By Jesse Robitaille
This is the first story in a two-part series highlighting Ian Robertson’s 35th anniversary with CSN.
Long-time CSN columnist and consulting editor Ian Robertson celebrates his 35th anniversary with the publication this March.
A lifelong stamp collector, Robertson has been with CSN for much of its 45-year history. After joining Canada’s philatelic paper of record as a freelancer in 1987, he quickly rose to the rank of consulting editor and has since had more than 1,800 of his columns published in its pages. His regular columns include “Looking Back,” focusing on Canadian stamp subjects, and “Stamping Grounds,” an umbrella heading for a wide range of topics. He also submits two occasional titles, including “News Bites,” which reports on current events with a stamp-related focus, and “Pot Pourri,” highlighting a medley of hobby-related information.
“Ian’s knowledge and passion for philately, combined with his professional experience as a journalist, are great assets for Canadian Stamp News,” said CSN editor Mike Walsh, the managing partner of Trajan Publishing. “He understands the day-to-day workings of a publication like CSN, which helps us to deliver compelling content.”
Walsh lauded Robertson’s “detailed research on every topic he writes on,” something that gives him a “strong following” among CSN readers.
“And of course, we can always count on Ian for his delightful sense of humour.”
Ingo Nessel, the past president of the invite-only Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada (PSSC), which Robertson joined in 2016, is one of many readers who enjoy the long-time columnist’s work.
“I am impressed with the sheer range of his topic coverage over the years,” said Nessel, of Brampton, Ont., who served at the helm of the PSSC from 2014-19. “You can pick a random philatelic subject, say a country like New Zealand or an issue like the Admirals or whatever, and Ian will enthral you by sharing his knowledge. His writing engages you in the subject so that by the end of an article or essay, you are the beneficiary of shared knowledge.”
While the broad range of topics Robertson covers “is perhaps counterintuitive to the narrowness associated with a specialist,” Nessel said he’s an “ideal” PSSC member owing to his “long-standing history of effective research for the philatelic writings he has produced over the years.”
“So I would call him a generalist who can produce wonderfully specialized mini-studies in journalistic format. It bolsters the hobby by showing that one can reasonably quickly produce well-researched philatelic studies and then move on to the next subject. Specialization doesn’t always have to be a lifetime pursuit.”
Fellow Toronto collector Garfield Portch, the president and chair of the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation, nominated Robertson to join the PSSC “and was quite happy to have done so,” he said.
“For too long, people have held the idea that you have to be a specialist in something you can stick into an album or stick into an exhibit – stamps or covers or postal history, the traditional things,” said Portch, who’s also a PSSC member. “I think the work Ian has done is an extreme specialty, and while it’s ‘off the page,’ it’s a specialty that we don’t have any right to ignore.”
While it differs from other, more common specialties, Robertson’s writing greatly benefits the hobby by enlivening the stories of Canadian philately and encouraging collectors to “think about things they don’t normally think about,” Portch added.
“I just think he’s taking some fantastic philatelic stories to the general public. It’s outside-the-box thinking, and it pushes the envelope.”
Portch also works with Robertson at their local West Toronto Stamp Club (WTSC), for which they both serve official roles.
“He’s really a grassroots guy – and a really good grassroots guy – by trying to appeal to the broadest spectrum that you can, which I think is really quite delightful,” said Portch, who’s the WTSC’s auctions chair and discussion group co-ordinator.
Robertson has served as the club’s vice-president for about half a decade and also handles its monthly learning workshop.