By Janet Klug
Lately I've been hearing all kinds of strange ideas about stamp collectors and collecting. One is that collectors are moving all their hobby activities to the Internet. I suppose that is at least partially true.
Gone are the days when almost every town had a stamp shop. A few storefront stamp shops are left, but almost anyone can be a dealer on eBay. Hobby news, clubs and bulletin-board exchanges are prospering on the Internet.
That's great news, if you ask me. But all this activity on the Internet cannot replace the person-to-person interaction that happens at a stamp show.
Maybe we are, by and large, a hobby of introverts, but when we gather together at a stamp show it is pretty amazing the people you can meet, the knowledge you can gain and the incredible material you will see up close and in person.
We are now scarcely a year away from the once-a-decade international stamp show that is held in the United States.
The next show, the Washington 2006 world philatelic exhibition, will take place May 27 through June 3, 2006, in Washington, D.C., at the new convention center there. The show's logo is shown in Figure 1.
A team of dedicated collectors has been busy for a dozen years planning for this event and pulling out all stops to make this show your most memorable and enjoyable collecting experience.
The officers are Michael Dixon, president; Stephen Luster, vice president; W. Danforth Walker, CFO and treasurer; Thomas C. Mazza, general council; and Clarence Stillions, secretary.
The eight-day show will be packed with all sorts of activities and events that will keep stamp collectors of every interest and skill level entertained and enthralled for the duration. You will be able to attend meetings and lectures featuring knowledgeable collectors.
There will be instructional programs for beginners and a large, colorful and engaging youth area.
Many first-day ceremonies will be held for new U.S. stamps as well as for some foreign stamps.
A U.S. first-day cover for the 37¢ Bouquet Love stamp (Scott 3898) is shown in Figure 2. The stamp's first-day ceremony was held at the Ameristamp Expo show in February.
The cachet (added design) was designed by artist and stamp designer Chris Calle, who also signed the cover.
Stamp shows that host a first-day ceremony are often good places to meet people who design stamps and cover cachets.
About 70 of the world's postal administrations will be represented at Washington 2006, so you can buy new issues directly from the source and maybe get a postmark too.
Hundreds of stamp and cover dealers will be present. It will be the largest world stamp marketplace under one roof in the country in 10 years.
Besides dealers from the United States and Canada, there will be dealers from Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain, Belgium, Italy, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
If all of that isn't enough, there will be 4,000 frames of exhibits of the finest stamp collections in the world. The 500-frame court of honor will show the world's greatest rarities.
It hardly seems necessary to mention that the show is being held in the U.S. capital, home to some of the finest museums in the world, including the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum. During Washington 2006, it will be exhibiting the Miller collection. The Miller collection is one of the finest U.S. collections ever formed. It has been hidden from public view in the New York Public Library for the past quarter century.
Besides the great Smithsonian museums, there are dozens of important monuments, parks, gardens and attractions within walking distance or a convenient and inexpensive ride on the Metro rail.
In short, Washington 2006 is going to be a great family vacation venue. It is not too soon to begin planning and especially making necessary hotel reservations.
Admission to Washington 2006 is free, but you should preregister by writing to Washington 2006, Box 2006, Ashburn, VA 20146-2006, or by sending an e-mail to email@example.com or visiting the Washington 2006 web site at www.washington2006.org.
Have I whetted your appetite for attending a big stamp show?
If you can't wait until next May, you should plan to attend the American Philatelic Society's Stampshow, being held this year at the De Vos Convention Center in Grand Rapids, Mich. This four-day event will be crammed with informative lectures, meetings, first-day ceremonies, exhibits, dealers, instruction for beginners and fun activities for the kids.
Attending large shows such as Stampshow or Washington 2006 can be completely overwhelming.
It is not too surprising to see first-time stamp show attendees walk in and be flabbergasted by the world's-fair-type atmosphere and the sheer size of the show, the number of vendors, and the vast array of events.
The trick to getting the most out of the time you have available at any show is to plan ahead. That way you will return home having attended or viewed most of what you really wanted to do or see.
You can often get an advance schedule of events and listing of dealers and exhibits from the show's web site. Schedules are also published in Linn's Stamp News.
Carefully read this information and make notes of the dealers you wish to visit, the meetings and lectures you want to attend, and the exhibits you want to see.
If you can't find this information in advance of the show, then pick up a show program when you arrive and spend a few moments circling the key events, dealers and exhibits you don't want to miss. Make a note of times and locations, or you will waste a lot of time wandering aimlessly. This will give you at least some structure so that you are less likely to miss those things that are most important to you.
The larger the show, the more exhausting it can be. Break up your activities so that you can sit down and rest periodically. Most shows of any size have one or more concessionaires where you can buy refreshments and sit and chat with others. Don't forget to have lunch.
Besides budgeting your time successfully, you should also pay attention to budgeting your money. Wouldn't it be great if we all had unlimited finances to buy whatever we wanted at a stamp show?
Unfortunately, most of us live in the real world and have mortgages and car payments and families who like to eat. The idea is to go into the show with a rough idea of what your spending limit will be and then keep track of how much you are spending as you go along.
Whether you have a budget of $10 or $10,000 or more, simply taking a notebook and keeping a running total of your purchases will help maintain your budget.
If you are going to be spending several days at a show, you might want to consider having a daily budget instead of a cumulative budget.
I learned a hard lesson at the Ameripex show held near Chicago in 1986.
I spent my entire show budget within 15 minutes of the opening on the first day of the show. Now admittedly, I purchased items that I had been seeking for dozens of years, and I was delighted with my success, but the dealer booths were off limits to me for the rest of the entire show. I watched with envy as my friends spent happy days shopping and finding treasures for their collections.
Another trick that helps keep you on budget is bringing along a want list of those items you seek.
This will help you keep focused. But I must admit I have a difficult time turning down a great item, even if it is not on my list.
After all, instead of a town with one stamp shop, a large stamp show is a place with 150 of them.
Use some common sense, with not only the cost of your purchases but also their bulk and weight.
You don't want to be carrying 20 pounds of albums, books and heavy collections all day.
In fact, before you go on your stamp show adventure you might think about buying a wheeled briefcase. I use one, and it really saves wear and tear on my shoulders and back.
If I have time, I like to attend a meeting or lecture on a subject I know absolutely nothing about. It is a great way to broaden my horizons and pick up on others' enthusiasm.
I also meet new people that way. Even if most of us are introverts, asking about someone's collection is a sure-fire way to make a new friend.
I also like to look at the exhibits.
At really large shows such as Washington 2006, I know it will be impossible for me to read every one of the 3,800 frames of exhibits, so I will pick out 10 or 15 exhibits I want most to see and try to read a couple of them each day that I am at the show. Spacing it out allows what I have seen to sink in.
Trying to view all of the exhibits in rapid succession is not very satisfying. They all tend to run together in my mind, and I usually forget what I have seen.
At the end of the show, if you have bought something new and wonderful for your collection, learned one new fact, made one new friend, and caught up with some old buddies, then you have had a very good show indeed.