Saturday, May 27th may best be remembered as a day when the advancements made by our niche hobby were recognized by organized philately at the highest levels. Will and Abby Csaplar’s exhibit, A License and Stamp Stamp System For Waterfowl Conservation in the 20th Century U.S., was well received by the jury at Finlandia 2017. The exhibit was awarded its second consecutive International Gold Medal, as well as a special award for excellence in the area of Treatment.
On the same day, 5000 miles away in Denver, Colorado, Michael Jaffe’s markedly improved exhibit, A Philatelic Survey of U.S. Waterfowl Hunting Jurisdictions, became the first fish and game exhibit to be awarded a National Large Gold Medal at Rompex.
Previously awarded on the international level, large golds at the national level have only been possible since January 1, 2017, when the American Philatelic Society (APS) implemented a new evaluation system at World Series of Philately (WSP) shows.
The new system, developed and overseen by the APS Committee for Accreditation of National Exhibitions and Judges (CANEJ), is intended to facilitate exhibiting in this country (nationally) to more closely harmonize with exhibiting worldwide (internationally).
The basis for this system is the cumulative point total (out of 100 possible) achieved within four areas of evaluation. The areas and their overall contribution to the total score (in parenthesis) are as follows: treatment and importance (30%); philatelic and related knowledge, personal study and research (35%); condition and rarity of material exhibited (30%) and presentation (5%).
This systematic evaluation may be seen as less subjective than the way exhibits were judged in the past and helps to ensure a more positive experience. It allows the exhibitor to easily comprehend the relative strengths and weakness of their exhibit and, most importantly, the areas in which they can focus to improve their overall score and medal level. It also better prepares exhibitors to move up to the international level.
Michael’s exhibit scored a total of 96 at Rompex 2017. Therefore, he has the honor of becoming the first fish and game exhibitor to earn our hobby a large gold medal – at either the national or international level. From all of us at Waterfowl Stamps and More, please accept our congratulations and our appreciation, Michael, for the time and effort you have put in to steadily improve your exhibit!
These twin achievements may be seen as a product of 1) The progress fish and game collectors have made in developing innovative, world-class exhibits and 2) The advancements fish and game collectors have made in educating organized philately about our area of specialization.
This effort has been recognized and has led to a willingness on the part of a greater number of judges, both national and international, to take the time to develop a greater understanding of our material and, therefore, be in a better position to appreciate the quality of our exhibits.
Prior to leaving for Scandinavia, I delivered Will and Abby’s exhibit to U.S. Commissioner Steve Schumann. Steve is a veteran Commissioner and, in this day of heightened security, we felt he was much better suited to bring the Csaplar’s exhibit through customs in both directions than myself.
After the decision had been made to relieve ourselves of this responsibility, Kay and I decided to add a week on both ends of the show and play tourist. We flew into Copenhagen and thoroughly enjoyed a week in Denmark before the heading for Tampere.
Copenhagen and the surrounding area is simply a joy, with a pleasant mix of charming architecture and interesting historical sites. The Danes are very friendly and outgoing and we appreciated the warm and pleasant “vibe”. Many of the sights are within a very walkable distance (20 minutes) extending outward in all directions from the city center. For some of the others, we rented a car and hired a guide.
We saw picturesque Nyhavn Harbor; fascinating Christiansborg Palace, where the current palace has been built on top of three previous castles and palaces – the first of which was erected in the year 1167; the Little Mermaid Statue, a tribute to Demark’s favorite son, Hans Christian Anderson; the exquisite Renaissance-style Fredriksborg Castle, complete with inner and outer moats, the Viking Museum in Roskilde, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can see three original ships that were recovered from the depths of the harbor and exhibited in a remarkable state of preservation; Kronborg Castle, which Shakespeare called Elsinore and used as the home of his fiction character Hamlet and, of course, Tivoli Gardens (see Figures 1, 2 and 3).
My wife, Kay, is somewhat of a foodie. For years now, we have heard great things about the New Nordic Cuisine. Copenhagen is the epicenter of this culinary movement and home to several of the world’s top restaurants. There has been a shuffle at the top of the list, with perennial #1 Noma, having recently closed. After being named the top restaurant in the world for four consecutive years, the owners have decided to embark on a completely new challenge – in a new venue – set to open later this year.
The closing of Noma has allowed for Geranium to claim the top spot in Copenhagen. Hardly a slouch with three Michelin stars and included on many top 10 lists, Geranium is the brainchild of Rasmus Kofoed. He recently won an annual competition for the top chef in the world, after third and second place finishes in previous years.
Needless to say, Kay and I were intrigued. Three months prior to leaving we were unable to score a coveted dinner reservation but were thrilled to get in for lunch. The same 16 course tasting menu, The Geranium Spring Universe, was offered for both lunch and dinner see Figure 4).
The first thing we noticed upon arriving at Geranium is that the restaurant was built into the side of Copenhagen’s professional football (soccer) stadium. We took an elevator up to the eighth floor and a pleasant female maitre d’ (from North Carolina) escorted us to our table by the window. However, we were not seated facing the view, rather we (as were all of the patrons) were seated facing the kitchen which occupied a central position at one end of the dining room.
