If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “building the plane while it’s flying,” then you can appreciate the challenges of planning for the 2021 Great American Stamp Show. There is good news to celebrate with tvaccines' approval to inoculate against COVID-19, but distribution will be slower than we'd like. The success of distribution will play a large role in deciding how the show will look and whether we will proceed.
The assumed timeline, as of this writing, makes planning for the show difficult. The one thing we have in abundance is uncertainty. Health experts predict widespread availability of the vaccines by the spring and herd immunity by the end of summer if vaccines occur efficiently enough. That puts us right at the time of the Great American Stamp Show from August 12-15, 2021. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, we could expect "some degree of normality" toward the end of the year. Given those timelines, we expect government restrictions on crowd size, social distancing, and other mitigating factors well into 2021. Given this information, we may be able to proceed with the show, but we cannot be sure at this time.
Not an International Show
When the American Philatelic Society initially chose Chicago for the 2021 show, we had planned to host a “mini-international” show to serve as a mid-point between NY 2016 and Boston 2026. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made planning impossible for our international friends, so we’ve scaled back the show to be a more traditional Great American Stamp Show.
Planning is Underway
In November, the APS, American First Day Cover Society, and the American Topical Association started regular meetings to plan for our joint show in August. Our objectives are communication, organization, and troubleshooting. Given how quickly events have and will change, this reliable partnership is well-prepared.
Typically show planning requires long-term commitments to the convention center, hotel venues, and event planning. Flexibility helps keep costs down and ensure the best possible events. Given our planning challenges, our watchword is flexibility. We will have to be flexible to adapt to circumstances and manage show costs. While it's a different show planning model, we agree it is possible. Along with flexibility, we will communicate with APS, ATA, and AFDCS members regularly for the latest updates. Please keep our website: https://stamps.org/great-american-stamp-show as a regular destination to stay updated on events and changes.
By late March 2021, we should have enough information to make a more confident decision on whether we can proceed with the show. Though we will be regularly communicating between now and then, we've agreed this should be a hardline to decide for our attendees and the organizations. If we can proceed (pending local regulation), we will be able to set up events and schedules quickly so you can make appropriate plans to attend.
If we cannot proceed with the Great American Stamp Show, we will move to an online event similar to the Virtual Stamp Show of 2020. As a reminder, we put on the Virtual Stamp Show in a short window but drew more than 3,000 registrations and 1,000 daily attendees. We surveyed attendees and identified opportunities for a better virtual experience for 2021. With a longer lead time to develop the platform, promote the event, and engage collectors from around the world, we will deliver an improved product.
The pandemic continues to shape the future of the hobby. I certainly miss seeing so many friends at stamp shows around the country; we cannot allow it to limit us. The APS, ATA, and AFDCS are building a great tradition of a can't miss summer show, and we are prepared to meet that challenge head on in 2021.
Scott English is the Executive Director of the American Philatelic Society. He is also a member of the American First Day Cover Society and the American Topical Association.