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A Philatelic Smorgasbord

It would be a huge exaggeration to claim that Sweden has exported a large amount of words to the English language. However, there are some words which come to mind. They are orienteering, ombudsman and smorgasbord. A dictionary will tell you what they mean if they are not part of your vocabulary. A smorgasbord is a buffet meal replete with dozens of Scandinavian specialities. The guests choose and pick what appeals to them.

I was reminded of this when I visited the Frimaerker i Forum stamp show in Copenhagen, Denmark, in mid-November 2005. This is undoubtedly the largest show in northern Europe. During its three days, it attracts some 10.000 visitors mostly from Denmark and South Sweden. There are many reasons behind the success of the show including extensive advertising in the philatelic press and general media.

Sunday is always the last day of the show. When I arrived 15 minutes before the opening on Sunday, I was surprised to find at least 50 people waiting in line. The doors opened at exactly 10 o’clock and the large group of collectors immediately set off in the same direction in the huge hall.

They were all heading for the Serve yourself table, and within minutes, they were all busily searching for interesting stamps among the many pounds of kiloware on a long table.

The Serve yourself table is a fixture at the Frimaerker i Forum show, and it is probably one of the reasons why it attracts so many visitors. Many come on all three days.

This is how it works. The table is covered by many, many pounds of kiloware which has been donated by some of the participating philatelic services and dealers. Thus, it is absolutely free of charge. At each serving, some 30 collectors are given small glassine bags and fifteen minutes to fill them with stamp goodies from the table. After a quarter of an hour, the collectors have to vacate the table as there is already a new group of collectors waiting to have a go at the stamps.

This columnist is a regular visitor to the Copenhagen stamp show, but as my main interest is in mint stamps, I have never bothered to have a closer look at the Serve yourself table. But, this time I made an exception in order to be able to tell Global readers about my experience.

It turned out to be quite exciting to wade through the thousands of stamps on paper in search of useful items. During my fifteen minutes, I was able to fill my glassine bag with 128 stamps (others were probably far more efficient as their bags seemed to be filled to capacity).

When I got home, I soaked the stamps and after closer inspection, I had to discard several faulty stamps leaving me with 117 items. The most difficult stamps to soak were a number of New Zealand self-adhesive stamps, but the backing paper eventually came off.

My 117 stamps came from fifteen different countries with Sweden providing the largest number. I had also picked many stamps from Denmark, New Zealand and Australia. I had also been able to locate some Icelandic stamps which are not that common.

Well, did I find anything of value? Most of the stamps were from the last twenty years or so, and there was quite a lot of variety. My best find was two sets of Swedish 1995 stamps honoring Tycho Brahe (Scott #’s 2149-2150). They were nice stamps with circular cancels which the Facit catalogue values at SEK 25:–(about $3) while the Scott catalogue assigns a value of $1.90 to the pair. I also found an unused Swedish first-class stamp and unused New Zealand stamps with a total face value of NZ$1.65.

I consider those fifteen minutes well spent. Although I do not collect used modern stamps, I still obtained quite a lot of nice stamps for my many overseas trading partners.

A self-service philatelic smorgasbord could easily be the reason for the success of a stamp show. However, the kiloware must not be too common as most collectors are looking forward to making finds. Also it is important that the Serve yourself table is offered free of charge. It is my guess that many collectors returned home from Frimaerker i Forum with hundreds of new stamps to add to their albums.

They undoubtedly also spent a lot of money buying better stamps and covers from the more than thirty dealers taking part in the show. After all, the kind of stamps found on the Serve yourself table are probably not found in the inventories of most dealers. n

Contact's: Christer Brunström