London Stampex 2022 and the Postal Museum

View of the Stampex floor on Saturday, 1 October 2022

I just got back from London — and what a whirlwind it was. I was able to time a trip with my wife to coincide with Stampex, and thankfully she was willing to spend the better part of a day by herself in London. 

I arrived at the Business Design Centre around 11:30 AM and retrieved my wrist band and Stampex Bug after checking in. Once I was inside, I met up with Jack Preuveneers whom I was meeting in person for the first time. He’s the creator/administrator of the International Philatelic Promoters Discord server which I’ve been a member of for about a year. (I can’t recommend any more enthusiastically what a terrific group it is, so click the link and join!)

The Stampex Bug!

I also met a few other members from the server, as well as YouTuber Richard Philatelist, and spent some time milling around the stalls looking at items. At 1PM it was time for Graham Beck’s presentation, so we filed into the eBay Auditorium.

Graham during his presentation to a packed out auditorium

The focus of his presentation was the online philatelic community and it was very interesting. He touched on subjects like social media and how philatelists of all ages, levels and interests can interact with each other digitally without depending on a club or an in-person interaction. It was especially appropriate given the discussions that are being had right now about the direction of the hobby.

After the presentation, there were some interesting questions and answers. I also was able to meet with Graham and he was gracious enough to take a picture with me!

Graham and I after his presentation

After the presentation I went back to checking out the dealers. I ended up walking away with almost 20 interesting covers. I was originally planning on laying out all of the scans of my new items in this Stampex article, but I’ve decided it would be better to write about them individually over the coming weeks in a more detailed fashion, as I have plenty of research to do on each of them. Finally, it was off to the pub for a few drinks with the Discord folks. 

The Postal Museum and Mail Rail

That wasn’t the only postally-relevant portion of our trip, however. The day prior we went to the Postal Museum in London. What a wonderful museum. We arrived in the afternoon after just getting off the train from Canterbury — we went straight to the museum from St. Pancras station because we knew it would be closing soon.

When we got there, we were told that we were lucky enough to catch the last running of the Mail Rail. The Mail Rail was a system that ran underground between major sorting facilities in London, which greatly sped up the local mail getting from one part of the city to another. The cars were squat and short as the tunnels are small and it was originally designed as an automated system. The train was retrofitted with small two-seater cars.

The train stopped at various points along the loop before eventually making its way back down to the starting point. These stopping places would have short movies that were projected against the walls of the tunnel explaining the various areas and their functions. I had originally assumed the Mail Rail was a separate price from regular entry to the museum, and didn’t want to devote any time to it. However, it turns out it was included in the ticket price and I’m really glad we took the ride because it was very interesting. Even my wife, who has no interest in stamps (nobody is perfect and I still manage to love her despite this fact), thoroughly enjoyed the ride and the information it provided.

A view of the Mail Rail from our car before we set off on our journey through the tunnels.

After the Mail Rail, we went through the main exhibit area of the museum. There were various post boxes, information about historical stamp issues, the historical role of the postal service, and many more topics and artifiacts. There was even an exhibit devoted to Freddie Mercury’s childhood stamp album!

A sheet of Penny Blacks!
The final plaster cast of Arnold Machin’s relief sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II used on the long-running British definitive stamps

The gift shop has some wonderful things in it (some of which came home with me) and the courtyard is beautiful. If you make it to London, I highly suggest adding this museum to your list — even if you aren’t interested in philately it’s a fascinating museum.

The courtyard, complete with a beautiful post box wall

I don’t know that I will be able to make Stampex and the Postal Museum an annual event for me, but I definitely want to come back for it at some point, and whenever I am able. It was a wonderful experience. If you are able to attend Stampex and/or visit the museum on a trip to London, I highly suggest making time for them.

More to come on my purchases as time allows.

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