Farewell, Cassini





Reflections from methane lakes on the moon Titan, seen by Cassini. Photo credit NASA.

This week, one of humanity’s most successful space missions came to an end as the Cassini spacecraft dives into the atmosphere of the planet Saturn. Cassini is the 4th spacecraft to visit Saturn, and has given the world a closer look at that planet and its moons than has ever been possible before. It has shown us the plumes erupting from icy Enceladus, and the sun shining off the methane lakes on Titan. As it heads toward Saturn, the craft will be guided on a series of moves through the inner rings of Saturn, to continue gathering scientific data and images for as long as possible.



Spacecraft are a popular theme for stamps around the world; NASA spacecraft have appeared on stamps from dozens of countries outside the United States. Cassini is pictured on several of these stamps.





On this stamp from the Central African Republic, Cassini appears with a portrait of the Polish astronomer Copernicus, against a backdrop of Saturn.






Madagascar also released a Cassini  stamp in 2011, in a set with 3 other spacecraft.




maldives set


The Maldives released an entire set dedicated to its 10th anniversary.








Burundi also released a set of stamps, one with Cassini and the other depicting the Hubble Telescope.




Farewell, Cassini, and thanks for all the science!




[All images public domain or fair use.]

Spreading the Love of Coin Collecting by TV


Jeffery Smith, long-time coin collector, has found a unique way of sharing his love of coins and fanning the numismatic flame in new collectors.


Past and Present (P&P): First, tell me a little about yourself and how you got started in coin collecting.

16864688_10210173286920085_5240205749664795336_nJeffery Smith (JS): My name is Jeffery Smith, I’m 47, I’m a video Production Manager at my local cable’s community access center, AccessVision. I’ve been working here for about 10 years.

I’ve been a coin collector since I was about 7 or 8 years old, although I didn’t know it at the time. I got started coin collecting with my grandfather. I used to spend the weekends with him when I was little, and every Saturday morning, he would take me to the bank and “buy” $20 or so in coin rolls. We would spend the better part of the day laying on his living room floor searching through them. He would write down a list of what I was supposed to look for, mainly the wheat cents out of penny rolls, although I quickly caught on to what silver coins looked like, as there were still some in circulation back then, in the late 70’s.

After the sorting was done, he would pull out his Whitman Books for the cents and we would add whatever we had found to fill the holes. The extras would go into a coffee can and get put up on a shelf. I still have his Whitman books today. I’ve all but completed his sets for him, but am still missing the “high dollar” key dates from the Vol. One Book, 1909-1940. He was born in 1909, so we were always on the look out for 1909 cents, especially the 1909-S minted coins. We never found any.


P&P: Why are you interested in using community access television to talk about coin collecting?

JS: I started the Coin Show on our access channels about a year ago. As the center’s Production Manager, it’s my job to help all our volunteer producers to shoot, edit and then air their programs. I rarely have time to produce something that interests me, but one day, the topic of hobbies came up. I was talking with one of our volunteers about my coin hobby and he said that it sounded interesting, and maybe I should make a show about it. So, the next time I did a coin roll hunt, I took a camera home and recorded the process. I added some graphics about the coins I was searching, information on what errors I could or did encounter, and put it on our channels.

After the first one, I just kept going. It was about 3 or 4 months after I started airing the program that I started hearing back from people in the community. When I mentioned that I worked at AccessVision, I would hear “Oh, that’s the channel that has that coin show on Sunday afternoons, right?” We’ve since had phones calls, email, and comments on our Facebook page about the show. I’ve had coin collectors come to my office with coins they found in circulation, or coins handed down through the family, or coins from their own collection, that they wanted to show me or ask about more information on its value. I’ve added a YouTube Channel for my Coin Show, but keep airing on the local channel as well. I use it not only to educate the viewers on coin facts, but can also use the show to help promote the fact that anyone can make a show about their hobby, or any other topic that interests them. The channel now has shows on comic books, action figures, and other pop culture hobbies.


