The Essen International Stamp Fair is the oldest event of its kind in Germany, or for that matter, in the entire world. Collectors have been streaming to the Ruhr metropolis from near and far since 1976. Since 2006, the event has been held on an annual basis at the beginning of May. For the last few years, the opening day has been attended by prominent personalities from the world of sports. In 2006, the football star Olaf Thom (FC Schalke 04), member of the 1990 German world championship team, appeared at the fair. In 2012, a great many autographs were signed by handball coach Heiner Brand, who had brought home the team handball world championship trophy to Germany a few months earlier. In 2008 Steffi Jones, President of the Organizing Committee of the Football World Championship for Women 2011, has visit the show.
A significant presence of foreign exhibitors has become a hallmark of the Essen get-together over the years. With over 40 foreign postal administrations and agents, the fair has taken on an unmistakable international atmosphere. The list includes almost all major European countries, and a sampling of overseas administrations. With over 390 sqm of space, Deutsche Post AG, offering its entire array of philatelic merchandise and special fair items and cancellations, has the largest physical presence.
Completing the scene are an average of around 80 specialized dealers, auction houses, accessory producers, and publishers, with one-third coming from outside Germany. Not only stamp dealers representing all eras from the classical through the modern, but also merchants dealing in postal history or topical items book booth space.
The proven practice of combining a dealer course with a topnotich thematic exhibition will also continue. Starting in 2010, the German and European Championchip for Thematic Philately will be hosted in alternate years together with the International Stamp Fair.
Services offered by the Fair always include a Philatelic Round Table with discussions, lectures, and presentations. The Philatelic Center is the setting where, in addition to appraisers and society officials, public and certified expertizers offer information and suggestions. Over 20 working and study groups are represented by a booth. Children and young people will find engaging activities presented by the German Philatelic Youth (DPhJ).