Jesse F. Knight

One of the nice things about collecting stamps is that you can be alone and work on your collection by yourself if you want.

On the other hand, there are probably plenty of times when you would like someone to work with you on your collection, someone to ask a question, or someone to show this or that great stamp you just found.

That's what makes stamp shows such great places. In one place are gathered any number of stamp collectors, young and old, and dealers from all over the country, all who have the same interest as you.

Stamp shows are held all year around, but major shows often occur in the spring or early summer. Stamp shows are held in all parts of the country and in cities large and small, so it is likely there will be one near you at some time in the future.

Last year I attended Westpex, a stamp show in San Francisco. I would like to share with you some of the things I saw and did. Although I am talking about one show, most stamp shows have roughly the same events and activities.

Right beside where I entered the show, they set up a large board where they posted information on all the different meetings and seminars that were going to go on during the three days of the show.

During most stamp shows special clubs will hold meetings. If you collect a certain type of stamp--say airmail stamps or stamps from Scandinavia or covers or whatever--then attending such a meeting is a wonderful way to meet others who have your same interests and enthusiasms as you.

Many stamp shows will have some seminars, so you can listen to what experts have to say about a certain topic. You ask questions. The subject matter could be anything from how to identify forgeries to an in-depth look at a certain kind of stamp.

I looked over the calendar of events and found out they were having a seminar for new collectors. I marked the time down for later.

Next, I looked at the exhibits. I enjoy seeing what other people are collecting and how they present their material. I saw a wonderful exhibit on Leonardo de Vinci. It had many beautiful stamps from different countries. There was another exhibit called "The Lone Eagle". It had covers that were autographed and actually flown by Charles Lindberg, the world famous pilot. There were exhibits of Israeli stamps and revenue stamps and Brazilian stamps and stamps of sword fights. There was an exhibit by a girl of dozens of different Love stamps and postmarks. Even if you aren't interested in everything, surely there will be something you will enjoy seeing.

I looked at my watch and noticed it was time to attend the meeting for novice stamp collectors. There were all kinds of kids at the meeting, both boys and girls of many races and nationalities. The man and woman who were supervised the meeting showed how to remove stamps from paper, how to dry them, and how to mount them in an album. The man showed how to find a stamp in an album. He told all sorts of interesting stories about stamps--how stamps first started and who can be on a stamp and the different types of stamps. Throughout the meeting, kids asked questions: how hot should the water be to soak off stamp? Luke warm, he answered. Why do you use tongs and how many stamps have been issued by the U.S. All the kids got to locate some stamps in an album and mount them.

After the meeting, I talked with the kids. For some of them this was their first time working with stamps. Others knew quite a bit about stamp collecting. A couple collected Disney stamps like I do. I talked with them about trading stamps.

After the meeting broke up, I stopped for lunch. Then afterward I walked around some of the booths. Different clubs had literature and pamphlets available and someone to answer questions.

Westpex had a Youth Activity Center, where you could look at different stamps and learn about stamp clubs in the area. There was an older stamp collector to answer all your questions and help you out if you wanted. I asked questions about a stamp I wanted to identify; I couldn't tell the country. She showed me how to recognize it, and together we looked it up in a stamp finder. Also, we worked with how to read the perforation guide I brought with me.

In a large adjoining room, there were dealers from all over the country. Some of the dealers had old classic stamps, some had covers, some had stamps of just a few countries, like Japan or France or India. Some of the dealers had topics. I looked through their material for stamps I am interested in.

Stamp shows are a great chance to visit many dealers without having to go their stores.

Usually when I stop at a table I give the dealer some idea of what I am looking for. I also give a rough idea of how much I want to spend. If I am looking for Disney stamps and he doesn't have any, or if I have five dollars and everything he has is priced at $100, then I can find out right away. It is a good idea not to handle anything unless the dealer says it's okay.

Most stamp shows have dealers with a range of prices. You will find covers at 50 cents each up to ten or a hundred dollars and more.

What I usually do is make the rounds of all the dealers and narrow it down to the few that I can tell will have something of interest for me. Then I go back to those and look more carefully at what each has to offer. I never buy right away; I like to look everything over. Eventually, I decide what I want.

Sometimes the dealer area can seem a little intimidating the first time or two that you go to a stamp show. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Most dealers are friendly. After all, you are a customer, and if they make you happy, you might buy their stamps in years to come.

Going to Westpex was an adventure I would recommend to any young stamp collector. I made some new friends. I found some collectors with the same interests as me. Maybe I can trade with some of them. I bought some stamps I needed for my collection from a dealer who I would never have the chance to visit otherwise, since he is from Arizona. I learned plenty of new ideas. I saw some pretty amazing exhibits. Maybe I'll make my own exhibit some day!

In the meantime, I'm going to keep attending stamp shows. They're a lot of fun!

Jesse F. Knight

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Richard M. Parke 3/28/97

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