Orapex astounds in nation’s capital

By Jesse Robitaille

“Great” is not a term used lightly in philatelic circles, but it was something heard early and often at the recent Orapex.

The 56th edition of Orapex – the Ottawa RA Centre Philatelic Exhibition – returned to Ottawa on May 6-7, and by all accounts it was a “great” weekend (aside from the sole international dealer, Bill Barrell, of London, England, who chose to employ the word “brilliant” instead).

“Things have been great,” said Michael Powell, Orapex chairman, on the morning of the second day. “We’ve been thrilled. We had great crowds yesterday. You could hardly walk down there for the first couple hours, and it stayed busy throughout the day.”

Powell, who will be returning as Orapex chairman for the third consecutive year in 2018, said the dealer response was likewise positive.

“I think most of the dealers were pretty happy with the business that has been going on, and there was just a marvellous field of exhibits this year, too.” (See page 10 for a review of this year’s exhibition, including the full palmares.)

One of the six judges, John Wilson, said “there’s a great fraternity” at Orapex.

“Orapex is a great show because it always has great exhibits, it has great society meetings, and it has the meeting of friends, and we have people from the Maritimes and Montreal, we have some from Western Canada, and we have people from all over Ontario coming in. It’s a really good national show.”

Ingo Nessel, president of the Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada (PSSC), agreed it was a “great weekend” on the bourse.

“This show has a great vibe to it; everybody’s happy.”

Another comment from the bourse came from Dick Malott, who’s currently the awards reception chair but has been involved with Orapex since 1965, after earning a Master of Science in Logistics and Computers at the United States Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio.

“I was chairman for about four or five years, too,” he said, of Orapex. “I think it’s a great show, and this one’s been great, too.”

The bourse was busy from the moment the show opened its doors at 10 a.m. on May 6.


Powell said Orapex is a team effort and added there’s “a lot of continuity” on the committee.

“There are a lot of people who have been around the show for a long time and have the institutional memory, so when somebody new like myself comes in, you’ve got a lot of people to rely on.”

Even with the veteran cast of committee members, there was a need for volunteers when Powell assumed the role of chairman for the 2016 show.

“The first thing I did when I become chairman was recruit, and we added a lot of volunteers. We’ve got about 20 people now, many of whom just do small jobs, but any job somebody takes on is one less job for someone else.”

He also commended the work of other volunteers who didn’t belong to the Orapex committee.

“This includes the folks at the Ottawa Philatelic Society (OPS) who run the youth booth every year,” said Powell, adding the youth table was “very busy” this year.

“We were thrilled about that because two years ago we hardly had any kids, but we had a couple guys decide to do some promotion,” he said.

“Once the kids start coming, hopefully they’ll keep coming. We’ll keep doing that kind of promotion every year, and we have two people at the OPS responsible for that, and they did a bang-up job on it.”


Exhibitor Sam Chiu took home this year’s Grand Award as well as a number of special awards.

Powell said Sam Chiu, the winner of the Multi-Frame Grand Award for his nine-frame exhibit titled “Wei Hai Wei, China, 1896-1949,” was among the more impressive displays this year.

“Sam’s done wonderful exhibits for years, and this was another one of those,” said Powell. “He’s a great exhibitor and a really good judge, too.”

Powell also applauded this year’s panel of judges, adding the feedback from exhibitors has been positive.

“We’ve had nothing but positive feedback from people about the judges this year. Part of the fun of exhibiting – as an exhibitor myself I can tell you – is bashing the judges, but there hasn’t been too much of that other than in jest,” said Powell, with a laugh. “Some folks take it very seriously.”

One exhibitor, Joe Trauzzi, also commented on the judging.

“I got feedback from a couple of the judges and was able to figure out where to improve, and it was very consistent,” said Trauzzi, whose two-frame exhibit “The 1939 Royal Train Post Office” earned a Large Vermeil as well as the British North America Philatelic Society (BNAPS) Best BNA Two-to-Four Frame Award.


Next year’s show will recognize the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, which ended the Great War, with the theme of “The Military.”

“We are hoping to see a number of military exhibits, including postal history, postcards and thematics,” said Powell, who added next year’s honouree will be Mike Street, coordinator of BNAPS book department and long-time philatelist.

For more information, visit orapex.ca.

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