World Stamps

London 1980: my first international stamp show

Apr 29, 2021, 6 PM
Janet Klug sent many cacheted covers from the London 1980 international show to friends and family, including this first-day cover she sent to herself.

By Janet Klug

Stamps will take you places. It is undeniable. Even if your journey is taken while sitting in your favorite chair and placing stamps from faraway countries into your albums. That counts as “going places.” If you get up out of your armchair and attend a stamp show, that too constitutes “going places.”

In 1980, my stamp hobby took me and my noncollector husband to London to attend our first international stamp show. It required a long-range plan, the hospitality of dear friends, and a comfortable aircraft. (Ah, those were the good old days!) Our friends took us sightseeing and escorted us to Earl’s Court, where the London 1980 International Stamp Exhibition was held. 

I remember going through the doors, paying for the admission and then being selected to go through a security line because I had a handbag and a box of cacheted envelopes that would end up with stamps and postmarks for my stamp collecting buddies back home. I was surprised at having to go through security, but the penny dropped later in the day when Queen Elizabeth II arrived to review her Royal Exhibit that was on display. That sure gave me something to crow about! You never know who you might see at a stamp show. 

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I remember visiting the Royal Mail kiosk where I bought stamps to affix to my thoroughly inspected covers, and then I deposited them into a special letter box so they would get the show postmark. The covers beat me home.

Time was spent visiting stamp dealers whose ads I remembered seeing in Linn’s Stamp News. Did I buy anything? Probably, but I don’t remember what. There were what seemed to be miles of frames containing the most fabulous exhibits. It was overwhelming, and we only had one day to take it all in. There were other things we wanted to see in London. 

I learned a lot about international stamp shows during my premier visit to one. The most obvious lesson was that one day was not nearly enough. It takes about that much time to find your bearings within very large and crowded facilities. It is likely that visitors will have to stand in line to see the magnificent stamps in the court of honor and, in London, the Royal Exhibit. The most popular dealers also had long lines, and I remember standing in line to buy current Great Britain stamps at the Royal Mail kiosk. 

My first visit to an international stamp show was certainly memorable. I’ve attended many more since 1980, but each time I go to one of these I come away with more ideas to make my visits more fun and more productive. Here are my tips:

1. You need at least three days at the show or longer if you can.

2. Wear comfortable shoes.

3. Plan ahead for what you want to see and do, especially if you hope to attend some meetings and seminars that often get forgotten if you are busy making purchases.

4. Your schedule can eat up all your time, including the time you use to eat. Pack a few granola bars in your backpack just in case.

5. Don’t expect to read every page of every exhibit. Pick the ones that interest you most. If there is extra time, you can always go back to look at more exhibits.

6. Bring a want list (and money) if you plan on finding new items for your collection.

7. Find old friends and make some new ones. Just chatting with someone sitting next to you at a dealer’s booth can be very pleasant.

8. Make good memories, and remember: This is fun!

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