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New Exhibition Covers

For collectors of First Day Covers, here are examples from South Africa's latest exhibition, IPEX 2022 (International Philatelic Exhibition) held in Cape Town, 8 - 12 November 2022. I am unsure what to call this event, IPEX, ISECT (International Stamp Exhibition Cape Town) or CTISE (Cape Town International Stamp Exhibition) 2022. Perhaps future generations of collectors will find some obscure philatelic reason to be pleased with the ambiguity. I hope so.

The pre-exhibition press release of the organisers stated "To complement the theme of the Cape Town International Stamp Exhibition, the Philatelic Federation of South Africa announced that the South African Post Office (SAPO) will be issuing a limited-edition stamp that will be for sale at the event. Furthermore, SAPO have created 5 unique date stamps that will be used each day of the event to celebrate Nobel Peace Prize laureates: Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, Nadine Gordimer, Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk. Visitors can create their own memorabilia by purchasing a special Exhibition envelope with the stamp and having it stamped with the unique date stamp available each day – 8 to 12 November – from the Post Office in honour of these outstanding South Africans."

For the future philatelic record. The stamps arrived three three days late, on the 11th, the second last day of the event. As the first stamps were affixed and cancelled only on the Fourth Day, this exhibition cannot boast a true First, Second or Third Day Cover. But, perhaps uniquely, (that word again), it can boast an unusual first Fourth Day Cover! I hope these will become items of special interest to future generations of postal historians, assuming we are not by then an extinct species. I am told that by the end of the fourth and fifth days, the organisers had run out of 'First Day Cover' covers. This suggests that less covers were issued than planned. I am inclined to blame SAPO for this SNAFU.

If you can offer advice on the use or non-use of the "5 unique date stamps that will be used each day of the event", in the scenario reported above, your input will be greatly appreciated" Thanks!

We may not see more such First Day Covers at SA Exhibions in future ie. ones for which the Post Office produced a special First Day cover, (in this instance the awfully bland No. 8.139), a stamp and a postmark. The organisers produced a very dull and unexciting label, one worthy of falling on one's sword. I would have fired the person responsible for its design, also the press release and the 'mausoleum of philately' photo ie. the PR company for starters! They did the organisers no favours!  We will have to wait and see what comes along in future, if anything. There is an odd Afrikaans expression that comes to mind - "dis die laaste sien van die blikkantien", (its the last seen of the tin can). It is hard to translate but it suggests something has gone for good .... rather like SAPO and Royal Mail!

At shows I prefer to visit dealers rather than be overwhelmed viewing hundreds of displays which demand time and attention. Also, I like to be talked through displays rather than read them. This vast space this exhibition occupied left it looking empty. The photo included with the on-line press release shows just five people in a ghostly vault of philatelic displays, the mausoleum of philately that I feared. (See last photo below taken from the exhibition's own press release!) The sense of emptiness was made worse by the anticipated numbers of philatelists from up-country - Gauteng, etc. - failing to turn up, alledgedly because of the high cost of travel and accomodation within South Africa. This did not deter philately's illuminati, the international judges, from attending. Apparently, their grey eminences were closeted away in secret judgements and were seldom seen by the common visiting philatelist.

The best of the the displays were of a very high standard.  Several members of SACS  (South African Collectors' Society) exhibited, including Nick Arrow (Airmails), Keith Klugman (Natal), Lars Jorgensen (ZAR) and SACS itself, presumably Roy Ross, (RSA 4th Definitive, Buildings). Despite the exhibition being themed around Gerhard Kammfer's mighty Mandela omnibus, the material on display reflected the White South African experience. The fact that the displays had little to say to Black South Africans is not the exhibition organisers' fault. It is the historic failure of South African government over generations to create an equitable society that is reflected in literacy, letter-writing, postage stamps and postal history ie. the Post Office.  It is difficult to see philately from a racist, undemocratic era when Black people were largely illiterate and not using the Post Office becoming a popular collecting pastime in a future South Africa again. The ongoing decline of SAPO as a postal organisation can only contribute to this negative trend.

In order to compete at the highest level our hobby demands a disposable income. It is essentially a rich man's game. Young and poor people are put off by its financial costs. Only good judgement, luck and life-long persistence allows them a foot in the door of the plutocrat's philatelic temple. A seat at the top table is virtually impossible.

My thanks to Gawie Hugo who sent me the covers below and to Ian Shapiro seen in the Spinks brochure who sent me the lovely photo of the schoolchildren and their teacher looking at the 'Woodblock' plates. I hope there is at least one future philatelist among these 'born frees'. However, our hobby is one that looks back to a past many would rather forget or simply cannot relate to. Today, children of all races are growing up as "digital natives" ie. ones who are attuned to technology as the way the world. This has its own demands on their time and attention. I doubt very much that a future on-line philatelic world can save stamp collecting from being uncool.

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  • IPEX-CT-Road-to-Democracy.jpg
  • IPEX-CT-A-Nobel.jpg
  • IPEX-Spinks-Booth.jpg
  • Young-Black-Schoolkids-Capex-2022-2.jpg
  • Cape-Town-2022-Mausoleum.jpg
Csobla has reacted to this post.

I attach here a PDF file showing the latest copy of the PFSA's '(Philatelic Federation of South Africa) STAMPS SOUTH AFRICA, a useful bi-monthly newsletter edited by Hugh Amoore RDPSA which aims, as its positioning statement says, to keep collectors "in touch". This it does on a regular basis. If you do not get it as an email, you can follow the links (most work but some are broken in the original PDF file) to ensure that you receive it free of charge in future.

I include 'STAMPS SOUTH AFRICA here because it is largely a self-congratulatory PFSA piece on the "CAPE TOWN 2022 FIP Specialised World Stamp Exhibition themed “Road to Democracy” and the National Stamp Exhibition" that was " successfully held by the PFSA in conjunction with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, at the CTICC 2 Foreshore Cape Town in South Africa from 8 – 12 November 2022". It gives you the PFSA's argument for this event as opposed to my stale and well-worn opinions.

I do not think this exhibition was a resounding success for the hobby of philately. I wasn't there but I am guessing it had the same aims and failures of Stampex London (which has stamps in its name).  'Philately' implies the collecting of stamps. Because these philatelic events promote stamps they are a double disaster for the two areas that can conceivably grow a new following,  postal history and deltiology (postcards). So, who benefitted most from Cape Town 2022? It wasn't stamp collecting. The empty, unvisited display halls show it was no place to visit. Where was the eager, fresh-faced youth of yore? Not there. Stamp collecting is no longer cool! Who benefitted?

There is a place for exhibitions in our hobby but, to be honest, I prefer postal history fairs - buying stuff. I realise that someone has to organise formal exhibitions, that there needs to be a system and a structure in place to do so.  My question is what are we trying to achieve? Why have displays when so few visit them? Should displays not take place at club level and on-line? I want to save our hobby but I do not see this happening as a result of elitist exhibtions, like Stampex in London, one that gets smaller every year ie. less and less relevant to more and more people except for vested interests who for reasons unknown keep going on using the same time-honoured format like a litany. These shows are preaching to the converted and, like religion, philately is in decline. Congregations and membership is falling, churches and exhibitions are closing. The Old Order is changing. What's going on? Where are we going?

Any suggestions?

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