P&P: What’s your favorite part of coin collecting to talk about? What seems to spark people’s interest the most?

JS: The personal aspect of it, coins that are passed down through the family, generation to generation.

s-l1600.jpgWhat interests other people generally breaks down into 2 groups. I either get into conversations about the history of coins, who could have held these antique pieces, what was going on in the country when they were released, how much buying power they had back in the day (large cents really freak people out when I show them one!) and thinking how much stuff you could buy with one cent, or even a half cent. That’s probably the one coin that almost nobody understands the reason for it existing.


InGodWeRust.jpgThe other main focus of my conversations are error coins. Every time a new error coin gets “discovered” and hits the news–the “In God We Rust” Kansas State Quarter comes to mind–everyone who knows I’m a coin collector asks about the Facebook post they saw, do I have one, how much is it worth, should they go looking for it? So that topic comes up from time to time, and it’s usually because people think they can get rich quick, turning pocket change into a college fund for their kids.


P&P: Do you have a favorite coin or set? What draws you to that one in particular?

JS: I have many different “favorites,” for many different reasons. I was recently asked this same question on one of my YouTube videos, so I’ve been working on a show that has my favorite coins as the topic. The short answer would be the Lincoln Cent, mainly because it was the focus of my coin roll hunts with my grandfather when I was a kid. It’s also the series that I am the closest to completing, just 3 or 4 of the key dates remain. One day I will fill those holes, though I may not. Maybe because that way, my hunt with my grandfather is still active and a part of my collecting. It may be hard to close the door on that, just for emotional reasons.

s-l500.jpgA couple of my other favorites are the 1916-era coins. The Mercury Dime, Walking Liberty Half Dollar and the Standing Liberty Quarter. These are undeniably 3 of the most beautiful coins that the US has ever minted. The fact that all 3 started at the same time, as ordered by a President that detested the prior Barber (boring) coins is just a highlight of art in the American culture. I wish any other President from then until now shared a similar amount of pride in representing our nation with circulating coin designs. Except for the ongoing Quarter Commemorative designs, our coinage has been a vacuum of art and style for hundred years.


P&P: What advice would you give to a collector about how to talk to non-collectors about coins?

s-l1600 (1).jpgJS: I guess we just have to tailor our conversations to whatever aspect the non-collector finds interesting. There are so many topics that coin collecting can be interjected into: history (World War II cents and nickels had a different composition due to war needs), economics (The half-cent was needed for everyday commerce), art (The 1916 series in particular), foreign interests (The Trade Dollar, or Morgan Dollar compared to the Spanish Reale and other silver crowns). I’m sure there are others. Those are just some of the conversation topics I’ve had recently.

I think more often than not, when someone finds out that you’re a collector, they will generally approach you with their topic of interest. Probably 99% of the time it will be “I have some coins in a jar that my grandad left me, what should I look for that might be rare?” Those are usually the best conversations that I’ve had: they start with a family connection and end with the idea that they might just have a rare or error coin in that jar that could be very, very valuable. They usually don’t, but I can see the spark in their eye and I talk very enthusiastically about the coin hobby, hoping that I can fan that flame and make a new collector out of them.


There are so many fascinating and effective ways to spread the love of coins. Thank you for your work, Jeff!

Innovation Starts Small




Have you seen this meme floating around the internet? Some of the most revolutionary companies had the most quiet, ordinary beginnings.







unnamed-3The future doesn’t always announce itself with fanfare. The first telephone transmission was made in an old family home in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Tech companies that revolutionized the late 20th and early 21st centuries started out in garages in unassuming suburban neighborhoods. And an unmarked warehouse a few miles south of the Canadian border in Washington holds a machine that is already changing the game for imaging and sorting.




Capable of sorting over 80,000 coins in the course of an average workday (for more details on the machine’s capabilities, please click here), this machine uses computer vision and machine learning to quickly “see” and grade coins, sorting them according to the specifications set by the user. We can rapidly sort by date, mint mark, grade, value, and more, faster and more accurately than hand-sorting allows; the machine has sorted 2 million numismatic coins in 2 weeks. We may not be the most polished coin company in the world, but we’re agile and passionate, and excited to share our knowledge.



