US Stamps

How to add pop to your Chicago World’s Fair stamp collection: Tip of the week

Aug 4, 2016, 4 AM
The beautifully engraved 1893 Columbian Exposition tickets make a nice addition of collateral material to a stamp collection and are a good buy at $10 to $25 each.

By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

The Chicago World’s Fair and Chicago Columbian Exposition, held May 1 to Oct. 30, 1893, is well-known to stamp collectors because of the set of 16 stamps (Scott 230-245) issued to commemorate it. The event marked the 400th anniversary of Christpher Columbus’ first voyage to the New World. There are other collectibles associated with the event that can enhance a collection.

Souvenir portrait tickets were sold for entrance to the event. The six tickets picture George Frideric Handel, George Washington, Christopher Columbus, an American Indian in feathered headdress, Abraham Lincoln, and Benjamin Franklin.

Columbian Exposition tickets are beautifully engraved and can add pop to any collection. At the moment, they are also hot with several categories of collectors actively buying them.

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Many of the collectors who are driving the prices up have no historical or market perspective to realize how common these tickets are. More than 27 million people attended the event, and large numbers of tickets survive.

Despite being relatively common, the set of six engraved tickets usually sells for $300 or more. Highly graded examples with perfect centering, undamaged corners, and bright paper sell individually for enormous prices. 

Dealers are actively snapping up sets of six tickets, because they know they can quickly turn them around with a good mark up. The scarcest engraved ticket is the one featuring Handel. But scarcity doesn’t seem to be what is driving today’s market. 

You can probably buy the individual tickets for $10 to $25 each. You can find plenty being sold to collecting novices for more, but there are enough to go around at lower prices. When buying, just make sure that the tickets are bright, fresh, and undamaged.