes are the keys to working with youth.

Youth Area Manager Qualifications

  • Has attended local and/or national stamp shows in the past year

  • Must be enthusiastic about the hobby of stamp collecting

  • Must have some knowledge about stamp collecting so as to answer questions by youth, their parents, educators and new adult collectors

  • Must be eager to work with Youth, Educators and New Adult Collectors

  • Willing to work with youth up to 18 years of age/high school graduate

Show Youth Manager Responsibilities

  1. Youth Area Advertising: Work with Show Advertiser to ensure that ALL advertising states “Youth and Educator Area” or something to that effect. If advertising does not state there is something for youth, families and educators, they will unlikely attend the show. Advertising should not be limited to philatelic journals, but should include surrounding area newspapers; free advertising TV and radio stations; and well designed posters at libraries, schools (if in session), Boys & Girls Clubs, Boy and Girl Scout troops, churches and city Park & Recreation Departments. These are places where youth and families gather for activities.

  1. When to Set Up the Youth Area: For all stamp shows, it is important that the Show Dealer Chair send you (Youth Manager) the “dealer unload instructions/information packet” so you know when to set up and where your booth will be. This is necessary information, but often neglected/overlooked. This packet may also tell you how big your youth area will be – 2, 3 or 4 tables and/or a backup table. Knowing how much space you have makes for easier planning of booth layout.

  1. Youth Area Belongs on the Show Floor -- not stuffed in a side room. If the youth area is off the main show floor, customers and dealers never see the youth and families, and families on the main show floor will not find the youth area. You could possibly lose donors. You must be visible and easily accessible. You can be in a corner of the show room, and families and youth will find you. If the show is typically divided up between several rooms, such as WESTPEX in San Francisco, or CHICAGOPEX, then the youth area may be in a separate room. At any show, as long as the Youth Area is noted on the show program (along with the other dealers), you will be found. Having signs directing customers is also helpful.

  1. One year before the stamp show, begin to acquire stamps and other supplies for the youth area:
    1. Ask stamp dealers, local collectors and local stamp club members for donations to build up a good mix of used US and worldwide stamps covering all time spans, not just older years. Youth love stamps from all time periods -- they love commemoratives, definitives, topicals, back of the book, etc., just as adults do. You do not want bulk stamps -- a gazillion copies of one stamp? Boring! An overwhelming percentage of definitive stamps is not ideal either; you need a decent mix, more equality between definitives and commemoratives. If you receive mint stamps, fine, but you will most likely receive used, which is good. From experience, sort mixes of stamps to on paper versus off paper, worldwide versus US (so you have 4 pick tubs of stamps total). Some youth only want US off paper, some only want worldwide on paper, some want both on and off paper, and some want certain topicals. For shows in Canada, substitute Canadian for US stamps, or have an additional tub of Canadian stamps.

As word of your stamp show youth area circulates, you will also receive donations from people who have inherited stamps and have no wish to continue with the collections. This is why you start a year in advance of your show – dealers and collectors do not want to be hit up for donations for next weekend’s show. They want to have time to get things to you. Dealers and collectors alike buy collections, estates and auction lots. They may set aside a box of mixed stamps to donate, or they may have a couple of stamp albums or stockbooks full of stamps. Accept anything dealers and stamp collectors give you for the youth area, not just bulk. Accept them graciously with huge thanks! In the evenings, while watching sports or The Office on TV, strip the albums/stockbooks of the stamps and put in the appropriate pick tubs. If the albums/stockbooks are in poor condition, recycle them properly. If they are in good condition, take them to the stamp show for the youth. More on this later. Getting donations all year also gives you an opportunity to put your volunteers to work sorting stamps.

**If you are just starting a stamp show youth area, it may take a year or two before you pick up regular donors. Potential supporters are watching to see if your program will work, if you will stick with it, to make sure their donations are going to good use. Do not be discouraged if things start off slow. Its okay! Do not quit. Very few programs succeed from the get-go. It took us three years to really get going. (We will be mentors to those who need one!)

When stripping albums and stockbooks, and sorting stamps, do not include damaged stamps into your pick tubs. Set them aside as they can be used for collage projects. The goal is to teach the youth how to collect stamps and take care of their collections. Starting them off with damaged stamps defeats the lessons of stamp care. We often say, “There is not a wrong thing to collect, just a wrong way to collect.”

If Educators need stamps for their programs, you can provide them with stamps from your pick tubs or have separate boxes of stamps set aside on your backup table. The same goes for other supplies they may desire. Or, arrange to meet them after the show to supply their needs. (We usually invite an educator to our home, if they are local, and take them down to the stock room for stamps and supplies.)

