Exhibiting your collection at a stamp show can be one of the most rewarding aspects of our hobby. You get to travel (or it can be shipped) to the shows wherein you meet a lot of people with a similar interest – stamp collectors! The entire building is filled with stamp collectors, dealers and judges. Usually the dealers and judges are also collectors themselves.
I have done a lot of exhibiting in my life, both for myself and in an advisory capacity. I have also done a bit of judging, which I would highly recommend in order to fully understand the process. There is a lot to be gained, both for yourself and the hobby.
Going to shows puts you in an environment whereby you are able to make contacts that can help you to buy or sell stamps. Participating in exhibiting is sort of a leveling up with regard to the overall enthusiasm and energy level. There is a bonding and comradery that takes place with the other exhibitors and the judges. You will find they can be very supportive and in many cases, actually provide you with leads to obtaining difficult to acquire items for your collections and exhibits.
Winning awards is nice. However in my opinion, by far and way the most valuable thing to be gained from exhibiting is a greater knowledge for and appreciation of your material. A requisite for exhibiting is researching your material. With a newly expanded frame of reference from this research you will write up your exhibit pages. In my experience, everyone benefits from this process. You will discover a a wealth of new information that will not only allow you to experience a greater appreciation and enjoyment for your collections, but you will then be able to share this information with others via the text on your exhibit pages. Some collectors find they enjoy doing research so much, that they are motivated to publish articles about their subject in journals or on the Internet.
By exhibiting portions of your collections and publishing articles, you introduce others to your interests and new collectors are generated. I feel this is one of the most important benefits of exhibiting, not only for yourself but for the well being of the hobby. In this way, your efforts bolster the health of the hobby and enable it be self-perpetuating.
For decades fish and game stamps were seen to be on the fringe of organized philately. Many of the legendary pioneer collectors, including Joseph Janousek, Les Lebo and Mrs Powell exhibited their collections with mixed results. While Janousek and Powell experienced occasional success, Lebo did not fair so well in the more conservative South.
In the 1980s, I decided I would try to bring about change in the hobby and attempt to create a level playing field with fish and game stamps and postage stamps. In my opinion, it was either recognized as a stamp or it wasn't. Further, if it was recognized as a stamp, they should be seen as equals when it came to organized philately and exhibiting.
For many years I assembled material for an exhibit. In addition, I did a lot of research. I wanted to document everything to the point that there would be no doubt about whether fish and game stamps should not only be allowed to be shown at National shows – but also be considered for the top awards. I spoke to other judges and exhibitors who were very supportive and helped prepare me for everything that would be involved. Finally, in 1992, I felt I was ready.
I chose WESTPEX, in San Fransisco to debut the exhibit as this was my my home town show. The show my father used to drive me to as a young boy and an environment I was familiar and comfortable with. When the judging was concluded I was the recipient of a National Gold medal the first time out and I was very excited. Not only for myself, but for my friend E. L. Vanderford and all of the fish and game collectors that came before me. It was truly a feeling of redemption.
I showed my first exhibit, Classic State and Local Fish and Game Stamps around the U.S. and then around the world at International shows for nine years. In addition, it was at the Olympics in Atlanta and Sydney, the Smithsonians' National Postal Museum and many Courts of Honor. Perhaps my greatest thrill was when it was chosen by the U.S. Postal Service to be featured in the Court of Honor at World Stamp Expo, in 2000 in Anaheim. Here my fish and game exhibit was on display a few feet from the stamp collection belonging to Queen Elizabeth!
Also in 2000, the exhibit won the Grand Award at a National Show and was entered into the Champion of Champions. It was truly gratifying and proved that at long last, fish and game stamps were seen not only as equals to postage stamps, but of actual philatelic importance.
In 2001 I started showing a second exhibit, U.S. Fish and Game Stamps: 1960 – 1979. This exhibit picked up where the first exhibit left off. Although the exhibit showed great promise at the Japan World Stamp Exposition, it was retired after an abbreviated run due to a fire in my office and several resulting setbacks. One of those cases where life got in the way.
Over the last 15 years numerous fish and game collectors have shown at National and International shows and achieved a tremendous amount of success. These include Michael Jaffe, Charles Ekstrom, Ken Pruess, Mark Meaney and Will and Abby Csaplar. Michael Jaffe and Charles Ekstrom showed their exhibits at the Washington 2006 World Philatelic Exhibition and both received a large Vermeil. Many others have shown at local and regional shows.
The Csaplars currently are showing a wonderful exhibit, titled A License and Stamp System For Waterfowl Conservation in the 20th Century U.S. Their exhibit has started off by far exceeding my own early success, winning not only a National Gold medal the first time out but also the Grand Award presented by the American Revenue Association. This was followed up by winning the Reserve Grand Award for all exhibits in the open competition at the APS StampShow in Grand Rapids in 1992.
Very shortly, the Csaplars will become the third fish and game collectors to show Internationally, at New York 2016 in May. We are all wish the Csaplars much success at this important show. It is my understanding that the Csaplars intend to show their exhibit around the world for the next five years. This will provide welcome publicity for our hobby.
I know there are a lot of other collectors with fine fish and game collections and I would like to encourage you to consider exhibiting your own material at National and perhaps even International stamp shows. It can be tremendously rewarding on many levels. I believe it is good for the hobby. Therefore, I am available for consultation and have provided many useful resources on the links page. Remember, you only go around once.