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UK Stamp Fairs start up again in a time of Covid

Stamp fairs are now returning to the UK after the Covid pandemic. Do they have a future?

We have had three stamp fairs in two weeks in my part of East Anglia. The first in Northampton (18th September) attended by four dealers and about 20 visitors and two on 26th September, one in Stevenage attended by four dealers and 15 visitors and the other in Peterborough attended by seven dealers and about 40 visitors. These numbers appear very low but yesterday's Sunday show in Peterborough was the best I have ever attended. This was due in part to the enthusiasm of the area's collectors to return to 'normal' philatelic life and also the promotion of the event by the organiser, Richard Lewis.

As a result, I will be going back to the Peterborough Holiday Inn Hotel (28th November, Thorpe Wood, Peterborough PE3 6SG), the last Sunday in the month. Entry is free. There is ample car parking. Sadly, there is no immediate prospect of either of our two pre-Covid Cambridge stamp fairs restarting. Sheldon Kosky, a big draw for many Cambridge collectors, has decided not to do shows in future but to concentrate on selling his wonderful postal history on-line. So, it looks like St Ives, (Saturday 23rd October, Corn Exchange), will now  be the closest fair to Cambridge for those who want a spot of Saturday stamping. Sadly, the St Ives fair is usually a low-end event.

NOTE: In the absence of advice from organisers, Steve Reeve's 'Stamp Fair & Auction Diary' has listed some non-existent stamp fairs on the basis of last year's dates. He advises that anyone using his diary to arrange a visit to a listed stamp fair should first follow the advice at the top of each page - "Please contact the organiser to confirm the details of the event and the social distancing requirements".

I have attended the Peterborough fair as both a visitor and a dealer in the recent pre-Covid past. I came away with reservations about continuing to do this show because of the lack of visitors. Nevertheless, my enthusiasm for the hobby, the banter and sage philatelic advice drew me back again and again. Yesterday was a good new start. I met a Blues fan who knew John Mayall (who doesn't collect stamps). Wow! We had a long chat about Fleetwood Mac's album 'Rumours'. As an aside, he collected British Islands, Alderney, Herm, Lundy, Sark, etc. I have a small display of these for sale and promised to bring it along next time for his consideration.

Other than a standard bottle of hand-sanitiser at the entrance to the hall in the Holiday Inn, there were no requirements for further Covid precautions other than commonsense. None of the dealers wore masks. Only one dealer by an outside door said he might have worn a mask but being by the door with plenty of fresh blowing in he felt he had no need to do so. Any visitor who entered wearing a mask soon removed theirs or dropped them to protect their chins. There was no requirement to show proof of vaccination. Social distancing in the relatively confined space of the hall was impossible but we all did our best to be sensible. It was just like old times at a stamp fair.

Contrast this with Stampex, (29th September 2021 – 2nd October 2021, London) where there is a requirement to show proof of double vaccination or a negative lateral flow test at the door. This requirement by the organisers is well-meaning but useless. Double vaccination does not prevent one from being infected with and spreading Covid. Thus proof of 'double jabbing' is NO proof that a Stampex visitor will not pass Covid on to someone else. A positive lateral flow test provides the likelihood that someone has Covid. A negative result, as required by Stampex, does NOT provide proof of freedom from Covid. These are known to be inaccurate, so much so that medical and scientific advice is that they should not be used as a 'green light' test, ie. to allow access to a venue like Stampex!

The Bottom Line is that at a time when our hobby needs a flagship show to stimulate it, Stampex's need to be seen to be doing something to contain Covid appears to be just another nail in its coffin. (But what can the organisers do given the pandemic hysteria created by the government?) The last pre-Covid Stampex was dead on it feet. Without a sea change Stampex will not survive more than a few more torrid years. Covid, Brexit and the unvaccinated will no doubt be blamed for its demise, everything and everyone except the organisers.

My hope is that at the York Stamp & Coin Fair, (29th - 30th October 2021 and 21st – 22nd January 2022), good old-fashioned Yorkshire common sense will prevail.