Writer and cartoonist Allen Saunders said, “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans." The quote is wrongly attributed to musician and stamp collector John Lennon, who helped make the line famous in the song, Beautiful Boy. It’s an appropriate line when planning for the Great American Stamp Show in 2021. We’re making plans, but life is happening.
The Great American Stamp Show will be held August 12-15, 2021, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. We’re proud to partner with the American Topical Association again this year. Since 2018, the APS and ATA have jointly-sponsored the show, and the partnership has an overwhelming success. Although the pandemic forced us to cancel GASS in 2020, we, along with the American First Day Cover Society, put together the Virtual Stamp Show.
Our APS/ATA/AFDCS partnership continues in 2021 and beyond for the Great American Stamp Show. GASS is not just any stamp show; it's the largest annual show in the United States. We expect between 3,000 to 5,000 attendees over four days with more than 120 dealers and 1,000 exhibit frames for this show. Coordinating setup, scheduling events, and all the show preparation is a significant undertaking and requires months of planning. The pandemic adds an element of uncertainty, further complicating our plans.
Stamp shows are an excellent opportunity to learn, buy, and socialize, and the Great American Stamp Show is one of the best occasions for all of these elements. For the show to be successful, we have to organize a financially viable show for dealers and our respective organizations. Travels restrictions, group size restrictions, slow vaccine rollout, and overall confidence in attending the show. By the time we decided not to hold GASS 2020 in Hartford, 40 percent of our registered attendees had canceled their hotel reservations.
What Don’t We Know?
At the time of this writing, we continue to see high case rates around the country. Two vaccines have been approved, and at least one more is on the horizon. Distribution has been slower than projected. Recent announcements to increase distribution show promise, but the target vaccination rate is 300 million Americans, and that will take time. There are also now confirmed cases of variants from South Africa, Brazil, and the United Kingdom in the United States, and experts are not clear how that will affect vaccine success. We expect the picture will be more apparent in the coming weeks and months.
What We Do Know
In late January, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker extended group size restrictions of 50 or less statewide through early June. The state is currently under a “Resurgence Mitigation Plan” comprised of three tiers. Once each area exits Tier 1, they return to the “Restore Illinois” Phase 4. According to Illinois’ plan, convention centers cannot operate until Phase 5. The operators of the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center hope to see operations resuming “sometime in the summer.” At this point, there is no way to be sure of how things will go. We continue to communicate with local officials and convention center staff for updates and planning requirements.
When Will We Know?
Right now, all three organizations meet on a biweekly basis to plan and assess the latest updates. We will continue to proceed with all planning possible through March when we will make a decision. We must be confident we can move ahead at that point for the show to be successful.
If we're unable to proceed with an in-person show, we will return to another Virtual Stamp Show for 2021. Over the past year, we have all waited patiently for things to return to normal. While we're not there yet, we will not allow the pandemic to keep us at home. All three organizations have risen to the occasion to offer great chats, live learning events, and a virtual stamp show to keep the hobby vibrant in these challenging times. We will continue to serve collectors safely and with great energy. Adversity has strengthened our collecting community's bonds, and the future is brighter than ever as a result.