The premier society is the Philatelic Society of London, which was founded so long ago as 1869, and has as its acting President H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. For over thirty years, without a break, this Society has held regular meetings during the winter months. Its membership comprises most of the leading collectors in Great Britain and her Colonies and many of the best-known foreign collectors. On the membership roll are three princes, several earls, baronets, judges, barristers, medical men, officers in the Army and Navy, and many well-known merchants. This society has published costly works on the stamps of Great Britain, of the Australian Colonies, of the British Colonies of North America, of the West Indies, of India and Ceylon, and of Africa. It publishes an excellently-got-up monthly journal of its own, which now claims shelf-room in the philatelic library for ten stately annual volumes. It has held two very successful International Philatelic Exhibitions, one opened by the late Duke of Edinburgh and the other by the Prince of Wales, then Duke of York. At its fortnightly meetings, papers are read and discussed on various matters relating to the hobby. Other meetings are held for the friendly exchange of duplicates.
In the provinces, the principal societies are those of Manchester and Birmingham. The Birmingham Society possesses a collection of its own, which it keeps up to date, as a work of reference for its members. Several of the societies hold periodical exhibitions, in which members compete for medals, and in many other ways they lay themselves out to encourage and promote the collection of postage stamps as a popular pastime.
The names of the various societies and the addresses of the secretaries are published at the commencement of each winter season in Stanley Gibbons’ Monthly Journal.
Apart from their pleasant sociability, these societies are of immense help to the collector, especially to the beginner. At each meeting papers are read and discussed, in which the most experienced collectors retail, for the benefit of the less experienced, the result of their latest researches, and eminent specialists display their splendid and carefully-arranged collections for the inspection, edification, and enjoyment of their fellow-members. This continual meeting and comparing of notes, this concentration of study upon the issues of a particular country, gradually ripens even the veriest tyro into an advanced and experienced collector.
Under such conditions difficulties are cleared up, and the way made plain for wise and safe collecting. In too many lines of collecting the specialist carefully guards his knowledge for his own ultimate personal profit. The Philatelist, on the other hand, is more frequently than not generously and candidly helpful to his less advanced fellow-collector, especially if he happens to be a fellow-member of the same philatelic society.