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Saturday 19 December 2015

Stamp Exhibitions: Could these be the new FIP Rules for Judging Exhibits ...

Recently, I bought some material from the estate of a collector who had won Gold Medals in international stamp exhibitions. It surprised me that much of the postal history I had acquired was of below average quality. It was obvious that some of this was the fault of the collector: he had opened out envelopes, re-folded entire letters, trimmed roughly opened envelopes, scribbled on his material as if it was scrap paper. How do you get to win Gold Medals if you do that, I wondered?

I took a look at the FIP (Federation Internationale de Philatelie) rules for exhibits in the Traditional Philately and Postal History classes. They say that exhibits should aim to show material of the “highest available quality”. But when it comes to the allocation of Points by juries, only 10 points out of 100 are awarded for “Condition”.

I therefore propose a very simple rule change:

FIP wishes to encourage recognition of the  fact that stamps and covers are autonomous, historically interesting artefacts which deserve careful treatment, handling and conservation in a state as close as possible to that in which they originally existed. In order to discourage dealer, expert and collector damage to items, FIP will increase the points allocated to the category “Condition” from 10 to 30, reducing other categories as indicated in the revised schedule.

Specifically, FIP Juries will regard all of the following as things which reduce the Condition of a particular item and make it ineligible for the award of Maximum points:

Stamps: hinges on mint stamps; absence of gum on stamps which were originally gummed; ownership, dealer or expert handstamps; ink and pencilled notes of any kind. Exhibits should be mounted in such a way as to enable Jurors to examine the backs of stamps.

Postal History: opening out of covers, trimming, re-folding; owner, dealer or expert handstamps; all ink and pencil markings including dealer prices and expert signatures (especially when in close proximity to stamps); evidence of the use of an eraser to remove pencilled markings. Exhibits should be mounted in such a way as to enable Jurors to examine the backs of covers and cards.

Where a photographic Expert certificate is held, it should be mounted on the back of the relevant page of the exhibit. No other form of Expertising (handstamps, signatures) will be accepted.

Exhibitors are advised that in some cases it may cause further damage to an item to erase a pencilled note and they should use their judgment in deciding whether or not to erase. In some instances, they may wish to indicate on their Exhibit why they have decided not to erase such graffiti.

Er, that’s it. 


  1. I am not a judge or exhibitor,but it seems to me that you should only penalise a collector if he is the instigator of the damage. With very rare old material there may not be enough "good condition" stuff to go round, and in order to tell the story seconds ( to use a retail term ) may be necessary. However the onus on proving previous damage should be down to the exhibitor. Too strict application of your rule could restrict the educational value of exhibits. A gold medal is very nice, but exhibition of good material should be the final arbiter.

  2. Thanks Trevor I now know which field to concentrate on and gain those new skills in the "conservation" and "rehabilitation" of philatelic items. I will be able to "guarantee" that all the unnecessary graffiti, that will loose those vital marks, will be removed to the point that judges will be unable to tell (without extensive scientific analysis). Of course my fees will be very reasonable.
    Regards Neil