By Jesse Robitaille
The 88th convention of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) has come to a close, and its success reflects a similarly strong year for “Canada’s national stamp club.”
RPSC president George Pepall, who’s also treasurer of the Kitchener-Waterloo Philatelic Society (KWPS), host club for this year’s event, said upwards of 600 attendees were treated to top-level exhibits and a high-quality bourse over the Aug. 19-21 weekend.
“We had a post-Royal meeting, and the overall perception of the event was very positive,” said Pepall. “We had fewer dealers than we would have wanted because of the very unusual timing of the event in August, but we got such good feedback from the dealers, about their sales and what they had to offer, that we’re happy for them.”
Pepall, who has been active in the RPSC since the 1990s, said 2016 was likely the busiest philatelic year he can remember thanks in part to the World Stamp Show, held May 28-June 4 in New York City.
“It has been a really busy year, but our event was special in so many ways,” he said, adding there appears to be a philatelic resurgence of sorts; even the kids made an emphatic appearance at this year’s RPSC convention.
“An all-out effort to bring children into the show was successful. They counted 25 (children) who had an extended positive exposure to the hobby thanks to the ‘sea of stamps.’ ”
And the amount of children was “certainly not a fluke,” said Pepall, who has served as RPSC president since 2008.
“It proves that with concerted effort and planning to make the event child-centred and not adult-centred and traditional, you can bring in kids and really hook them into the hobby,” he said. “And for that matter, you can bring in older people, too. We have nine new (KWPS) members thanks to that show.”
Although this year’s Royal was covered by a CTV Kitchener segment that aired Aug. 28, Pepall said social media was the key to higher attendance by younger show-goers.
“The kids who did come had a great experience and want to continue, and we’ll certainly provide the tools to do that.”
At the RPSC’s annual general meeting on Aug. 20, various executives, directors and committee members spoke about the state of the society.
As part of his president’s report, Pepall said one of the highlights of the year was the society’s purchase of 112 new exhibit frames from organizers of the once-in-a-decade World Stamp Show.
“All credit goes to (RPSC) treasurer David Oberholtzer for making that happen and knowing what to do at the critical times,” Pepall said, adding “significant expenditure” was made on the acquisition.
Oberholtzer said his estimate of the frames’ cost to the board was $25,000 for 200 frames.
“That’s about half of the replacement cost that we would’ve had if we would’ve made them ourselves. We believe that they will be around for the long term.”
Pepall also commented on sharing a table at the World Stamp Show with the British North America Philatelic Society (BNAPS) and Postal History Society of Canada (PHSC).
“It was a very positive experience to share a society table with BNAPS and the PHSC,” he said. “It really showed us that we are not competitor societies; far from it, we are very much together in this hobby, and that’s a habit we want to continue and find more ways to exercise.”
The RPSC’s share of the cost of the World Stamp Show table was $457, added Oberholtzer.
In response to rumours surrounding the future of the Canadian Philatelist, Pepall said it was recently made available online but confirmed the print edition will continue.
“We’re not going to force it on people,” he said, of reading the Philatelist online. “We felt it only prudent to at least check it out and do a financial evaluation. That will not be laid on any time soon, at least not in my time.”
Lastly, because of “natural progression,” Pepall said the society is in need of a number of volunteers. These include a dealer representative for the Canadian Stamp Dealers’ Association; a social media adviser; an advertising manager for the Philatelist; and perhaps most importantly, directors.
“We are having directors fulfil terms on the board,” said Pepall. “People interested in stepping up as directors, particularly if you’re from an area that’s not already represented on the board, we would really value your contribution.”
In outlining the society’s membership statistics and financial statements for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2015, Oberholtzer said it was “kind of a turnaround year.”
“We had a loss last year; we had a gain this year,” he said, adding membership is “relatively stable.”
“Our earnings are back up to $41,000, which is a traditional level,” Oberholtzer said. “That’s really one of the reasons why we were able to purchase the frames from New York.”
Donations increased “significantly” this year thanks to a $9,500 donation from the Toronto-based Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation.
“That’s a one-time assistance, and it was really a major part of having a decent surplus at the end of the year.”
In addition to the Greene foundation grant, the RPSC received a PhilaPrint grant through Heritage Canada to support the Philatelist.
“Without that, we’d be looking at a lot of other expenditures or we’d have to take other action,” he said, adding the grant is worth upwards of $13,000.
Professional fees were down this year owing to last year’s large legal fee, which was needed to reincorporate the society to meet regulations laid out by the federal government. Office and “general” expenses increased “slightly” while most other costs were similar to previous years.
Lastly, Oberholtzer said the board isn’t looking to make “any significant changes” this year. However, in lieu of the lack of a Greene foundation grant next year, the society is expecting to have an operating deficit of about $5,000.
“We haven’t had a dues increase for eight years,” said Oberholtzer, who added the board recently voted to approve a dues increase of about $6 a member in Canada.
Because of rising international mail-handling costs, U.S. and foreign addresses will also have dues increased $5 and $10, respectively. All dues increases will be effective Jan. 1, 2017.
For more information, visit rpsc.org.