But it doesn’t stop with coins. We started there, because it was easier to teach a computer to see something that we ourselves know thoroughly. But a computer can be taught to see anything, even to make aesthetic judgments. Our technology has applications not only for sorting and identifying physical objects, but for improving accessibility for the disabled, creating a digital “fingerprint” for individual coins, preventing theft and fraud, and more.


Not every new invention is a game-changer, and not every game-changer comes from an established name or a well-known brand. Innovation often starts in a simple warehouse.





The Machine That Showed the Flow of Money


People have been searching for new ways to combine money and technology for as long as both have existed. Some mergings have worked better than others, while others have fallen into obscurity. Take the MONIAC, for example.


Also known as the financephalograph, the Monetary National Income Analogue Computer, or MONIAC, used “fluid logic” to depict the flow of finances in the British economy. Different aspects of the economic system were represented by tanks of water, connected by tubes. Adjusting the amount of “money” in any tank caused water to flow throughout the system, reflecting the changes. Increasing the tax rate caused water to flow into the treasury tank, while increasing spending would drain it. The MONIAC was found to be accurate to within 2%, and while originally meant as a teaching tool, could also be used as an accurate economic simulator.


“The flow of water between the tanks was determined by economic principles and the settings for various parameters. Different economic parameters, such as tax rates and investment rates, could be entered by setting the valves which controlled the flow of water about the computer. Users could experiment with different settings and note the effect on the model. The MONIAC’s ability to model the subtle interaction of a number of variables made it a powerful tool for its time. When a set of parameters resulted in a viable economy the model would stabilise and the results could be read from scales. The output from the computer could also be sent to a rudimentary plotter.”



The MONIAC was invented by New Zealand economist Williams Phillips in 1949 while he was at school at the London School of Economics. Computers were not widely available at the time, so Phillips scrounged parts to build his machine. Along with ordinary scrap metal and plastic, he also used war surplus parts, some from Lancaster bombers. The MONIAC prototype cost Phillips £400 to create (£13,000 in 2015 money); however, after he demonstrated the machine to economists, he was offered a teaching position at the London School of Economics, so it seems to have been a wise investment.



3As more complex computer systems became available, the MONIAC fell out of use, but the quest for better ways to combine money and technology has continued. Our own machine is the newest part of this search, and can sort and grade coins on an unprecedented scale. We’re currently testing an app that uses the same technology to identify coins by photo; for more information, contact social@lookzee.com.

Imaging Changes Everything



acrylic-paints-174638_960_720.jpgThe tools we use to see the world change the kind of world we can see. In the latter half of the 19th century, two technological advances changed the world of imaging forever. First, the development of film photography, allowing more detail to be captured than had been possible with other imaging methods. Secondly, the development of pre-mixed artists’ paint in tubes, which allowed painters to leave their studios and paint what they saw in the world, instead of relying on sketches and models. The photographers began to focus on capturing the realities of the physical world in a way that paint never could, and the painters, through the Impressionist and Expressionist movements, began to focus on the experience of the world, in a way that photography could not capture.


agfa-682920_960_720.jpgThroughout the 20th century, photography became cheaper and more portable; more and more people were able to afford cameras and film, which led to greater experimentation with film. Films arrived, first the silent films, then “talkies,” and finally films with full color and sound, even experimental 3D effects.


selfie-465563_960_720And then, at the beginning of the 21st century, the digital revolution happened. Digital cameras were ubiquitous, and constantly improving in quality and size. When smartphones became de rigueur, most people had digital photography–in previous inaccessible quality–in their hands at all times. Selfie culture rose, as did the live-streaming of dramatic events, such as the rescue of the passengers aboard the famous plane that went down in the Hudson River. No matter event is happening, no matter where in the world, someone is covering it with the digital camera in their phone. That is what today’s world looks like.


