Philatelists, like most collectors, largely pursue their hobby alone. As a result, often phenomenal collections are rarely seen by outsiders. While solitary collectors comprise the vast majority of the philatelic interest, a small percentage of collectors actively organize and display their collections in competitive and noncompetitive exhibits.
Less than one percent of stamp collectors are involved in active exhibiting, and those who exhibit do so for reasons as individual as their personalities and their collections. Some exhibit for the excitement of competition, others to educate and enlighten. Others still find exhibition an excellent means to get feedback from expert collectors about how to better organize and develop their collections. If you attend philatelic shows in North America and Europe as I have, you will no doubt notice the wide variation in style and scope of exhibits among the different shows. Regardless of the venue, the enthusiasm of the exhibitors and the curiosity of the spectators remains constant.
There is a great deal to be gained by exhibiting your collection. By its very nature, exhibiting forces you to give your collection a long and careful look. Through viewing your collection, you can enjoy it more fully, and develop ideas about where you would like to proceed as your collection grows and develops. Developing an exhibit also allows you to organize your collection and construct a brief description for each item you choose to include in the exhibit. One need not be intimidated by the overwhelming scope of exhibits found in the major shows; developing an exhibit is easier than it appears at first glance. Before you can build your exhibit, you need to know the basic components of the American Philatelic Society guidelines for exhibits.
The basic component of any exhibit is the page. A page is usually an 8.5 by 11 inch sheet of paper with one or more items featured. A brief description accompanies each item displayed. The nature of the item and its description are left to the exhibitor's discretion. Each page is titled with the subject matter of the items included. Generally, exhibits use Ameripex style frames which hold sixteen pages in a four by four format. Many local stamp clubs still use frames in a three by three format. Most exhibits run three to ten frames depending on size.
You can build your exhibit one page at a time. As your pages and frames develop, you begin to see your stamp's story unfold before your eyes. Once you develop a general organization, you can decide the nature and scope of your exhibit. For instance, if your primary goal is to enlighten others about the hobby, you needn't be as formal in your organization as if you choose to exhibit on a national or international arena.
With your goals established, and your collection organized, you can begin to seek out forums in which to exhibit your collection. Presentations to local Scout troops, civic groups, and public libraries spring immediately to mind, but there is no shortage of local and regional arenas in which to exhibit. Local philatelic organizations and, of course, SOSSI, can assist you in finding outlets for your exhibit. (Check out the JOURNAL's regular department, Focus on Exhibiting by Dr. Frederick Lawrence for example.)
If you would like to exhibit on the local philatelic level, there are many club and regional shows that have exhibits as part of their activities. There are many other places to exhibit in an even less formal setting - a perfect opportunity for the novice exhibitor. Many post offices, libraries, and historic sites, welcome a philatelic exhibit honoring the Scouting movement in February (Scout Month) or during a special Scouting event. The space for these types of exhibits are usually very small and would take a very short time to prepare and would not have to be as comprehensive as a philatelic show would require.
One of the best ways to open the door of stamp collecting to those who never collected before is to present your exhibit to a civic or Scout organization in your community. In this setting, you have the opportunity to exchange ideas about the hobby on a more personal basis that in a philatelic exhibit at a local or regional stamp show. Never forget the resources your local SOSSI chapter can provide you; many active chapters meet regularly. This is an ideal opportunity to show your stuff and get so many ideas from other collectors who collect in our field of interest.
Exhibiting your collection benefits the collector, the spectator, the society and the hobby itself. Why not use the resources SOSSI provides - from the Sales Service to the expertise of fellow members and local chapters - to spread the enjoyment of collecting Scouts on Stamps.