Handout #3: Postcard Exhibiting

AN ALLIANCE HANDOUT …… helping collectors




written by Jeff Long and published in the April and May.2005 issues of Captain Cook, the newsletter of the Chrisichurch Philatelic Society Inc., New Zealand.

The original article was written to encourage collectors to consider exhibiting their postcards.

Like Canadians, many stamp collectors in New Zealand also collect postcards. The article has been adapted, with the permission of the author, to the Canadian scene, by Peter Butler, President of the GTAPA, to achieve a similar goal in encouraging postcard exhibiting at philatelic exhibitions.

Why create an exhibit?

Exhibiting adds to the enjoyment of collecting and you get to show your collections to others.

Most people collect postcards because they already have an interest in a topic/theme. Putting an exhibit together is a way of combining your knowledge with the cards you have collected and you will also learn more about your topic as you continue to research. Exhibiting also gives direction to your collecting as you start to look for cards to fill the gaps in your story. You develop contacts with other collectors and dealers who know what you collect and will then look for material for you.

Size doesn’t matter!

Your exhibit can be as small as a few pages. It can be one display frame of 16 pages, it can as large as five frames with 80 pages or it can be somewhere in between (32, 48 or 64 pages). You can start small and grow as you accumulate material and research.

Do I have to enter my exhibit competitively?

If you enter a national exhibition the answer is generally “yes,” but sometimes there may be nonncompetitive exhibits. There are always opportunities for exhibiting at local or regional stamp club shows that aren’t necessarily competitive. Showing your collection at a club meeting is probably always nonncompetitive.

What does an exhibit look like?

The Main Idea – Mostly the exhibit is about the story you want to tell based on the pictures on the cards. As you tell the story, you also demonstrate your technical knowledge of postcards with information about photographers, printers, techniques and distributors etc.


What could I exhibit? – Anything that interests you and for which you can develop a “story line.” This might be a geographic area (The Rocky Mountains), a tourist area visited (Algonquin Provincial Park), the town where you were born (Shelburne) or a city you live in (Hamilton), a person (pope John Paul II) a photographer (Josef Karsh), a postcard distributor (Postcard Factory) an event (The Royal Visit of 1939) a period (The Great Depression) an animal (polar bears) or an object (diamonds). There is no limit to what you could collect and exhibit.

How do I string together a story? – This is the creative part. An exhibit should have a structure like any other story, that is, a beginning/introduction, the main development of the events or components, and a conclusion recapping the important information. You need to select a topic that enables a story to be told using postcards and text to develop the story. The cards themselves should do most of the story-telling which can take many forms, you imagination is the only limit. If you are focusing on a geographical area, for instance, you might develop your story around a car trip or cards sent while on holiday. You could organize cards by location or activity.

Should I write a book? – No. You are producing an illustrated display with some explanatory text. A book would usually have far more writing. Feel free to write a book if you have a lot more useful or interesting information that you think would be interesting to a publisher. Your challenge is to engage a viewer at an exhibition.

What written information should I have? Information on some cards is obvious and doesn’t need repeating. Remember also that a picture is worth a thousand words. Your role is to highlight those aspects of the cards that help develop your story.

What is the meaning of technical information? – Alongside the storyline, there are points for showing your technical knowledge of the cards. Generally, this is not always printed on cards. This includes the printer, the printing technique, where the cards were printed, the photographer, distribution details, etc. This means anything about the card itself except what it shows. This is the part that requires research into catalogues, postcard listings, books on postcard collections etc.

How do I distinguish between technical and picture information? – An easy way to do this is to have a different font size or style for your technical information. This should be more in the background so it doesn’t detract from your storyline. Make it a smaller font size or print it in italics.

Can I use the information on the back of the cards? – Certainly, in terms of the information about the printer, photographer, distributor etc. but generally not about the message unless it adds to your storyline. Even so, remember you are using the picture side to tell the story.

Should I have information about the postal aspects – date, route postage rate? – Generally not. Remember you are using the picture side of the card to tell the story so any postal details would have to tie in very closely to justify using them.