The world of numismatics is not exempt from this story. As photography has improved, so have coin catalogs: instead of relying on descriptions of coins or artists’ depictions, collectors have photographs. On eBay, most prospective collectors can zoom in on any given coin in high detail. Purchases are more informed than ever. But something has been lacking. If a collector knew what coin she had, she could get a value on it. But what if she did not know? What if a treasure was sitting in her pocket change? Of course, there were occasional stories about such finds. Even this year, an extremely valuable coin turned up in a child’s pirate treasure playset. But this only happened when the coins chanced to make their way to experts.




There is no longer a need to rely on that chance. We’ve taken the next step, and paired digital imaging with machine learning. Our new Machine (read more about it here) can correctly identify and grade up to three coins a second…and we can put the power of that Machine on your phone. Our new app, Lookzee, is in development and has already identified many valuable coins simply by taking photos of unsorted coins from our stock. Right now, the image library is focused on wheat cents, though we will be growing from there, as we evaluate the needs of the numismatic community. Our goal is organic growth that collectors actually want and will use.






We are currently seeking testers for Lookzee: if you’d like to help us test the app before it is released to the public, please get in touch with us at social@lookzee.com.

The Future of Coin Grading is Here


Over the last few years, conversations in the numismatics would about the use of ever-improving optical and computer technology have been heated. Is it possible to create a machine that can accurately sort coins in a manner that is useful to collectors? Can machines be taught to spot and analyze aesthetic qualities of a coin, such as toning?
In short: yes.
1.jpgFor a better answer, allow us to introduce the numismatic world to our new achievement, simply called “The Machine.” The Machine was conceptualized by owner Tim Rathjen and built entirely in-house by  a small team at The Stamp and Coin Place. Rathjen, a polymath with an eclectic interest in collectibles, firmly believes in the power of emerging technology to enrich and enhance even the most traditional of hobbies. The Machine is the product of years of study and experiments with ever-improving imaging technology.
You can read about the technical specs and how The Machine works on The Coin Blog, but here are a few of the big numbers. At average speed, The Machine can accurately grade and sort 3 coins per second, which comes out to 10,800 coins per hour, or 86,400 coins in one 8-hour workday. This incarnation of The Machine can accurately grade coins up to XF, and we anticipate that future versions will be able to do even more as we refine the technology.
2We have taken the first step into a field that has been almost entirely theoretical until now: automatic computerized coin grading. The speculative coin grading technology of the future is here. Of course, it’s not perfect yet. No first attempt ever could be. We look forward to the challenges of creating even more accurate and capable Machines.


The big question of computerized grading still remains: will computers replace humans in evaluating coins? We can teach a computer to “see” like a human being, but we still cannot teach a computer to “feel” like a human. As long as a specific coin speaks to something in an individual collector, the human element will always be the most important one in coin collecting.

Friday Odds and Ends, July 8




A cyborg with rat tissue and a skeleton of gold? It’s real! And it’s beautiful.





Have you heard of ESPER? The Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections is “dedicated to promoting the collecting of stamps and philatelic material depicting people and events related to the African Diaspora and to encouraging and supporting the interest and participation of Black people in all aspects of philately.” You can follow them on Twitter, too!



Seeing planets outside the solar system is old news, but have we found extra-solar water clouds for the first time?





Today is the last working day for Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios. Ms. Rios not only made appearances at collector conventions, but would autograph notes bearing her signature. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors, Ms. Rios, and thanks for your years of work!




Crime doesn’t pay, even for treasure hunters! This hunter thought he could get around the law for greater profit.

How to collect coins in a virtual reality future



According to Greek legend, the ship of Theseus that had once carried sacrifices to the Minotaur sat unused in a harbor for centuries. As the ship fell into disrepair, bits of it were replaced; after a time, no original wood of the ship was left, yet there was the boat sitting in the harbor. So, was it still Theseus’ ship or not?


