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Friday, November 8, 2013

Off to London to the West Africa Study Circle Meeting

Again, another month has just flown by with no posts. The reason for this is that I have been working frantically to get my 12 frame exhibit of postal history ready for the West Africa Study Circle Meeting in London tomorrow. I committed to give this presentation just over a year ago. Back then the plan was to go to the UK for a week. But my life turned upside down this year, and I used all my vacation time. So I'm going to London for 1 day!! I know, it sounds crazy, but I just had to make good on my commitment.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want to share with you the experiencing of preparing a philatelic exhibit. I have been a philatelist for 36 years now. In that time I have only exhibited once - when I was 12. Back then I knew nothing about exhibiting, and I just threw together all my cheap Canadian stamps on to home-made album pages and sent it in. My exhibit was so bad, it got only a 'merit' for participation. In the intervening years, I have seen many exhibits of very high calibre and thought 'I'll never be able to do that'

The first aspect of exhibiting that you will experience is the indecision of what topic you can choose that will be interesting to your fellow collectors, and that you can assemble enough material in to provide reasonable coverage of the topic at hand. When I was first thinking of what to do, two topics came to mind: one was the Queen Victoria Definitives of Lagos, and the other was the 1973-86 definitive issue. But there were two problems. In the case of the Queen Victoria issues, although I have a lot of the stamps, I am still missing some of the key rarities, and I don't yet know enough about them to write up a 144 page exhibit. In the second case, I have some fantastic material, but again, I have not studied the stamps sufficiently well to write about them.

In the end, I decided to make an exhibit of covers. This way I knew that if I covered the entire Nigerian area from 1874 to date, there would be no expectation of depth in any one issue. Furthermore, I could limit my comments on each cover to a short paragraph describing the attributes of the cover.

So I set about going through my collection of thousands of Nigerian covers to identify what to include in the exhibit. Now when you first hear that you have to compile 144 pages of material, it seems like a lot of material. But as you begin to assemble it, you invariably find that it is not much at all, and less than what you would like to include. I had to "raise the bar" several times to narrow my covers down to a selection of the best covers in my collection. I went for unusual destinations, scarce and unusual combinations of stamps (frankings), and other points if interest. When you start collecting the postal history of Nigeria, you soon realize that covers to the US or UK are relatively common, and you appreciate mail going to other destinations.

After a considerable amount of editing, I put together a 12 frame exhibit of 204 covers, that covers the gamut of different rates, destinations and issues. It was an immensely satisfying experience watching it take shape, and learning about my covers. I cannot wait to hear what the members have to say about huge covers, and how much I will learn from their feedback.

Once I return, I will begin to post the exhibit in its entirely.

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