These Guidelines have the objective of guiding collectors to assemble an exhibit and jurors to evaluate it according to the principles of the General Regulations for the Evaluation of Competitive Exhibits at FIP Exhibitions (GREV) and the Special Regulations for the Evaluation of Thematic Exhibits (SREV).


The pages exhibited ought to:

present the chosen theme as a whole, or show in depth specific sections of the collection without losing the coherence and the continuity of the chosen theme. In this case it may be necessary to adapt the plan page (see 3.2.1 below) to suit the exhibit.



Appropriate postal-philatelic material is that which, for the purpose of transmitting mail or other postal communications, has been issued, intended for issue, or produced in the preparation for issue, used, or treated as valid for postage by governmental, local or private postal agencies, or by other duly commissioned or empowered authorities.

Appropriate postal-philatelic material has the following characteristics:

Type of material:

  • postal franking items (stamps, stamp booklets, postal stationery, franking meters, computer vended postage e.g. FRAMA labels, etc.) and their modifications (e.g. overprints, surcharges, and punch-perforations, as shown by "perfins"). However modified items are not to be included if the modification distracts from the original theme (e.g. by making it no longer visible); they may be used for the theme(s) related to the modification.

  • postal cancellations (ordinary, slogan, commemorative and other special postmarks)
    stamps, cancellations, marks and/or cards indicating a postage privilege (e.g. authorities,
    military) other items used in the postal operations, such as registration labels, postal route labels and markings, supplementary labels or markings (e.g. censorship, disinfection, crash mail), mail delivery dockets, reply coupons, forwarding agents markings, postal automation markings and labels, etc.; where applicable, these items should be on the relevant document.

  • items "intended for issues, or produced in the preparation for an issue", e.g. sketches, proofs varieties and errors

  • revenue stamps. They are admitted as long as they are postally used or have postage validity. Revenue stamps for fiscal purposes are admitted in exceptional cases, when they are the only mean to describe an important thematic point.

Time frame:

  • postal material from the pre-stamp era, through the classic period, to the present day.

Postal Services:

  • in addition to the normal transmission of mail, specific types, e.g. (postage free) service- and military- post (including Airgraphs and V-mail); maritime, railway, and air mail of any type; prisoner-of-war and concentration camp mail; packet, parcel post and freight post postal payment service

  • private post, authorised or tolerated by the official authorities, or active in total absence of an official post.

  • Under "other postal communications" are included other forms of postal services, like pneumatic post, telegrams, electronic mail (i.e. message sent electronically to a Post Office where it is printed out and delivered to an addressee, etc.

Inappropriate Material

The following items are inappropriate:

  • fantasy issues from non-existent postal territories, issues of exiled governments or
    organisations without postal services private additional cancellations applied by a sender or a supplier before mailing the documents

  • picture postcards, unless they are postal stationery produced by a Postal Authority

  • private additional prints on postal stationery (also known as “repiquages”)

  • administrative marks (not postal), when they do not give any postal privilege

  • private decorations on envelopes and cards

  • private vignettes (advertising labels), whatever the purpose of their use.

Border-line material

The variety of postal services and regulations in different countries and their evolution over time make it impossible to define a list encompassing all possible situations. Some items only follow to a certain extent the above definitions of appropriate or inappropriate material; therefore they should be used mainly when no other material is available to describe a specific thematic detail.

When included in the exhibit, they should always be supported by a thorough philatelic justification.

Items belonging to the specific philatelic culture of a theme, a country or a region can be tolerated as much as they are justified and their number is proportional to the degree of elaboration of the exhibit.

Thematic Information

The thematic information is derived

  • directly from the purpose of issue (or of use) or the design of an item, or

  • indirectly as a result of a deeper analysis that enables the use of items that, at a first glance, do not show any connection with the theme.

