- Created on 18 April 2009
- Last Updated on 20 May 2012
- Published on 18 April 2009
- Written by UPNS Admin
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The Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society (UPNS) seeks to unite all collectors of Ukrainian materials and is particularly dedicated to the promotion of Ukrainian stamp, coin, and medal collecting. All fields of Ukrainian philately and numismatics are encouraged: from pre-stamp mailings to post-Soviet provisionals, and from ancient coins to current banknotes.
Throughout its first fifty years of existence, the Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society has fulfilled several important roles related to Ukrainian collecting. Beginning with its inception in 1951, and especially during the early years, members undertook to research, verify, describe, and catalog all known Ukrainian-related material. As the majority of these items were unrecorded in philatelic literature, the society became an instrumental force in creating the field of Ukrainian collecting. At the same time, because most of Ukraine’s stamps were not state-sponsored issues, the association was a key force in educating individual collectors about the issues produced during the various periods in the country’s history and by diaspora organizations.
Ironically, when the society was founded, Ukraine was referred to in the philatelic press as a "dead country". Although it was one of the charter members of the United Nations, it had not been a stamp-issuing country for more than thirty years. In some respects, then, Ukraine has been a difficult, interesting, and challenging country to collect. Yet even in the 1950s, the stamps it once issued as an independent state were very much "alive" and sought after in both North America and Europe.
The Formation of the Society of Ukrainian Philatelists
By the end of World War II, thousands of Ukrainians had either been forcibly displaced from their homes in the Soviet Union or had chosen to remain abroad. Among those who later moved to the United States were many philatelists, who may have lost their collections but not their interest in the stamps of Ukraine. These individuals brought with themselves a strong tradition of collecting that had been passed through the generations: from imperial Russia and the Ukrainian states, through informal circles that were disallowed in the Soviet Union, to organizations formed in prisoner-of-war and displaced persons camps in Europe.
Once settled in the United States, the Ukrainian collectors came into contact with philatelists, who supported the idea of forming a special society to unite all collectors who had an interest in studying Ukraine’s stamps. On February 25, 1951, a group of collectors in New York founded the Society of Ukrainian Philatelists (Soiuz Ukrainskykh Filatelistiv). This organization was devoted to the collection of Ukrainian postage stamps and the study of Ukrainian postal history. Of the first twenty-five members less one, all were ethnically Ukrainian and residents of the United States.
Within its first two years, the society sponsored several major events that established the foundation for future activities. These shows were well attended and, as one comment from the society guest book records, they also received high praise: "Very fine exhibit - first of its kind in the U.S.A. — Congratulations! Hope to see the fine work continued."
By the second general meeting of the society in 1954, the executive was able to confidently report that there had been a noticeable increase in interest in Ukraine as a collecting field and among dealers. The society had formed a stamps exchange division for its members, who were in turn asked to donate stamps, banknotes, and literature to a philatelic reference collection and to the society archives. Within the first three years of its existence, the Society of Ukrainian Philatelists had grown to 163 members and to 216 members by 1963.
Yet, during the late 1950s and 1960s, the society struggled financially and there was some concern that it might fold. Executive members encouraged members to promote stamp collecting among the Ukrainian youth. However, these difficulties are understandable in the context of the post-war economy. Moreover, contemporary lifestyles did not easily lend themselves to stamp collecting in general.
By the 1970s, there was an added obstacle for the Society of Ukrainian Philatelists to overcome. Surprisingly, members began to complain that there was nothing left for them to collect and that their Ukrainian collections were almost complete! In response, the executive urged members to build up their accumulations of banknotes and other Ukrainian items instead of changing their collecting interests to other countries.
The Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society
To confront the loss of interest in Ukrainian collecting, the society undertook several initiatives in the 1970s. First, in 1972 the name of the association was changed from the Society of Ukrainian Philatelists to the Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society (UPNS) to reflect both the expanding interests of members as well as the growing number of members who now came from non-Ukrainian backgrounds.
As the second major development in 1972, a Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society mail auction was established. Within four years, more than three hundred lots were available in each auction, including scarce local trident overprints and items from Western Ukraine, postal history, and numismatic material. Some seventy bidders had participated in the tenth mail auction (1976), during which sales exceeded two thousand dollars. The proceeds of the auctions were devoted to the UPNS’s growth and development.
The 1980s — and to a lesser extent in 1990s — saw a new drive for the UPNS to become an international philatelic society. An executive slate of vice presidents were elected for the United States, Canada, and Europe, while UPNS chapter affiliates were formed in Canada, Australia, and Ukraine. A new society logo that stressed this new character was also adopted in 1986.
Contemporary membership levels grew to about three hundred active collectors (1983) in more than fifteen countries, and of these, about forty percent were non-Ukrainians.
As a means of entering the mainstream of stamp collecting, formal contacts were established with major international philatelic organizations. The UPNS became affiliate of the American Philatelic Society, as well as a member of the Council of Philatelic Organizations and the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada. It was also a member of the Council of Philatelic Organizations.
In the late 1990s , working contacts were made with philatelic groups in Ukraine. The UPNS’s influence within Ukraine was also reflected in a letter written by M. Homon, the Director of Marky Ukrainy: "We read your Trident-Visnyk with great interest. We thank you for your kind attention to Ukrainian stamps. The Ukrainian State Enterprise Marka Ukrainy is very interested in cooperating with the Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society in the field of presenting information concerning new Ukrainian philatelic issues. … We hope that our business relationship will continue to develop".
Other society activities were aimed at correcting misinformation about Ukraine’s stamps in the wider philatelic community. Among the targets, Scott Catalogue was perhaps the most prominent.
While the dramatic events 1991 brought chaos to conventional philately, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the emergence of independent states, and the wonders of their postal history rapidly encouraged new collectors into the society’s ranks. The UPNS easily fell back on the goals first established by the Society for Ukrainian Philatelists, namely to educate its members and in so doing develop the field of Ukrainian collecting. The society’s newsletter provided information on the new currency, special cancels, and all-Ukrainian meters, while the journal published classifications of postal markings, provisionals and surcharges, and changes in postal rates.
At this time especially, a number of specialized study groups were also formed. Another sign of the times was the creation of the first UPNS website, which publicly offered information on the society and the history of Ukrainian philately.
By the time the Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society had celebrated its fortieth anniversary, it had cumulatively accepted 782 members, including 96 life and 6 honorary members. Yet Ukraine’s independence sparked a new period of growth. Society members began to exhibit at shows in Ukraine, bringing back with them both prizes and added philatelic knowledge. At the same time, their presence prompted increased interest in the society, and in 1993 alone, one hundred new members enrolled in the UPNS, a figure that demonstrated the ongoing interest in East European philately.
And, like so many other émigré organizations, the UPNS brought together disparate individuals and united them for a single purpose. Its legacy for the Ukrainian community is perhaps best summed in this statement by Lubomyr Hugel: "The demand for modem-day Ukrainian issues here, in the U.S.A., is generated mainly by Americans of Ukrainian descent. I have noticed a trend among second and third generation American collectors of Ukrainian origin, who were not much interested in classical Ukrainian stamps earlier, but are now discovering their roots and are avid collectors of modem Ukrainian issues — not so much for themselves, but for a historical heritage for their children and grandchildren".
(From Ukrainian Philatelist, Vol.49 No.2(85) Golden Anniversary Issue)