By Jesse Robitaille
With undying enthusiasm, philatelists from across Canada made the annual pilgrimage to the nation’s capital this May for the Ottawa RA Centre Philatelic Exhibition, commonly referred to as Orapex.
It was the 57th consecutive gathering since the show was founded in 1961, and this year’s two-day bourse and exhibition was nothing short of special, according to dealer Frank Hoyles, owner of Blenheim, Ont.’s C. Frank Hoyles.
“This place is special; it really, really is,” said Hoyles, who has been in business for nearly 30 years. “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.”
The long-time dealer, whose extensive stock of postcards, stamps and postal history is a favourite among collectors, said there was “huge enthusiasm on the floor.”
“It’s a mob scene. You never see that many people at a show under ordinary circumstances. It’s a wonderful event: you get all the best exhibitors, excellent dealers and people flying in and driving in from long distances – it’s just a special place. If you have the material, there are eager people who want to see it.”
Organized by the RA Stamp Club; the Amicale des philatélistes de l’Outaouais; and the Ottawa Philatelic Society, Orapex 2018 recognized the 100th anniversary of the signing of the First World War armistice, which ended the Great War, with a military theme.
“It started off with the piper,” said Orapex chair Michael Powell, who added long-time committee member Dick Malott organized the bagpiper that kicked off the show’s opening ceremony. “That got us going; I think that was a nice touch. We thought with the military theme we should have a piper. I’ve never seen that, myself, at a stamp show.”
Malott, who has been involved with Orapex since 1965, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Forces from 1950-74, during which time he was stationed in Ontario, Nova Scotia, England, the U.S., Sardinia and Vietnam. Upon his retirement from the Canadian Forces in 1974, he took the position of chief curator of collections at the Canadian War Museum. With his exhaustive military experience, Malott also served as an exhibit judge.
“It’s a great show,” Malott said, “and I’m happy to still be a part of it.”
The show’s popular exhibition – noted by organizers and judges for its strength year after year – was complemented by the busy crowds.
“The show has been fantastic. We have a really superior selection of exhibits here this year, and we have enormous crowds. Everybody seems to have been very busy at their tables, and there’s quite the high buzz of activities going on,” said Powell, who’s also the show’s bourse manager.
“Everywhere you looked, you saw people standing and waiting to get a chair at many dealer tables. It was a very busy start to the show, and it’s continuing to be very busy throughout the day.”
A CHANCE TO CONNECT
The show also offers the hobby’s facilitators a chance to network with attendees.
“Orapex is an opportunity for me to meet HSPL (Harry Sutherland Philatelic Library) patrons from all over North America that I had only been in contact with via email or phone, to catch up on how researchers’ work is progressing and to talk our library up to those not familiar with what it can do for them,” said Kathy Hartley, librarian at the Toronto-based Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation.
“The weekend is a wonderful opportunity for me to introduce people to each other, find things in dealers’ boxes for my philatelic friends and to share in an awful lot of laughter.”
This year’s show honouree was Mike Street, long-time active member of the British North America Philatelic Society (BNAPS) and Canadian Philatelic Society of Great Britain (CPSGB).
“Mike is a well-known figure in British North America philately and does a lot of stuff, particularly for BNAPS. He’s very active for BNAPS,” said Powell. “We knew that the theme this year was going to be the military, and there were a number of candidates, but one of the things Mike does is chair the BNAPS Canadian Military Mail Study Group. It was a natural fit. Plus, he was due the honour; he should be recognized.”
Street, who was elected to the BNAPS fellowship – the Order of the Beaver – in 1992 as well as the fellowship of the CPSGB in 2011, currently serves as co-ordinator and publisher of BNAPS’ book department. He’s also a member of the Brantford Stamp Club and The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada.
Looking forward to next year’s show, the Orapex committee is seeking an exhibit co-ordinator as well as a bourse manager.
“We are short going into next year,” said Powell. “We’ve got a couple of key roles that we need to fill, so we’re like a lot of shows in that respect. We’ve had a stable committee for the last three years, and now our exhibit co-ordinators are moving to Florida for the winter – and I don’t really blame them – so we need someone to co-ordinate exhibits for the show.”
Powell added he’s also looking for someone to take over his duties as the bourse manager for next year’s show, which will be held May 4-5 at the same location.
The theme will be “Elizabethan Era Philately,” which will cover the past 95 years of Commonwealth and British Empire philately.
For more information, visit orapex.ca.