Collector creates COVID-19 show-mourning covers

By Jesse Robitaille

With show organizers forced to close their doors to stem the spread of COVID-19, an Alberta collector has created a series of special mourning covers to mark this past year’s slew of cancelled conventions.

Since March 2020, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, show organizers in Canada have either postponed or outright cancelled virtually all shows, big and small. But with their large crowds and entrenched social mingling, major conventions bear the brunt of the risk.

In 2020, Canada’s five national-level exhibitions – the Edmonton “Spring National,” Orapex, the annual Royal Convention, the Postal History Society of Canada (PHSC) Symposium and Canpex – were all cancelled. BNAPEX, another large gathering serving as the annual convention of the British North America Philatelic Society (BNAPS), also met the same fate. The latter convention hosts a competitive British North America-focused exhibition rather than an official national exhibition accredited to participate in the World Series of Philately (WSP).

This year has seen a similar story play out, with only one in-person national-level exhibition – Canpex – still on the docket for 2021 as of March 11. While the rest of this year’s shows have been cancelled, some of them – like the Royal Convention and BNAPS – are moving to an online program with virtual exhibitions, the first standards for which were approved by the U.S.-based Committee on Accreditation of National Exhibitions and Judging (CANEJ) this March.

CANEJ is an American Philatelic Society committee responsible for the WSP, which includes Canada’s national-level shows, plus more than 30 accredited U.S. shows.

“Back at the end of March and early April (2020), I had decided to do these special covers,” says collector and exhibitor Dave Bartlet, of Calgary, Alta.

He first focused on creating COVID-19-themed cachets for cancelled shows. Then, after tuning in to a virtual meeting last June, when BNAPS President Ron Majors spoke on mourning covers, Bartlet decided to repurpose his pandemic cachets with thick black edges – a centuries-old notice of death.

These black-edged posted letters were historically used in most countries, “especially during the 19th and early 20th centuries, as harbingers of death and messengers of grief,” according to the Mourning Stamps and Covers Club website.

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