Thus the thematic information can be drawn from:

  • the purpose of issue:

       -those which follow changes in political situations

       -those which document a particular period.

and, in addition to the primary and the secondary design of the item, from:

       -the text, art style of illustration and similar peculiarities

       -the material on which the item is printed e.g. granite (silk thread) or banknote paper, war maps

        -the watermark design and the perforation (e.g. "perfins")

        -the text or illustration of margins, gutters, tabs, cover and interleaving of booklets, etc.

        -functions of the postal service, which have a thematic significance (e.g. railway, telegraph, newspaper stamps, official service postal stationery, pigeon post).

The thematic information described above must be:

initiated by the postal service, or introduced or added by the postal service (e.g. advertising appendices, marginal descriptions, postal stationery illustrations), or

approved by the postal service (e.g. postal stationery to private order).

Printing or surcharges added privately after the sale of the items do not fulfil this requirement.

Generic cancellations can be used because of the specific meaning of a place name, or of the reason a place exists. Alternatively, they must contain adequate thematic information (e.g. advertising text, illustration), in addition to the data concerning the place and/or the date. A postmark, even if of the pre-philatelic period, does not document the birthplace of a person. Also the postmark date and place, when related to a special event which happened on the same date and place, is relevant only if other thematic elements concern the theme or it has a specific thematic significance from a postal history standpoint; in the latter case it should only be used when it refers to an important detail of the theme.

Sender and addressee data represents insignificant information, unless the document shows a special postal privilege (e.g. reduced or free postage) as a result of the position, condition or status (e.g. military, government or other official mail) of one of the parties. The indication of reduced (or free) postage or the service postmarks, or equivalent markings of the postal route, provide sufficient evidence. In some instances sender and/or addressee data may be helpful as complementary thematic information, in combination with the postal elements of the document.

The information made available by vignettes (i.e. pictorial labels), marks, cachets and
decorative overprints of private origin (i.e. not postally authorised) should not be used for the thematic development. In exceptional cases, where no other material exists, these items can be considered as a part of the document as long as they are relevant to describe a specific postal route or they present a significant thematic connection.



In thematic philately the concept defined by the GREV is represented by the plan.

The plan and the development represent the two aspects of an interlaced process, based on personal study and research by the collector on both the theme and the material. A deeper knowledge of the theme enables one to increase the number of facts and details and to look for additional items to illustrate them. A better knowledge of the material allows one to identify new pieces, which often must be justified through further study of the theme, which could result in a more elaborate plan.

3.2.1 Title and Plan

The title and the plan represent a meaningful entity and reflect the specific characteristics of the chosen theme. Hence, different titles originate different plans.

If an exhibitor decides to show a self-contained section of his/her collection, the plan and the title of the exhibit must be consistent with that section.

The title represents the synthesis of the work. Therefore the title and the contents of the pages have to match and the sequence of the philatelic items mounted on the pages should give the full details of the story stated in the title. Boosting titles to make the exhibit more attractive can be misleading if they deviate from the concept developed in the pages.

The plan provides a clear and intelligible insight into all major aspects of the theme. It may:

be freely chosen in order to make the synthesis of a theme or an idea, or

derive naturally from the theme.

The structure may follow a time-related classification (historical, evolutionary), or subject-related criteria (scientific, systematic, organisational, economic, etc.), or other criteria. For instance, themes related to Organisations and Institutions (e.g. Red Cross, League of Nations, Council of Europe), repetitive events (e.g. Stamp Days, Olympic Games), etc. can be subdivided according to their structure, type of organisation, and individual events following thematically time- or place-related classifications.

Themes developed within an organisational or chronological framework should clearly show the historical background, the aims, tasks, results and effects of the activities of such organisations or events. The plan consists only of thematic divisions and subdivisions, with no generic chapters (e.g. "Miscellaneous", "Appendix"). Subdivisions by date of issue, issuing country, type of material (e.g. "Meters", "Postal stationery"), or purpose of issue (e.g. "Anniversaries") are to be avoided. Such items are best used according to their thematic information. The same applies to special philatelic studies (ref.: 3.2.3).

