The first question that is posed to a new thematic collector, concerns surely the choice of the theme of his collection. The answer in this question “which subject do I choose?” is particularly important. From this answer depends the future course of ones exhibit, perhaps the entire thematic career of the exhibitor.

Concerning that point, abbot de Troyer, the Belgian pioneer of thematic philately, said: “The choice of the theme is really difficult. It must be inspired by serious causes. A thematic collection needs multi-annual study in-depth. The collector should be mastering the subject. Otherwise he might not correspond to the serious requirements of this development".

First condition for the successful development of a thematic collection is the collector's love for the theme that he will select. That's why his first choice should be a subject of what his interests are about. All of us we have “obvious or clandestine loves” out of the social, professional, artistic, athletic, scientific etc. space. The “obvious” love of a doctor who appreciates so much his science, that even his hobbies report into medicine; or the musician's who, apart from the continuous effort of improvement on his musical knowledge and dexterities, he likes to extend his musical encyclopedic knowledge, by gathering gravures with musical subjects or original correspondence of composers, old scarce records etc. It is the craftsman or the industrialist of footwear that collects posters and other advertisements from old firms of shoe-making and exposes them in some special space at his office, or one who seeks and collects old tools or pioneer instruments about the art of the shoes. All these, because one loves his work and uses its materiel even as a hobby.

The above examples of “obvious loves" can create collectors with brilliant future in thematic collections of corresponding themes. As who could be more of a specialist than the doctor on the creation of a collection on a medical subject? Who is more suitable than the botanist in the creation of a collection on a theme concerning “plants”, “flowers" or of a mineralogist for “mining”…? etc…

In the case of “obvious” love, apart from the per se important condition, also exists the facility of confronting the subject because for the development of a theme is required the knowledge of the object. Who could better know the treated object in a collection than the scientist, the artist, the corresponding professional?

A second category of collectors that can easily select a subject and lead it easily far, up to the tallest steps of an international exhibition, are those with the “clandestine loves”. He is a banking employee that always dreamed to become a musician but “life commanded otherwise” or a doctor whose hobby was astronomy. He installed a small or bigger telescope in the rooftop of his house and, with the passion that nourishes this hobby, he can recognize stars, groups of stars, can distinguish galaxies and nebulae of galaxies. He has become a small astronomer. All about Ipparchus, Aristarchus, Thales, Pythagoras, Eratosthenes, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Kepler etc. are for him “familiarities".

He knows and remembers them perhaps better than a practicing astronomer. Well! In the hands of such a hobbyist, a collection with the theme “Astronomy” can make marvels. As in this case exists the love, combined with the knowledge. A knowledge that in this case does not emanate from academic study, but from training out of a sideline interest.

The remaining categories of candidate thematic collectors have sure difficult work in the choice of their theme, and a great difficulty to bring it to a favorable end. Lets say that somebody sees, for example, some stamps or a collection of “mushrooms”. One is impressed by their beauty, shapes, colours. He decides therefore to make “mushrooms” too. With what encyclopedic knowledge? With what knowledge of the theme? This collector has surely heavier work to do. At first, because he should begin gathering information from zero. What is “morchella] comestible”, or “[Pleyrotos] [ostreodis]”, what are “[amanites]” poisonous?
Varieties, families, species, subspecies, their use by the man as comestible products, their use in pharmaceutical, the way of natural and technical reproduction, places where they are grown, hosts of mushrooms, types of poisonings mushrooms…. Where should one start and where should one end, when without previous knowledge he will try to create such a collection? This precise difficulty has an additional danger, much more important: Due to the increased difficulty, one can be quickly disappointed and abandon the effort totally, or, simply, maintain certain pages of an album full of “mushrooms….”

There are no few examples of collectors who began a theme and soar it into higher levels, even though they did not have any direct or indirect relation with the topic. Simply, it is a matter of will and insistence.
A point into which the collector must pay particular attention when beginning a new theme full of ambition, should be the existence of supporting postal/philatelic material. There are themes, to develop for which exist old and good material, capable to drive them to a high level of distinction, while other topics are condemned to a limited award. “Dinosaurs”, for example have appeared very late on stamps. Much later than the “flowers”, the “trains”, the “football” etc. This means that all the existing material will be very modern and, in consequence, the collection will be of smaller range in the view of the “value and rarity of the material”. There are of course voices that protest for these discriminations and ask that the collections should be judged on the basis of the available material. But, doesn't it happen the same in the other philatelic classes? Would we judge in the same way the Postal History of a town, of a prefecture and a whole county? Could one ever compare a collection/study of an isolated classic stamp next to a complete collection that includes the full set, or the stamps of the complete classic period? It is of course a question of range.

Other examples of subjects to be avoided because of their small “range” are the modern personalities (the life of the Pope John-Paul II', of President Mitterrand etc), modern technologies (computing, satellites), modern types of planes etc.

Something that is also important for the future of a thematic collection is the breadth of the theme, that should be neither very big, nor very small. A collection entitled “animals”, “birds”, “flowers”, or even wide subdivisions, as “mammals”, it is condemned to be drown into the chaos of species, subspecies, varieties etc. How to deepen a similar theme? How can the collector present nicely balanced all the species, without injuring none, so that, this which will finally be presented in his collection will correspond in the title expectations that has been created?

When, on the contrary, the theme that we select is very “narrow”, there will be difficulty to cover the minimum of the pages that are necessary for an exhibit collection. Themes like “Pelicans”, “Anemone”, “Arabic Horse”, “Marsupials”, as it is not possible to cover enough pages, cannot constitute the theme of an autonomous collection.

Reversely, ideal are the themes that have a limited but satisfactory broadness, as they give the possibility of a more deepening of details, they require more and serious study and they can prove the particular effort of the collector. For example: Instead of a collection on the theme “birds”, it is much better a collection “rapacious birds”, or “aquatic birds”. It is much better a collection on" the music of Europe from the Renaissance up to date” rather than a collection titled “Musical Instruments”, or, even worst, “Music” (where obligatorily one would have to present ancient and modern music, music of other civilisations, musical instruments and… "there is no limit or end”!).

In any case, particular value is attributed, by judges and public, in the authenticity of the chosen theme. The authentic themes impress and are subsidised at the process of evaluation. Absolutely justified! Themes like “the fire”, “the night”, “the beard”, “the shoe”, “schizophrenia” (I am reporting on real and multi-prized collections), cannot be compared with the triviality of “flowers”, “insects” or “means of transportation”. For these themes is required inspiration, experience, bigger research, more study, and also much more “acute brain”, besides the difficulty of the material's discovery. Greek thematic collectors, is certain that acquire these qualifications. However a basic element is missing from them: the thematic experience. Without examples, without optical experiences, it is very difficult to expect “original thematic collections”.

Therefore, in order to summarise, we recommend that the choice of a new thematic collection's theme has to be realized in the basis of the following choices:

  • We prefer to select a theme that we love and we know, either because it is related to our work, or because it is included in our hobbies.

  • We avoid themes of modern technology, biographies of modern personalities and generally themes that are supported by only modern material.

  • We particularly avoid either very general subjects, or/and very specific and specialised ones. Very specific topics can be acceptable in a collection of One Frame.

  • We prefer more original and less trivial themes. The regulations forecast 5 points for the originality and authenticity of the exhibits.