800px-CoinCollectionBedfordMuseumCoin collecting may face a similar question soon. More and more laws are being passed restricting or prohibiting the sale of any antiquities. More people believe we are headed for a cashless economy, with few if any new coins minted. Old coins are easily degraded or devalued by accident or natural disaster. Talk of virtual coin shows and even digital collecting is on the rise. Should that leave us grim about the future of coin collecting as a hobby?


Absolutely not! Collecting has gone through many changes, and it should come as no surprise that the future will bring more. Coin collecting has changed significantly over the years, and it is still the most-practiced pastime around the world. Change is not the thing to be feared.


Collecting in the Past


Humans have always built collections. We like to hold onto the things that interest us. Many early museums were just that: collections of things that an individual or community (such as a local church or monastery) found interesting: ostrich eggs, large fossil bones, goods from distant lands. For centuries, these were displayed with only legends about the origin of the items, or someone’s best guess as to what the mystery object might be.


960px-First_Barnum's_MuseumOver time, collections became an important part of high society. The very wealthy would have entire rooms dedicated to collections of oddities, sometimes open to other high-society members to peruse. The first public museums grew out of the circuses, which often needed somewhere to take over their exhibits of oddities after the performers had ceased to tour. (The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles aims to recreate this era of museums, and is worth a visit when you’re in the area.) For the first time in centuries, ordinary people were allowed to view these items, and the scientific mindset brought to bear on the collections. Museums were a way of letting the public have access to unique and educational items, while still preserving them for future generations.


It is this impulse, to share what we have with others and yet ensure that it remains for future generations, that is at the heart of coin collecting. We want to preserve the most interesting and valuable coins of the past so that future generations may enjoy them, while still being able to appreciate them for ourselves rather than simply locking them up in a vault.


A New Age of Historical Preservation


800px-COLLEGE_STUDENTS_WORK_WITH_ARCHAEOLOGISTS_AT_-KOSTER_DIG-_AN_ANCIENT_INDIAN_BURIAL_SITE_-_NARA_-_552495One of the great things that modern technology has brought us is an enhanced ability to understand and preserve the remnants of our past. We know how to conduct archaeology without destroying history in the process. We prosecute looting and grave robbing; salvages at sea are subject to strict rules to ensure that the treasures they bring up are properly cared for and documented.


In the last few decades, there have been more and more calls for ancient goods to be returned to their lands of origin, as part of the country’s cultural heritage. A recent German proposal would severely limit the sale or trade of antiquities, including coins. Other countries can be expected to follow suit. This will no doubt be beneficial to the countries that have routinely had their artifacts stolen or appropriated, but it does put a bind on those who collect coins and other antiquities.


Much of museum and collection technology has come about as we strive to take better care of the things of the past. The new laws regarding antiquities have the same end. We are, at the end of the day, all on the same team.
New Ways of Collecting


digital-1462450160D2pThe revolution in digital imaging has already changed how coins are bought, sold, and traded online. It is simple for any beginner to take a decent picture of a coin with their smartphone or camera. Emerging technologies could result in new ways of collecting at least some coins: 3D printing and virtual reality may hold particular interest. As printing technology gets more and more refined, specific coins could be recreated in similar or identical materials; it would not have the history of an original coin, but would also allow more original coins to be properly preserved in museums or other collections while still allowing collectors to own something that reflects a particular history.


Virtual/augmented reality is also beginning to take off as a means of collecting. The new “Pokemon Go” game allows users to travel to specific real-world locations and use augmented reality to see and collect digital creatures from those spaces. The game has been much-anticipated; fans are eager to combine their digital and offline worlds. Will this technology change how coins are traded and displayed? Will coin shows and other venues make use of it?


Clearly, no one knows the shape of the future for coin collecting. We don’t have a crystal ball to see how things will change. What we do know is that the knowledge and passion of collectors is a steady force over millennia, and coin collecting will not be defeated by yet another change in technology.

