Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs (WFSC)
2000 Across the Fence Post Newsletter
 Exhibiting and Judging

          This page includes Exhibiting and Judging columns from the 2000 issues of Across the Fence Post.

January issue

By Art Schmitz, Wauwatosa Philatelic Society

Like a lot of us, when I'm riding in someone else's car, I'm quietly driving it in my mind. And, when I'm looking at an exhibit at a stamp show, I'm judging it, whether I'm one of the designated members of the jury or not. It's kind of a fun thing, because I don't have to worry about meeting club guidelines, WFSC require-ments, or APS criteria in making my decisions.

When it comes to adult exhibits, I revel in being a nitpicker when I can do so for the sheer fun of it. One of the problems with this approach is that I rarely get to learn how my evaluations compared with the folks who were doing the actual judging.

If any of you were at CHICAGOPEX '99,

I'd be interested in knowing if you saw some of the same blatant errors that caught my eye. Two particularly stood out.

In an otherwise worthy exhibit of U.S. stamps circa 1861-67, there was a reference to a recent issue compared to an earlier one. The exhibitor meant to, or should have used the word "latter" instead of the word "later." As the old song went, "What a difference a T

makes." In this case "T" for tag, the German word for "day."

The other most outstanding mistake was in an exhibit of airmail stamps relating to Lindbergh's early days as an airmail pilot. This one was hilarious and reminded me of the movie "Back to the Future." The exhibitor's writeup had Lindbergh's flight departing on "13-12-28" and arriving at its destination on "13-2-28," 10 months before he took off!

What concerns me as a judge in situations like the above are the reasons for such errors. One of them, as in the case of using "later" instead of "latter," is ignorance due to a language problem based on a serious deficiency in the knowledge of what words really mean, and the correct spelling of words that are very similar to each other. It's usually a good idea to double-check even the most common words with a dictionary.

Another reason for mistakes, especially when using a typewriter or computer word processor is the typo, or typographical error. Although this may be somewhat easier to justify, and even easier to correct, there's no excuse for an exhibitor not taking the time to double-check the printed copy.

But how does one justify the striking error of transposed dates in the writeup for an exhibit? From my own experience as an exhibitor I know how often one gets caught up

in the bind of trying to have the exhibit ready in time for the show. This is when exhibitors must cut the wires to the panic button and force themselves to take that critical second look to check the perfection of all the details before committing their works to the sympathetic eyes of judges like myself.

February issue

By Art Schmitz Wauwatosa Philatelic Society

    Why be a judge? I've asked myself this question only once. But I had an advantage that most of my peers didn't experience. Throughout my professional career as an educator, I was in the daily business of judging.

    While dealing with seriously mentally and physically challenged little children, adolescents, and adults, the very success of the moment depended on accurately appraising behavior and output. Even a small error in judgment could result in traumatic reactions.

    So, when it came to judging philatelic material, I found a totally new, but more subtly demanding form of making evaluations. The exhibits were static, silent, and non-reactive, and these were the pluses.

    My fellow judges, although philatelically knowledgeable, had little or no experience judging or evaluating the performance of others on a daily and interactive basis. I have to admit, though, to being in considerable awe of some, like Carl Skupski, many years my senior and a philatelist of extraordinary experience and knowledge. He and others like Vern Witt (fortunately still with us) were more than willing to share their expertise in kind and understanding ways to a novice who, although possessing a comprehensive knowledge of the hobby, still had an awful lot to learn.

    I couldn't believe my own naiveté when Carl laughingly pointed out that the German Graf Zeppelins we saw in an exhibit were in fact album illustrations of the stamps that had been mounted as an exhibit! We agreed to simply not consider it for any award and often wondered if the exhibitor was indulging in a practical joke.

    Maybe I've been incredibly lucky, but only once have I encountered a fellow judge who was so imbued with a sense of his own importance that he arrogantly assumed that the other two judges were totally incompetent idiots because their tallies didn't completely agree with his. Such tallies are discussed while making decisions about exhibit awards.

    The greatest distinction between the judgments I made as an educator and those made, as a judge at a stamp show was an intangible quality. As an educator, I was seen as the trained professional equipped with the expertise to make whatever judgments were required. At the local or state level of shows I've judged in Wisconsin, I've always felt as if I was just another philatelist who'd been through the exhibition mill long enough to have earned the right to judge, but not necessarily looked at with any degree of awe by the exhibitors. And that's not all bad, because it helps preserve a needed degree of humility.

    I 've judged some shows where other judges have said, "OK Art, you can do the critique" and left the scene. I didn't mind doing that because experience has taught me that the exhibitors' feedback during the critique could be an extremely valuable lesson if only in learning how to deal with defensive reactions without losing one's dignity. The first time this happened was also the only time I asked myself the question that is the subject of this article. And, it's also the first thing mentioned under "Requirements for Becoming a Judge" in the fourth edition of the American Philatelic Society's Manual of Philatelic Judging. •

March issue No column this issue

April issue     

By Art Schmitz, Wauwatosa Philatelic Society

Some time ago, I was asked to write about the distinction between traditional and contemporary exhibits. I've taken some time to peruse literature from our WFSC material to the latest APS Manual of Philatelic Judging just to see if there was something I missed along the way.

    I haven't found anything that makes a distinction as such between the two types of exhibits, if indeed there is any such thing. The one thing that does come into the picture, of course, are some of the variations on judging criteria that apply to thematic or topical exhibits.

    There are some things that have changed through the years. When I first was exposed to stamp shows in the Milwaukee area in the late 1940s, pages with a fine gray quadrille in the background were a preferred method of showing one's philatelic material. I suspect that part of the rationale was that it made for somewhat easier lining up of the stamps and/or covers on a page and the hand-printed lettering that was involved.

