Welcome to the world of exhibiting!
It’s great that you are thinking about exhibiting your revenue material competitively – well done! The most important thing to bear in mind before you start is that exhibiting competitively is not the same as giving a society display. When you display, you can show whatever you want – there is no judge but you; whereas when you exhibit competitively, you are subjecting your work to being judged by others. Competing means aiming to please the judges, and unfortunately a good display doesn’t necessarily make for a good competitive exhibit.
Here are some guidelines to help you start creating an exhibit, but you need to bear in mind that all judging is inevitably subjective and there are no hard and fast rules to guarantee you a gold medal.
First things first
Here are the initial questions you will need to decide:
1. At what level do you want to compete – national or international?
If you are reading these guidelines, the answer is probably national. Most philatelic exhibitions require exhibitors to achieve a certain result at national level in order to qualify to compete at international.
2. How many frames do you wish to show?
At national level the choice is usually between 1, 3 or 4 frames of 16 sheets each. Don’t simply work out how many sheets your material will fill, otherwise you will be tempted to show your entire collection. It is important to be selective, so the key is to choose the right number of sheets to tell your story (see under Treatment below).
3. What subject will you choose to exhibit?
Your ideal exhibit is something you are excited about, something you can show well, something you have researched, something coherent.
All national competitive exhibits are judged by nationally accredited judges using the same criteria. Here are the seven headings under which national revenue exhibits are judged, together with some suggestions as to how to maximise your score under each heading. The figures in brackets denote the maximum number of points available for each heading.
Philatelic and related knowledge (max 25 points) and Personal study and research (max 10 points)
If you are going to exhibit revenues, you have to know what you are showing. You will already know what the major catalogues say about your topic. Expand this knowledge base by finding relevant monographs and journal articles. A useful resource for finding published research is the Revenue Society’s Librarian Clive Akerman (who can be telephoned on +44 (0)1594 861593 or E: Clive Akerman ). Demonstrate the breadth and depth of your reading by referring to relevant material in your write-up.
To gain points for personal study, your write-up must contain information beyond what can be found in major catalogues. If you have not published any research, it is worth trying to get a piece into The Revenue Journal in order to support your exhibit. An article need be only half a page long and does not have to be world-class philatelic journalism. Pretty much regardless of your field, fruitful areas for research would include (on the stamp side) changes of watermark, perforation, paper and plate flaws; and (on the usage side) rates, cancels, earliest and latest recorded dates. Mention clearly on your title page the name of any article or book you have published on the area covered by your exhibit. If your exhibit includes stamps not listed in the catalogue, label them clearly as such since these also are evidence of personal research.
Treatment (max 20 points)
Treatment is essentially your ability to tell a story, and is judged on your selection of material and the sequence in which you show it. Your title page plays a major part in setting the scene, giving an outline of what you are showing and why. The title page is submitted to the judges in advance of the competition, so it needs to capture their interest in your subject and whet their appetite for the philatelic material you show.
When selecting material to include, remember that a revenue exhibit should show both stamps and usage. Also, it is better to be representative than comprehensive. For example, it is better to show the 5 key values of a long set than a complete set of 100 denominations.
In working out a sequence for your exhibit, the most important consideration is to allow the judges to see clearly what you have done. A sequence may be strictly chronological or arranged in sections according to appropriation – or you might choose to show mint stamps in the first half followed by documents in the second.
Relative condition (max 10 points) and Rarity (max 15 points)
Not much to say here – obviously, show rare stamps in excellent condition to win full marks. It is normal for exhibitors to have to trade off rarity against condition, and in such cases it is usually better to show a fine incomplete set than a full set in which the key values are clearly defective. For exceptional material (eg stamps of which fewer than 10 examples are known), it can be acceptable to show damaged stamps, but preferably with an explanation such as “the finest of the four recorded examples”.
Originality and philatelic importance (max 10 points)
For originality points, show material which has not been seen in competitive exhibits for ten years or more. If you have bought an exhibit from someone else and added only a small amount of new material to it, you are unlikely to score highly in this area.
