Introduction to Trad. Phil.

What is TRADITIONAL PHILATELY?

Once upon a time there was only Traditional Philately. You collected stamps fromdifferent countries and stuck them in an album. If you had a loose leaf album thenyou could display them at clubs or occasionally at exhibitions. Many people still collectthis way, although nowadays they are more likely to keep their stamps behind plasticstrips in what are called stock books.

TRADITIONAL PHILATELY IS ABOUT COLLECTING POSTAGE STAMPS

As stamp exhibitions became more popular and more sophisticated some people decided they wanted to only collectthings like covers,or postal stationeryor airmails. Some people decided to collect by theme such as birds or railways. Over a number of years exhibiting was divided into classes such as Postal History, Aerophilately and Thematic Philately. What is left has been described by some people, a little unkindly; as Traditional Philately. Traditional exhibits still account for about 40% of the material at most exhibitions and carry off most of the major awards.

Traditional Philately has also changed and is still changing today. Because there are so many countries issuing large numbers of stamps, no longer can you collect, let alone exhibit the stamps of the whole world. At exhibitions you will see many wonderful exhibits of the classic 19th century stamps, but every year we see more and more people exhibitingbeautiful modern stamps. The ones issued to publicise the events and history of the modern world. Collectors are starting to realise that ducks andmonuments and Olympiansbelong in Traditional exhibits as well as Thematic ones.


How do I start?

Most collectors start by collecting the stamps with which they are familiar, that is usually the stamps of their country in use in their lifetime. We hope to see more and younger exhibitors exhibiting modern stamps and not having to compete against the classic exhibitors.

Many people collect a wide range of different material, and that is great, it helps to develop a good general philatelic knowledge and provides some experience for when the time comes to exhibit.

Deciding what to exhibit is important, making the right decision when you start will make it all a lot easier and enjoyable. Go to stamp exhibitions and look at the exhibits, see which exhibits you like and which you could perhaps model your exhibit on. Try and meet exhibitors and talk to them. Join a club, read stamp magazines.

Stamp exhibiting has many levels from major world events right down to club competitions. You have to start somewhere. I know of one club where once a year members have to bring six pages of national material or six pages of overseas material. Judging is by popular vote. From clubs you can progress through provincial and national exhibitions to continental and world ones.

When it comes to making a start the most important thing is that your subject appeals to you. Secondly if you intend to become a serious exhibitor you must choose a subject where you can eventually fill eighty pages or more with relevant and good quality material. If you are a novice, do not make it too hard to start with. Conversely do not make the mistake of choosing too wide a field. You will be judged on quality not quantity.

What can I Collect?

You can collect what ever you like. There is very little material that is not acceptable. However never forget that Traditional Philately is about collecting postage stamps. You can collect the stamps of all the world or one country, or one period of one country. Some wealthy collectors have never gone further than the worlds first stamp, the ‘Penny Black’.

You can collect unused or used stamps or both. You may collect in a very simplified way, that is one of each stamp that is obviously different. Or you can specialise to varying degrees which might take in variations of shade, perforation and watermark or even go to the extent of identifying stamps from different positions on the printing plate.


In addition to stamps it is good to include some covers, these should be selected for the stamps rather than the postal history aspects. Miniature sheets, booklets, imprint blocks, printers proof material and printing errors are also very collectable.

Condition is very important particularly if you are going to exhibit. Remember one poor stamp ruins a whole page! Quality not quantity is what counts.

How do I start to exhibit?

The best place to start is in a stamp club competition and then move on to a regional exhibition. Your club, local association or National Federation, or all three should be able to help you. Having found out where there is a competition and what the requirements are the quickest way to learn is to enter and exhibit and have a go.

What is appropriate material?

You can include what ever you like in your collection, but when you decide to exhibit you will need to select your material carefully and you must comply with the rules. Amongst other things, the rules for Judging Traditional Philately (on this website and the FIP website) define appropriate material and explain the system used for judging exhibits and how points are allocated. While the rules are written for exhibition judges, all serious exhibitors should read them.

Basically postage stamps, mint or used and on cover are what you need. Your subject may be as wide or as narrow as you choose, and in as simple or as specialised a format as you like.

Fiscal (revenue) stamps should only be used if they were also available at some period for postage, or if they were dual purpose postage and revenue stamps. Bogus issues, and stamps sanctioned by postal authorities but which were never available for postal use in the country of origin are not appropriate. Such stamps are called ‘Undesirable issues’ and are not normally listed in catalogues.

Prestamp covers and stampless items are allowed but only if they are relevant to the subject of the exhibit.


(Adapted from an article by Gary Brown)

Lars Peter Svendsen 2012-17