Plan ahead to get the most out of the Washington 2006 world exhibition

May 8, 2006, 11 AM

By Janet Klug

An international stamp show is held in the United States once each decade. These jumbo festivals of stamps and philately are much anticipated and long remembered by the collectors who attend.

In just a few short weeks stamp collectors from all over the world will gather in Washington, D.C., for the eight-day world philatelic exhibition. I hope you will join me there.

If you have never attended a stamp show of this size, you need to prepare yourself, to avoid becoming completely overwhelmed.

There is so much to see and do, so many miles to cover, and so many dealers to shop that you could easily go into a sort of philatelic overload and short out.

There is only one way to avoid this. If I may borrow the Boy Scout's motto: "Be prepared."

All the planning tools you need to make your visit to the show a pleasant experience can be found on the show's web site, located at

Before you begin, you should figure out what your primary goal at the show will be.

Perhaps you want to shop and add new material to your collection. Maybe you want to attend seminars and meetings conducted by your favorite stamp societies.

You might prefer to look at the hundreds of frames containing the world's best collections and rarities.

There will be several first-day ceremonies from different postal administrations that you might want to attend.

Figure out what you want most to do and concentrate on that first before planning your other activities.

The next step is to refer to the schedule of events and block out the necessary times on your itinerary for those events.

Making a daily calendar that is blocked off in hours is a great idea. Most home computers have software for a calendar or schedule already built in, so it is quite easy.

Of course, you can always do this with a few blank pieces of paper that you have marked up for each day and each hour in the day. It does not have to be fancy. It only needs to be functional.

Events that take place at a certain time on a specific day should be entered into your schedule first. These are inflexible, and if missed, you can't have back as a do-over.

When you get to the show, recheck the show schedules posted there to see if any times or locations have changed.

You are likely to find that things you want to do have been scheduled in conflict with one another. It happens to everyone, and it means picking out what you want to do most and letting the other things go.

Next, go through the list of dealers or exhibits, depending upon your primary focus.

If this world marketplace for stamps and covers is tugging at you, then schedule your time to include those dealers you most want to see.

Look at the listing of dealers and their specialties. Many will be coming from afar and are likely to have stock not ordinarily seen at shows in the United States.

Take maximum advantage of this special opportunity, but do not forget about the dealers you already know and like.

Odds are pretty good that they have been busy in the last year acquiring new stock to entice their best regular customers as well as new ones.

Bring along your want lists and be certain to establish a budget before you get there.

It is too easy to lose track of your purchases at a show of this size. You should assume that you will be tempted to spend more than what you had planned.

How will you handle the opportunity to acquire a much-desired key item for your collection? Plan ahead.

Have a Plan B budget or pack some extra-strength sales resistance when you come.

Checklists of items already in your collection also are handy, because you don't want to buy something you already have.

Whether or not shopping is your primary objective, do not lose this opportunity to see the worldwide rarities that will be on exhibit at the show.

Collectors from throughout the world will be competing for medals and prizes with the exhibits they have spent their lifetimes acquiring and researching.

Review the list of competitive exhibits and pick out those you most want to see. Make a note of the frame numbers and locations so you do not waste a lot of time hunting for them.

Many interesting exhibits of rare material will be displayed in the dealer sales area (called the "bourse").

For example, Mystic Stamp Co. is to show 36 of the controversial Grinnell Hawaiian Missionary stamps at its booth.

A Grinnell Hawaiian Missionary 2¢ blue stamp bearing part of a red Honolulu postmark is shown in Figure 1.

The Smithsonian Institution's National Postal Museum will have a large area within the show where you can see some of the gems from the U.S. national collection.

This will undoubtedly encourage you to pay a visit to the museum, which is only a few blocks (about one mile) from the show site. I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity.

The U.S. Postal Service and other postal administrations will be issuing many new stamps and conducting first-day ceremonies during the show.

It is always fun to attend these events and witness stamp history being made.

U.S. stamps to be issued during the show include the 40-stamp 39¢ Wonders of America: Land of Superlatives pane, the 39¢ Samuel de Champlain stamp, the Washington 2006 souvenir sheet of three stamps, and the six 39¢ Distinguished American Diplomats stamps.

The Washington 2006 souvenir sheet of three, shown in Figure 2, incorporates the designs of three definitive stamps issued in 1923: a $1 Lincoln Memorial stamp, a $2 U.S. Capitol stamp and a $5 America stamp.

The Samuel de Champlain stamp and souvenir sheet will be a joint issue with Canada. Canada will also issue a 51¢ stamp, and the U.S. Postal Service and Canada Post will jointly issue a souvenir sheet that includes two U.S. and two Canadian stamps.

The U.S. Department of the Interior will also issue the $15 Ross's Geese federal waterfowl migratory hunting and conservation stamp during the show.

Many other postal administrations will have stations at the show where you can buy new issues and have philatelic souvenirs postmarked.

Canada Post will issue the 51¢ Fay Wray stamp, shown in Figure 3, along with three other Canadians in Hollywood stamps, the subjects of which will not be announced until the day of issue.

The show will have an enormous area for children. It is designed to entertain and educate youth on the joyous hobby of stamp collecting.

Kids will have many fun activities to complete and will receive free souvenirs from the show.

Bring your children or grandchildren and make this a family event that will be remembered for years.

With a show this size, it is quite easy to become exhausted.

Even if you are having the time of your life, having fun can be tiring. Take frequent breaks from your activities.

Be sure to eat breakfast and lunch. Sit down and relax and just people watch for a while. Make new friends. Talk with other collectors. Believe it or not, they are as friendly as you are.

Wear comfortable shoes. Nothing ruins an international stamp show quicker than sore feet.

I always like to wear a jacket with pockets when I go to a show. The pockets are handy for stowing stamp tongs, want lists or small change. You might also need the jacket for warmth if the air conditioning is working too well.

Another handy item is a shoulder bag or a small rolling suitcase with lots of storage space for all your supplies and goodies acquired at the show.

If you can't make it to the Washington 2006 show, plan now to attend the next largest stamp show that will be held in the United States this year. Stampshow 2006 will take place in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 24-27.

It won't be quite as large as the international show in Washington, but it will be the next biggest show, so all of the advice given above applies to that show as well.

More information can be found on the APS web site at

Come experience the hands-on excitement of a great big stamp show. You'll be glad you did.

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