How do I select cards? – Select good quality cards with as few faults as possible, and which you can tie in with your storyline. Modem cards are fine but remember there are two collecting periods, the classic period pre 1940, and the modem period 1940 to 1980. Cards with bent comers, bits missing, faded, etc. should not be used unless they are essential to your story and are scarce.

Technical considerations

Do I need an exhibit plan? – Yes, certainly if you are going to have more than one frame. It may have a structure, or might be a paragraph, depending on how divisible your exhibit is into “chapters”

What is a title page and what should be on it? – This is just as it sounds; the name of your exhibit, plus some introductory comments explaining what you are going to display. Consider including a bibliography and references to highlighted material in the exhibit. You can have what you like on this page so a special item that is interesting and encourages the viewer to look further into the exhibit is a good idea.

How should I use headings and sub-headings? – These should be used to develop the story line and should be derived from your plan. You can use the plan headings on each page as well as sub-headings. If your whole exhibit is about Algonquin National Park, for instance, you won’t want this heading on every page, but if you want to use sub-headings such as; animals, canoeing routes, camping areas, museums etc. the lead pages should have headings.

Should I have a border around my cards? – This is a matter of personal taste. It does help highlight the cards, but it also highlights any weak comers etc. Another way of highlighting the cards is to mount them on a backing card or paper. This means you need to have very even borders all the way around the cards or it looks untidy.

How many cards should I have on a page? – This depends on the format of the cards. One horizontal card and two vertical cards fit nicely on a page, but usually your storyline means you may not want the cards in that order: Two horizontal cards fit nicely on a page. Three vertical/horizontal cards on a page or having the cards overlap can begin to look crowded. One can consider using double pages to relieve crowding. One page showing three or more cards may look fine but remember that you will have 16 of them in the display frame.

Can I overlap cards? – Overlapping should be used sparingly. Judges might think you are covering up defects but mainly too many overlapped cards result in pages looking over-crowded.

What do I mount my cards on? – A heavier paper weight than regular writing paper is advisable. 60 or 100 pound stock is preferable. This is often caIled card stock weight. Check the packages for weight. Remember it must be able to feed through your printer if you are using a computer.

What colour/quality of paper should I use? – The paper should be acid-free so it doesn’t react with chemicals in the card or anything on the reverse of the card. The colour of the paper should be white or a very pale or pastel colour, otherwise it will detract from the cards. Sometimes a backing card or paper brings out the colours in the postcards. It is your choice.

How big can I make my pages? – Most exhibition frames limit the size of pages to 8½ x 11. You can use 11 x 17 as “double pages” if you choose. Remember anything bigger than this is problematic when transporting, mounting in frames and storing your exhibit.

What do I use to mount the cards on the pages? – Most exhibitors of postcards use transparent, adhesive photo comers. They are available in a variety of sizes. The larger ones are expensive but hest for larger items such as fold-out cards. Several brands are available at stamp, paper supply, craft and scrapbooking stores. Brand names such as; Fiskars, Panodia and Canson are acid-free, and some are peelable/re-useable.

How do I store my pages? – The easiest way is to store your pages in protectors in three-ring binders. Protectors are clear plastic envelopes into which you slide your pages. They protect the material and are compulsory at exhibitions. They can be obtained at paper supply stores such as Staples or Grand & Toy. There are usually available in three weights; regular, heavy duty and premium. The top two are advisable and make sure they are clear not frosted.

How do I keep the pages in order? – You number them on the reverse side of the pages. There are two ways to do this, either I through 64 or however many pages you have, or remembering that there are 16 pages per frame, number the pages by frame and page e.g. I-I, 1-2 to 16 pages, then II-I, II-2 and so on. Incidentally, you should also have you name on the reverse of each page. Never include you name on the front of your pages.

How do I get my exhibit to the exhibition? – Usually by mail or courier to the exhibition chairman prior to the exhibition or by yourself to the exhibition set-up crew at the exhibition. In some cases a fellow exhibitor may assist you or a Commissioner may be appointed. These arrangements are always explained on the Entry Forms of the shows. Exhibits must arrive in time for the exhibit organizers to mount your exhibit in the frames.