    1. You will likely receive Covers with stamp donations. Youth like covers – US, worldwide, first day covers, commercial covers, military covers, free franked covers, older covers, newer covers, metered covers, covers with fancy cancellations, anything adults like. Put inexpensive covers up to a couple of dollars worth each into a tub for the youth to sort through. Hold more expensive material on the backup table for more advanced youth collectors (yes, they are out there!). The youth who collect covers will also need cover albums.

    1. Hopefully, you will receive Stamp Tongs and Glassines in donations. You need tongs for each stamp pick tub so the youth who want to can learn how to use them when choosing stamps; start them off with good habits. Glassines are needed to take stamps home in. We do not want the youth to stuff stamps into their pockets! You may need to buy stamp tongs periodically, if needed, using club funds or small philatelic grants.

    1. You will likely receive Catalogs through donations. We give them to youth who have been collecting for more than six months as a way to keep track of the stamps in their collections, sort of like a check list. More advanced youth will want catalogs for the same reasons as adults. They will be interested in US, worldwide, topical, country and cover catalogs. Educators will use them in their programs, but they may prefer to have more current volumes. You can properly recycle the older catalogs no one wants (or sell them to raise funds for the youth area). We have found that catalogs older than five years are not useful for our educators or youth. Your area may be different.

You will acquire stamp albums, stockbooks, cover albums and catalogs through donations. Try to always keep these materials on hand to provide to the youth as their collections grow.

  • When you receive donations, regardless if from dealers, local collectors, etc., send out Thank You letters for the donations, if wanted by the donor. Is there a tax receipt process in place by the show host club or your youth group? All volunteers working the youth area should know the process of accepting donations, appraising them, and sending out tax receipts to the donor as the Youth Area Manager may not be available at all hours of the show to ask questions (especially, if teaching a class/workshop). Donors do not want to wait around – they want answers at time of donating.

When we receive donations, regardless if at a show, dropped off at the house, received through the mail, or we pick it up, a “donor sheet” is completed detailing donor’s name, address, date received and check off the Thank You Letter box or Tax Receipt box (no address needed if letter and receipt are not requested). What was donated is filled out later after we get home and have a chance to go through it more thoroughly. If an appraisal and tax receipt is to be done, a member of our Board of Directors does the appraising and provides us with the appraisal (including IRS paperwork, if appropriate). Two members on our BOD are qualified to appraise donations. We send the appraisal and a nice thank you letter to the donor – do not use form letters, it ticks donors off! The final appraisal amount, date the letter/appraisal is mailed and who did the appraisal are then noted on the donor sheet.

Some donations will come to you with the appraisal already done. We take to shows simple tax receipts in brochure format to be completed at the show for show donations. For larger appraisals, we send the paperwork from the home office, if necessary.

    1. An Educational Stamp Project is perfect for the youth area. YSC has created many projects over the years, such as the US State Birds & Flowers series. These projects are very popular at shows. When sorting stamps for the regular US and worldwide pick tubs above, stamps should be sorted out at the same time for the various project tubs you have (if any). Educators are welcome to work on stamp projects. Families love to work on the stamp projects together; this is acceptable and encouraged!

    1. If you do not receive Stamp Hinges in donations, you will need to buy a couple packets. Hinges are needed to affix stamps onto work pages for your educational stamp projects. This is a good way to teach the youth and educators how to hinge stamps.

Other items you may want for your Youth Area:

    1. Acquire Booklets from the local United States Post Office:

      1. Coloring and Activity Book; Publication 39

      2. Introduction to Stamp Collecting; Publication 225, 1999

      3. Become a Stamp Collector; Publication 192, March 2003

      4. Women on Stamps; Publication 512, August 1995

      5. Hispanic People and Events on United States Postage Stamps; Publication 295, August 1995

      6. History of the US Postal Service; Publication 100, September 1993

      7. We Deliver: The Story of the US Postal Service; Publication 1, February 1986
      8. The Saga of the Pony Express 1860 – 1861; Publication 290, April 1983

      9. Treasury of Stamp Cards 2000; Publication 194, 2000 (this was the last year these were issued; hopefully, they will do newer cards soon)

      10. Celebrating with Pictorial Postmarks: A Unique Program for Making your Mark on History; Publication 186, January 2007 (a limit of 10 at a time)

Be aware that some of these publications may be out of print. Some post offices can still get the publications, others cannot (or they have copies gathering dust in their stockroom). Also, be aware that some booklets, like the Coloring Books, Treasury and Introduction to SC are periodically updated. Make sure you get the newest version when you order. These publications are FREE to you, the postal customer; all you need to do is ask your postmaster. Except as noted above, there is no limit on how many you can request.

