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Displaying Your Stamps And Covers

By John M. Hotchner

Collecting is, in general, a visual sport. The ultimate objective is to be able to see and appreciate a physical object. For stamp collectors, that translates to each of us having to settle on the way(s) in which we will display our material, and for whose benefit. Most, I think, choose some version of an album — anything from a stock book of some sort, to a commercial album with a space for each major variety issued by country X. In between is the self-made album; increasingly popular given the availability of computer resources; and especially appropriate if we like to add color varieties, interesting cancellations, plate singles, or other marginal markings to our collections.

For most of us, the ultimate consumer is ourselves. If we show off our stuff to family or a trading buddy there is no special preparation involved. We show off what we prepare for our own enjoyment. On the other end of this scale is philatelic exhibiting. Here, we abandon preprinted pages in favor of presenting the results of our search for specialized material and what we have learned about it through study of the material itself, and philatelic literature. The ultimate consumer is other collectors, and philatelic judges who reward our efforts with medals.

What I want to explore today is the space between organizing a collection for one's own enjoyment and formal exhibiting for prizes. In other words, there are many possible audiences and many possible methods for sharing the results of our collecting. But perhaps the first question to answer is this: Why would we even want to do that?

It is a basic element of humanity that nearly all of us want to be understood or at least appreciated for our accomplishments. Although stamp collecting is more often a solitary pursuit, it is still nice if our nearest and dearest have a sense of its joys, and that comes from our showing off what we have done, and explaining those joys in words to those who will listen.

Another major reason for "showing off our collection is to amaze and educate other stamp collectors who can truly appreciate the work we have put into our collection. Finally, we might all think of ourselves as ambassadors of philately, or of our special collecting areas, to potential collectors.

How can we do these things effectively? Let me count the ways:

  • Connect through presenting your material according to the interests of your audience. If your spouse is into cooking, history, human rights, or whatever else, try to select material to show off that reflects that interest.
  • Use philatelic material to illustrate aspects of their lifeóissues from the year that special someone was born, that illustrate where they have lived, their occupation, where the great grandparents came from. The subjects to illustrate are limited only by your imagination. Then do a framed gift: Attractive stamps nicely arranged in a nice frame can make a nice (and inexpensive) birthday giftóor a display item for a family reunion.
  • Do a one-to-four page display of stamps for your local post office, library, doctor's office, etc. The subject can relate to where the display will be hung, or on some aspect of your collecting interest that you think the general public might find interesting.
  • Give a ten minute talk at meetings of non-stamp clubs you belong to: a local garden club, church women's group, bar association, etc. Illustrate it with stamps from your collection neatly arranged on stock cards or album pages.
  • Have you children at school? Help them integrate stamps into reports that they prepare? Not only will the report stand out from others, but you may sow some seeds with your kids.
  • Have you a relative who is a teacher? Talk with him or her about how they might use stamps to support their curriculum; whether you might come in to class and show off some of your stamps, or even put up a display.
  • Use the resources of national clubs and societies: Whatever you collect from air mail to test stamps, there is a specialty society that has a regular journal and probably, a website. Editors and webmasters are always delighted to have new material to show. You don't even need to own the material you show. You only need to organize some text and illustrations into a short presentation to show what your interests are, perhaps an item you consider a highlight, or one that puzzles you and you need help with answers.
  • Consider the Internet. If you have a website of your own, or enjoy involvement in a social networking site, then this might well be a home for trumpeting your interest in stamp collecting, and using stamps to try to connect with possible friends.
I'm sure there are a dozen more ways through which you can 'go public' with your interest in the hobby of stamp collecting. Watch for opportunities. If you have been in the closet, and just a little leery about letting others know of your interest, you have been missing one of the true joys of the hobby. There are many more collectors out there than you realize, and many others with an interest, who might become collectors if there were an angel willing to help them along.

That angel could be you.

Should you wish to comment on this editorial, or have questions or ideas you would like to have explored in a future column, please write to John Hotchner, VSC Contributor, P.O. Box 1125, Falls Church, VA 22041-0125, or email, putting "VSC" in the subject line, at jmhstamp@verizon.net

How have you shown your collection to others? Join us in the message board and tell us about it.

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