Stamps. Photo by Scot Kraft

Stamps. Photo by Scot Kraft

It’s the thrill of the chase—finding that one item missing from your collection—that makes stamp collecting worthwhile.

And tomorrow and Sunday, Oct. 26, local stamp collectors may be able to find that that missing piece right here in Urbana.

Annually, the Champaign-Urbana Stamp Club (CUSC) hosts the Champaign-Urbana Philatelic Exhibition, also known as CUPEX. This year’s annual stamp show will take place tomorrow and Sunday at the Urbana Civic Center at 108 East Water Street. The show will feature 14 different stamp dealers, exhibits, food, door prizes, hourly silent table auctions and a seminar. The event is free to the public.

A variety of Halloween- and fall-themed stamps and exhibits will be present in order to commemorate the holidays. “Some exhibitors noted the proximity of the Halloween date and took that as inspiration for what they would show,” said CUPEX Show Chairman Louise Toft. Taking on a “monster” theme, one exhibit will display stamps featuring monstrous individuals throughout history, such as Hitler, Queen Isabella of Spain and Stalin. “Not all the people who have been shown on postage stamps were nice, fuzzy, courageous and/or honorable individuals,” Toft said.

In addition to the Halloween items, the show’s exhibits will reflect the wide variety of interests within CUSC. Its president, Chuck Cooper, said that he guesses there are around 100 subspecialties of collectors, whether they are foreign, U.S. or certain topical stamps.

Exhibits vary from year to year and may be on stamps or covers, which are envelopes that typically display artwork related to the stamp it features. Some interesting exhibits this year will highlight philatelic materials related to herbs and spices and the banana stamps of Tonga. All exhibits are prepared by CUSC members.

“What you will see at the show will be all locally collected and shown,” said Toft.

Around 300 people are expected to attend this year’s show, which is in its 41st year. Cooper explained that along with the club’s members, it usually draws in stamp collectors from the surrounding area who are looking for missing stamps to their collections. Nevertheless, beginner collectors are also encouraged to attend.

Other attendees, Cooper said, have inherited collections and are unsure about what to do with them. The show will offer a seminar on October 25 at 10:30 a.m. titled “What Do I Do with Grandpa’s Stamps?” to inform on such issues.

The success of the exhibition, Cooper said, lies in the stamp dealers. “We have a variety of dealers because our members have varied interests,” he said. This year’s dealers come from across the Midwest and each has unique specialties that they bring to the table. Whether it be worldwide or domestic, old or new or a specific category, there’s something for every collector’s interests.

“We are very proud of our dealers,” Toft said. “It is a very strong group including leading dealers in covers and stamps. The attendees will have excellent opportunities to add to their collections.”

Stamps can sell for anything from a few cents to a few hundred dollars, depending on a variety of factors, including condition, age, color and demand. “It’s very difficult to put a price on them,” Cooper said.

Though CUPEX has had success for 41 years, Cooper said the future of stamp collecting relies on collectors staying active with the hobby that is a part of American history. “Young people aren’t collecting the way they used to,” Cooper said. “We would like to see more growth than is currently going on.”

But what exactly keeps collectors coming back for more? “It’s always the chase for the items you’ve been missing,” Cooper said. “To find the item you’ve been looking for is the thrill of the hunt.”

As an experienced stamp collector, Cooper is familiar with the rush you get when you make that discovery. “That’s why you sit at a table for a couple of hours going through albums,” he said.

The Champaign-Urbana Stamp Club has been in existence for around 50 years. Its members, numbering around 45, come from the Champaign-Urbana community and the surrounding area. Besides hosting the annual CUPEX, they hold meetings on the first and third Mondays of each month.

Hours for CUPEX are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow, Oct. 25 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 26. Parking and admission are free, and food will be available for purchase. For more information, visit custampclub.org.

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