I wasn’t actually a philatelist, my husband was, and he was looking for a topic. I’m Danish, so we looked at some Danish material and that meant that I could help him translate things in Danish and some in German. He got a correspondence of about 20 letters between a husband and wife written in 1864. I was absolutely hooked. I thought this is amazing, this is people writing and sending letters during a war! It was this social aspect that attracted me and that is why I exhibit in the Open Philately class.

Open Philately caught my imagination because it provides the combination of philatelic material with non-philatelic material. I first exhibited at NORDIA in 2002, and my eight-frame exhibit, Denmark: Conscience, Conflict, and Camps 1932-1949, has been awarded Large Gold at two FIP exhibitions, while my exhibit, Refugee Camps in Denmark 1945-1949 straddles Open Philately and Postal History, Class 2C. I am qualified as a national judge in Scandinavia, accredited in the UK, and in Open Philately at FEPA.

There are many different ways of collecting and exhibiting philatelic material. Some people simply collect for their own enjoyment, others are members of clubs, where they may display items from their collections and share their knowledge, and then there are those who exhibit competitively, nationally or internationally. A display is when someone is mounting a collection, or part of a collection, and writing up the material. They might share this at a local club or society. If they then decide to go into exhibiting, it is different because it is competitive, and there are regulations. So there’s a big difference between displaying and exhibiting.

There are competitions at all different levels. In the UK, there are competitions at clubs, regional and national levels. And then, of course, there are international exhibitions. If anybody’s interested in doing that they must read the guidelines for exhibiting, and all the regulations, because otherwise it can be really hard the first time you do it.

If you are a collector and want to find out a bit more about your collection, then join a club or society at local or national level. Or if you know a philatelist talk to them and they will be able to help. Then you might find out what you are really interested in, where you would like to explore more, and which subject or topic you would want to work on. If you’re more interested in stamps, or if you’re more interested in envelopes, and the different ways you can actually develop your material.

If you want to exhibit, you should read about the different classes on the FIP website (Fédération Internationale de Philatélie): f-i-p.ch. It’s important to read around which kind of class you think that you would be happy exhibiting in, depending on your interest and material.

Both displaying and exhibiting can be exciting, you meet more people, and you can share your knowledge and learn from each other. If you go to international exhibitions, you can get friends from other places that collect similar areas to you and exchange information. Philatelists from all over the world are happy to share information with each other. This helps increase your network and you continue to meet new people. And then, of course, there’s the social aspect – sharing your ideas, your material, your knowledge. It becomes very, very sociable and that is great.

Advice when you are starting out:

1. Choose a subject that interests you, because then you will have a good story to tell.

2. Choose in which class you want to exhibit, because then you have got a goal to work towards when you look at the regulations.

3. Then just collect, collect, collect, because you need so much more material to fill the pages than you think you need, so that you can choose the items that are the best for your story.

And remember, philately is a hobby, you should do it because you enjoy it, and if others like it, and if you get good points and medals, that is an extra bonus.