Over the years, the postal service has provided small and medium size plastic bags for purchases at larger stamp shows where there is a USPS booth. If you can get your hands on a bunch of these, go for it. They are very handy to use at stamp show youth areas. You may also be able to get bags from Lighthouse Publications.

    1. If you have a GeoSafari Game system, these are excellent educational tools for any youth area. Make sure it is in working order before the show. Have extra batteries on hand. Try to keep the volume down during the show as the game system can be irritating to some dealers.

    1. The American Stamp Dealers Association (ASDA) has a great starter stamp album for youth. My Stamp Album is free. If asked, your local ASDA chapter may pay the shipping; charges vary depending on how many albums you request. If you have the budget, you can go to the ASDA website and download the album for free at Your cost will be purchasing heavier, acid free, archival paper and the ink to print those albums. My Stamp Album is a great starter album for youth, designed for topical use, but useable for any collection. If the youth are still excited about collecting stamps after working with this album, then you can “graduate” them up to a larger stamp album. A small stockbook is also an excellent tool for a beginner youth stamp collector. A full blown stamp album is not recommended until the youth have been collecting for at least six months, and then it depends on what they have settled on to collect. A topicalist is not going to want a worldwide album, just like a worldwide collector will not want just a US stamp album.

    1. Mystic Stamp Company of Camden, NY, has a great Student Show Packet. Contact The packet is free. It contains an instructional manual, hinges, some stamps and a perf gauge. A beginner is not going to use a perf gauge, but they will have one when they are ready to learn how to use it later.

Mystic also has a Teacher Show Packet. You can request some to provide to Educators who visit the youth area.

Contact Mystic at least 2 to 3 months before your show in order to get the packets in time. Be specific on how many Student and Teacher packets you need for the show.

    1. Download several stamp collecting instructional brochures from the American Philatelic Society (APS) The World of Stamps; Welcome to Stamp Collecting; 10 Low Cost Ways to Start Stamp Collecting; and Three Tips for Stamp Collectors: Soaking Stamps, Choosing an Album, and Using Tongs. Cruise their website for additional educational and informative brochures, projects and programs.

    1. If you wish to do a Christmas segment at a future show, contact US Christmas Seal Society for starter Christmas Seal stamp albums. You can expand on cinderellas by designing pages for Easter Seals, WWF, Boys Town seals, etc.

    1. Amos Press has a brochure called Linn’s Stamp Collecting Made Easy. Cost is $1.00 per copy.

    1. Stamp it! The Ultimate Stamp Collecting Activity Book is a wonderful book by Chronicle Books; San Francisco, California. The book is now out of print, but copies can be ordered from Youth Stamp Collectors for $10.00 each while supplies last, plus Media Mail shipping at YSC acquired the remaining wholesale stock (NOS), updated the Resource section and included a packet of either 100 worldwide or 100 US stamps, and a packet of 40 topical stamps in each book. It contains 87 pages of stamp collecting information and great activities for beginners!

  1. Do not waste time getting Linn’s Stamp News and other journals for the youth area. These should be at the Greeting Table; you typically do not have room at your table. If you have a busy youth area, you do not have TIME to deal with pushing journals on the youth. The younger youth may not be interested in journals. Interested youth can pick them up at the Greeting Table when they check in. Be sure the show Greeters know it is okay for youth to take journals they are interested in. (By the way, show Greeters should be youth friendly; we do not want the youth to get discouraged as soon as they walk in the door due to grumpy greeters.)

  1. Provide table coverings for youth area tables, and additional coverings to cover stock and supplies when the show is closed for the day. Table coverings can be twin-bed sheets or nice stamp-related fabric from a fabric store. JoAnn’s and Wal-Mart usually have stamp-themed fabrics on hand.

  1. Set up the youth area prior to start of the show, at the same time as the regular stamp dealers set up their tables.

  1. Make sure the youth area is staffed with willing volunteers throughout the hours of the show; we do not want them to feel as though they’ve been drafted; it will tell in their work. Good volunteers with a good experience will likely volunteer again.

  1. Keep the youth area neat throughout each show day; this makes it easier to find tools and supplies. Take paper or plastic bags for garbage (many of us eat lunch at our tables). Make sure any debris around your booth area is picked up at close of business on the last day of the show weekend.

  1. At close of the show day, put covers/sheets over the pick tubs and projects, and covers/sheets over the supplies on the backup table.

