By Charles Snee
So you’ve decided to attend World Stamp Show-NY 2016 in New York City.
This marvelous international philatelic exhibition is set to roll out over eight days, May 28-June 4, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 W. 34th St., in Manhattan.
No doubt you’ve arranged your travel plans and secured a room at one of the many hotels offering favorable rates to those attending the show.
Perhaps you’ve sold some items from a long-dormant collection to free up funds to spend at the show.
These are all important preliminary steps.
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But a critical question remains: What should you take to the show, besides yourself (and your family) and money to spend?
First, you need some of the basic tools of the hobby.
Perhaps the most important tool is a sturdy pair of tongs, which allow you to safely handle and examine stamps without touching them with your fingers. This is essential, because oil from your fingertips can permanently stain stamps.
I prefer a longer pair that requires only a gentle squeeze to grasp a stamp, such as the No. 902 Showgard pair pictured nearby.
Tongs come in different lengths, and with different tip configurations.
Some, with more rounded or blunt tips, are better suited to beginners who are still learning how to manipulate stamps without damaging them. Tongs for more advanced collectors tend to be longer and have slender tips.
The key, of course, is to find a pair of tongs that feels comfortable for you. If you recently purchased a new pair, take the time to break them in before arriving at the show.
When examining a dealer’s stamps, ask permission before inserting your tongs into a stock book or stock card to remove an item. The dealer might prefer to do this before giving you a closer look.
Another very helpful tool is a magnifier. I often use mine to bring out the details of a stamp or cover.
Shown nearby is a magnifier with a built-in light that illuminates when the magnifier is extended from its protective case.
If your searches will involve some of the more subtle aspects of stamps, consider bringing a perforation gauge.
This handy device helps you determine the number of perforation holes (die-cut valleys for self-adhesive stamps) or teeth (die-cut peaks) within the space of 2 centimeters.
Pictured nearby is a perforation gauge printed on clear plastic, which allows for easy measurement of perforations for stamps on cover.
The correct perforation gauge is shown when the lines in the center of the gauge run through the center of the perforation holes (or teeth) of a stamp placed on top of the gauge. At that point, look to the left to read the gauge number.
It can be frustrating, to say the least, to return from a show, only to find that you bought something you already own.
To avoid this lamentable situation, prepare a simple checklist ahead of time.
It could be as simple as jotting down the country name and catalog numbers (we hope you’re using a Scott catalog) of the stamps you seek on a piece of paper.
Or you could photocopy pages of a stamp catalog that list what you’re after. This eliminates having to take a heavy volume with you.
For those more comfortable with today’s technology, a digital spreadsheet or other document can be created and stored on a mobile device for easy access at any time.
While your main objective on the bourse floor is buying items for your collection, occasions for selling and trading also arise.
Consider bringing some inexpensive duplicates that you might trade or sell to a dealer or collector attending the show.
For me, trading is much more rewarding because both collectors get something they are pleased to add to their collection. It can also be a marvelous way to make new friendships and renew old ones.
In fact, interaction with your fellow collectors is one of the most pleasant benefits of attending a stamp show.
Another helpful item to bring along is your business card. It provides a means for those whom you meet to keep in touch with you after the show. Alternatively, you can add a person’s phone number to your contact list on your mobile phone.
By now, you’ve assembled these and other items to take to WSS-NY 2016. Trying to carry all of this philatelic gear would be a real hassle, not mention tiring, without some help.
My go-to choice is a sturdy, oversize handbag with a shoulder strap.
Illustrated here is the bag I’ll be taking to the show. It is roomy inside, with pockets and other places to arrange my stamp-show wares for easy access. And there’s plenty of room leftover for purchases.
Now that your bag is packed, head to the show. Better still, take a noncollector family member or friend with you.
Who knows? You just might kindle and (hopefully) ignite the passion for collecting that lures so many of us, time and again, to a stamp show.