By Jesse Robitaille
Three Canadians with distinctly different yet deeply rooted ties to philately have been honoured in the Most Influential Philatelists and Their Epic Stamp Stories, published this March by Linn’s Stamp News.
Listed among 73 other influencers, the Canadian honourees include Gary Lyon, a dealer and auctioneer in business since the 1970s; Jim Phillips, the head of Canada Post’s stamp program from 2002-21; and Charles Verge, a reputable collector, researcher and exhibitor who signed the iconic Roll of Distinguished Philatelists this February. Their names and legacies – each centred on an “epic” personal philatelic story – stand in the 116-page book alongside other living honourees. They each played a significant role in shaping the hobby over “the past couple of decades,” according to Linn’s Editor-in-Chief Jay Bigalke, who added the honourees range from collectors to dealers, auctioneers and other individuals “professionally involved” in hobby organizations and postal administrations. In the book’s contents, illustrations show all of the honourees in boxes in a format similar to a souvenir sheet.
“We have received lots of positive feedback from both those who were selected and from the worldwide philatelic community,” Bigalke, of Sidney, Ohio, told CSN. “Many of the winners have taken to social media to talk up their selection, and we are thrilled to see that.”
Whittled from a list of 175 nominees chosen by Linn’s editorial team, the honourees were chosen with the help of the collecting community, who were invited to share their opinions via an online poll last fall. The editorial team determined the final list of honourees, who were then notified and interviewed while being “sworn to secrecy” until the book was published in March.
“There were definitely a few sleepless nights while working on the final list,” Bigalke wrote in one of the book’s editorials.
Lyon, the owner of Eastern Auctions and Gary J. Lyon (Philatelist) Ltd. in Bathurst, N.B., called the Linn’s recognition a “great” honour.
“After countless thousands of hours working in our trade, it is an honour to be noticed,” he told CSN. “I have known a great many of the other philatelists in the book for many years. I have always loved the hobby, and I think I have been successful in promoting it to others and maintaining their interest over the years.”
Phillips, who retired last November after 19 years as Canada Post’s stamp services director, told CSN he’s “very proud to be recognized but also humbled and incredibly grateful.”
“I’m grateful to Canada Post for allowing me to spend so many years in such a unique and fulfilling role. I’m grateful to the collectors who have supported our work, who felt an ownership in the program and shared their feedback and insights. And I’m grateful to the stamp services team, to everyone who brought their knowledge and their commitment to the program. The Linn’s honour is a summation of all the aspects of philately, and of my career, that I’ve been so fortunate to experience.”
Phillips, who’s an Ottawa resident, called his inclusion among philately’s top influencers, practitioners and proponents “very rewarding.”
“I think anyone who is involved with philately, with collectors, recognizes that this is very much a community, with a shared purpose, and that is to keep the enthusiasm for and excitement about collecting alive, and pass on their vast knowledge to future collectors. For decades, cynics have been predicting the demise of the hobby and that just hasn’t happened, and the reason for that is because the influencers, the proponents of the hobby and the collectors have refused to allow it to happen.”
He pointed to CAPEX 22, an international show coming to Toronto from June 9-12, as just one example of how the hobby has held strong in Canada thanks to the work of many influential folks.
“The philately community remains strong and dynamic. To be seen as someone who has brought a little value to that community, who has contributed in a way as to be so recognized, it means a great deal, and I feel I am in such esteemed company.”