The story of the origins of the French Challenge back in 1995 is hidden
deep in the recesses of the memories of the collective Challenge entrants, as well as those in whose circles Ed Druce moved.
The public version was that it was to further Australian and New Zealand philatelists' knowledge of France, its culture, and assistance to developing countries. What else could we say, when we had arranged for the French Ambassador to open the exhibition!
|This photo is a setup. Ed Druce needed help for the photo
for the above interview with the Canberra Times. He picked up his mate Hubert Goron
(note: there is only one "r" in Goron), who hastily grabbed some
philatelic material for the photo. They set themselves up in Ed's house.
Have a look at one of the covers, and you will see that no such overprints exist for New Caledonia, Hubert's entry for the French Challenge. So from which country are these overprints? And from which country (countries) are the other covers?
To spice up the opening of the exhibition, a troupe of dancers from New Caledonia was invited to perform.
As the heat at the Stampshow was decidedly tropical (the British dealers were melting!), this was highly appropriate.
What this report doesn't say is that many of the French Challengers were disappointed with their
results. This was mostly blamed on the importation of two Internationally qualified judges from
France and the
USA, and the harsh judging of the exhibits according to International standards
when it was only a National competition. Some competitors have said that they will never exhibit in Canberra again!
But a highlight of the exhibition was the French Challenge dinner, which entrants, judges, dealers and other interested parties (namely me!) attended on the Saturday night. Surprisingly, the judges were not guillotined, and everyone left with some red, white and blue lollies, French perfume sachets and some with more lasting, and often humorous, "French Challenge awards".
The shocking French Challenge results can be seen here. Those exhibits shown
at Canpex 2000 in Christchurch in October received a 14-22 mark improvement.
This can variously be attributed (in my opinion) to improved presentation, heavy spending at the British dealers' tables at the Canberra exhibition and the generosity of the judges at Canpex, who said that they went into the exhibition with the expectation that everyone would get at least a Bronze medal for their efforts.
The other National classes were less disadvantaged, with Best of Show going to a
Postal History exhibit, "A Postal History of Tasmania, 1824-1900" by John Cress
from the USA. Polar Philately, an experimental National class, was graced with some
superb exhibits, two of which were awarded Gold medals.
The State level exhibits received good marks, and there were several exceptional entries in the experimental Postcard class.
John Vassallo, a local first-time exhibitor, did very well to receive a Large Silver medal
with his "Australian Decimal First Day Covers" National class exhibit.
First Day Covers is an experimental National class in Australia.
|The now-defunct "Australasian Stamps" magazine published a long article on Canberra Stampshow 2000, including this photo, in their April issue.||Each entrant (except one?) received a certificate showing the medal level gained for the relevant National or State level class.||Someone pictured here was so pleased to be receiving her first medal that she actually glowed!|
|Monday, a public holiday in Canberra (aptly named Canberra Day), was a time of showing off and walking on air. Besides, all the housekeeping had already been spent at the British dealers' tables, so what more was there to do?||"Try a National next time" is apparently what judges write on
novice exhibitors' critiques, to encourage them to go through all that hard slog
(Boy, did they suck me in!)
|Take a look at these two frames, and see how sparse (and awful) the covers are! There was a lot to do to bring this 2-frame State level exhibit up to a 3-frame National level exhibit for Canpex 2000 in six months' time. But that is another story!|
|All in all, I must say that Canberra Stampshow 2000 was the
best show I have ever attended - even better than Canpex 2000! Part of that had to do with being a
successful first-time exhibitor. Another part was the atmosphere of the French Challenge and
the international atmosphere brought by the British dealers. Still another was meeting
three New Hebrides collectors other than Hubert (and who said there were only two in Australia?)
But the best part was the rubbing of shoulders, sharing of knowledge and forming of friendships with so many friendly, knowledgeable and approachable philatelists and dealers. These are the memories that will stay with me forever.
|State Level||National Level|
|75-79||Large Vermeil||80-84||Large Vermeil|
|65-69||Large Silver||70-74||Large Silver|
|55-59||Silver Bronze||60-64||Silver Bronze|
|45-49||Certificate of Merit||50-54||Certificate of Merit|