January 9, 2013
Tonight's show is dedicated to a question that all hobbies face whether it be model train railroaders or in our case Boy Scout memorabilia collectors - how do you bring new people especially youth into the hobby. While at the Dallas Trade-O-Ree I got the opinions of ten big names in the hobby to that question. Ron Aldridge, Mitch Reis, Albertus Hoogeven and more gave me their ideas. Listen in tonight to hear their answers and my take on how we can pass it on. I will also be revealing the new focus for the Scouting Hot Finds brand for the coming year and talking about my big projects for 2013.
Welcome to Scouting Hot Finds Radio, this is your host Jason Spangler the santeeswapper. Tonight’s show is going to tackle a question that is faced by many hobbies that deal with collecting things. How can we get new collectors especially youth interested in the hobby? I don’t pretend to be wise enough to have all the answers myself so I set out with a digital recorder in hand at last year’s Dallas Trade-O-Ree and asked that question to several of the big names in the hobby. People like Chris Jensen, Ron Aldridge, Mitch Reis and several others gave me their take on what we ALL can do to grow the hobby. This is especially a challenge in today’s society. I’ve read some articles – none that I can pull up an quote now but essentially some newspaper articles that reflect the sentiment that this generation that is coming up now – the generation of my children Sophia who is 8 and Patrick who is 3 are not likely to be collectors. Unlike their parents who are members of the so called generation X and my parents who were baby boomers their entertainment is much more disposable. Take for example the present that my wife and I gave my daughter this Christmas. After several years of her asking we finally decided to get her an iPod Touch. This gadget is essentially an iPhone that doesn’t make phone calls. But you can use it to listen to music, watch videos using Netflix and play games. When I was growing up getting into music meant going to the store and buying it! I can remember going to Wal-mart and they had a music section where you could buy .45 speed records of the chart topping songs in the early 1980s. Later I can remember the transition to cassette tapes and buying albums, as I still call them, on tape. It was when I was finishing up high school that cds came out and as a college student I joined all those cd clubs like Columbia House and BMG to stock up my collection of music. And although the records and cassette tapes are long gone I still have two huge binders of cds. Now even I’ve gone digital and all that music is now loaded on my iPod but I still have the collection and there is a side of me that still wants to go out and buy and own and collect more music. However, my daughter’s experience is looking to be much different. I even suggested to my wife that we get Sophia started on a music collection but she said why bother when she can listen to Pandora for free. This is an internet radio application where you select a genre of music or an artist you like and it creates a play list for you. You just stream it using your wi-fi in the house and you’ve got an endless personalized radio station. Now I digress but this story is just one of many many examples that I could share and that you can think of also of how today’s digital culture doesn’t lend itself to collecting things for the pleasure of it.
So in today’s show I’m going to focus of course on the hobby of collecting Scouting memorabilia and talk about what I can do, what you can do, what we can do as a hobby to bring in new collectors and keep this hobby from dying on the vine. I do think that tomorrow’s collectors are going to look different than those of twenty or thirty years ago. I think we will see fewer and fewer people trying to go big and collect every issue of CSPs or attempting to start a first flap, name or number OA collection. But that’s a topic I want to save for later. Today let’s talk about how we can bring youth and new adult collectors into the hobby of collecting Scouting memorabilia.
So to start off I want to use a response I got on this topic from someone who is a member of the Scout Patch Collectors Facebook Group. I’m going to use a pseudonym because he didn’t hold much back. I’ll call him Jeff. I think his message to me on this subject is a good starting point because several of things that he describes as barriers for him when he started collecting at age 16 when he collecting at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree. Now at age 18 he has amassed a collection of about 500 flaps which is pretty awesome as a teenager.
After hearing Jeff’s story I want to then bring in the voices of the veteran collectors that I got on tape at the Dallas TOR. Many of their ideas address Jeff’s experiences and I think by the end we can come up with some takeaways that will help all of us see how we can pass it on.
Here is what Jeff said,
i saw your show coming up and here are my thoughts as a youth trader. there are 3 main reason youth struggle to get into trading and collecting,
3. lack of help
This is just my opinion so take it for what it's worth this is mostly based off my experiences over the last 3 years
First and for most kids have limited finances. Most up and coming oa traders are looking for OA flap especially from there home lodge. well in many cases that is anything but easy. Many cost a pretty penny and it's hard to get cheap flaps that other traders will trade for what they want. Also ive found most of the things i've been looking for the dealers that have them are only looking to sell it and make a buck, or if they are willing to trade they only want certain things that are usually rare and quintessentially valuable. This makes it difficult for a new guy to get started.
