Opening of AMERIPEX ‘86 

U.S. #2145 was issued a year before the show.

America’s eighth International Philatelic Exhibition opened to the public on May 22, 1986, in Chicago, Illinois. It was also the first to be held in the Mid-West.

Plans for AMERIPEX began a decade earlier, shortly after INTERPHIL ’76 in Philadelphia. A group of seven Chicago collectors met up to start planning what they hoped would be the best international exhibition ever held in the United States.

To mark the exhibition, the USPS began work on several new stamps. Among them was a single stamp issued a year before the show’s start. It’s stamp-on-stamp design pictured a portion of a 1¢ Benjamin Franklin from a century earlier.

U.S. #2198-2201 – 1986 Stamp Collecting se-ten.

The USPS then issued a booklet of eight stamps honoring stamp collecting in January 1986. The stamps marked the 100th anniversary of the American Philatelic Society. These stamps were also the first commemoratives issued in booklet form and the first to picture another stamp that had not yet been issued (the Presidents sheets shown below). This booklet’s cover also included a free pass to get into the show. After the stamps were issued, collectors discovered a significant error. The black ink was missing from two of the stamps!

U.S. #2201b – 1986 Stamp Collecting error.

AMERIPEX ’86 was held at the O’Hare Convention Center, just outside of O’Hare Airport. The show included 350,000 square feet of exhibition space and 25,000 square feet of meeting and special program rooms. The exhibition opened to the public on May 22, 1986. In her opening day speech, Deputy Postmaster General Jackie A. Strange announced, “You’ll see the 4,000 year-old clay tablets that served as letters for the Incas of Peru. You’ll see the five-cent “Alexandria Blue Boy” sold at a 1981 auction for $1 million. You’ll see the gold leafed-illuminated pages from the incredible Cardinal Spellman Collection…and in the Hall of Fame you’ll see our pride and joy – the largest display and sales area ever created by the U.S. Postal Service.”

The show included 854 exhibits from more than 50 countries and more than 80 sales booths from member nations of the Universal Postal Union. Keeping with the tradition started in 1976, AMERIPEX produced a passport for visitors. Collectors could take their passport to the booths of all the different countries and receive a stamp and special cancel.

U.S. #UXC23 – AMERIPEX Postal Card issued in February 1986.

Prince Ranier of Monaco displayed a special exhibit, and the U.S. Postal Service contributed a 90,000-square-foot display, as well. The Queen of England contributed a special exhibition from the Royal Philatelic Collection of Britain. Nearly 200 dealers attended the show, making AMERIPEX ’86 a phenomenal stamp marketplace.

Item #MDS338 – Disney stamps issued for AMERIPEX.

Among the show’s popular attractions was the Aristocrats of Philately, which had first been displayed at AMPHILEX ’71. The display included 21 of the greatest philatelic items from 20 different collections around the world. The 21st item was new for AMERIPEX – in fact it was only discovered a month before the show. It was titled “United States One-dollar Stamp Invert of Americana Issue, partial pane of 84.” But its better known as the CIA Invert Pane. It was a major attraction that many compared to Jenny Inverts from 1918. And speaking of Jenny Inverts, one booth had on display 21 Jenny Inverts.

The show’s planners also invited thousands of children, part of “Benjamin Franklin Stamp Clubs,” to attend the show. AMERIPEX organizers helped them arrange field trips to the show and donated $50 to each club to help them get there.

U.S. #2216-19 – Set of four Presidents mini sheets issued at the show.

On May 22, the U.S.P.S. issued a set of four souvenir sheets picturing 35 former Presidents with their signatures and dates in office. A 36th stamp pictured the White House. Not since 1938 had a series of U.S. stamps been devoted entirely to past U.S. Presidents. And with this series, another postal “first” occurred these were the first “mini sheets” produced by the U.S.P.S.

Over the course of the 11-day show, which ran until June 1, some 153,000 people were in attendance, making it the largest and most successful U.S. stamp show up to that time. Of those about 40,000 got in for free using the free passes from the Stamp Collecting booklet.

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  1. AMERIPEX changed me from a collector to a philatelist. The article didn’t mention the British Guiana stamp that was on exhibit as a part of the complete country collection. I joined the Souvenir Card Collectors Society than and have been a member since. It was worth the drive from Orlando to Chicago.

  2. I was always sorry that I missed this show as it was held right in my neck of the woods and even more so after reading this. I was to busy with the struggle of beginning my adult life, new apartment, new car and not enough money to go around.
    I made up for it at the 92 World Columbian Stamp Expo which was also right around the corner.

  3. I am really enjoying these recent articles about our decennial world stamp shows. I attended Chicago’s, missed San Francisco, but attended Washington and last year’s in New York. And we plan on making Boston, if all goes well between now and then. I think the story of these shows would make an engaging presentation at my local stamp club. It’s a fun topic that most of us know something about but everyone would learn at least one thing new, I’m sure.

  4. I attended AMERIPEX 86 and it was the best exhibition I ever attended, Every thing was perfect. They even provided bus transportation from several hotels. There was something for every one. There were many First day events. I have attended over 20 International Stamp Exhibitions and have 22 albums of items issued for exhibitions so you can see I just love them. I have been from Brazil to Finland and learned much information about these exhibitions. I am no longer able to attend any and I sure miss them.

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