By Jesse Robitaille
Orapex is set to return to the nation’s capital this April 30-May 1, when it will pay tribute to this year’s theme of aerophilately.
Event chair Michael Powell said the upcoming show – held at the RA Centre on 2451 Riverside Dr. in Ottawa, Ont. – opens at 10 a.m. on both days, running until 6 p.m. on April 30 and 4 p.m. the following day. Parking and admission are both free of charge.
“For collectors, it’s an excellent opportunity to see exhibits, make contacts with dealers and add to their collections,” said Powell, who’s also the show’s bourse chair. “For the non-collecting public, the exhibits can also be very interesting, and we’ll have a lot related to aerophilately. The Canada Aviation and Space Museum will also be putting on a display at the show.”
What’s more, Orapex is one of only a handful of national-level accredited shows hosted in Canada each year: the Edmonton Spring National Stamp Show (April 2-3, 2016); the Royale (Aug. 19-21, 2016) in Waterloo, Ont.; Novapex (Sept. 16-18, 2016) in Dartmouth, N.S.; and the new Canadian National Philatelic Exhibition in London, Ont. this October.
Orapex has a long tradition of strong exhibiting from collectors around the world, and this year’s “incredible” showing promises to build on that, Powell said.
“We decided to change the way we do the show’s theme,” he said, adding previous shows had suffered from “narrow subjects and little lead-up time.”
In a first for Orapex – a well-known event among aerophilatelic exhibitors and dealers alike – this year’s theme was announced at last year’s event.
“Last year, we decided to go with aerophilately and enlisted the help of the CAS [Canadian Aerophilatelic Society], and they got behind it in a big way by promoting it amongst their members,” said Powell. “In the past, we’d be lucky to have two or three exhibits on the theme.”
This year, however, there are about 10 aerophilatelic exhibits spanning nearly 40 frames, which accounts for nearly one-third of all exhibits.
“The exhibits this year are incredible,” said Powell, adding organizers were forced to reject some entries. “We ran into a problem that we had too many. That’s something shows just don’t experience these days.”
A national-level show typically has 120-125 exhibit frames; however, Powell said Orapex often exceeds 150 frames, adding there were applications for 190 frames this year.
“There’s just no way we could do 190 frames,” he said. “It was hard to go to people and turn them down, but we didn’t have any choice. It’s a good problem to have, but a tough problem to have.”
This year’s panel of exhibit judges includes Chief Judge and Chair of the Jury Sam Chiu, of Toronto, Ont.; Dick Malott, of Ottawa, Ont.; Rodney Paige, of Thorold, Ont.; Robert Anderson, of Brantford, Ont.; Rob McGuinness, of Vancouver, B.C.; and apprentice Alain Benitah, of Lachine, Que.
For a full listing of exhibits at this year’s show, visit orapex.ca/exhibit.php.
Each year, scores of clubs and specialty groups attend Orapex to host meetings and presentations in a rich display of philatelic information. Among the groups attending in May are the CAS; the Postal History Society of Canada; the Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada; and BNAPS St. Lawrence Seaway Regional Group.
Powell said specialties such as aerophilately have gained prominence in recent years, making the hobby more interesting and worthwhile while adding a broader appeal.
“The modern collector is becoming increasingly specialized,” he said. “Back when a lot of us started, we were all worldwide collectors. You could do that because there weren’t so many stamps.”
But these days, Powell said, that’s become nearly impossible.
“Modern collectors tend to specialize by theme or by country – one, or a few, or entire regions – because doing the whole world is next to impossible, although people do try it.”
Another area of specialization that has grown significantly in recent years is postal history.
“It’s grown quite a bit, especially among the Ottawa region,” said Powell. “It’s a natural for this area. It’s appealing to the masses. Dealers come here because they have the customers here; there’s a concentration of people interested in postal history.”
Keeping with this year’s theme, Powell said long-time philatelist Chris Hargreaves, of Kingston, Ont., will be honoured for his significant contributions to aerophilately.
As mentioned earlier, this year’s show will be a test of new blood after last year’s co-chairs, Stephane Cloutier and Peter MacDonald, stepped down.
“We both find that organizing the show has actually reduced the time we have with our own collections significantly,” MacDonald said last year, adding he would support the committee throughout the transition, something he and Cloutier have done in “behind-the-scenes” roles.
“Getting the people is the biggest problem; volunteers are key,” said Cloutier, who added Powell was instrumental in finding new committee members last year.
In previous years, volunteer numbers had dwindled to all-time lows, Powell said, but fortunately for the show’s organizers, the number of volunteers has continued to grow throughout the past 12 months.
“We recruited a bunch of new volunteers this year,” he said, adding there are currently about 20 volunteers on the committee. “It was quite a good response.”
On April 30 and May 1, the Ottawa RA Centre Philatelic Exhibition (Orapex) will host its 55th gathering since it was founded in 1961. Organized by volunteers from the RA Stamp Club; the Amicale des philatélistes de l’Outaouais; and the Ottawa Philatelic Society, among others, Orapex is one of only a few national-level stamp shows held annually in Canada. What’s more, it has been a part of the American Philatelic Society’s (APS) World Series of Philately since 2010, when Canadian national-level shows were first granted approval.
“The World Series of Philately is an agreement the RPSC [Royal Philatelic Society of Canada] has with the APS where – just like other World Series shows in the U.S. – the person who receives the Grand Award wins the chance to enter their exhibit in the World Series of Philately show hosted by the APS every summer in August,” explained John Sheffield, former director with the Canadian Stamp Dealers’ Association.
The winner of the multi-frame Grand Award at this year’s Orapex will be invited to exhibit at the APS StampShow this Aug. 4-7 in Portland, Ore. The winner of the single-frame Grand Award will be invited to the APS AmeriStamp Expo, scheduled for March 3-5, 2017 in Reno, N.V.
For more information or to view a schedule of events, visit orapex.ca.