Lets just be honest, it's intimidating going to an event like noac or jamboree and its the first day and you see all these traders with huge blankets and all you have is one type and everyone already has one. trust me that was me in 2010 and it feels like crap. its the only place most get to trade and if you cant get them interested then it's so much harder. i stumbled across patch l and met some really great people but also some great big pieces of $%#@.
my personal thought is that it is run more as business for many and not about trading for the fun of it. if you want to pull more younger guys in then the business side of the hobby has no place.
i've spent the last three years trading a lot and have spent a lot of money to get where i'm at now. i've got around 500 flaps now and i was anything but easy to get and i was helped a lot by a the very few traders in northeast indiana. I got lucky and found two traders that helped me out a ton. most don't have that extra boost then they give up. I know thats exactly what i did after the jamboree until Dave gave me a great deal on some good stock patches. I tried to help out as many as i could at noac but i could only help out a few but in all honesty it was a few more then most did.
So again the three points he made were
3. lack of help
Now let’s bring in some voices that also saw his first point as a concern. Here is back to back the voices of Doug Bearce and John Sneed who agree with Jeff’s first point.
My take is you have two forces that are both noble but are contradictory. On one side you have the viewpoint of the hobby that prices for memorabilia when purchased from the council for trade need to be kept as low as possible. As John Sneed said the cost to the youth is just to high for them to have anything to trade. On the other hand you have an unbelievable proliferation of fundraising sets being produced by Boy Scout councils and OA lodges to help offset the rising costs of the program. So for in Jeff’s case yes there might be awesome 8, 10, maybe even 16 patch sets at the 2010 Jamboree to collect but what youth can afford to attempt that. I just saw a post in the Facebook group for a beautiful 2013 National Jamboree jacket patch from the Burlington council with a gorgeous dragon design. The price for this brand new patch is $25. How can a youth afford to get into this hobby? That is an open question folks and perhaps some of our other answers today will help address that although there is no magic wand that is going to reduce this trend. Jeff has been patient and built up his collection to what I’d consider a pretty terrific size but it wasn’t from instant gratification – he stuck with it and made trades and kept active in Scouting.
Moving on I’d like to bring some more voices into the show that might begin to tackle Jeff’s 2nd point of intimidation. You are going to know hear from Bill Loeble, Bill Biggerstaff, Bob Hannah and Tracy Mesler who share many thoughts including the idea that we have to pass on knowledge to new collectors.
Today’s show will really just hit the tip of the iceberg on this one piece – how we can share and pass on the love and knowledge of the hobby. You’ll probably see more of this theme in future episodes of the show. However, one thing I want to mention is that I’ve decided to make this very idea the focus of my Scouting Hot Finds brand in 2013. If you follow my blog at ScoutingHotFinds.com gone are the weekly Top 10 posts and other content where I was saying he can you believe this Eagle medal sold so high or this OA lot went through the roof. Instead my focus this year is going to be on writing and producing content meant for the beginning collector. I’m hoping that this effort will not only share the knowledge that I have and that from the library of reference material on my bookshelf but also encourage others of you to join in. I’ll be looking for guest columnists to come in and contribute so if after listening today you think you have an idea for helping out please email me at email@example.com. I’ll reiterate something that Bill Biggerstaff mentioned – that many youth and collectors new to the hobby don’t know that there is a national organization out there to help. The International Scouting Collectors Association does have some well written guides on their website to help educate new collectors. You can find these at Scouttrader.org.
Moving on a point that wasn’t brought up by Jeff but was definitely made by the veterans that I interviewed was the idea of setting up displays. Hear now from Albertus Hoogeveen and Dave Mininhan who really stress this point.
This is one of my takeaways for 2013. I’m going to get my collection off my shelf and out to Scouting events. I’m also going to develop some new displays that are appropriate for things such as round ups, Scout expos and the like. Roy More chimed in on Facebook that when doing displays that you really need to do more than just put patches in frames. You need to give a fuller history including the context and tell the story. A point well made. Last weekend I took my collection of lodge patches to the Santee 116 Winter Banquet for just this reason.
People like Bruce Lafitte and others recently posted pictures of their Scout memorabilia displays on the Facebook group and I appreciate them sharing those. It inspires me to see what others are doing and to realize that sometimes it doesn’t have to be the perfect display like you might see at a TOR in order to get the intended effect. For years I’ve resisted doing a display of just regular insignia because I don’t really have a full collection. But really is a 12 year old Scout going to say excuse me Mr. Spangler you are missing the Type 2 variation there? So really what is my excuse now? So starting this week I’m going to start pulling items for some simple displays and build up my traveling scout museum. I hope some of you will consider doing the same.
