Iíve attended lots of stamp shows in my time. One thing I notice at every show is that the exhibits are largely neglected. Everyone is busy at the dealer tables. Almost no one spends time at the exhibits. What a shame. They donít know what they are missing.
I think itís because people are more interested in looking for new material for their collections. Thatís fine. But they are missing a wealth of information within the frames of the exhibit. Especially if there is an exhibit of material related to their collecting interests. Most collectors donít have unlimited time to spend at a show. Dealer tables are first on the list of priorities and the exhibits are last, if at all.
Weíve seen some early signs of digital exhibits. I think this is an idea whose time has come because of the many benefits.
First is the preservation of research and philatelic material. How many collections have gone to the city dump because the heirs knew nothing about the value of tiny pieces of paper? How much rare and unusual material has been lost over time? How many items have been damaged due to fire or flood? How many items are becoming too fragile to put on exhibit? Digital exhibits are a permanent record of philatelic items.
The space needed for exhibits is expensive, particularly at large shows held in convention centers where floor space is very expensive. Eliminating exhibits saves a lot of money on the cost of the show, especially for struggling shows. Reducing space requirements lowers the cost of the show to dealers who buy booth space and to collectors who may have to pay admission fees.
How many exhibits have been lost or delayed in transit to and from a show? How many items have been stolen from an exhibit? Do you remember the theft of the #C3a block of four from the Ethel McCoy exhibit at the 1955 APS convention in Norfolk, VA? How many collectors donít exhibit because they donít want to go to the expense or the trouble of sending their material hundreds or thousands of miles away? Digital exhibits require no additional security for the show. Owners have more peace of mind knowing their prized material is safe at home under their watchful eye.
Digital exhibits can be viewed any time. If the collector doesnít have time at the show, maybe they would have time at home on the weekend, or on a snowy or rainy day.
Digital exhibits promote research. Youíre usually not allowed to take pictures of exhibits at shows. Either you write down the information or you contact the exhibitor afterwards to get the information you need. A digital exhibit puts all of that information at your finger tips. It may encourage more research by newer collectors.
The key to making digital exhibits successful is cost. Almost no one is going to pay $100 for a copy of an exhibit, no matter how good it is. If digital exhibits were more affordable, say, in the $10 range, they may be a hit. Or offer them online for a small fee for downloading. Many collectors have a computer. Several exhibits could easily fit on one CD or DVD computer disk. Another key is getting good quality full size images.
Digital exhibits have their problems too. How do you know if the exhibitor really owns the item or not? How do you tell if an item has been faked or altered? There are issues to overcome and I donít want to give you the impression that digital exhibits are perfect.
Letís hope the APS or some other organization will pick up this undertaking and turn it into a reality. Given the many advantages that digital exhibits offer, itís an idea whose time has come. Keep the costs reasonable and we have a winner.