    There was a time, too, when black pages were the order of the day because it was felt that they accentuated the details of the stamps mounted thereon. As time went by, it was felt the same effect could be had using white pages and transparent mounts with a black background. Today, for the most part, white pages with mounts with transparent backgrounds leave the stamps and/or covers to assert themselves to the viewer with no extraneous borders to distract.

    From the time of their inception in the late 1940s or early 1950s, preprinted pages with colorful displays of flags or other material at the top have never found favor with judges of exhibits at any level: local, state, or national. There were exceptions made in the judging of youth exhibits because it was understood that they might lack the understanding of why such pages were not favored. That is, it is the stamps or other philatelic materials that are the sole reason for exhibiting in the first place, and as such should be able to stand on their own merits.

    In the same vein, this is the main reason why, even with most adult exhibits, photographs and drawings intended to clarify or enhance an exhibit are usually not considered by judges. In fact, they may be considered in a negative light. For me, personally, the rare exception to this rule would be postal history material with maps of certain locations germane to canceled material on display.

    Today, many adult exhibitors and youth have the advantage of using computer-generated pages for mounting an exhibit. So, as I see it, the sole distinction between traditional and contemporary exhibits is only in the way they look, but vastly different in the way the pages are prepared.

May/June issue No column this issue

July/August issue No column this issue

September issue  

By Art Schmitz,Wauwatosa Philatelic Society

Able to attend STAMPSHOW 2000 in London I found answers. The show catalog was worth the price of admission. It had a comprehensive listing of exhibits, exhibitors, dealers, and postal agencies and was replete with explanations and definitions.

The first less-than FIP Championship Class shown in the catalog is the Traditional Class! It is identified as exhibits examining the stamp issues of a particular country or a group of countries. The class is divided into five sections: United Kingdom, The Commonwealth, the. Americas, Europe, and the rest of the world.

The Postal History Class equaled the Traditional in the number and the sections into which it was divided.

The Postal Stationery Class included items on which there's an indication that the prepaid postage has been imprinted, followed by the Revenue Class including stamps and similar items prepared for fiscal and revenue purposes.

The Aero philatelic Class - there's some-thing macabre about collecting specimens from crashes of planes carrying mail.

The Thematics Class was defined as exhibits that concentrate on the design subject rather than the country or issue of the material. I'd like to see some reference made to the purpose and subject matter for which the material was issued.

The Youth Class is judged in four sections: those aged up to 15 years, those aged 16 and 17 years, those aged 18 and 19 years, and those aged 20 and 21 years. I'd like to see similar groupings for youth below the age of 15 as we have in Wisconsin shows.

The Maximaphily Class involving a relationship between the postcard, stamp, and cancellation had only three exhibits.

The Open Class provides interesting exhibits, which stimulate both the committed and new collector, and permits the inclusion of a certain amount of non-philatelic material.

There were only five exhibits in the Astrophilatelic Class, relating to material pertinent to space flights.

The Literature Class was the last one mentioned. •

October issue

Forward to the Future

By Art Schmitz, Wauwatosa Philatelic Society

Let's take a quick look, not only at what may be ahead of us when it comes to exhibiting and judging stamp shows, but what's already here - because that's what's going to make the difference.

One of the unique experiences of STAMPSHOW 2000 in London was being able to have one's picture taken and immediately reproduced in se-tenant stamp format with an actual good-for-postage British postage stamp. As I understand it, the idea originated in Australia and is spreading. I can foresee some interesting questions arising if photos of the owner appear with philatelically valid material in an exhibit at a stamp show.

In this country, one of our latest issues will have to be shown either in mint condition or still tied to the cover on which it was used, because it's been found that soaking removes the hologram appearing on the stamp.

I don't know if this has become an exhibiting issue or not, but with more and more stamps coming out as self-adhesives, mint copies shown at an exhibition will probably have to remain on the backing on which they came. This would be particularly the case for a collector who mounts stamps in an album, as well as storing them in a stock book. I haven't tried to soak any of these from a cover, but I suspect that too could present some problems for storage and/or exhibiting.

As much as the postal people push the interest and value of regularly issued postage stamps for collecting purposes, the tendency of even the most philatelically sophisticated clerks is to push the button for a meter stamp when heavier than usual material is brought in for weighing and mailing. This may not seem significant when related to stamp shows, but it may portend a greater regard for an area of philately that usually gets short shrift in the philatelic media - and that's the so-called meter stamp. Those that I've seen lately do look a lot better than the old, often barely legible pinkish red markings on a plain piece of paper.

By the time you read this, MILCOPEX will be history, part of a long tradition of Wisconsin philatelic exhibitions. For me, this show has more than casual interest because it’s where 1 began my judging as an apprentice judge and where 1 learned in the judging seminar; some of the vital elements of evaluating the exhibits of other collectors -- many of whom were far more knowledgeable and philatelicallv sophisticated than yours truly.

It's also where, as an exhibitor, I learned the hard lesson of what not to tell an exhibitor during a critique of his/her efforts Personally, 1 enjoy doing the critique after having judged a show because it keeps me on my toes. I have pledged myself never to tell exhibitors that they would have done better if they had more valuable material to display That is not what exhibiting is all about.

The philatelic community, in my not-so-humble opinion, owes a debt of appreciation to the topical collectors who are bringing interesting but not too technical exhibits to the collecting masses who attend shows, and even more important to the non-collector who often has the first exposure to the hobby at a show. This is because most topical exhibits are not blessed with high-priced or very rare issues such as the classics of European countries, or British colonials, or U. S. early issues.

Good collecting and take care of your stamps. •

November issue No column this issue

December issue No column this issue

Latest update: June 12, 2005 

URL:   http://www.WFSCstamps.org/wfsc_atfp_exhibiting_2000.shtml