The plan is supposed to present a logical order allowing the study of the entire exhibit without disturbing breaks between the different chapters. Ideally the beginning of the following chapter has a logical link with that preceding. This helps to create an interesting story instead of an unconnected “list of contents".

An effective plan covers the largest scope compatible with the title. In this respect, unless specifically stated in the title, the plan should not be limited by time or by geography, as far as the chosen theme allows it.

The different chapters should have a good balance, according to their relative thematic weight within the scope of the theme as defined by the title rather than by the quantity of material available.

The construction of an innovative plan is considered a prerequisite for an innovative

The Plan Page

The plan page comprises all major subdivisions of the plan; finer and more detailed subdivisions are presented, in principle, only on the individual pages. The plan cannot be replaced by a literary description or by a generic introductory statement.

An adequate plan page will ensure that the public and the jurors do not have to "reconstruct" the plan by browsing through the pages of the exhibit. The obvious difficulties caused by having to do so might be reflected in the understanding and the evaluation of the exhibit.

A numerical classification (e.g. decimal, legal systems) may be used if it helps to make the exhibit easier to understand. It should be limited to major divisions of the plan. Experience has shown that a two/three digits/letters system is sufficient.

In addition to the plan page, an introductory title page may highlight the theme.

The official FIP languages in which the title, the plan and any other introductory statement have to be presented are English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish.

3.2.2. Development

The analysis of both the theme and the appropriate material, based on a thorough thematic and philatelic knowledge, is a prerequisite for the best possible thematic development. This enables the skilful selection of each item and its correct positioning and sequence, as well as a connecting description. This is necessary to ensure a proper understanding of the relationship between the item and the theme.

This is shown by:

the selection of the most suitable items for each thematic detail described.

the balanced utilisation of the items according to the significance of the thematic detail they support. The number of philatelic items available for the same detail should not be the basis for their inclusion.

the accurate thematic arrangement of the items shown on the same page according to the sequence of the “story”. The correct sequence takes priority over the best appearance of the page.

Therefore, the simple classification of the philatelic pieces related to a subject is necessary but not sufficient to achieve an advanced degree of elaboration.

The Thematic Text

The thematic text:

illustrates the logical sequence of the development, by connecting the items shown. A good connection is effective and concise, without unnecessary information. This requires that the text be fluid enough to demonstrate the thread of the development.

explains the thematic qualification of an item, if required (Ref. 3.3 below)

gives appropriate information of the thematic details of stamps and documents.

Any thematic explanation has to be closely related to the material shown, and any given statement must be covered by thematically appropriate philatelic items, otherwise it weakens the thematic development.

Even if FIP languages are not compulsory for thematic and philatelic text, exhibitors who intend to show frequently at international exhibitions are strongly advised to present their exhibit in one of those languages, to help in the understanding of their work (Ref. GREV 3.3).

3.2.3 Innovation

The exhibit is supposed to show the personal work of the exhibitor, highlighting the results of his/her ability to innovate. This requires personal effort by study, research and imagination and cannot result from the simple mechanical duplication of existing works. Exhibitors can take advantage of all sources available on the subject (e.g. thematic and philatelic literature as well as other collections) to push their research forward.


A short thematic description is necessary whenever the connection between the item and the theme is not self-explanatory. Items without a demonstrated relationship with the theme should be excluded.