Getting back to Jeff from Facebook as a 16 year old new collector and now an 18 year old aging out of the youth program he cited a lack of help as a big barrier. Let’s bring in the voices of Chris Jensen, Mark James, Mitch Reis, Roger Shusterit and Ron Aldridge broadly cover this topic.
I heard from Bob Sherman also who said that he always brings a bag of patches to trade to Scouting events. He doesn’t give patches away but instead never turns down a trade with a youth on things from this bag even if they have just their “nothing” patches that don’t help him at all. He makes sure to pass on the tradition of trading by helping the boys make some successful trades.
Let me give an example from my own experience that I think fits here. I usually go to two conclaves every year where I have lots of opportunity to trade patches. But counter to what many do I never bring my good stuff. Instead my strategy is that I try and fill my towel or blanket with only 1:1 trading stock so that I never have to look a kid in the eye and hand him back his fistful of patches and say nah I can’t use any of this. Its more of a put down one of yours and take one of mine principles. So long as I’ve got extras of the ones on my blanket then I’m happy to turnover my trading stock. True story, I did this at the 2012 NC Conclave and I had an adult walk up to my table and say I want to thank you. I’ve been watching you for some time and you are the only person out here that is making it easy for these boys to trade. Now I’m not going to apply for sainthood just yet but I do think that those people who bring their notebooks full of super hard issues that will only trade if it allows them to double their perceived patch wealth in the trade have it all wrong. Sure you can have those notebooks but if you aren’t doing some good 1:1 trading with the new guys then maybe you should consider trying it at the next function.
Let me conclude this part by saying there are two takeaways tonight that I’m going to implement immediately. These are things suggested by the veteran collectors and although I consider myself to be a sympathetic ear I need to take some of their medicine. The first is I really don’t give away enough patches. About every couple of years the youth leadership in my home lodge will let me come do a patch history class at a fellowship and I always make sure to do up little take away bags with free patches (typically ones that are in my .25 box) but outside of that I really have never followed the suggestions that you heard tonight. So starting this year, and you can follow this on my blog, I’m going to start giving what you might call a patch tithe to pass it on to the next generation. Pay it forward was a phrase used by Mitch Reis that you just heard and so I’m going to do that from now on. Lord knows I’m sitting on enough patches where if I start giving some away to youth its not going to set me back. And I don’t mean cleaning out my .25 cent box to those of you who think I’m a famously scrooge of a collector.
The other thing I’m going to do was mentioned by Ron Aldridge and Albertus Hoogeveen. I’m going to invite new collectors to come with me to TORs. Now this isn’t for everyone obviously but I am very active in my home lodge and after being a member for 25+ years I still can count on one hand the number of lodge fellowships that I’ve skipped. So I know a lot of people and having been to the last couple of NOACs as an adult contingent member I know the youth in my lodge right now that are interested in patches. So just last night I sent an email message to two dads in my lodge that have experienced kids in the program and invited them to come on a road trip to Chris Jensens Easley TOR. I’m going with another adult from my lodge already and I figure we can probably squeeze in these two lodge officers that I know really well and might just be the next generation of collectors that we’ve been talking about on the show. I just sent the invitations last night so I haven’t gotten the final answer yet but in my situation this is something I can do to take the medicine that has been prescribed tonight. Again I know that inviting youth to go to a TOR with you isn’t for everyone but in my case with another well known adult in my lodge as the other chaperone I feel like this could work. On the blog I’ll post pictures of the TOR and let you know how it went.
So to put a wrap on things tonight I hope there are several takeaways that we all can consider putting into action in 2013. First I’d like to remind you of the barriers faced by my Facebook friend and young collector Jeff.
3. lack of help
I would suggest that here some ways you can be a positive force in the hobby to help bring in new collectors.
I really feel like this is a topic that has probably another dozen good suggestions and it would be great to hear your story of how you got started collecting. So I’d like to point you to my website where you can post your suggestion or patch collecting genesis story as a comment. Type in the url ScoutingHotFinds.com/collect and you will find the show notes page for this episode. There you can see links to some of the websites mentioned in this show and again I encourage you to leave a post telling your story or an idea that you have.
I’m off next week to the 2013 edition of the Dallas Trade-o-ree where I hope to get lots of new audio content for the show. There are some sessions being taught on Saturday that I’m going to sit in on including one on Philmont, Eagle memorabilia and a hobby trends blue book update from Roy More. For the rest of year I’m going to strive to stay on a schedule to publish a new show every two weeks. My next show will be on Wednesday January 23 and I’ll have part 1 of my special interview with long time patch dealer and Scouter Chirs Jensen of Streamwood INC.
Thanks very much and good night everyone.
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