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Where have all the pint-sized collectors gone?

Most kids today don't collect stamps and baseball cards as their parents once did. Does it matter?

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Prized items: Thomas Sohmers peers from behind his collection of penguins.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

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Angela Watson remembers the pleasure of childhood stamp collecting. Whenever friends and family gave her stamps, especially from foreign countries, she would study them. Then she would turn to the Encyclopedia Britannica for more information.

"Stamps provided a large part of my education in history, geography, science, and nature," says Ms. Watson of Long Beach, Calif.

Today far fewer youngsters are involved in the traditional "big three" of children's collecting – stamps, coins, and sports cards.

As Watson explains, "Getting kids interested in 'traditional' hobbies can be very difficult because we are competing with video games, skateboards, and TV."

That leaves adult collectors scrambling to find ways to draw a new generation of enthusiasts. Stamp clubs, Watson notes, are trying to attract children with free stamps and appealing activities.

"Kids used to collect stamps because it was a glimpse into a world you couldn't see just by turning on a computer [as they can today]," says Will Seippel, a father of five and CEO of WorthPoint, a database for collectibles. "If you were growing up in Baltimore, a stamp was a way to see Cameroon. Today there's not the primary lure of the distant land."

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