'Stamp Love' campaign recruits young stamp collectors

March 8, 2013

(Shannon Heffernan/WBEZ)
Kim Kellerman is a third generation stamp dealer.

In the past four decades, membership in the American Stamp Dealers Association has dropped by two-thirds to only 400 members. Determined to recruit the next generation, they’ve launched a campaign called Stamp Love.

This weekend, the association is holding their Midwest show in Lombard. That’s where I met Kim Kellerman, a third-generation stamp dealer with a store in suburban Westmont. He’s an official ambassador for the Stamp Love campaign. So when I met him at the show, I challenged him to recruit me.

He said that was easy. Stamps had everything. You could trace history, learn geography, and art? Every stamp is a miniature painting, he said.

But I threw him a curve ball. I told him I was in the mood for humor.

“There is the Hungary stamp in which there is a nude individual, but there is a large airplane prop, placed in the proper place,” he said.

Kellerman’s sister, brother, and mother all make their living through the family's stamp business. And while it’s profitable today, the future of stamp collecting isn’t looking as bright.

The U.S. Postal Service is under tremendous financial strain. And the Internet is making physical correspondence rare. Looking around the show, almost everyone here is older.

I ask Kim if he’s worried about the future of the business.

“In the back of my  mind," he said. "But I am confident our society has always been one of priding itself in its history. And stamps has (sic) been there almost from the beginning.”

The PR company leading the Stamp Love campaign says old-timey hobbies like knitting and canning are popular among hipsters. So why can’t stamps be hip too?

On the other side of the table, Kim’s 25-year old daughter, Megan, was helping customers. “I’ve tried to explain to friends what I do. I say it’s like antiques, except with stamps,” she laughed.

It may be hard for her peers to understand, but still, it’s her history.

“I like being at the auctions, I like being at the shows, I feel a weight of tradition in my family,” she said.

Megan knows her father would love to pass along the business to her, or one of her cousins. But she hasn’t looked at her own stamp collection since she was a kid. And she’s taking a different career path, with her dad’s full approval.

While he was collecting stamps with her uncle and grandma, Megan was looking inside the envelopes, at the old letters. The stories inside inspired her current pursuit of an English degree.