The Advanced Stamp Collection

Eventually you will wish to build a truly advanced collection - one worthy of exhibition in the greatest of stamp shows. This does not necessarily require a large outlay of money. It does require considerable research to the point where you know as much as - preferably more than - anyone else about the stamps you collect. When this time comes in your collecting life, you will have reached "adulthood." Now there will be no need for instructions from myself. Indeed you will, in all probability, be able to show the way and we shall follow. But, perhaps, a few words from me will not be amiss to guide you with your first try for an award. The album you will use will be the blank album - of course loose-leaf. The stamps you display must be in the finest possible condition and mounted in strictest regard to the chronological dates of their issue. This order of things may only be broken when you desire to display a particular feature that has some definite bearing on what you are trying to establish.

Your collection must be written up; that is, the pages must contain notes indicating the stamps that are shown and pointing out any particular varieties to which you wish to call attention. It is in the write-up that many an otherwise fine collection has failed to be appreciated by the judges. The write-up must be confined to terse notes: a date of issue, an arrow pointing to a particular spot on the stamp with perhaps the briefest notation of what the arrow indicates - for instance, "Double transfer" - there is no need to say more. It is the stamps that must tell the story, not long wordy descriptions. Presumably the judges are well qualified to understand your collection, so the write-up need only be a guide for them to follow.

A good parallel to what is and is not good in the way of writing up a collection for exhibition may be had on any principal highway in the United States. When a curve is coming up, a sign will simply warn "Curve" and with an arrow indicate the direction. When another route intersects, we are advised accordingly. Every motorist can follow such signs with the greatest of ease. But sprinkled along many highways there are wordy signs pointing out spots of historical interest. Hence, as we roll along we catch a glimpse of a sign the first words of which catch our eye: "On this spot. . ." it will say but we have passed. We never know, or care, what took place "On this spot ..." We have no time to stop and we are not interested anyhow for, in all probability, it is a subject we know about. So let it be with the collection you wish to exhibit. Point out the "curves" and "intersections." Leave out the lengthy descriptions that start "On this spot ..." The judge will not pause to read them and if there be too much of this sort of thing he will become disgusted and pass on to the next, better annotated exhibit.

This is not to say that you may not point out some extremely important matter. Perhaps a description will be required but, if so, let it be terse and concise. As to the type of lettering that you use for your writeup, adopt a clear clean form of letter without frills and of sufficient size to be readable without the aid of a magnifying glass. The so-called "copperplate" style of script is very good if you can handle it. Many people use special lettering guides that produce a perfectly plain letter without serifs or other ornamentation. If you cannot handle any form of hand lettering, the good old typewriter is a very serviceable and very suitable instrument to fall back upon.

Grand-prize winning stamp collection
Page from a grand-prize winning collection. This page is part of a collection that won gold medals for Mrs. EthelB. McCoy. Note concise explanations on page.

Elaborate colored borders around your album pages may be very beautiful - indeed, they may be actual works of art - but such ornamentation is not stamps and you are entering an exhibit of stamps in competition with other exhibits of stamps. Ornamentation is a difficult subject to handle and most often detracts from the stamps on display. Under no circumstances should any ornamentation of the pages be of such nature as to make the stamps of secondary importance. A frontispiece to introduce your collection is permissible but, however attractive, will have little bearing on the judges' decision. These observations are made as the result of many years of experience with stamp exhibitions of all kinds as layman and as judge. The person who would have his stamp collection judged in competition must first, last, and always exhibit STAMPS. All else is secondary.