World Stamps

By Winston Casal and Miguel Garcia

Uruguayan federation addresses the Brasiliana controversy

May 19, 2014 06:55 AM

The front page of the Dec. 23, 2013, Linn’s Stamp News included the article “Controversy erupts over Brasiliana 2013 results” written by Linn’s editor Charles Snee.

The article challenged the choice of the International Grand Prix Award in the Brasiliana 2013 world stamp exhibition. A few days later, this article was posted on Facebook by the Inter-American Federation of Philately (FIAF).

The article includes comments made by prestigious philatelists from the United States in the PhilaMercury online forum, questioning the legitimacy of the award given to Walter Britz of Uruguay for his collection “Uruguay — Early Issues of the XIX Century,” comparing it to the collection of William Gross, “USA: The 1847 Issues,” which was also exhibited at Brasiliana 2013.

Because this Grand Prix was awarded to a Uruguayan collector exhibiting philatelic material from Uruguay, the Uruguayan Federation of Philately considers it essential to make the following clarifications:

1. It will make no comments regarding the views expressed by Scott Trepel (president of Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries) and Charles Shreve (director of the international division of Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries) because, as is well known, William Gross is one of the Siegel Auction Galleries’ main clients. Therefore, the comments made by Trepel and Shreve do not have the necessary impartiality and professionalism required.

2. In response to the comments made by the renowned U.S. philatelists who are surprised that a collection of Uruguay was the winner, we believe that there is a lack of knowledge regarding the history in international philately of collections similar to the one presented by Walter Britz at Brasiliana 2013.

There is a history of such wins at exhibitions sponsored by the International Federation of Philately (FIP) over the past 60 years.

At the 1956 show in New York, Robert Hoffmann of Germany and Argentina won the Grand Prix with his collection “Uruguay: Sun Issues.”

In Spain in 1992, Angela Ruiz Vegas of Spain won the Grand Prix with her collection “Uruguay from 1856 to 1860.”

At the 1998 Israel exhibit in Tel Aviv, Gene Scott of the United States won the Grand Prix for his collection “Uruguay, the Sun Issue 1856-1862.”

Therefore, our federation was not surprised that a classic collection of Uruguay received the Grand Prix, since historically the collections of our country have received high awards.

For us, it is a source of great pride and satisfaction that, for the first time in the history of philately, a Uruguayan collector has been awarded such a distinction.

3. Faced with comments that a “local” collection has an advantage against a foreign one, we would like to point out that Uruguay did not organize Brasiliana 2013. It was organized by Brazil, with the advice of Peter McCann from the United States as FIP consultant.

A collection from Uruguay is foreign in Brazil.

Like Brazil, Uruguay is a member of FIAF, but it does not occupy any seats in its council. The president is James P. Mazepa of the United States.

Uruguay did not have jurors in Brasiliana 2013. However, the United States had two.

Latin America had eight jurors, and the collection of Uruguay received a much higher number of votes to obtain the award.

Uruguay has not hosted an international exhibition sponsored by the FIP since 1930, and has no plans to do so in the near future. Therefore, no member of the jury felt compelled to give favors to Uruguay.

However, the United States will be the host for the 2016 exhibition.

Collections with classic materials from Uruguay have won in Spain, Israel and the United States without local benefits.

In summary, Brasiliana 2013 will go down in history as an exhibition where a great number of top-level collections participated.

Undoubtedly, the Gross collection of “USA: The 1847 Issues” is worthy of a Grand Prix, but this time it competed with the collection by Britz of “Uruguay — Early Issues of the XIX Century.”

This Britz collection is the largest exhibit ever assembled of Uruguay material and, as we have seen, Uruguay exhibits have received major international awards in the past.

What happened at Brasiliana 2013 is simply that most of the members of the jury, according to their best and honest knowledge, gave the award to a collection of Uruguay.

Winston Casal is the president of the Uruguayan Philatelic Federation. Miguel Garcia is the federation’s secretary. The federation, based in Montevideo, was founded in 1963.