As we were soon to discover, this was common in nearly all of the nordic fine dining restaurants – the chefs were the featured attraction. The following statement was printed on the reverse of the menu shown in Figure 4:
To ensure the best quality possible & save the environment, most of the ingredients in our menus are locally sourced from the organic and biodynamic farms, which we have a unique collaboration with & from the nature around us.
Prior to this trip, Kay and I were unfamiliar with the term biodynamic. It is a form of alternative agriculture, very similar to organic farming – but takes organic farming several steps further. It envisions the farm as a self-contained and self sustaining organism. It also emphasizes ancient spiritual and mystical perspectives on farming, including lunar and solar rhythms to determine when crops should be sown or planted.
Biodynamics turned out to be a common element in the New Nordic Cuisine experience and was proudly advertised at most of the fine dining restaurants we visited throughout Scandinavia. Upon our return to California, we discovered that biodynamic farming was, in fact, the very first form of organic farming and that the biodynamic movement is currently enjoying much popularity in the U.S., as well.
So how was the food? Truly amazing. Even though the menu was bit unusual for us, Kay and I both enjoyed every dish. The presentation was very artistic (to say the least) and the service impeccable. I thought you might enjoy some pics, so I kept my cell phone on the table (see Figures 5 – 8).
Another of the restaurants we enjoyed in Copenhagen was Studio at The Standard. I realize this is not a food blog, however, I would like to mention that Studio was, in our opinion, as good or better than Geranium for less money (still pricey). Although head chef (and co-owner) Torsten Vildgaard was Sous Chef and Head of R & D at the aforementioned Noma, Studio has yet to receive their third Michelin star and I assume that is the reason for the difference in price.
Everything was fabulous. Certainly, one of our best meals ever. But the main thing I wish to share with you is a dish listed on the menu as: Charred Onion, green gooseberry, black garlic and ants. Note the last ingredient. Now, these were not small ants – nor were there just a few for decoration. The large, black ants were the featured element of the dish (see Figure 9).
Kay and I arrived relatively early and we received our ants before any of the other tables. The insects were surprisingly good – in a crunchy sort of a way – but the best part of this dish for Kay and I was watching it being presented to all of the other tables throughout the rest of the evening. We observed a series of priceless expressions as the other patrons realized what they were being served. Watching them eat the ants was even better – talk about entertainment!
After a wonderful week in Denmark, Kay and I flew to Helsinki, Finland and then made our way north, to Tampere – the site of this year’s International Philatelic Exhibition. The morning after we arrived, I left Kay to sleep-in and headed for the show. After signing in and obtaining my exhibitor’s badge (as the agent of the Csaplars), I located the room in the cavernous Tampere Hall where the revenue exhibits were being shown.
I decided to make a quick lap around the room and came away feeling nervous. I have not seen revenue exhibits of this magnitude at any show in many, many years. While the Csaplar’s were not competing with the other exhibits through the medal levels, per se – I know as a judge that one cannot help but make some mental comparisons. All of the exhibits around the Csaplar’s were extremely powerful.
At this point, I should point out that I had already been kind of nervous for a couple of weeks, after learning that the Finlandia Exhibits Committee had decided to not send our synopsis to the judges. This is not a particularly unusual occurrence in international exhibiting, for one reason or another.
The reason given this time is that the American exhibitors, as a group, had done too good of a job on their synopses and it was decided that it would be unfair to distribute them. Ostensibly, an exhibitor from a country where little english is spoken and written could be at a disadvantage.
From the Csaplar’s perspective, taking an exhibit of (back of the book) revenues overseas for the first time, without the aid of a synopsis to help explain it, suddenly took on the appearance of a decided risk. In addition, the exhibit was going from five frames to eight.
As explained in a recent post, when an international exhibit initially expands in size, some judges are prone to suspect padding (the inclusion of lessor or filler items) and may be guilty of erring on the side of caution if they don’t feel well well versed in the subject. For this reason, many exhibits have actually dropped a medal level when shown for the first time in eight frames.
To top it all off, I found they had misspelled Will and Abby’s last name at the top of the first frame (see Figure 10).
Steve had placed the exhibit pages in the frames before I got to the show. I then found a committee member to open the frames and I straightened everything out (many of the pieces had shifted in transit, some completely out of their mounts). After a couple of hours of straightening and then photographing, I was gradually impressed by how the exhibit looked in eight frames and I started to gain a measure of confidence.
I went back to the hotel, found Kay and we returned to the show. It was at this point that we noticed a Moomin Shop inside the Hall, to the left of the entrance! For those of you who do not already know, Moomins are the delightfully odd fairy tale characters in a series of books, comics, television shows and movies written by Finnish author Tove Jansson (see Figures 11 and 12).
The Moomins inhabit a beautiful, calm and peaceful place known as Moominvalley. This is the home base from which the younger characters set out on a series of endearing adventures, as told by Jansson.
The Moomin characters have been immensely popular in Scandinavia and throughout the world for over 70 years (especially in Japan). A good analogy would be with the Peanuts Characters created by Charles Schultz.
