11.06.2006 - International associations promote a higher degree of information for collectors!
The problem is well-known: The number of „special issue stamps“, which are illegally produced and distributed via the internet, is growing, the number of forgeries that harm the post is rising

The problem is well-known: The number of „special issue stamps“, which are illegally produced and distributed via the internet, is growing, the number of forgeries that harm the post is rising simultaneously, but practices of forgers and frauds follow a long tradition in philately. The World Post Association works against these illegal issues named first, together with the WADP (World Association for the Development of Philately), a department that is directly responsible to the World Post Association, and together they developed the so-called WNS (World Numbering) system as an approach to display genuine stamps on the internet ( to give interested collectors the opportunity to identify and tell apart stamps.

This was a first step, but so far it does not reach far enough to meet the expectations of many connoisseurs of the profession as well as numerous philatelic societies. In a nutshell, the main points of criticism are: the WNS system is neither complete nor gets dated up on a regular basis, some questionable issues are included and – this is the major point of criticism – a quick international distribution does not take place.

„Hardly anybody is aware of its existence, virtually nobody uses it, neither the World Association of Editors of Stamp Catalogues ASCAT nor the trade, as for them, pieces of information come far too late. After the horse has left the barn it´s too late to close the door.“ This is how many professional philatelists evaluate the situation, which hardly needs any further comment.

Therefore, it stood to reason that the world associations of philately started to have their own thoughts and developed their own additional strategy, one that is not really new either. Among the World Philately Societies count (in alphabetical order):

  • the AIJP, the Association International des Journalistes Philatélique, that is, the World Association of authors and journalists of philately;

  • the ASCAT, as mentioned before, the Association of Editors of Stamp Catalogues;

  • the FIP, the Fédération Internationale de Philatelie, the world association of national collector societies

  • IFSDA, the International Federation of Stamp Dealers Associations.

    On May 5 2006, representatives of these associations met agents of the FEPA, of the European Collector Association and of the BDPh during the 16th International Stamp Fair in Essen to develop a concept as to how to enrich the valuable work of the UPU / WADP in the future to considerably raise the benefit for philately – and not only for postal administrations.

    As much as everyone agreed about the existing deficits of the WNS system, as much a consensus can be found about the evaluation of the hitherto existing WADP work, which – due to its focus on philatelistically „underdeveloped“ stamp countries of the world – did hardly deal with some ill developments in „overdeveloped“ countries. And this exactly are the problems which arise not only in Europe, America, Australia and other continents and harm collectors more and more: Here we have to include questions about the policies of expenses and marketing as well as those series that are traditionally regarded as „harmful“ or „superfluous“ issues, and furthermore all these domains that have always been a topic in societies for collector security and the abatement of forgeries.

    In this difficult situation, which is only aggravated by the worldwide globalization due to the internet, one project of the BDPh received special attention: A „Compass for Collectors“ with the subtitle „On the watch when you trade and change“ which has been developed by Wolfgang Maassen and introduced by the vice president of the BDPh. From autumn 2006 on, it can be accessed and tried out on the internet. It resembles the well-known Wikipedia system and has a static core of reliable contents which have already been published in the form of books on various topics: a forgery lexicon, well-known education series to all areas of philately where collectors can „get a nasty surprise“ and much more.

    This area remains static, that is: background information, which collectors can access and download for free. The only work remaining for them is to read it. Its topicality is ensured through notices by collectors and professional philatelists, which – comparable to the snowball effect – will cater for a continuous inflow of hints and notices by readers, which could probably result in a day-to-day topicality.

    Differing from the WSN system, the BDPh aims at the highest possible spread of information that is achieved by looking for and finding well-known partners – prior to the programming, which is supported by the foundation for the promotion of philately and postal history. Among them – presented from an exemplified German view, of course – are the Deutsche Post, eBay Germany, the major philatelic publishing houses, specialized magazines and major philately companies, to name just a few. Apart from that, the AIJP naturally is another partner of the BDPh.

    Thus the linking of these institutions makes it possible to actually spread the „Compass for Collectors“ in all of Europe and even in the entire world. Therefore the system has been programmed in a way that it could be adapted to different languages, whereas you need accordingly trained administrators to check the incoming pieces of information, qualify and then release them. For this, the AIJP has already presented an idea that is apt to eliminate the weaknesses of past voluntary helpers. And that is, to look for competence where it is based: in major catalogue houses and their staff.

    The representatives of the International Philately Societies agreed that this approach should be given a try, and if it proves successful – this will be tested after the release in autumn 2006 – it will be proposed to the WADP to support their work. Naturally, questions concerning the technical and administrative realization need to be answered then, too, as the workload associated with such a system does not only cost money but time as well. Nevertheless everyone agreed to look for new solutions to conserve and care for philately that support not only postal marketing but the existence of philately as well.

    For the German-speaking countries, the „Compass for Collectors“ will come for sure, and it will have to pass a practical test. The members of the meeting of the international societies in Essen were sure that it was worth a try, as it has two major necessities that earlier attempts in the history of philately could not present: its distribution can be taken for granted, and professional philatelists support the project. Another aspect that should not be forgotten: all pieces of information can be accessed day and night – and they are for free!