See you at Stampex 2023

I’ve just returned home from a month-long holiday in France. And I mean just. I’m looking at my screen through jet-lagged eyes at some godforsaken hour at which I would normally be sleeping. There WILL be typos.

The holiday (with Mrs Punk) was the trip of a lifetime, thirty-three years in the making. Thirty years, because that’s about how long I’ve wanted to visit France, and three extra years because our original planned trip to France became a smoking binfire back in 2020, thanks to the outbreak of Covid.

(This holiday is the reason for the sudden lack of episodes of the podcast that I’ve been banging on about lately. We packed a few recorded episodes into our luggage, with plans to edit and publish as we went. But there’s only one thing that’s more interesting than watching ourselves talk about stamps over and over during the podcast edit process, and that’s France. Somewhat worryingly, no one seemed to notice that we were gone. We’ll be back up and running soon.)

But I’ll say one thing for Covid: it sure motivated the worldwide philatelic community to find new ways to communicate online. An enduring legacy of 2020 is Virtual Stampex, the free, online interactive stamp exhibition organised by the UK’s Philatelic Traders’ Society (PTS). It’s on again from Thursday 4 May (that’s today, as I post this), with a bunch of exciting innovations in play. And now that my holiday is over, and it’s opening day for the show, this post is to officially belatedly announce that I am ON BOARD!

No matter the level of your involvement in the hobby, Virtual Stampex offers many different ways to participate. They all involve sitting on your computer and clicking your way around the site, which is very convenient. A lovely signature touch is that the site’s navigation mimics wandering around a physical stamp exhibition.

This year’s biggest innovation is the Round Table section, and that’s where you’ll find me (twice). They are chatrooms for informal discussions and meet’n’greets. The Round Table program offers a slate of opportunities to learn the ropes, explore the hobby and connect with other collectors, dealers, experts, stamp artists and even a posse of, dare I call them ‘philatelic influencers’? With ‘seats’ for only 16 people, they should manageable and intimate. But get in quick!

I’ll be hosting two sessions. At Friday 8am (UK time), you can Meet the Punk Philatelist, which I’m looking forward to immensely, because writing a blog is a bit of a one-way process and I can’t wait to find out who the hell reads this nonsense. Then on Saturday at 9.30am (UK time), I will jump on my favourite hobby horse and talk about collecting modern stamps on commercial cover. If you’re a particularly online kind of collector like I am, then you might also like to catch Graham Beck from Exploring Stamps, James Gavin aka the Digital Philatelist, Lisa Berthin from StampCat Stamps, Jack Preuveneers who’s behind the International Philatelic Promoters server on Discord, #extremephilately doyens Yan Marin (from Dacia Stamps) and Richard Philatelist, plus several talks hosted by PTS Managing Director Suzanne Rae, aka ArtStamped. And that’s just the start. Check out the round table schedule. Oh, and I nearly forgot… since this event coincides with the new royal crowning, one round table is even going to function as a Coronation Viewing Party! (A Coronation-themed PTS commemorative cover is also available, if you’re into this sort of thing.)

Over the course of the show, Stampex’s Auditorium will be hosting ten presentations. I’m hoping to be able to watch quite a few of them. I haven’t checked how the timezone differences will affect me, but also, my body clock has no idea where it is right now, so I’m not sure it will matter. Check out the lineup here.

There’s one area that deserves a special shoutout, because it can fly under the radar: the Exhibits, which you’ll find in the Museum of Philately. If you’re new to collecting, or if (like me) you have pottered through life just collecting what you like, then the idea of exhibiting your collection can be daunting (especially when the first thing you’re usually whacked with is a list of criteria for material and layout). But the first step is to see what others have done. At any exhibition, I always enjoy taking time to peruse the exhibits. I appreciate the passion, the research and the knowledge that goes into choosing a specialty field and ‘writing it up’ into a presentation designed to attract a reader’s eye.

I don’t know what exhibits are lined up here at Virtual Stampex ’23. I assume they’ll probably appear in the form of scanned images of exhibition pages (which remains the standard online format until we all agree on something a little more dazzling for the internet). Like any exhibition, I would expect there to be a grab-bag of subjects and styles; some can seem samey and obsessed with detail, but others can be more attractive and engaging. By reading the text, you can come to appreciate the significance of the material; items of true and unrecognised rarity can make themselves known to you. If you’re new to it all, shorter exhibits are probably more accessible (look for ‘One Frame’ exhibits if there are any). You don’t have to read through them all, like homework; pick a country, an era or a thematic topic and poke around!

Virtual Stampex is, of course, organised by a stamp dealers’ organisation, so let’s not forget the booths. You can click your way through each booth and find out what each dealer has to offer. Then you can engage in the BEST part of any exhibition: shopping!

And I’m not even done! Virtual Stampex also includes opportunities to hang out in the lobby and chat to like-minded collectors, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a new Matchmaking service. By answering just three questions, it promises to point you in the right direction for the kind of material you’re interested in, or the kind of crowd that you might want to hang around with. (I’ll probably be hanging with the street toughs, just like I do at any real-life stamp exhibition.)

You need to register to attend the exhibition – but it’s free! You can do that at

See you there! I’m off to bed.

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