Although thought of primarily as children’s entertainment today, many adults have fond memories of reading the books when they were younger and are still able to enjoy the lovable Moomins and pleasant Moominvalley, including yours truly! In all, Jansson wrote nine different books between 1945 and 1993 (see Figure 13).
It turns out that a new permanent Moomin Museum was nearing completion in an adjacent exhibition room within Tampere Hall (the site of Finlandia 2017). It was to have it’s grand opening on June 17 and Finland’s Posti (Post Office) was celebrating the event by introducing a new set of Moomin stamps at the show! Kay and I attended the First Day Ceremony, met the artists who designed the stamps and they signed a first day cover for us (see Figure 14).
Will and his daughter, Linda, arrived in Tampere a couple of days later. By this time Kay and I had taken a train into Helsinki for an overnight sightseeing trip. After they inspected the exhibit, Linda texted me that one of the pages was upside down. Incredulous, I found my camera and looked through the photos – they were right!
Steve had put a page in upside down. We subsequently went over the exhibit several times each – and missed it every time. I tried to call Steve but his phone was turned off. Perfect. Fortunately, it was on the bottom row. I consoled the Csaplars with the fact that this was a relatively minor transgression and a veteran judge would understand and not hold it against them. In truth, I felt kind of embarrassed and completely helpless down in Helsinki.
The next day I left Steve a text, an email and had his hotel put a hand-written note on his bed, informing him about the upside down page and could he please try to find a way to fix it? After the show is open to the public, opening the frames becomes a security issue and I was not real confident anything could be done. Kay and I arrived back in Tampere Friday night, on the eve of the awards being posted.
The Csaplars had arranged for a tour of Tampere for the four of us on Saturday, May 27th. The tour was scheduled to leave prior to the show opening, so there was nothing either of us could do about the upside down page. We had not heard back from Steve, so we decided to try and forget about it and enjoy our day.
After seeing the sites, including a breathtaking view from a ridge overlooking one of the two lakes that border Tampere, we headed for the Finnish National Postal Museum, which was sponsoring Finlandia 2017. In conjunction with the show, the museum had arranged to have selections from Queen Elizabeth’s fabulous stamp collection on display and we were all really looking forward to it.
In addition there was a display of the first Finnish postage stamps. It was incredible. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs, but I have included a scan of the exhibition catalog cover (see Figures 15 and 16).
When the tour was completed, we asked our driver to drop us off at Tampere Hall. I rushed ahead, with Linda following close behind. After locating the Csaplar’s exhibit I experienced a moment of jubilation, the page was right side up – and the exhibit had been awarded it’s second International Gold Medal!
By this point Linda was just entering the room. I went over and and gave her a hug and a kiss. She did not know what was going on. I led her to the exhibit and pointed to the top of the first frame, where the ribbon was posted.
She finally understood and joined me in an emotional moment, which included no small amount of relief. Soon Will and Kay came up and I congratulated him. As you can see, Will was very happy (see Figure 17).
I subsequently received an email from Steve, informing us the exhibit had received a score of 93, as well as the special prize for Treatment from the Federation Internationale de Philatelie (FIP). Treatment accounts for 20% of the point total in international exhibiting and is defined as follows:
What Does This Mean For Our Hobby?
The fact that the Csaplar’s exhibit was able to overcome some adversity, including going from five frames to eight with back of the book material – without the aid of a synopsis – and was able to gain a point over it’s international debut (New York 2016) has important implications for our hobby.
Back in the days when I first exhibited fish and game stamps (early 1990s), although many of the judges and others throughout organized philately were very supportive – I felt like our exhibits were often treated like the poor stepsister in Cinderella. On occasion, it seemed as though some judges were looking for excuses to downgrade our exhibits. An upside down page may have sufficed.
This was both motivating and, at the same time, frustrating. These experiences contributed to a mindset wherein I started to believe that everything about our exhibits had to be perfect in order for us to have a chance of being successful.
Over time, I was able to put a more positive spin on this situation and realized that the key to our success lay in doing more research and writing more about our specialized area.
As fish and game collectors started to produce more educational information about our material, others within organized philately began to pay attention. Through our cumulative efforts, we have succeeded in giving the judges more of the information they need to accurately evaluate our exhibits – and to feel comfortable in recognizing our exhibitor’s accomplishments with the highest awards.
Today, we are able to enjoy the fruits of our labor. A small mistake such as an upside down page is no longer seen as a viable excuse to down-grade one of our best exhibits. Rather, the judges were able to look past it and award the Csaplar’s exhibit the FIP Special Prize for Treatment!
Combined with Michael Jaffe’s large gold at Rompex, it would now seem that if we continue our efforts – building great collections, doing more research, writing in philatelic publications, putting together innovative and informative exhibits and, yes, continuing to develop this website as an educational resource – the day will come when there will no longer be any ceiling on the success our exhibitors may enjoy within the competitive arena of organized philately.
The day is very near, when our exhibits will be able to compete with postage stamps and postal history on a level playing field. That is all we really need, for our material (the licenses and stamps) is magnificent and their story – the role they have played in conservation efforts – is compelling.