About the exhibition
Another world stamp exhibition was held in Prague after only six years – from 22nd June until 7th July 1968. It was a part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the independence of Czechoslovakia and, at the same time, of the 50th anniversary of issue of the first Czechoslovak postage stamps. The exhibition motto was “Philately – the world of knowledge and peace“. The exhibition was held under the auspices of the President of the Republic Ludvík Svoboda who also opened it, as well as under the patronage of FIP.
The gallery of our postage stamp designers had a reserved place within the framework of the exhibition. The main part of the competitive exhibits were exhibited at the Exhibition Grounds in the Industrial Palace, other exhibits were in the Sports Hall and several prefabricated pavilions were built in open spaces. The official expositions of postal administrations were exhibited in the U Hybernů Palace. Top-class exhibits of the class of honour and the Court of Honour were exhibited in the central part of the Industrial Palace. The exhibit “Postal Service Yesterday and Today“ was exhibited in the Sports Hall.
PRAGA 1968 was the largest stamp exhibition in the history up to then. Exhibits of 150 postal administrations were exhibited in the official class. The exhibition had nearly 10,000 frames. It was, therefore, time consuming to see everything at least briefly.
The jury awarded 962 medals and certificates in the competitive classes, out of which 66 gold medals. 209 exhibits were exhibited out of competition. The international grand prize presented by the President of the National Assembly was awarded to Horst Knapp from the Federal Republic of Germany for a study exhibit of classic stamps of Saxony. The national grand prize presented by the Prime Minister of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was awarded to the exhibit of Z. Kvasnička. The grand prize of honour presented by the President of the Republic was awarded to Pietro Provera from Italy for stamps of old Austria and Lombardy-Venetia.
In the Court of Honour, it was possible to admire not only rare, particularly classic, stamps but also unique full covers – including e.g. letters from the 14th and 15th century, ship or first balloon postal services.
The exhibition jury had 55 members from 23 countries of the world (including apprentice jurors), out of which 14 were domestic. This was the highest number in the history of stamp exhibitions up to then. Many jurors had already taken part in many international and world exhibitions. During five days, they had to fairly decide on awarding exhibition medals. The Presidium of the exhibition and of the international jury was headed by the President of the Union of Czechoslovak Philatelists (SČSF) Ing. Ladislav Dvořáček. A sad event was the death of one of the jurors, Jan Mrňák, on the opening day of the exhibition.
Assessment of the exhibition
Particularly popular attractive stamps enjoyed the attention of visiting philatelists as well as non-philatelists. A sample from the British royal collection could not be arranged, but the collection of the legendary Mauritius stamps was not missing and neither were the most famous Czechoslovak rarities, such as the inverted overprint Pošta Československá 1919 on a four-crown stamp on granite paper or a provisional postage due stamp 50/50. These two stamps were also reproduced on the exhibition entrance ticket, so that every visitor took them with themselves for a keepsake at least in this form. It goes without saying that visitors waited in long queues to see the real rarities.
In addition to the usual post office counters and besides the special transport of post by balloons (two living legends – general Umberto Nobile and František Běhounek – launched them on the Letná Plain) or stagecoaches, historic Italian postal service was also present at the exhibition. And it had its special cancellation postmarks, of course.
Other items of interest for collectors included a box containing exactly one million of our most common stamps.
In the rich accompanying programme of the exhibition, place and time could be found also for expert seminars, discussions, a meeting of leaders of clubs of young philatelists, a session of AIEP. The FIP congress was held again at the end.
The number of visitors was also record-breaking – 345,000 people visited the exhibition during 16 days, out of which 60,000 people came from abroad.