Canpex 2017 Grand Award features ‘extraordinary’ research, rare covers

By Jesse Robitaille

five-frame exhibit entitled “The Western District of Upper Canada: The Development of Postal Communications and Postal Markings, 1800-1850” was the big winner at Canpex 2017.

Created by Rob Leigh, the Grand Award-winning exhibit was one of eight Large Gold winners among 35 total exhibits at the national show held in London, Ont. on Oct. 14-15. Leigh’s exhibit – his first exhibit ever – was only being shown for the second time ever in a competitive exhibition. It also won the British North America Philatelic Society (BNAPS) Best BNA Exhibit Award and BNA Postal History Award as well as the Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada (PSSC) Canada Research Award.

“Rob’s exhibit was what I consider an extremely fine showing of an area of postal history that is most important; that is, with a major emphasis on how postal services followed the development of the Western District,” said Chief Judge Steve Reinhard, of Mineola, N.Y.

“Research shown was extraordinary, and the rarity of many of the covers excelled. I hope that Rob will show this exhibit in the Champion of Champions competition being held in Columbus, Ohio next August.”

Leigh, an Ontario-born physicist who’s doing groundbreaking work in physics at the University of Illinois, is also the webmaster of the Postal History Society of Canada (PHSC).

“Frankly, it was a surprise, and I was very pleasantly surprised,” said Leigh, who added this is his first exhibit,
and he’s only shown it once before, at the inaugural PHSC Symposium this July.

“It won a gold there. I got some good feedback from the judges, and in fact, I re-mounted the entire exhibit and made some other changes. It paid off.”

Leigh’s interest in the postal history of the Western District of Upper Canada (which is the western region of present-day Ontario) began in earnest about five years ago, when he decided to expand his collection.

“I grew up in Chatham, and I started collecting Kent County postal history about 15 years ago. I’ve got a pretty large collection from all eras, and I got interested in the stampless period,” he said. “It seemed like a logical area to collect, so I got into early Essex County and Lambton County to fill out that area.”

Leigh said he plans to attend the Champion of Champions event that will be held during the American Philatelic Society (APS) StampShow in Columbus on Aug. 9-12. A total of 35 Grand Award winners from 35 sanctioned shows across Canada and the U.S. will participate in the event.

“I’ll probably go; it’s really cool,” he said, adding he doesn’t have “any major expansion plans” for his exhibit but will likely make “incremental” changes.

“There are some items that I’m aware of that I’d like to acquire, but the problem is finding it,” he added.

The Reserve Grand Award was won by long-time exhibitor Sam Chiu, of Toronto, who entered a nine-frame exhibit entitled “Development of Chinese Imperial PO 1897-99, Transformation From Customs PO.”

“Sam’s exhibit was a very close second and could have won a Grand Award at many other exhibitions,” said Reinhard, who served as APS president from 2013-16. “Research and rarity were the keys here, also. The quality of the material was exceptional, especially coming from China in the late 19th century.”

Chiu’s exhibit also won the APS Research Award.

Ray Simrak, of Maidstone, Ont., took home the Single Frame Grand Award for his exhibit entitled “Canadian Pioneer Airmails.”

“Ray’s aerophilately exhibit was an incredible one frame of Canadian pioneer airmail material,” said Reinhard, who’s also the treasurer of the American Air Mail Society and added he has collected this material himself.

“Most of the pieces are extremely rare. Ray had some new discoveries that I didn’t know even existed. This exhibit showed the beginning of airmail in and from Canada; very important to a country with a land area as big as that of Canada.”

What’s more, Simrak’s presentation was also excellent, Reinhard said.

“This topic fit perfectly in one frame – important to a single-frame exhibit.”

Simrak’s exhibit also won the BNAPS Best BNA One Frame Exhibit Award and the Canadian Aerophilatelic Society Grand Award for Best Aerophilatelic Exhibit.

He will be invited to exhibit in the single-frame Champion of Champions competition, which will be held at the AmeriStamp Expo in Alabama on Feb. 23-25, 2018.

AN IMPRESSIVE SHOWING

Reinhard said Canpex featured “a number of exceptionally fine exhibits, especially for a two-day show.”

“I was quite impressed when I first walked through the aisles. I have judged four Canadian national exhibitions previously and feel that the upper-level exhibits at Canpex were at least as good as those of the other shows, if not better.”

What was different, Reinhard said, was the number of exhibits with fewer than five frames, many of which were submitted by beginning exhibitors.

“They also did extremely well as a group.”

Reinhard said eight Large Golds and eight Golds being handed out – a similar showing at many exhibitions across the continent – is a sign of exhibitors improving their craft.

“While a very good showing, 16 Golds and Large Golds out of 35 exhibits is typical at most North American national shows these days. Exhibitors are learning how to exhibit, and this can be seen as we move around from show to show.”

For more information, visit canpex.ca.

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