World Stamps

Plan ahead to get the most out of WSS-NY 2016

May 18, 2016, 6 AM

By Fred Baumann

What could be better than eight days of the hobby we all love in “the City that Never Sleeps?”

Between May 28 and June 4, New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center will host more than 60 hours of philately at its finest. America will proudly welcome the world to its once-in-a-decade international stamp show, World Stamp Show-NY 2016, with almost seven acres of dealers, exhibits, meetings, displays, auctions and philatelic fellowship.

It’s an event you’ll remember for a lifetime — a cornucopia of collecting opportunities, events and interests for every age and level of the stamp hobby — with a genuinely global offering of stamps and postal history from Abu Dhabi to Zululand.

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When all is said and done, show organizers expect more than a quarter-million stamp collectors — from curious first-timers and enthusiastic, youthful beginners to many of the world’s foremost dealers, collectors and exhibitors — to take part in this historic convocation. What will unite us all is our love of the stamp hobby, and the pleasure we share in our philatelic pastime.

We’ll be united by something else as well: a motivation to make the most of this exceptional but limited opportunity. As the antique clock on the nearby stamp from Czechoslovakia reminds us, “tempus fugit,” time flies, and waits for no one, young or old, rich or poor. A little wise planning now will help you make sure you get the most out of World Stamp Show-NY 2016.

If you have been attending regional- and national-level stamp shows in North America for years, you may wonder why you need to spend time thinking over what you’ll do at this one.

Here’s why: World Stamp Show-NY 2016 will be nothing like an average, or even a superlative, U.S. or Canadian stamp show. Eight days in length, and filling an area larger than five NFL football fields, World Stamp Show-NY 2016 will be more like three to five such shows, taking place end-to-end, on steroids. That is why the event’s organizers have been working for a full decade to bring this to fruition.

Here are some of the big differences.

At the shows you attend, do you buy stamps from the U.S. Postal Service? At this show, the USPS will be one of more than 60 different postal bureaus, representing a vast array of stamp-issuing nations, offering recent issues and more. A number are slated to hold exciting first-day-of-issue events, too. Surprises await!

Do you like to visit with collecting organizations that share your interests during a show? World Stamp Show-NY 2016 will host well over a hundred such societies and study groups covering the complete range of philatelic specialties, hosting hundreds of seminars, meetings and get-to-know-us events. They’re coming to New York City to meet you, too.

Do you enjoy catching up with your favorite dealers, looking to see what new items they have for you? At World Stamp Show-NY 2016, more than 200 dealers will be selling and buying stamps, covers, collections, postal stationery, postcards and a vast array of philatelic supplies and specialty items. If that’s not enough, there will be five outstanding auctions with material chosen with care from three continents conducted between Monday, May 30, and Friday, June 3.

And who doesn’t like to spend a bit of time taking in the exhibits, seeing fine displays by others who share your particular passions? World Stamp Show-NY 2016will have 4,500 frames of breathtaking displays, many of them developed to the very highest level of international quality specifically for this event, competing for prestigious awards. (That’s 72,000 display pages in all, give or take a few.)

Did I mention the court of honor, showcasing superb collections, many of them now retired from successful careers of active competition and some of the world’s greatest rarities?

There’s so much going on that even if you spent every one of the show’s 3,630 available minutes, it simply would be impossible to take it all in. If you did nothing else, you could see every single exhibit — and you’d have 48 seconds per frame, which adds up to three seconds per page.

Reinforcing the remarkable scale of such a show is this nearby photo of one small part of the floor at Washington 2006, the last U.S. international exhibition. Seats are busy at the dealer’s bourse that fills most of the foreground, and there’s a presentation or an auction going on in the red-carpeted area at left. In the background on the left is a kid’s zone for younger beginners, and a few of the exhibit frames are barely visible in the distance at center and right. 

The point of this preview is not to make you feel daunted by this embarrassment of riches, or overwhelmed by everything that is available. Like New York City itself, the key to enjoying your visit is in spending the planning time that you do have available now making wise choices about how to make the most of your time at this amazing event.

Here are four tips that should help make that possible.

1. Be Realistic

The hardest challenge may be to rationally determine what is possible. Whether you’re spending an afternoon and hope to find a few nice stamps, or have plenty on your want-list and in your wallet and a week to spend it, a realistic look at what you hope to accomplish and what you have available to do so will minimize post-show regrets.

