Wang’s ‘Blood’ exhibit breaks thematic ‘glass ceiling’ at Canpex

11 large golds awarded in strong Canpex showing

By Jesse Robitaille

For the first time at a Canadian national-level exhibition, the Grand Award has been given to a thematic exhibit.

North Toronto Stamp Club member Jean Wang took home the top honour at Canpex Oct. 19-20 for her five-frame thematic exhibit, “Blood: A Modern Medicine.”

“I hope this will open the doors and encourage other thematic and topical collectors to try their hand at exhibiting,” said Wang, who’s also a member of Canada Post’s 12-person Stamp Advisory Committee.

“It’s been hugely fun, educational and rewarding for me; this is the cherry on the cake.”

Wang’s exhibit is an ongoing work of passion that began at the now-defunct Canadian Stamp Dealers’ Association (CSDA) show in 2014, when a two-frame version earned a gold as well as the Best Novice Award. Formerly entitled “The Story of Blood: Myth to Medicine,” her exhibit also won a large gold at the National Topical Stamp Show in 2017.

The title page of Wang’s exhibit outlines the purpose and scope while the second page explores blood as ‘a powerful symbol.’

“She’s worked on that exhibit for about five years, and I’m really happy she won. From when she first started to where the exhibit is now is night and day in regards to the improvements she’s made,” said exhibition chair Steve Johnson.

“When you stick with it, a silver becomes a vermeil, a vermeil becomes a gold and then that gold ends up being a large gold. The dedication of the exhibitors is great, and we’re fortunate they want to come to Canpex to show their material.”

At the two-day show held Oct. 19-20, Wang’s exhibit also won The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) Award for Excellence in Treatment; the American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors’ (AAPE) Creativity in Philatelic Exhibiting Award; and the American Topical Association’s (ATA) first-place medal and ribbon.

To view Wang’s online exhibit blog, visit


Sam Chiu won the Reserve Grand Award for his exhibit, ‘Wei Hai Wei, China, 1896-1949.’

A total of 11 large golds – up from eight last year – were awarded at this year’s Canpex.

It’s the highest number of large golds handed out since Canpex began in 2016.

Of the 34 competitive exhibits, 19 were awarded either a large gold or a gold, meaning more than half of the exhibitors earned high honours.

“We had a very wide range of material, and it was strong in every class,” said Johnson, who added the thematic exhibits were among the top highlights.

“We had world-class thematic exhibitors come to the show, and of course, our Grand Award winner was a thematic exhibit.”

The Reserve Grand Award went to Sam Chiu’s eight-frame exhibit, “Wei Hai Wei, China, 1896-1949,” which also won The RPSC Award for Excellence in Material.

Chiu also took home the Single-Frame Grand Award for his exhibit, “Detained in Hong Kong and the Ones That Got Away.”

Another one of Chiu’s exhibits – “Chefoo/Yantai, China, Picture Postcards 1898-1911” – also won a large gold.

“It’s really amazing the strength and the breadth of what people collect and bring into their frames,” said Johnson. “You see Chinese rates, postcards, indicia – this year had such a wide range there was truly something for everybody and what they collect.”


Dylan Staecker’s five-frame exhibit, “Canadian Bulk Permit Postage 1903-1938” – one of several novice exhibits – was the Youth Grand Award winner.

“Just looking at the number of novice exhibitors – and the quality of novice exhibits – is rather astounding when you consider it’s the first time out of the gate for some of them,” said Johnson, who added the calibre of exhibits continues to grow year over year.

“From my perspective, we’ve had strengths every year. We tend to get a large number of golds, but in previous years there was strength in one class – last year it was traditional, and the year before was postal history – but this year was very different in that every class was represented well.”

One reason for the upward trend in quality is exhibitors’ willingness to “pay attention to what the judges are telling them,” Johnson added.

“When you have an exhibit, you constantly rework it and it’s up to the exhibitor. They’re all dedicated individuals, and it’s impressive what they can do.”


This year’s Canpex was the fourth outing since the show was reinvented by members of the Middlesex Stamp Club in 2016, and a trio of “greats” has organizers excited for the future of Canada’s only regular national-level show in southwestern Ontario.

“We have a great venue, a great bourse and great exhibits,” said Canpex co-chair John Sheffield, of the main reasons behind the show’s success.

“The continual quality of the exhibits never ceases to amaze me,” Sheffield said, adding the “word on the street is this is now the second-best show in the country for exhibiting after Orapex.”

Seeing a noticeable improvement in the scope and strength of exhibits at recent Canadian national-level shows, Sheffield said there’s a philatelic “resurgence” happening before our eyes.

“Everybody says the hobby’s dying, but I would say watch the head—it certainly isn’t. It’s changing and evolving, but there’s a resurgence.”


While Canada’s national-level exhibitions are sanctioned by The RPSC, the next step – international exhibiting – is sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de Philatélie (FIP), whose President Bernard Beston travelled from Australia to attend this year’s Canpex.

“From my two days at Canpex, I am even more impressed that philately in Canada is alive and well,” said Beston, who added Canada “has been a strong abode for philately and stamp collecting for many years.”

FIP Thematic Commission Chair Peter Suhadolc, of Slovenia, was also at Canpex.

Also in celebration of National Stamp Collecting Month, which is recognized in Canada every October, Canpex organizers launched the inaugural “National Stamp Club Challenge” for this year’s show.

Announced in late 2018, the challenge invites club members across the country to collaborate in creating a one-frame, 16-page exhibit based on a common theme, which for this year was the military.

Five frames of material were displayed throughout the weekend with show-goers deciding on a winner by popular choice. The winning exhibit – by the Middlesex Stamp Club – will be displayed on the Canpex website until next year’s show.

“I was pleasantly surprised that we did get five entries,” said Sheffield, who’s also the executive director of the CSDA. “The whole concept was to get club members to collaborate among themselves, and I thought it was a great opportunity to do that.”

While the challenge is set to continue at future Canpex shows, next year’s theme is undecided and will be announced early next year.

Canpex 2020 will be held at the same location, the Hellenic Community Centre on 133 Southdale Rd. W. in London, Ont.; however, next year it will be held on Oct. 31-Nov. 1.

Looking ahead, Canpex 2021 and 2022 will once again be held the weekend after Thanksgiving.

For more information, visit

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