When selecting qualified material for the exhibit, preference and greater importance has to be given to:

types of items that are the cornerstone of philately (i.e. stamps, postal stationery, cancellations and postmarks) as opposed to items with a lower postal connotation, even if their issue or use has been duly authorised by the post

issues which have information whose contents bear a direct relation to the issuing country from a political, historical, cultural, economic and/or similar standpoint. Avoid speculative issues, which exploit the "fashion trends" in thematic philately (these dubious items ought to be in principle totally excluded), with special reference to issues not following the code of ethics of the UPU normal issues, as opposed to additional parallel imperforate issues (stamps and souvenir sheets)

genuinely cancelled items, as opposed to items cancelled to order,

genuinely carried commercial mail with relevant cancellations, as opposed to mere souvenir documents and any similar items which were created to please collectors, e.g. decorated FDCs (even when issued by the postal service), and maximum cards

genuinely carried items with correct postage and relevant thematic cancellations, as
opposed to favour cancellations, often with underfranked postage, or, even worse,

cancellations on stampless covers (“blank cancellations”) unless due to a free postage privilege

documents with individual, differing addressees, as opposed to covers and cards received by the same addressee as a result of a subscription

correct postage frankings, as opposed to overfrankings due to philatelic reasons (e.g. complete sets)

meter frankings with correct postage, as opposed to favour cancellations (e.g. “000”), unless the latter is a "specimen" or it has a justified postal reason.

Exceptions to the above criteria may only be shown if properly justified.

The relative rarity or unusual characteristics of proofs, varieties and similar items, can increase the philatelic quality of the exhibit. Common varieties (e.g. minor colour nuances) play an insignificant role and they are likely to adversely affect the thematic development. If a variety does not clearly demonstrate the connection with the theme, the normal item should be also shown as a reference.

Common stamps and documents are appropriate if they best represent important thematic details.

The use of maximum cards should be limited to a few, significant items, mainly to enhance the understanding of the thematic information on the stamp. In addition to the necessary concordance of subject, time and date, defined in the principles of Maximaphily, these items should have a theme-related cancellation.

The use of revenue stamps for fiscal purposes should be limited to a few, significant items, mainly to enhance the thematic development in very important points of the theme that cannot be covered otherwise. These items are to be properly justified.

Philatelic studies

Postal items and documents present a number of philatelic variants. If this material is of thematic and philatelic importance, then a concise and balanced philatelic study is commendable, so that this material can be properly shown.

A philatelic study follows in a systematic manner the criteria for traditional philately (e.g. development of the item, varieties), postal history (e.g. usage, routes, handling of the mail, postmarks) or any other postal philatelic discipline. A philatelic study may exploit existing sources for further personal research. In order to safeguard the balance of the exhibit, the aim of these studies is not completeness, but the presence of the most significant philatelic peculiarities. The extent of the studies is proportional to the degree of specialisation of the exhibit.

Philatelic studies, whenever included, blend with the thematic development without affecting the fluidity of elaboration of the exhibit. The thematic text has to continue in parallel with the study, so that there is no disturbing interruption.

Philatelic text

A philatelic text can be used when a specific philatelic characteristic of the item is not easily recognizable, for documenting the use of revenue stamps, or for presenting a philatelic study.

Boosting definitions, in the style of those of the auction-catalogues, are inappropriate.


The statement of the GREV suits perfectly thematic exhibits; hence there is no specific article in the SREV.



4.1. Thematic Treatment

4.1.1. Title and Plan

The title defines the overall concept, which then is structured through the plan. Inconsistencies between the title and the plan indicate either an inadequate breakdown of the title or an inappropriate synthesis of its structure in the selected title.

The plan page, that provides an insight into the theme, has to be shown at the beginning of the exhibit. Failure to do so will result in the automatic loss of three points.”
The requirements for a correct, logical and balanced structuring into divisions and sub-divisions are defined as follows:

Correct: The plan should be accurate, scientifically reliable and sound

Logical: The sequence of the main chapters and their subdivisions must follow a rationalorder, without superfluous or misplaced chapters

Balanced: The same importance should be given to the different sections in accordance with the thematic significance and the available material coverage of all major aspects necessary to develop the theme.

4.1.2. Development

The correct assembly and position of the items, including the individual ones on each page, is demonstrated by a well understood, correct, and fluent thread of development. Misplaced items make development confused and hard to understand.

The balance is demonstrated by giving the appropriate depth and size to the various thematic details, according to their significance within the theme. This also applies to philatelic studies.