How to Stop Worrying and Love Technology


With interest in coin and stamp collecting on the decline, many collectors have begun to worry that their beloved pursuits could be in danger of falling into the dustbin of history. Government agencies have begun trying to spark interest in these hobbies as well; the Royal Mail recently released an “Animail” design of highly-colored stamps shaped like animals, designed to appeal to children.

pexels-photo-largeOne blogger responded, “Personally I think new blood in the hobby will come from older people.  Many young people don’t ‘collect’ anything these days, not even Panini cards, unless it is Apps on their smartphones or pads.  No, the target audience should be anywhere from 25 upwards, but especially the over 50s, even if they don’t get as much opportunity as a few years ago for early retirement and hours of time to fill…Few young people will use them: even the use of email is being overtaken by things like WhatsApp and Skype.”

While the author is welcome to his opinion, this is an unnecessarily pessimistic view of the way technology influences collecting. Coin and stamp collecting have been around for centuries, and there is no reason to believe they will disappear or be relegated only to certain age groups because of emerging tech. Change, on the other hand, is inevitable.
Coins and stamps are intrinsically tied to technology. The artistry and technique present in a coin or stamp is a way to gauge the technology of the culture that produced it, and advances in technology inspire collectibles of greater complexity, detail, and uniformity.
Hoard_of_ancient_gold_coinsBut sometimes it can feel like historic fields such as numismatics and philately are out of place in a world of Tweets, drones, and self-driving cars. Some are even advocating digital currencies to replace bills and coins, while historians and others are insisting that all antique coins be removed from sale and returned to their country of origin. More interpersonal communication happens online rather than via written letters.


Devotees of cyber currencies, like BitCoin, claim that these new currencies will soon replace traditional funds. Some, like the proposed Hayek currency, are still backed by gold. According to the press release, the Hayek coin will “be valued at 1 gram of gold at the day’s market price, [and] will serve as a more secure store of value than Bitcoin.” CEO of Anthem Vault, the creator of the Hayek,  Anthem Blanchard cites security concerns as a strong reason to support cyber currency. “Talking with friends of mine in the intelligence agencies, they say this is a real threat.” An attack could DDoS the current financial system, causing widespread chaos. Since cyber currencies do not rely on such central systems, they would theoretically be secure from this kind of attack, making them an attractive replacement for traditional cash, for some people.


Traditional stamps are also being challenged by websites like Stamps.com, which allow users to print legal, customized stamps for use on letters and other mailings. Many businesses simply use digitally printed postage instead of stamps, and personal mailings of all types have been on a steady decrease with the rise of the internet.
But new technology doesn’t have to mean an end to old traditions. It can not only enhance them, but actually preserve them, and enable current collectors to share their passion and knowledge with new collectors.


The sheer amount of information on the internet is staggering. Instead of spending hours paging through books, trying to find the relevant stamp or coin listing, collectors can ask questions on forums, use Google Image Search, or even reach out on Twitter or Facebook for information and help. On CoinLink.com, Doug Winter writes, “The best thing about the Internet for all hobbies has been the dissemination of information. 10 to 15 years ago, if you wanted information about rare coins you had to dig for it. You could open a Redbook and get mintage figures and you could find information about die varieties in various specialized books. But like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, in the past, information was strictly controlled. If you were lucky, you were invited into the secret circle and given some of the information you needed. If you didn’t know the secret handshake, you were pretty much on your own.”


Elsewhere on CoinWeek, Jeff Garrett writes, “Nearly every successful rare coin company is now a technology company. Most have at least one or more individuals on staff at all times to solve tech issues, post coins online, create digital images, and tackle other computer-related tasks. Many successful collectors have also become more tech savvy in recent years. Quite a few can perform detailed online research, including locating coins and establishing values. A few years ago, I taught a class at the ANA Summer Seminar on rare coin pricing. Much of the class involved how to properly use online tools available to collectors.”


