Busy shows, strong sales ignite 2023

This is the first story of a two-part year-end review looking at the first half of 2023.

This year saw Canadian philately continue to build on the advances it made over the prior three pandemic-stricken years as COVID-19 became less of an everyday concern and more of a past predicament.

As the world marked the third anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, the hobby remained well-positioned to move forward after years of restrictions, shuttered shows, club meetings, dealer stores, and other public outings. Despite the years-long ordeal, strong collector activity has led to higher-than-expected demand for dealers and auctioneers while market values also reached unprecedented heights.

Proof of the market’s strength came early and often throughout 2023, beginning with the first of four sales of Ron Brigham’s international Grand Prix-winning Province of Canada collection. The last material held by the late philatelist before his death in August 2022, it rewrote the record books in the days leading up this spring.

“Realizations were well above average across the entire sale,” said long-time dealer and auctioneer Gary Lyon, the owner of Eastern Auctions, which handled the recent Brigham sales.

Once called the “greatest collection of Canadian stamps ever” by Maclean’s magazine, the collection more than doubled Eastern’s combined pre-sale estimates while breaking several major records. The sale’s opening lot – a unique three-pence Beaver essay removed from designer Sir Sandford Fleming’s diary – brought “the highest price ever for a single lot in Canada,” Lyon said.

Several other sales, including by Sparks Auctions and R. Maresch & Son, also drew spirited bidding and record realizations this year.

On the show circuit, the 2023 calendar largely returned to its pre-pandemic form with clubs hosting their usual slate of local and regional shows plus a small handful of national shows taking place throughout the year. After all of Canada’s national shows were cancelled in 2020 and 2021, four of them returned to the calendar in 2022 – plus an international show, CAPEX 22 – while this year, there were three. The Edmonton Spring National show opened the year’s national competitions in March followed by Orapex in May and the combined Royal Canpex, which included this year’s RPSC Convention, in October.

This year’s Royal Convention, which President Gregg Redner called “a successful event in every regard,” brought in more than $3,800 in total revenue, half of which went to the RPSC while the other half went to Canpex organizers.

Looking ahead to future conventions, the RPSC will take its annual gathering to Fredericton, N.B., in 2024, Edmonton in 2025 and Calgary in 2027. Organizers from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., have also expressed an interest in hosting the 2026 convention.

The RPSC held its annual general meeting in June as officials reported the hobby’s increased popularity included new collectors, who either started or returned to collecting during the pandemic. Overall, with pandemic restrictions lifted during the previous year, show organizers across the country reported record attendance, including with young show-goers, while dealers saw many new faces among the crowds.

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