  1. After show is over, arrange for the storage of all materials used in conjunction with the youth areas during the show, until the next show.

  1. It is very important to thank all your volunteer staff. A note about Volunteers – Show volunteers can be other stamp collectors, or their spouses, regardless if they are members of local adult stamp clubs or not. Stamp sorting volunteers can be other stamp collectors or the general public, people who enjoy volunteering their spare time to a charitable organization or youth group. A little more instruction goes into training a non-collector, but they are some of our best volunteers!

  1. Should your show committee arrange for other youth activities during the show, be sure you are involved with the planning and carrying out of those activities. This is very important for continuity. Examples may include, but are not limited to, docent tours of exhibits and dealers’ booths. Do not stop at dealers’ tables who are not youth friendly.

Youth Area Set Up

If the Youth/Educator area was mentioned in advertising, and you received your dealer packet to know when to set up, then you are almost there!

Now we will discuss how to set up your Youth Area. Let’s say you have 3 “front” tables and a backup table (we generally have 3 front tables at a show). The 3 front tables are set up in a horseshoe layout with a backup table behind. Standing behind the front horseshoe tables (like a dealer), going from right to left: Right hand table: Educational Philatelic Project or GeoSafari game; then Worldwide stamps on paper pick tub and then worldwide stamps off paper pick tub. That takes care of 1 eight-foot table. Front table: Check-in sheet if you have one (our donors like to know how many youth we work with each year at shows). Host club and/or area youth stamp club brochures. Other brochures pertaining to stamp collecting, stamp shows, member clubs, etc. Donation jar, if you have one. Business cards so potential donors can contact you. If you have an educational Philatelic Project on the right-hand table with the worldwide pick tubs, then one end of the front table would be a good place for the GeoSafari game – to keep an eye on it. Left hand table: Cover tub, then US stamps off paper and then on paper pick tubs. Of course, if you have fewer or more tables, you can adjust accordingly.
Place a small stack of glassines between each stamp pick tub so youth have something to take their stamps home in. There should be one set of stamp tongs by each pick tub so those who want to use them, can. If you have an educational stamp project, glassines, tongs and hinges will be needed.
Stamp albums, stockbooks and other supplies go on the backup table; otherwise, some adults will come by and take them without asking (yes, it happens). Remember, this is the Youth Area; these are for youth.

Do you have a Youth Starter Packet? If not, its easy to put something together. USPS’ Introduction to Stamp Collecting, Mystic’s Student Packet, ASDA’s My Stamp Album and USPS’ Color Book packaged together make a good start at a beginner’s packet.

What do you have available for Educators? Order Mystic’s Teacher Show Packets when you order the Youth Show Packets. Educators interested in using stamps in an educational setting will attend stamp shows. Educators can be public and private school teachers, homeschool parents/co-ops, all scout leaders, other stamp club and stamp show youth leaders, and anyone who wants to work with youth in stamp collecting. What did you do with all those fancy US and worldwide First Day Cover collections you received in donations? How about the USPS commemorative panels? And all the other goodies you have no clue of what to do with? Give them to the educators! They can use these items to help teach geography, history, culture and social sciences. Students can learn about world leaders, religions and so much more through these philatelic items. Part of the discovery experience is for youth to figure out what importance does the stamp have, why was it created, etc. Educators who teach in schools can use these items in a class or school display. Have a box of this stuff on hand to provide to educators who attend the show. How will you know if an educator is at the show? They will tell you!

Who assists New Adult Collectors at your show? At our shows, they are typically sent to the youth area. We provide them with the USPS Introduction to Stamp Collecting brochure and a few other basic information brochures. We talk the adults up – find out what they are collecting/interested in collecting. Have they ever been to a stamp show before? Patiently answer their questions. Give them a brief to 15-minute tour (depending on how big your show is).* Introduce them to dealers who sell their collecting interests. We do not typically allow new adults to choose stamps out of the youth pick tubs. If there are no supply dealers at the show, provide the new adult collectors with names (and addresses if known) of dealers in the local area who have store fronts and sell supplies.

*The first show or two you have a youth area -- Before the show starts, let dealers know you may be providing show tours to new adult collectors, scout groups, homeschool groups, etc.; some dealers do not like tour surprises. After a few shows, dealers will accept the tours as part of the youth program.
Keep all supplies and starter kits on the backup table. Make sure you have signs on the table that state all items are for the youth and educators; adults are not allowed in the stamp pick tubs. We find it useful to have at least one sign for each front table.
Your ultimate goal is to mentor young stamp collectors, educators and new adult collectors, from show to show.