4.2. Knowledge, Personal Study and Research

The GREV considers “philatelic and related knowledge”, that can be seen as the result of two components:

  • A “concept” related knowledge. In almost all classes is of postal and philatelic nature: issues, usages, printing processes, rates, routes, services, and so on. In thematic philately this “concept” is of a thematic nature: cars, bridges, history, nature, sport, etc.; hence “thematic knowledge” is that which is based on personal study and research and sound knowledge of the subject studied.

  • “Philatelic knowledge”, that relates to the material used to support the concept. This component is common to all classes.

4.2.1 Thematic Knowledge, and its related Personal Study and Research

Thematic knowledge refers to the overall knowledge of the theme as expressed in the choice of the items, their correlation and the degree of appropriateness of the accompanying text; the correct thematic use of material is reflected by the degree of appropriateness to cover specific thematic details.

Thematic knowledge is also demonstrated by the use of material that has a thematic
qualification, which is not immediately obvious and needs to be discovered by the exhibitor.

Thematic knowledge assumes the absence of thematic errors and avoids pretexts for
introducing material not directly related with the theme or unnecessary borderline items.

The level of thematic study and research is evaluated by taking into account the availability of previous studies of the theme, in order to assess how much the treatment took advantage of available thematic and philatelic literature, catalogues and documented research. This will then be compared with the personal research and study shown in the exhibit.

4.2.2 Philatelic Knowledge, and its related Personal Study and Research

The full compliance with the rules of postal philately concerns, for instance, the presence of items that are unsuitable for collecting purposes because of their state (e.g. cut stamps or cut postal stationery, improper maximum cards)

The presence and balanced utilisation of all the different philatelic types of material should be obtained by presenting items of all periods and from the largest number of countries, within the possibilities of the chosen theme.

The suitability of the postal documents considers their philatelic appropriateness, including the number and the justification of borderline items, if any, as well as the selection of items of real philatelic significance rather than of extravagant pieces

Personal philatelic study and research are demonstrated by the presence of:

  • material which has not yet been researched for that theme, or where there has been very little research refers to an uncommon area of collecting

  •  philatelic studies presenting a true, well documented, philatelic in depth analysis and which are not just an excuse for showing an accumulation of more pieces without any serious philatelic foundation.

4.3 Condition and Rarity

The condition is based on the usual overall criteria for evaluation in philately. For modern material good condition is an essential requirement. Booklets should be presented complete with stamps.

Cancellations must be clear, and allow the stamp design, where thematically relevant, to be clearly visible.

The rarity is based on objective criteria such as recognised absolute scarcity and difficulty of acquisition.

It is essential that varieties, proofs, essays, are rarer than the issue itself, in order to increase the philatelic level. The same applies to blocks, strips, etc.

It is obvious that items which, despite being very rare, have no or insufficient relationship to the theme, should not be included in the evaluation of this criterion.

4.4 Presentation

The efforts of the exhibitor are demonstrated by the arrangement of the items and the text on appropriate exhibition pages. Presentation will be evaluated on the basis of:

clarity of the display

clarity of the text

the overall aesthetic balance of the exhibit.



The thematic jurors must complete an evaluation form in order to be guided towards a thorough and consistent judgement.

The presence of faked, forged or repaired items, which are not clearly marked as such, will cause the downgrading of the exhibit by the Jury, according to the report of the special Expert

Team appointed at each exhibition.

Reprints must be presented as such. Weak or faded postmarks must not be redrawn on piece; instead a copy of the postmark should be redrawn and presented next to the

Collectors are therefore recommended to have any doubtful item expertised before selecting it for the exhibit and the original of the certificates should be included behind the sheet, in the same transparent protective cover. In case a photocopy is used, the same has to be certified by the Federation. Alternatively, the commissioner may bring the original certificate for use if needed. Irrelevant of how the certificate is made available, at the end of the philatelic text concerning the item certified should be put the abbreviation “e” in bold thus (e).