About the exhibition
The World Stamp Exhibition PRAGA 1988 was held from 26th August until 4th September 1988 again under the patronage of the President of the Republic Gustáv Husák (who also opened the exhibition) and FIP. It took place in the “traditional“ locations – at the Exhibition Grounds in the Industrial (Congress) Palace, in the Brussels Pavilion, at the Winter Stadium (thematic exhibits), in the U Hybernů Palace, in the Postal Museum in the Vávra House and in the Prague Castle Riding School (exhibition of paintings and postage stamps “Art and Postage Stamp“). The opening of the exhibition was also attended by the Director General of the International Bureau of the World Postal Union A. C. Botto de Barros.
Altogether 928 exhibits were evaluated in the competitive classes at the PRAGA 1988 exhibition (most exhibits were evaluated in the class for territorial philately – 239). 177 titles were evaluated in the class for philatelic literature. Exhibits from 55 countries were shown at the exhibition. The largest number of exhibits were from the Federal Republic of Germany – 106, even more than Czechoslovak exhibits (84). 47 exhibits were shown in the non-competitive classes.
The motto of the exhibition was to concentrate as many different exhibits as possible in terms of territorial focus, postal history and theme. Territorial exhibits were presented by 116 stamp countries and territories. 90 different themes were represented in the class for thematic philately.
The grand prize of honour presented by the President of the Republic was awarded to A. Fillinger from France for the exhibit “The French Army in the Period from Louis XIV to Charles X“. The international grand prize was awarded to Z. Mikulski from Switzerland for the exhibit “Russia, USSR 1918-1938 and Poland 1858-1870“. The national grand prize was awarded to F. W. Hefer from the Federal Republic of Germany for “Czechoslovakia 1918-1939“.
The attention of laymen visitors was again focused particularly on the favourite items popularized by media – the legendary Mauritius stamps (from the collection of H. Schnabel from the Federal Republic of Germany) or on the collection of Olympic philately exhibited by the President of the International Olympic Committee Juan Antonio Samaranch, despite the fact that he did not send in the best selection from his collection, which was exhibited in Seoul at the Olymphilex exhibition.
The exhibits were judged by the international jury consisting of 53 jurors and 13 apprentice jurors from 36 FIP member countries. Czechoslovakia had 12 jurors and one apprentice juror. The jury was again headed by ing. Ladislav Dvořáček. The exhibits were evaluated according to the then new binding GREX and SREVs.
The Czechoslovak postal administration and the Postal Museum naturally participated significantly in the exhibition with their exhibits. Expositions of foreign postal services, the UN, the World Postal Union and postal museums were situated in the U Hybernů Palace.
Assessment of the exhibition
The programme of the exhibition was timed in great detail and included, in addition to official events, also cultural and entertaining shows at the Exhibition Grounds, film screenings, discussions about postage stamps and their designing and postage stamp designers‘ autograph signing. The accompanying expert programme of the exhibition included, among others, the international seminar on practical and theoretical issues concerning collecting Czechoslovak stamps and sessions of FIP expert commissions.
One day before the opening of the PRAGA 1988 exhibition (28th August 1988), the Postal Museum – Museum of Postage Stamps was ceremonially opened in the Vávra House, a completely reconstructed, originally medieval, in the past centuries several times rebuilt building near the Vltava River, known for its murals by Josef Navrátil from the half of the 19th century that can be found on the first floor.
The catalogue for the PRAGA 1988 exhibition contained a number of expert philatelic texts. A separate catalogue was published for the exhibition “Art and Postage Stamp“. The publication “Československá filatelie (Czechoslovak philately)“ was also published on the occasion of the PRAGA 1988 exhibition. This publication contained the history of organized philatelic movement in our country, general guidelines and special regulations of the Union of Czechoslovak Philatelists for creating and evaluating exhibits; about half of this book was taken up by “Základní filatelistická terminologie (basic philatelic terminology)“ – a richly illustrated philatelic explanatory dictionary. “Specializovaná příručka pro sběratele československých poštovních známek a cenin (specialized handbook for collectors of Czechoslovak postage stamps and postal stationery)“ whose issue was also timed for the PRAGA 1988 exhibition was of fundamental importance for the general philatelic public.
After the exhibition, the 57th FIP Congress was held in Prague from 5th until 7th September 1988.
The exhibition was visited by more than two hundred thousand people, each of whom could certainly find something interesting. For many visitors, the exhibition was a rather exhausting experience. Not only because of the large extent and the distances between the individual exhibition buildings but also because the coupon on the entrance ticket allowed only one entry into each building, but in most of them there was not enough room for having needed rest and there were no sufficient possibilities for having refreshment.
Some exhibition postal stationeries with a relatively high nominal value of the printed stamp were designed for extraordinary postal transportation – by stagecoach, balloons or by air (greetings sent to “allied“ exhibitions FINLANDIA ’88 in Helsinki and BULGARIA ’89 in Sofia among others). It is not surprising that such issue activity and high nominal values did not please, to put it mildly, many philatelists and were one of the reasons for the decline of membership of the Union of Czechoslovak Philatelists. A number of exhibition special cancellation postmarks (altogether 27 kinds) were used at 25 special post office counters in all exhibition areas. In addition, special cancellation postmarks associated with the PRAGA 1988 exhibition were used also in the Congress Centre (the Palace of Culture) during the 57th FIP Congress following the exhibition and in the National Technical Museum on the occasion of the congress of the International Association of Transport and Postal Museums, as well as outside Prague (in connection with special exhibition transport arranged by the postal service). The estimated number of processed consignments and various souvenirs exceeded 1.5 million pieces. If we add the philatelic material with which the PRAGA 1988 exhibition was saluted in nearly twenty more countries, we can observe that the philatelic documentation of this exhibition was really exceptionally rich.
Unfortunately, the production of postage stamps, printing sheets, miniature sheets and postal stationeries related to the PRAGA 1988 exhibition was very extensive. 23 postage stamps, 20 printing sheets in the miniature sheet arrangement, 9 miniature sheets, 16 first day covers, 1 stamp booklet and 18 special postcards were issued. Distribution of some exhibition stamps in the new items service was subject to the purchase of an entrance ticket. In short: philatelists had to pay for this spectacular event with the budget amounting to nearly 52 million Czechoslovak crowns (approximately one year wages of 1,500 people).