St. Louis Stamp Expo attendees, dealers pleased with show’s success during pandemic
By Alex Haimann
After more than five months since the last World Series of Philately stamp show (Garfield-Perry March Party) took place near Cleveland, Ohio, the St. Louis Stamp Expo in St. Louis, Mo., opened to the public Friday, Aug. 14.
Twenty-one dealers from nine states and the United Kingdom were open for business during the three-day event that concluded Sunday, Aug. 16.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still a significant concern, this year’s St. Louis Stamp Expo was a show unlike any before it. The show committee and the Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel, where the event was held, took a series of steps to make the event as safe as possible.
Leading up to the show, the committee published the following statement (included in show promotional materials mailed to all past attendees and on its website): “In light of current events, We, the St. Louis Stamp Expo Board of Directors and the Volunteer Committee have endeavored to provide a safe and secure environment for our dealers and visitors. We give a warm welcome to all! Please remember that face masks/coverings are not voluntary. They are obligatory for all. All dealers and visitors will have their temperatures taken at the door. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4F will not be admitted. Social distancing must be practiced. In addition all visitors will provide contact info. If you are ill, please stay home. We ask that everyone cooperate, as it is in the best interest of everyone.”
The hotel ballroom space, where the show was held, had a standing capacity of more than 1,000, so even with the St. Louis County capacity reduction requirements for indoor events, there was no problem accommodating the total number of people in the show.
Upon arrival, all attendees had their temperatures checked with an infrared thermometer and received a special sticker for their badge confirming that they had passed the temperature check.
Each day had a different color sticker. This was a one-way system where all attendees had to come through this point. There were additional checks to confirm that attendees had the correct sticker before entering the bourse (dealer sales area).
After the temperature check area, visitors proceeded to the registration booth where they filled out a basic waiver confirming they did not have a list of coronavirus symptoms and that they would not hold the show liable if they contracted COVID-19 during the show.
All attendees also filled out detailed contact information so that if a confirmed COVID-19 case from an attendee or dealer was reported in the days after the show, then all attendees could be contacted.
Multiple security personnel confirmed the temperature check sticker and badge were present when attendees entered and left the show area.
The bourse layout for the show had dealers spread out across the floor with more space between booths than under normal circumstances. Chairs at booths were also spread out to comply with social distancing requirements.
There were several sanitation areas present throughout the bourse area that included hand sanitizer dispensers and extra masks.
I attended all three days of the show and observed that most dealers and attendees complied well with the social distancing requirements. Additionally, I did not hear any complaints from attendees or dealers about the rules set in place related to social distancing, temperature checks or mask requirements.
Numerous dealers commented on Sunday that they were pleased with the business they did at the show.
United Kingdom-based dealer Steve Taylor, a familiar presence on the United States national show circuit, traveled the farthest of any dealer at the show. He said, “I’ve been happy with the customers I’ve had; serious collectors and exhibitors who have spent much higher amounts compared with most of my shows’ average transaction amount.”
Collectors that I spoke with expressed excitement to simply be back at a stamp show in any form.
Fred Boatwright, the show’s bourse chairman, reported at the conclusion of the St. Louis Stamp Expo that “20 out of the 21 attending dealers have already re-upped to have a booth at the 2021 show.”
“We had just shy of 200 attendees across the three days,” Boatwright said.
The show included a section of competitive exhibits. However, because of the pandemic, the show did not set up its youth area or hold a Saturday evening awards banquet.
The show’s dates overlapped the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan (V-J) Day, which occurred Aug. 15, 1945, and effectively ended World War II.
Show cachets (decorative cover designs) were designed by Tom Minor.
One dealer, who preferred not to be named, stated in the final hour before closing on Sunday: “We have to start somewhere with getting shows operating again in the new normal created by the pandemic. I feel the St. Louis show and the hotel have done as good of a job as can be expected to keep everyone safe while still operating a good stamp show. Hopefully, other shows around the country will take note and build upon the success here.”
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