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     Some Thoughts on Competitions

Many people are collectors of stamps and associated material, sometimes this is organised into albums and stock books, but in other circumstances it has more of the character of an accumulation. Others choose to display their material, and to take it to a wider philatelic, and sometimes non-philatelic audience where their enthusiasm and knowledge is part of the “show”. Others choose to be bound by rules and advised by guidelines and to enter the formal world of philatelic exhibiting.

Competitive exhibiting is an activity which takes place at a variety of levels, and exhibitors require a markedly different approach to that of the collector, whose interest is primarily focused on the acquisition and arrangement of stamps and other philatelic material.

Exhibiting is not the same as displaying, although almost all exhibitors begin with displays and most continue to display to local and national societies and other non-philatelic organisations. Making a display is arguably the first rung on the exhibiting ladder, as any display given should be presentable and tell a good story.

Exhibiting helps to promote every aspect of philately and should provide a forum where philatelists can meet in a friendly atmosphere.  It also promotes the dissemination of the results of philatelic research and study to fellow philatelists and collectors and the general public, thus promoting the cultural and the educational values of philately.

Exhibiting has its aficionados and detractors, but to many it is an important part of philately. One question to ask is ‘Will exhibiting help my collection?’ It is a discipline, because it is rules based, and demands a thorough understanding of the material in a collection. It promotes, through peer review, by judges and other observers, research, organisation, knowledge and understanding.

Almost the best peer review is scrutiny from other collectors and exhibitors, and discussion and debate at the frames is part of the enjoyment, allowing you to improve your own philatelic knowledge and exhibition skills. Exhibiting develops your ability to present material to its best advantage with a coherent story that can be readily followed by viewers, despite you not being present to explain in person.

It is a personal challenge and an educational process, which involves research, analytical thinking, discernment in the choice and presentation of material, and communication skills.


Most people who consider entering competitions at County or Federation level will also have had some experience in competing within their own local society.  It is a good introduction to exhibiting on a larger stage and provides a useful intermediate step before venturing into a National event.

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