Display Competition
(Uniform Rules)

Display case at the 2014 AFMS/RMFMS Convention, Image Credit: Marty Hart

Uniform Rules for Competitive Display Cases

Brief History of the Uniform Rules

One of the pleasures of our hobby is sharing what we have and what we know.  Displaying our collections and craftsmanship has been one of the ways we do this.  Competitive exhibiting at Gem and Mineral Shows is a natural result of these displays. As we have attempted to improve our shows, we have seen competitive exhibiting grow into a major contribution.     

The first shows had mineral exhibits displayed according to the whim of the exhibitor.  The difficulty of judging such exhibits soon proved a need for uniformity.  Rules were adopted by each of the Federations based on their own experiences.  Since l96l the Uniform Rules of the American Federation have been in effect.  The rules are now on a nation wide basis and as they must cover all aspects of the hobby for the thousands of interested hobbyists, they are comprehensive.

Some General Comments about Competitive Exhibiting

by B. Jay Bowman

Every club should have a copy of all AFMS publications in their Club Library. This should include a copy of the Uniform Rules, Guidelines for Judges, Guidelines for Exhibitors, and all of the various approved lists of names. Many clubs don't have any of these and the excuse for not having them is that "no one in our club is interested in competition".

You don't have to be interested in competition to find a use for these publications. You do put in displays at your local show, (non-competitive) and want to have them look as nice as possible and show off you collection as well as possible. You also want to educate the patrons to your show so the labels should be as accurate and legible as if you were in competition. Besides, you might get a new member who is interested in competition and you want to help all of your members as much as possible don't you?

Yes you could tell him where he/she can purchase the publications themselves (if they are really interested they probably will get them eventually) but it would be nice for them to get started right with the backing of the people they have decided to join with.

So, you have decided to enter competition, now what? First read the first two sections of the uniform rules, then read the rules for the particular division and class that you will be competing in. Yes the Rulebook is a daunting challenge, but it is not as bad as it first appears. Some of the language may not make sense at first but with very few exceptions it does on the second reading.

Now that you are thoroughly intimidated lets get on to what to do next. We assume you have a collection of some type to display and in the case of lapidary and jewelry you did all the work yourself then how are you going to put it in the case? If you own your own case, great, if you don't then set up an area the same size as the inside of a standard case or smaller depending on the display. Arrange the display in a pleasing arrangement using liners and risers as appropriate. Leave it for a week and come back and look at it, you will find something you don't like and will change it. Come back the next day and the same thing will happen. Sooner or later the changes will be minor and then you decide that you have the display the way you want it. Make a drawing of the layout so you can duplicate it at the show.

Make sure your labels are correct and legible. Make them on something that is not going to curl up under the heat of the lighting. Don't make too large but be sure all of the information that is needed is there. If this is your first competition (and we assume it is) don't enter as a Master. I have seen too many disappointed exhibitors who entered the first time and received a very respectable novice score that could have given them a blue ribbon but didn't get any ribbon because they were really in the wrong group. They were then very discouraged and possibly never entered again. Unfortunately many of these exhibitors were advised by others to enter that way because you can't receive a trophy except as a master. Learn from others mistakes because as the story goes "you won't live long enough to make them all yourself".

I have been cussed and discussed many times as a judge. But in every case if the competitor had read the rules and the other references they would not have made the errors they made. When reading a rule don't stop at the comma, read the rest of the sentence. Most judges today are more than willing to discuss with you ways to improve your display. They are not willing to stand and listen to a diatribe about how blind or prejudiced they are.

I will be the first to agree that in the past many judges did not write very helpful comments. They were not willing to discuss anything with the exhibitor, but hopefully that is changing. I have seen in the past few years a great improvement in judges comment writing and willingness to help the competitor.

If you are going to be around the show during judging ask to accompany the judges during the judging of your case. Most of the time the judges will agree to this. I personally prefer to have the exhibitor there when judging. It reduces my writing considerably. I will still write comments for the public to understand why points are being deducted but with competitor there as I am judging I can do a lot more in helping her/him improve his/her case.

Generally most points are lost in showmanship and labeling. However don't neglect workmanship, quality, and the other things that go into making a good display.

I hope this will be helpful to some of you and I am perfectly willing to answer any specific questions about judging or exhibiting. 

AFMS Uniform Rules 9th Edition

AFMS Uniform Rules Section I

Includes the following Parts:

Section 1 Part I General Rules and Definitions

Section I Part II Administration / Judging Procedures 

AFMS Uniform Rules Section II Divisions

Related Documents

Judging Documents