Philatelic importance can be a highly subjective question, but generally speaking points are awarded according to how mainstream your subject is within the world of philately. You will score more for major countries (such as GB, British Colonies, Western Europe, USA, China, Japan) than for minor (such as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Middle East, French Colonies), and more for 19th century material than early 20th, with the modern period (say post-1960) scoring lowest. Also, judges are likely to ascribe greater importance to revenue stamps which are clearly official, well-financed productions (with crafted designs, good-quality printing and perforation etc) than to those which look like bus tickets.
Presentation, write-up and arrangement (max 10 points)
Remember that your exhibit is a communication, and as such it has to be accurate, relevant and clear. Using as few words as possible, link the elements of your story together, explain anything complicated (especially relating to rates or usage), and point out rarities and other highlights. When describing rarity, avoid relative terms such as “scarce” or “rare” – rather state facts such as “unlisted in the Barefoot catalogue”, “one of 5 recorded [or issued] examples”, “earliest recorded usage”.
Unless you are a brilliant calligrapher, your write-up will be typed or word-processed. The default options are black type on white pages, using a standard font such as Arial or Times New Roman. These default options can be varied, but bear in mind that major variations will seem to make a statement so check that it’s a statement you want to make! For example, a stylish modern font may be appropriate for an exhibit of modern stamps but may look incongruous alongside 19th-century material. To keep your presentation looking consistent, avoid mixing too many different fonts. Also, it is vital to ensure that the philatelic material is not overshadowed by the font, the paper, the colour palette or any illustrations on the page. Finally on fonts, don’t make judges strain their eyes! For legibility, you should use at least 12pt and preferably 14pt, perhaps keeping larger type for headings or emphasis.
In presenting your material, consider the look of a whole frame at a time. The sheets in the middle of the frame are naturally the most prominent and need to contain the best material, even if this means rearranging your sequence slightly. The bottom row of each frame may be used for the less impressive sheets.
Competition rules set a maximum sheet size (usually 291 x 241 mm, portrait format), which is designed to allow four rows of four sheets to fit into the frame. It is possible to make double-width sheets (291 x 490 mm), which will allow you to display very wide documents, but this should only be done if the importance of the material merits it – otherwise fold your document or find a smaller one. For a more flexible solution, consider making rows of three sheets, each 330 mm wide – but check first that the rules allow this.
When mounting stamps on a page, you might want to consider 12-18 as a working maximum per sheet. More than 18 will usually look crowded, and implies that the stamps are rather common. Conversely, highlight the importance of really rare material by putting just two or three stamps on a page. Think about ways of setting off your key stamps and documents, such as by adding a printed frame or by mounting them onto coloured card before affixing them to the sheet.
Completing the application
The guidelines given here are based on the standard terms for national revenue exhibits at the time of going to press, but rules occasionally change. There is no substitute for reading – and complying with! – the terms and conditions of the competition you are entering.
Your material will need to be submitted up to a month in advance of the competition, with the application form deadline a few months earlier. Exhibitors must submit their non-refundable frame fees (application payment) at the same time as the form.
Note that once you have applied to exhibit, you need to give yourself enough time to complete your mounting-up before the deadline for material. Organisers usually do not return frame fees for exhibits which are submitted too late or withdrawn.
Where to go for further help
In preparing your current exhibit:
Once you have planned your outline, you may wish to send it for comments (details below)
Talk to Revenue Society members who are experienced exhibitors and judges
In continuing to develop as an exhibitor:
Read carefully the judges’ written comments on your exhibit
Go to the judging critique to receive detailed comments on your exhibit
Try to learn from others’ mistakes and successes by looking at all exhibits and results
If you wish to submit your outline or plans for comments…
Please send any questions, an outline of your exhibit or a write-up sample to Andrew McClellan, Secretary, The Revenue Society, 40 South Park, Sevenoaks TN13 1EJ UK or E: Andrew McClellan
We will respond with comments at the earliest opportunity, but please allow a month for a reply.