Canada’s first, only world champion Ron Brigham dies at 78

By Jesse Robitaille

Renowned Canadian philatelist Ron Brigham, the man who assembled what Maclean’s called the “greatest collection of Canadian stamps ever,” has died at age 78 following a prolonged illness.

A resident of Mississauga, Ont., where he led his fastener company Sure-Grip for four decades, Brigham died on Aug. 4. He began collecting stamps at age nine in 1953 with the help of his father Royden, and 30 years later, he focused his philatelic pursuits on building the best Canadian collection the world had ever seen.

“He put Canadian philately on the map nationally and worldwide,” said Charles Verge, Brigham’s business partner and exhibit mentor across two decades.

Currently the only living Canadian signatory of the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists, Verge first met Brigham in the mid-1990s. Over the next 20 years, Verge helped him acquire rare material, develop a series of internationally award-winning exhibits and finally auction his collection.

“He was generous with his collections, frequently offering them for court of honour showings and lending material for expertization comparisons,” said Verge, who added Brigham also lent Canada Post the original black die proof for the country’s first stamp – the 1851 three-pence “Beaver” (Scott #1) – for a 2001 sesquicentennial replica issue (SC #1900).

Brigham regularly made headlines in the philatelic press in the early 2000s, when he reached unprecedented heights with his collection and award-winning exhibits. About a decade later, he was featured across mainstream media, including Maclean’s, CBC News and the Globe & Mail, as he put his collection up for auction.

“I’m old,” Brigham told Maclean’s in August 2013. “I want to make sure I have the pleasure of seeing where they go.”

Believed to be the most complete collection of Canadian stamps ever assembled, it was also likely the largest offering of its type in Canadian philatelic history. While it was comparable to the Gawaine Baillie sale nearly 10 years earlier, “in the field of Canadian philately, I am quite sure it is without equal,” wrote former CSN editor Bret Evans in July 2014, five months after the Brigham Collection began crossing the block.

“Ron’s collection is spectacular and renowned around the world,” Evans added in 2014. “Ron himself is one of those colourful and larger-than-life people who all too rarely strides across the collecting stage.”

A member of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC), of which he was also a Fellow, Brigham also belonged to the invite-only Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada, the Royal Philatelic Society London, the Canadian Philatelic Society of Great Britain, the American Philatelic Society (APS), the Collectors Club of New York and the Club de Monte-Carlo de l’Elite de la Philatélie.


Born in 1944, Brigham was nine years old when his father gave him his first stamp album plus a $3 package with 10,000 stamps.

“Dad just bought 10,000 stamps and spread them on the table,” Brigham told the Globe & Mail in August 2001, just two months after winning philately’s highest exhibiting honour, the Grand Prix D’Honneur, at an international competition in Belgium. “That was before we had TV, and you had to do something with your time.”

In his early years, Brigham enjoyed a mostly solitary hobby but occasionally worked with his father to soak stamps while assembling a varied collection in the family’s east Toronto home.

By the early 1980s, he decided to specialize in Canadian stamps – a decision that would bring both him and Canadian philately to newfound heights.

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