Judging Of Philatelic Exhibits

Fundamentals – Learn What Judges Look For

Material vs. Presentation

What is shown on the pages is what counts (i.e., the material), and its simple description – not how fancy a page is used. But be neat.

The description should show that the exhibitor understands the material. Be concise. The material missing from an exhibit (e.g., rare proofs or unique covers) is important only at the highest levels of competition.

Basic Principles Judged

  • philatelic importance or significance
  • representative selection of material
  • quality of material, compared to what is available
  • lack of important errors (e.g., misstatements in write-up)
  • rarity (not necessarily cost)

Philatelic Significance

Collecting topics differ in significance:

  • Major countries (such as Great Britain, which issued the first adhesive) rate higher than others.
  • Earlier stamp issues rate higher than modern issues.
  • Specialized fields such as topical and thematic exhibits and aerophilately follow slightly different guidelines.

Award Levels

The usual medals, in decreasing level, are:

  • Gold
  • Vermeil
  • Silver
  • Silver-Bronze
  • Bronze

If the jury believes an exhibit does not warrant an award, it will be given a Certificate of Participation.

Sometimes Felicitations of the Jury are awarded, in addition to a medal. This usually indicates that the jury has a special appreciation for the exhibit and recognizes that it has probably reached its highest potential award level.

Levels Of Shows

As well as club exhibits or shows, there are three recognized levels of philatelic shows:

  • Local (sometimes called regional)
  • National
  • International

In Canada, an exhibit must have been shown at a local show and received at least a silver medal before it can be entered in a national show. Under current rules, to be eligible for an international show, an exhibit must have received a national vermeil or gold.

As an exhibit enters a higher level show, usually its award is initially lower (2-3 levels). For example: a local vermeil may receive a national bronze or silver-bronze. A benchmark: a national silver award is usual for an exhibit that has taken a serious collector about 10 years of collecting; it is a very good and an encouraging award. National gold medals are not common, nor are any international medals.


At the higher levels, exhibiting is competitive. At the club or local levels, shows are much less competitive. National and international exhibiting can be intimidating and sometimes frustrating for a noncompetitive person.

Good judges and experienced collectors can give you advice on an exhibit which can take away much of the initial stress of the competition. Above all, remember that philately is a hobby, and is meant to be fun. Enjoy the fun of showing your fellow collectors what you collect.

By Gray Scrimgeour (1998)

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