By Jesse Robitaille
Philatelists from across Canada will make the annual pilgrimage to the nation’s capital this May for the Ottawa RA Centre Philatelic Exhibition, commonly referred to as Orapex.
The May 4-5 show will mark the 58th consecutive gathering since it was founded in 1961. Organized by the RA Stamp Club; the Amicale des philatélistes de l’Outaouais; and the Ottawa Philatelic Society (OPS), Orapex is recognizing “Elizabethan-Era Philately” as this year’s theme.
“It’s something we wanted to promote, and it’s about time; Elizabethan philately covers about 30 per cent of the entire period of stamp collecting,” said OPS past president Michael Powell, who has served as the show’s chair since 2016. “It’s a significant area that’s been underrepresented.”
The show’s annual theme is among the biggest changes Orapex has seen since Powell took the helm of the show’s organizing committee three years ago.
“It used to be very specific – like somebody’s anniversary – but it wasn’t really doing what we wanted it to do, which is attract exhibitors,” he said.
Previous years’ themes celebrated the centenary of the completion of the Canadian Northern Railway (2015) and the 75th anniversary of the 1939 royal visit to North America (2014); however, for his first year as chair in 2016, Powell advocated for “a more general theme.”
Aerophilately – a broader topic than the 50th anniversary of a specific flight, for example – was chosen as the show theme.
“We were able to get some groups behind it, and the Canadian Aerophilatelic Society promoted it to their members,” said Powell, who added there have been “so many applications” in recent years, the show has been forced to turn away exhibits.
In recent years, the theme’s announcement has been unveiled at least a year ahead of time in an effort to entice exhibitors.
“We changed our timing on things, and this also helps us line up our show honouree,” said Powell, who added the show cards for Orapex 2020 will be available at this year’s show.
There have also been several changes to the show’s organizing committee, which now includes nearly 20 people in addition to a number of “day-of” roles such as working the registration table.
“We’ve expanded the committee and now have close to 20 people plus a number of other volunteers that help out at the show itself,” said Powell, who also served as the show’s bourse manager until this year.
“We also needed to fill two very big jobs with exhibits and dealers.”
Working with the dealers this year is new bourse manager Ross Dulmage.
“It’s a big job, so I’ve been his mentor and shadow on it, but it’s going well,” said Powell, who added the show’s new exhibit chair is Deborah Welch.
Both she and Dulmage are OPS members.
“She’s doing a great job,” Powell said of Welch, adding there will be 142 competitive frames, “which is right about where we want to be,” with 37 exhibits from 31 exhibitors altogether.
Nearly 10 of the exhibits will be Elizabethan themed.
“If you get five or six exhibits on the theme, that’s pretty good, so we’re pleased with that,” Powell said.
The popular national-level exhibition is one of five taking place in Canada this year as part of the American Philatelic Society’s “World Series of Philately.”
Other World Series of Philately shows held in Canada this year include:
- the Edmonton Spring National Stamp Show on March 23-24;
- the annual convention of The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada in Mississauga on June 21-23;
- Vanpex in Vancouver on Sept. 27-29, when the three-day annual show will return to national-level status after a 12-year hiatus as a regional show; and
- Canpex in London, Ont., on Oct. 19-20.
This year’s panel of judges includes chair Joel Weiner, of Edmonton; Robert Pinet, of Toronto; John Wilson, of Toronto; Bill Schultz, of West Chester, Pa.; and Steve Johnson, an apprentice judge from London, Ont.
There will also be several non-competitive exhibits and local club-sponsored frames displayed this year.
DEALERS, SEMINARS & SHOW HONOUREE
The two-day show has been described as “the centre of the universe” for philately in Canada.
“This place is special; it really, really is,” said long-time dealer Frank Hoyles, who has been in business for nearly 30 years, the past 23 of which he’s had a table on the bourse at Orapex.
“In this hobby, this is sort of the centre of the universe for Canada. Orapex is always one of the real, true highlights of the year.”
In addition to about 40 dealers, the show also runs a series of seminars, society meetings and study groups.
Returning this year is the show’s popular “Youth Booth,” which offers young collectors free stamps and advice on navigating the hobby.
Each year, Orapex also honours a philatelist who has made a significant contribution to the hobby. This year’s honouree is Robert Lemire, who’s a past president of the British North America Philatelic Society (BNAPS). He’s also served as the editor of BNAPS’ Postal Stationery Study Group newsletter, Postal Stationery Notes, since 2015.
FREE TO ATTEND
This year’s show is open to the public on May 4 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and on May 5 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Admission and parking are both free, and the venue is wheelchair accessible.