As you read this, the countdown to Boston 2026 World Expo is at or under the three-year mark! Whether you’re an exhibitor or just enjoy browsing through rows of philately’s finest material and displays, this column will guide you through the basics of international exhibiting.
The United States is one of 87 countries that are members of the Fédération Internationale de Philatélie (FIP, www.f-i-p.ch), which sets guidelines and procedures for the application, organization and judging aspects of exhibiting. The American Philatelic Society is the organization that represents the U.S. in the FIP body and is an official sponsor of Boston 2026. In August 2022, the FIP awarded FIP Patronage to the show.
Each FIP member nation holds its own national level philatelic exhibition. Some hold yearly events, others do so every few years. The U.S. and Canada are fortunate to be able to hold multiple national shows (known as World Series of Philately or WSP shows) over the course of a year, currently 25 and three, respectively. Exhibitors at national shows vie for one of eight medals based on the number of points received. In ascending order these are bronze, silver bronze, silver, large silver, vermeil, large vermeil, gold and large gold.
To be eligible to apply to an international exhibition the exhibit must have received a minimum of 75 points or a vermeil medal at a national level exhibition within the five years prior to the first application for entry to an international exhibition. Just one is the minimum needed, but a recent track record of several high-level awards is recommended, given the fierce competition for exhibiting slots at international shows.
By the way, national level shows allow exhibits to be from one to 10 frames. The maximum number of frames at FIP exhibitions is five, unless that exhibit has already received a large vermeil of 85 points or higher medal in international competition. If so, the exhibitor has the option to expand to up to eight frames. An exhibitor may not apply with more than two exhibits.
The FIP recognizes several one-frame and multi-frame competitive exhibit types, known as classes: aerophilately, astrophilately, maximaphily, open philately, picture postcards, postal history, postal stationery, revenue, thematic, traditional, youth and philatelic literature. Illustrated mail/first day covers is not among the official classes, however, Boston 2026 will have a number of these exhibits on display as experimental classes. There also will be a polar salon and the American Philatelic Society’s annual Champion of Champions competition held at Boston 2026 World Expo.
Full details about applying to exhibit at Boston 2026 will be released by mid-2024, but here’s a brief summary of what comes next. Those interested may want to check out the FIP’s current General Regulations of the FIP for Exhibitions (GREX) that describes the process in depth here: https://aps.buzz/FIPregulations (link is case-sensitive).
Boston 2026 is expected to have more than 4,000 frames of exhibits on display, the vast majority of them competitive in what is called the “Jury Class.” However, demand for frames by exhibitors may outweigh the number available. The odds of being accepted improve if the submitted exhibit is new to international competition, with a minimum 20 percent of competitive frames being allocated to exhibits being shown internationally for the first time. At least 5 percent of competitive frames are reserved for youth exhibits – those younger than 21 – should enough such exhibitors apply.
Applications will not be sent to Boston 2026 directly but will go to appointed national commissioners in exhibitors’ respective countries. He or she will review each application, confirm the information provided for accuracy, and then forward all applications to the Boston 2026 Commissioner General. That person, along with an appointed group of prominent philatelists, forms the Boston 2026 Exhibit Selection Committee. It is that team’s responsibility to evaluate all entries and select those based on their subject and prior award levels, and attempt to achieve a balance of exhibits among the different classes from a variety of participating countries.
Those chosen will be notified through their national commissioner. Yes, there is a significant charge to exhibit once accepted. Frame fees have not been finalized, but will be announced when Boston 2026 Bulletin 1 is available.
Those considering submitting their applications to exhibit at Boston 2026 should be entering national level exhibitions now to ensure the minimum award requirement is met and build their award history. And, yes, a new frame design is currently under development.