The old stalwarts of numismatics and philately aren’t going anywhere, but they will evolve. Coin collecting has seen a move away from collecting by date, mintmark, and other traditional variables; the new trend is collecting by design or theme. Coin design enthusiasts show their collections and finds on Pinterest and Instagram, taking advantage of the visual nature of these mediums.

800px-Brick_storefrontCollectors aren’t the only ones facing change: local brick-and-mortar stores will need to adjust to new technology as well. When smartphone cameras became high enough quality to take high-resolution photos of coins and stamps, collectors began sharing photos online for sale and identification, rather than going to their local store. In addition, collectors could purchase directly from the US Mint and Post Office without a middleman. Auction sites like eBay sealed the deal: now anyone could sell to anyone else, anywhere in the world.


Pat Heller, writing for NumismaticNews.com, has some pointed advice for local store owners: “Extend your market. If you do not already deal with customers outside your local market, consider developing a regional or national presence. This can be easier to do if you specialize in some market niche. Serve customers online, by phone, or by any means you can.


Technology is changing and advancing every hobby, not just collectibles. The rise of “maker culture” and public maker spaces is providing access to new technology for more and more people to build and create everything from toys to costumes to prosthetic limbs. 3D printers are as affordable as inkjet printers were a few years ago, and will soon be just as ubiquitous.

sunrise-1371391077dmNIt’s an exciting time to be a hobbyist; the world is opening up to so many new possibilities. Rather than fear change or dismiss tech-focused younger generations, this is a chance to revolutionize collecting, and invite newcomers. Technology is coming to the world of collectibles: it’s only a question of when and how. The “when” is now, but the how is up to us.

The World’s Fair | A History

The World’s Fair is a large public exhibition embedded in rich cultural tradition.  Originating in Paris with the industrial revolution, these grand expositions soon spread to continental Europe and the United Kingdom before making their mark across the world.  The grandfather fair, reverently referred to as the “Great Exhibition” was Prince Albert’s proposal to model regionally manufactured products in order to induce international trade and relations, buoy tourism and propagate art and design education.  The structure and ideology of this 1851 fair offered a clear precedent for the World’s Fair and it has continued to attract millions world-wide today.  The 2015 World’s Fair is being held in Milan, Italy.


While culture sharing has always been and remains vital, the development of the World’s Fair can be distinguished in three Eras of characteristic evolution: Industrialization, Cultural Exchange and Nation Branding.

The Industrial Era, which lasted roughly from 1800 to 1938 focused heavily on trade and boasted technological inventions and industrial design in a rapidly advancing technological world.  Modern technologies were brought together from all over the world marking momentous occasions in historical information sharing.  Expositions such as the Philadelphia 1876 Centennial Exhibition with the debut of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and Chicago 1893 Fair presenting the early dishwasher became landmarks of advancement, procuring a progressive image of the World’s Fair.

During the Era of Cultural Exchange, beginning with New York’s 1939 World Fair, themed “Building a Better Tomorrow”, expositions took on diverging cultural themes, anticipating a bright future.  The focus of fairs became less about specific technologies and more about intercultural communication for the exchange and growth of innovation.  As cultural recognition and societal strength became of greater importance, the Era of Nation Branding began.

Countries began to use the World’s Fair as a platform to strengthen their national images through branding and architecture.  Great pavilions were erected and stand today as representations of great nations such as Japan, Canada, Finland and Spain.  Stunning architecture and nation branding required solid financial investment and thus, several nations shied away from hosting Expositions, fearing that the cost would outweigh the benefits.  The 2000 Dutch Exposition pavilion cost an approximate €35 million, but is thought to have brought in €350 million in turn for a thriving Dutch economy.

The World’s Fair has seen much evolution over the course of two hundred years and today embodies the characteristic of all three Eras.  Each fair presents the newest technologies including art and architecture while fostering cultural networking and bolstering a reputably positive national image. One of the few lasting, globally impacting traditions of our Earth, the World’s Fair is a magnificent opportunity for individuals, communities, cultures and societies to reach out as a part of an ever-evolving humanity.