How to save a stamp society?


This month marks the 6th anniversary of the most recent iteration of the Korean Stamp Society (KSS), probably the 5th or 6th iteration of the KSS depending on how you would like to count. Started in late 1951, the KSS went through its very first crisis within a year, but managed to survive. During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s the KSS mostly thrived. These were the best times for philately, with more and more people making more money, meaning they could spend more on hobbies than ever before.

Unfortunately those days didn’t last. During the 1980s Korean Philately magazine was discontinued, with the KSS going moribund. Picking up during the 1990s, the magazine was reinvented by people like Gary McLean and the KSS was restarted. As was the case with so many other stamp clubs and organizations, the good old days never really returned, but several people tried to make the best out of whatever was still possible.

During the 2000s Korean Philately was issued quite regular, but by the end of the decade less and less articles were created by the membership. This meant that the few people running the KSS had to write most articles, which didn’t last long. By 2013 the last edition of KP had been published and with no new articles coming in, the magazine went moribund again.

However, the website, originally started in the late 1990s by Thomas Richards, was still being maintained by Harold Penn. Because the KSS could be found on the internet, this meant that people occasionally still became a new member of the KSS. I joined in 2015, but I wasn’t even the last one.

But it wasn’t enough really to keep the KSS going. So, in late 2017 a letter proposing to close down the KSS was sent to the last remaining members of the KSS. Yes, we had arrived at that point in time.

The KSS however still did have quite a lot of money in the bank, John Talmage had made sure as much money as possible had been saved. So, with the help of a few people we decided to try one more time and reinvent the KSS, this time as a purely online organization, with no “physical” presence, such as was the case with a for-print magazine such as KP.

I sold the whole idea of doing everything online by saying to Gary and John “if you build it, they will come”. We built it, and they did come. We went from proposing to close down the society to a few hundred members, with dozens of people volunteering to write for the website. We included new stamp issues from both North and South Korea as well, and anytime someone showed us something interesting, we created an article about that as well. We now have a total of 963 articles published on our website, with more articles waiting to be published this year.

We also have promoted the KSS by publishing articles in other stamp magazines. At one point we even created our own seals, something that used to be quite common decades ago but is now an almost forgotten thing. (Yes, we really did that! They didn’t sell, but they did look quite good! Technically speaking they are still available by the way…) We even restarted Korean Philately magazine, this time as a “printed on demand” publication. That makes it a lot more expensive unfortunately for the buyer, but the quality is terrific (full colour printed on glossy paper!) and people can download issues for free as PDF, so there is also a low cost (well, no cost really) way of getting hold of a copy.

Talking about Korean Philately magazine, you can download all (yes, all!) the KP’s issued since the early 1950s directly from the website. It is one of the things many stamp societies and magazines have done: to create a digital archive of all the issues of their magazine. It took Robert Finder and me a lot of work, him scanning through his collection and me creating the PDF’s and putting everything online. Robert’s case is an interesting one when it comes to the KSS. He is a long time member (since 1976) yet never wrote anything really for the KSS until 2018. Since then however he has written a LOT of articles. That’s the great thing about online publication: you can see the result immediately, which makes creating new articles very rewarding. (We actually have quite a few authors who had never written anything ever about their collections before we went digital!)

So, here we are, in 2024. We are currently in the process of creating another KP, while at the same time we have already lined up 23 articles for publication this year, with more to come. And you can always add to this of course, just send us a note (by replying to this email) showing us what you have and together we will turn this into an article for the website, making sure we will have to offer more content for the KSS membership this year and for years to come!

Ivo Spanjersberg
Currently KSS Publisher/Webmaster, previously KSS Chairman (2018-2019). Living in Amsterdam. I collect Korean revenue stamps, see my website:

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