by Jennifer Flippance, London 2010 Project Officer
Stamp shows are an important element of philately and stamp collecting, providing an opportunity for collectors to catch up with friends, purchase items, exchange material, attend society meetings and enter their collections in competition.
Last weekend, I took a trip out to the first show of the year to be held by one of the regional federations of the Association of British Philatelic Societies, the Thames Valley & District Philatelic Federation stamp show – Westbex 2009. It was hosted by the Thatcham and District Philatelic Society, a popular stamp club of over 80 members who meet twice a month. The show took up two halls in a local school, which were mainly filled with dealers, catering for a wide range of tastes and budgets.
In addition there were prize-winning displays from members. Stamp collecting has an active competitive element. Enthusiasts collect, write up and display a topic of their choosing and these displays can be entered into a variety of classes. These range from the more formal classes like traditional philately and postal history, but also include thematic classes and open classes where a much wider range of material, beyond stamps, can be displayed.
The National Philatelic Society also held a meeting where members could present a small selection of their collection. These covered a broad range of subjects, from Machin stamps to posted autographs, to the history of the Post Office Savings Bank.
I found one prize-winning exhibit particularly interesting. Its subject was W. Reginald Bray (1879-1939), who experimented by sending items through the post that challenged the postal system, for example, by being unusual objects or through having challenging addresses.
Bray posted himself (he is actually believed to be the first ‘human letter’) and the family dog, along with less animated items such as a turnip, sheep’s skull and bowler hat.
Some of the fascinating items on display from this eccentric individual included postcards made from shirt cuffs and others addressed, ‘to a resident of…‘ followed by an image of the town cut from a picture postcard with no other clue as to where it might be. Some letters had addresses written in verse or picture puzzles. Many were returned, officially stamped (and you can imagine the rather vexed postal employee) ‘CONTRARY TO REGULATIONS’ or ‘INSUFFICIENTLY ADDRESSED’.
Next year, ABPS regional shows like WestBex, will form part of the London 2010: Festival of Stamps, aiming to attract new members to this rewarding hobby. The dates of 2010 shows are available at www.london2010.org.uk/exhibitions-and-events