Who can I ask for assistance?

In North America, a postcard format for exhibiting and judging is in its infancy. The governing body, the American Philatelic Society is in the process of developing guidelines for the exhibiting and judging of postcard exhibits. The American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors had taken the lead in this regard and has a class for postcard exhibits at its shows. Not all shows include this classification in their listing of categories. Individual and local clubs have begun to draw up guidelines to meet their own needs, witness this article, and national policies will probably be forthcoming.

There are three postcard clubs in the Southern Ontario area but they are not involved with an organized program for exhibiting. Some members are interested however, and it is slowly gaining interest with collectors. The Toronto Postcard Club, The Golden Horseshoe Postcard Club and the Kitchener-Waterloo Postcard Club are excellent organizations involving postcard collectors. They hold meetings, have presentations and offer opportunities and shows for the trading, buying and selling of cards. They all provide excellent opportunities to learn about the technical side of the hobby as well as the historic aspects of collecting various topics.

Of course, eBay is a popular source of material in addition to the afore-mentioned clubs. Make the effort to get out to Collectibles Shows, postcard dealers, and consider joining a club. Don’t be too much of a closet collector!

A final thought

Exhibiting is like a sport – play by the rules and you will do much better than if you develop your own rules. Exhibiting is a brain sport! Have fun with your collecting but remember, exhibiting can bring new horizons to expand your involvement in the hobby. We need more exhibitors so what about it. Have a go!

Following is an article that first appeared in the show program for AmeriStamp Expo, Toronto 2066, written by Tim Bartshe.



I would like to take this opportunity to thank the show committee for hosting the AAPE and Ameristamp Expo here in Toronto. Without your help, support and work, it would not have been possible for us to have the show at all this year. Ameristamp Expo 2006 here in Toronto will be the third year that Picture Post cards have been competitively exhibited in North America, at least at the National level in an accredited show. How did we get to this point, why did the AAPE propose it and where do we go from here? These are questions that I would like to address.

The HOW:

While judging in South Africa October, 2002, I had the opportunity to lead the team responsible for scoring a number of exhibits in their Picture Postcard Class. Without any such experience, it was a rather interesting challenge indeed. South Africa, along with New Zealand and Australia has been exhibiting picture post cards as a separate class at their National venues for many years, Australia since 1987. There were 7 or 8 exhibits ranging from 3 to 8 frames each and judging by the number of people viewing them, they were very popular with the viewing audience.

Upon my return I began reflecting upon the possibilities of initiating such a class here in the United States (and Canada) knowing full well the potential problems involved with another “loony” exhibiting class. I could hear the groans: “What is next, match book covers?” “Not another damn score sheet!” and on and on. The ringing in my ears aside, I undertook the task of the formal proposal to the American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors (AAPE) Board of Directors as well as the Committee on Accreditation for National Exhibitions and Judges (CANEJ). The later is the APS committee that approves such proposals for the World Series of Philately shows in the USA while the later is the international society for exhibitors. Upon approval from both, the next step was the creation of exhibiting criteria and a score sheet.

Ameristamp Expo 2004 in Norfolk, Virginia was the first site for the “experiment” with 5 exhibits entered, a few from non-philatelists others from those who wished to take the experimentation challenge. The following year in Atlanta we were all surprised and pleased to find 15 entries including a handful from Australia. This was a very encouraging response to something so “new” as well as somewhat controversial.

The WHY:

It will come as no surprise to those who are active in the local through national show committees that we are faced with many challenges. In this day of electronic communications, e-bay auctions and on-line stamp stores, the pressure to maintain attendance for shows in order to support the dealers who subsidize the exhibits is immense. Rising venue costs and the graying of the dealer ranks is a constant battle being fought all over North America.