 “Realistic” means being sensible about what you can do and should attempt. If you’re flying in on the red eye from the West Coast, or driving in from Chicago, don’t plan on attending with little or no rest. A full day of shopping for stamps and covers or viewing auction lots demands more stamina than many people realize, so try to minimize the load you carry to the show.

Get a good sleep before you go, and dress for comfort and freedom of movement. Comfortable walking shoes are a must that you’ll never regret. A reliable watch is worthwhile as well; cell phone reception in the Javits Center may be iffy, so planning a time and place to meet in advance may be more practical that trying to call fellow show-goers on the fly.

If blood sugar and hydration are issues for you, be sure you don’t skip meals. All but the first and last days of the show, the doors open at 10 a.m. and close at 6 p.m., which should give you time enough to get a decent breakfast before you arrive and make a suitable choice for dinner when you depart.

2. Review Resources

In terms of your available time, what day or days are you going to the show? Where are you staying, and how long will it take to get back and forth from there to the Javits Center?

As far as your finances go, make an overall budget, remembering to plan generously for a place to stay, food and transportation. What’s left after you deduct these necessities should be what you have available for acquisitions for your collection, hobby supplies, joining a society and similar likely World Stamp Show-NY 2016 expenditures.

If you plan to use a credit card, set a reasonable ceiling for the amount you can afford before you go to the show. Much more important — and considerably harder — is the requirement that you stick to it, even when temptation is frantically tugging at your sleeve.

If you do find the collectible of your dreams at a price you just cannot currently afford, ask to speak directly to the dealer or auctioneer. Explain your situation and see if you can arrive at a payment plan that will get you what you want without forcing you to subsist on hot dogs for the next year. Remember, the dealer wants to make the sale, too, and odds are always good that two motivated parties can come to a mutually acceptable arrangement.

3. Consult the WSS-NY 2016 Printed and Online Guides

One of the most useful documents at any international philatelic exhibition is the show program guide, typically available as you enter the venue. More than a marvelous show souvenir, it also can be an invaluable tool to find what’s available, and when and where to find it. At World Stamp Show-NY 2016, three Linn’s show editions also will be produced with valuable show information.

For example, most of World Stamp Show-NY 2016 is being held on Level 3 (street level) of the 1.8 million-square-foot Javits Center, but many of the more than 100 meetings of various collector organizations will take place on Level 1. The maps and schedules in the show program guide will help you figure out where you want to go when you need to be there. Much of this information is now available at the Meetings and Events page on the World Stamp Show 2016 website

The show program guide and special editions of Linn’s will also help you find the names of dealers catering to your philatelic specialties, while the floor layout map will be the easiest way to find them. Again, you’ll find listings for most booth-holders at the online Dealers Search List, many of which include links to their individual websites and emails. Why not drop them a line to let them know when you’ll be there and what you are hoping to find?

As the show approaches, catalogs for the auctions will likewise appear online. Go through those online listings ahead of time from the comfort of your study to find the items you must see and the larger lots you’ll want to review, rather than waiting after you arrive to figure out what you really want to see on the spot.

4. Relax and Enjoy Yourself

At last, you’re all ready. You’ve arranged accommodations, sketched out a doable itinerary, emailed friends about where and when you’ll meet, and sent your want-list to dealers you know will be there. You have a budget (and the resolve to make it work), and made sure you’ll pack everything you need, from tongs to Tums. What now?

Take a breath and relax — seriously.

As with every other human activity, there’s a point at which preparation becomes counter-productive, causing rather than alleviating worry and stress. You’re not going to this great show to fret, fume and fuss over what you might be missing; you’re going for philately, and to have fun. Part of the key to your enjoyment should be leaving at least some time open to sights, opportunities and adventures that may not unfold until you’re there.

Thirty years ago, the dealer I was working for during Ameripex 86 in Chicago generously gave me most of a day to see that great show just after it opened. Our son was nine months old, and we really had no money to spare, so I decided to skip the bourse and instead visit the court of honor and see a few of the top exhibits for places I collected. It turned out to be a wise choice, and to this day I remember an amazing amount about the stunning stamps and covers I saw.

Plan not to plan everything. By all means make the most of World Stamp Show-NY 2016, but leave time for the unexpected, too. I know you’ll be glad you did.

More content to help you get ready for World Stamp Show-NY 2016:

Some tips for enjoying your stay in New York City during World Stamp Show-NY 2016

Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board plans panel discussion at World Stamp Show: Editorial Insights

Duck art tour at World Stamp Show; update on 2016 contest rules