World, international, general, specialized—what’s the difference in exhibitions?

By Jesse Robitaille

To outsiders and newcomers, the world of international exhibiting can at first glance appear complicated.

Exhibitions are generally held locally, regionally, nationally or internationally, the latter of which is overseen by the Swiss-based Fédération Internationale de Philatélie (FIP). Also known as world shows, these international exhibitions focus on either general or specialized collecting interests. But what exactly is the difference between world, international, general and specialized exhibitions?

“Exhibitions classified as world exhibitions are those which have obtained FIP patronage,” said David McLaughlin, chair of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) international liaison committee.

Exhibitors living in FIP member federations, including Canada, are eligible to enter world exhibitions, and all FIP member federations must be invited to world exhibitions with FIP patronage.

International exhibitions, on the other hand, are “any other exhibition that is multi-national in nature,” added McLaughlin.

These multi-national exhibitions usually have the patronage of one of the three continental organizations, including:

  • the Federación Inter-Americana de Filatelia (FIAF), of which Canada is a member;
  • the Federation of European Philatelic Associations (FEPA); and
  • the Federation of Inter-Asian Philately (FIAP).

While they’re permitted to enter any exhibition with FIAF patronage, Canadian exhibitors can also exhibit in FEPA or FIAP exhibitions as a member of a philatelic society in a country that belongs to the respective continental organization.

“For example, if I collected Australia and was also a member of an Australian society, I could enter NZ 2020 under the Australian flag as the Australian Philatelic Federation is a member of FIAP,” said McLaughlin, who’s also a nationally accredited judge with the RPSC. “My exhibit and my medal award would be listed under Australia.”

In this case, the exhibitor would pay all fees, including international shipment, customs clearance and insurance to and from the exhibition commissioner.

“Most exhibitors in Canada would prefer to exhibit in Western country shows like London 2020 or IBRA in Germany,” said McLaughlin. “But the fact remains there’s a better opportunity for exhibitors to get accepted at some of the southeast Asian shows because each exhibition has to balance the number of exhibits they have per class.”

For some classes, including traditional and postal history, there are sub-classes for different regions, he added.

“There’s a traditional sub-class for the Americas, for Europe, for Asia and for Australasia. For some of the shows in Asia and Australasia, they don’t get a lot of applications for the Americas sub-class, so an exhibitor who applies there has a much better chance of getting in than he or she would in London, New York or Germany.”

International exhibitions can also apply for FIP recognition, which differs from patronage. Some “private shows” – like Stockholmia 2019 and the annual Nordia exhibition – are sometimes dubbed international, McLaughlin added.

For Stockholmia, organized by the Royal Philatelic Society London (RPSL) and held in Sweden in May 2019, entry was was only open to RPSL members.

Nordia, which was organized by the Swedish stamp club Malmö Filatelistförening and held in August 2019 in Norway, was only open to exhibitors from Nordic countries and members of the Scandinavian Collectors Club.

Both shows were considered international exhibitions.

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