Show Report: Stockholmia 2019… a royal treat for stamp collectors

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04 June 2019
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Christer Brunström reviews the recent Stockholmia stamp event in the Swedish capital to mark the 150th anniversary of The Royal Philatelic Society London

The Royal Philatelic Society London (RPSL) is the world’s oldest stamp club tracing its origins back to 1869 when it started as a meeting place for serious philatelists in the British capital. Over the past 150 years it has developed into a prominent philatelic organisation with a worldwide membership. 

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The Society’s sesquicentennial exhibition was held in Stockholm 29 May to 2 June and it was inaugurated by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf on 29 May with many hundreds attending the opening ceremony in a large auditorium. However, the 28 May vernissage (or event preview) had already attracted more than 1,000 RPSL members and other visitors who were welcomed by RPSL President Patrick Maselis and Exhibition Manager Jonas Hällström.

From a philatelic point of view, STOCKHOLMIA 2019 was a hugely successful event with some 300 members exhibiting their collections in 2,000 frames (or on 27,232 album pages to be precise). The quality of the exhibits was incredibly high. In fact, there were no less than seventy Large Gold and 96 Gold medals awarded by an international jury.

The Grand Award went to Daniel Ryterband for his most interesting postal history exhibit devoted to the American Civil War. The award was presented during the Saturday banquet in a spectacular setting – next to a 17th-century warship in the Vasa Museum!

In the Court of Honour, visitors were treated to a twelve-frame exhibit from the Royal Collection owned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Two frames of British and Colonial issues were devoted to each monarch since the first postage stamp was issued on 6 May 1840. This allowed visitors to get a glimpse of the Royal Collection which the Queen considers to be a family heirloom.

Other exhibits in the Court of Honour featured stamps once owned by royal philatelists such as the kings of Egypt and Romania.

Count Gustaf Douglas has assembled the most complete collection of classic Swedish stamps as it also includes the legendary 1855 Three Skilling Banco Yellow error stamp. With a bit of luck visitors could get a private showing of the collection by the count.

From the start five years ago the plan was to create a stamp event which would set new standards for future stamp exhibitions and STOCKHOLMIA 2019 certainly lived up to the expectations. The philatelic programme offered an amazing 200 lectures, seminars, book launches and congresses. In fact, there were no less than four different activities going on at the same time throughout the five days the exhibition was open to the general public.

The RPSL is famous for its 5pm meetings where well-known philatelists are invited to talk about and display their areas of specialisation. At STOCKHOLMIA 2019, the time had been changed to 3pm but the quality of the speakers was the same as at a meeting in London. It all started at 3pm on 29 May when Mr. Scott R. Trepel gave a one-hour presentation called The Transcontinental Pony Express 1860-1861. It was held in the large auditorium as were all the other 3pm presentations. A most elegant 35-page handout summarising Mr. Trepel’s presentation was given to all who attended the lecture.

Literature played a major role at STOCKHOLMIA 2019 where there was a Library Reading Room where visitors could sit down and leaf through the very books which had been entered in the exhibition. It is expected that there will be a similar reading room at London 2020. 

Two huge catalogues had been produced for the exhibition – one featuring not only the customary list of exhibits but also a plethora of articles telling the story of the RPSL and also devoted to various aspects of philately in Sweden. The second volume deals with the many literary works associated with the RPSL.

There were two 24-page issues of The London Philatelist published during the exhibition and distributed for free to all visitors. They were printed overnight and ready for distribution when the exhibition opened the next day at 10am.

Some fifty dealers from many parts of the world had taken stands at the exhibition. I spoke to several of them and they had only praise to say about the organisation of STOCKHOLMIA 2019. The Global Philatelic Network carried out a Rarity Auction on 1 June attracting not only many bidders but also a considerable amount of curious spectators.

STOCKHOLMIA 2019 certainly set new standards for future exhibitions but I doubt it will ever be possible to improve on what was achieved in Stockholm. It certainly was a spectacular event which will be long remembered in philatelic history.

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