In order to increase the interest in exhibiting and attending shows, this subject was addressed most recently with the creation of the new Divisions by the APS; notably the Display, Illustrated Mail and Cinderella Divisions. The purpose was for expanding the exhibiting “tent” to include many groups that were excluded and/or marginalized by prior rules and restrictions. From this we have witnessed the mainstreaming of the AFDCS into the WSP show system, being fully accredited recently. The thousands of FDC collectors are now formally included at the 35 or so national shows in North America as well as those who wish to collect collateral material and labels or fantasies. While it may be debated that we have only given a new playground for the previously committed exhibitor (which I do not believe for a moment) it has certainly increased the pool of exhibits from which our frames may be filled.

Picture post card collectors (as opposed to stamp collectors who include them in their collections for personal reasons) are an enormous untapped population based upon the number of PPC shows around the country.    While most PPC collectors are not interested in exhibiting, the same can be said about stamp collectors. APS membership of 45,000 has an active exhibiting population of approximately 1500 which is about 3%. That could be a large number of PPC collectors that just might jump at the chance to enter competitive exhibiting. The numbers of dealers who stock predominantly PPC material also tend to include other paper ephemera thus appealing to philatelists as well (read Display, Revenue and Cinderella Divisions). Picture Post Card dealers are a large untapped group that might be willing to support the philatelic shows if the rest of their material might be of interest to the attendees not predominantly PPC collectors.

The argument against such ideas is mainly based upon the basis of Stamp Shows becoming Paper and Ephemera Shows; the later of which abound across the continent. That may or may not be true, but with the struggling show system as we now have, I see little choice other than using classically liberal thought and trying something new. Dealers need attendees and attendees need reasons to attend. That is a rather simplistic statement, but the new Divisions are what most people enjoy. Picture Post Cards fall into the same crowd-appealing category based upon sentiments uttered at the frames in the prior two year’s shows.

Picture Post Cards are not an exhibition savior nor am I promoting them as such. However, since they were originally meant to be mailed through the post system they have at least a basis to be logically included in the pantheon of exhibiting. Besides, most of us do collect them. Come on, admit it!


Just as any new idea that has been implemented; this one has had its stumbles and missteps. The criterion which is available on-line at the APS website (www.stamps.org) is not set in stone nor is the score sheet that utilizes them. These criterion as with any judged exhibit are simply guidelines by which to compare the divergent forms of PPC exhibits. Similar to the other divisions, PPC exhibits may be based upon a theme, upon an historical event, a geographic location or even on a specific cultural topic. They can focus on a specific artist or. publisher. They should show knowledge of such things as printing format, numbers, printers, publishers, series and other aspects peculiar to the genre when known. The story must be there just as in any other exhibit. Treatment is important to impart what you have done with your material in order to give adequate coverage and depth to the subject you have chosen. These are all basic exhibiting fundamentals; it is just the medium used in the telling that is different.

The AAPE will most likely be proposing to CANEJ and ultimately to the Board of the APS to allow the Experimental Class of Picture Post Cards to become an accepted and accredited class of exhibiting. It will be up to the individual shows across this grea(Continent of ours as to whether it will be allowed on each or our floors. However, if accepted by the APS, our judging corps will soon be able to judge this medium just as it has for fIrst day covers and Christmas seals. It will then be incumbent upon the AAPE to continue to promote this aspect of exhibiting and try to bring on board new and creative exhibitors. Who knows, these future post card collectors just might take up stamp collecting! Wouldn’t that be wonderful to convert a new gene pool into philatelists?

As the APS President Janet Klug likes to say; “This is a hobby. It is supposed to be fun.” I whole-heartedly agree with her in that statement. Too often the subjects are serious with potential life and death consequences. This palate for creative expression should not be taken quite so extreme. I have “successfully” exhibited picture post cards receiving a large volume of very positive feedback; in fact much more than the more serious and dare I say dull subjects I have exhibited from other areas of my collecting specialties.

I would hope that after viewing the exhibits on the floor of this show, you too will have a more positive view of this related but divergent subject. In fact, I would hope that a few of you might even say to yourself: “Hey, I can do that!”

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