The Show is Now Open
You have your first family at the youth area. Now what? No, panicking is not allowed.
Greet youth. Ask them if they collect stamps or if they are interested in starting. Talk to the youth, not the parents; it is their collection. Only talk to the parents if the youth is too shy to respond to you. They will eventually talk. Many families want to start collecting as a family activity; thus, you would talk to them as a family and allow them all to do the activities together as a family.
If the youth are just starting out, ask if they know anything about stamp collecting – how to use hinges? Do they have a stamp album or stockbook? If not, then provide them with a starter packet.
Ask the youth what they are interested in collecting. Sometimes, they have an idea, sometimes its whatever “catches their fancy”. If a shy youth is uncertain about what to collect, find out what their general interests are – cats, horses, airplanes, flowers, a particular country or time period in history? Then guide them to the stamp pick tubs that would likely have those stamps. They will settle on a collecting area later.

Then explain the layout of the tables – project here, worldwide stamps off and on paper there, etc. Explain the rules of the table –

You can choose however many stamps you want as long as you do not grab handfuls. You have to look at and choose individual stamps to take home. The idea is not to take stamps you do not want in your collection and to avoid duplication.
Most youth understand this. If a youth is there for several hours and has four or more glassines full of stamps, that’s fine – they worked for those stamps! (If a youth area is just starting out and has a limited supply of stamps, setting limits on how many stamps they can take for that show is acceptable.) Volunteers can assist youth in looking for stamps if they wish, but the youth should do the bulk of the work. Parents/grandparents/guardians can help the youth choose stamps if the youth requests them to, but they must choose for the youth, not for themselves. These are pretty much the only times adults are allowed into the stamp pick tubs. Youth will often choose stamps to give to a buddy or teacher at school. This is okay.
**(Even though all stamps and supplies at the youth area are given to them free, we want the youth to appreciate what they are receiving. Just giving them stuff without ownership does not guarantee they will return for the next show. We have to catch their interest for a better chance they will come back. Encourage them to find the stamps they want out of the pick tubs. Freebies must be items the youth want. Why give a youth military stamps if they are interested only in butterflies? etc.)

If the youth is a more advanced collector, do they need stockbooks? Stamp albums? Cover albums? Hinges or do they use mounts? A pair of tongs for home? If shy at first, youth will eventually talk about what their stamp interests are. If the show is during the school year, keep an ear open – several youth around one stamp pick tub will come across stamps of subjects they are studying in school and talk about it amongst themselves. We have found that school reports with appropriate stamps used as illustrations will generally increase the student’s expected grade for the report; teachers are often impressed with the extra effort! Encourage this angle with your youth!

When the youth are finished choosing stamps, their questions have been answered and they have their starter packets, stockbooks or whatever they need, thank them for coming, and state you look forward to seeing them next show!
Oh, No! A classroom is coming to the show – now what!? Again, do not panic. Classrooms attend the larger, three-day shows, so they visit on Friday. Be prepared. Hopefully, you will get a larger floor area to work with classes. If not, it can still be done. Having a single, simple project for classrooms to work on first is often popular. They can then move to the pick tubs. Or, split a class between pick tubs and the project. If another class comes in at the same time, then that class can go on a show tour while the other class is working on projects and pick tubs. At WESTPEX, we regularly have two classes on the floor at the same time; sometimes three classes and a scout group. Spread them out and make sure there is plenty for everyone to do. Class field trips always have parents as chaperones, but additional youth area volunteers would be very beneficial for this type of program.

These are general guidelines to get you started in a successful youth area. Feel free to expand by adding additional stamp projects and activities. Do what works for your area – do the youth prefer the stamp pick tubs and hate the projects? Do they want to trade stamps with each other instead? What about designing stamps? Stamp passports are always popular; design your own or contact YSC for their master.

Above all, enjoy working with the youth, educators and new adult collectors! They are our future!


Do you want another challenge and are willing to work through the school year? Does your show youth have an interest in exhibiting? Arrange for regular meetings with same giving guidance in form and ideas at how to tell a story with philatelic material. Arrange with dealers and/or collectors to assist them in acquiring youth affordable appropriate material. Assist them in finding shows and prospectus’ for their exhibiting experience. You may have to be a “soother of feathers” for youth with little experience receiving judges’ critiques. If you have not exhibited, you may want to do yours at the same time as an example.

If you are interested in doing this or starting a youth stamp club, be sure to follow safety advice from the Boy Scouts of America – always have a parent or buddy of the youth present at all times. Its better for you, its better for them, and its better for the hobby.

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