By Jesse Robitaille
For the first time in its 100-year history, the signing ceremony of the iconic Roll of Distinguished Philatelists (RDP) has been postponed.
The five collectors elected to add their signatures to the RDP this spring will now have to wait another six months as the original date – May 4 – was postponed until early October. While there were no RDP signing ceremonies from 1941-45 due to the Second World War, the event has never been postponed outright.
“Other than that, there has been a ceremony every year since 1921,” said Jon Aitchison, keeper of the RDP. “This is, therefore, our centenary year, so we hope to stage a delayed signing ceremony in October.”
Among the new signatories is Charles Verge, of Toronto, who was originally invited to sign the RDP along with four other prominent philatelists at the now-cancelled London 2020 international exhibition. They were chosen at the annual meeting of the RDP’s board of election on March 5, about a week before the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
By mid-March, as the number of confirmed cases in the United Kingdom reached 1,400, London 2020 was postponed until Feb. 19-26, 2022, when a rebranded “London 2022” will be held.
“Should the situation not improve and Stampex is cancelled, then the signing ceremony will be Sept. 24, 2021, during the 2021 Congress in Harrogate, North Yorkshire,” said Verge, who added the posh spa town of Harrogate is where the first RDP signing ceremony was held in 1921.
If this year’s ceremony is pushed until 2021, the signatories for both years – 2020 and 2021 – will sign at the same time (another first in RDP history).
“I’m not counting that September 2020 will happen,” added Verge, who’s the vice-chair of the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation.
Aitchison also clarified the rescheduled signing ceremony “is dependent on how the coronavirus pandemic pans out.
“We will probably delay a decision to July or August,” he added, about another potential postponement. “If we cannot stage a ceremony in October, it will be combined with the 2021 event.”
In addition to Verge, this year’s signatories include:
- John Barwis, of the United States;
- James Grimwood-Taylor, of the United Kingdom;
- Michael Ho, of Taipei; and
- Yamil Kouri, Jr., of the United States.
All five are Fellows of the Royal Philatelic Society London (RPSL).
Verge, who’s also a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada, will be the eighth Canadian – and one of fewer than 400 people – to sign the RDP.
Canada’s sole living signatory is Michael Madesker, of Toronto, who signed in 2000. Madesker is one of 81 living signatories (excluding this year’s inductees) from 24 countries and six continents.
LONDON 2020 LITERATURE EXHIBITS
The literature class of the London 2020 exhibition is also slated to be displayed and judged at Stampex on Sept. 30-Oct. 3.
“It is the only FIP (Fédération Internationale de Philatélie) class that will be done this year,” said Verge, who added the other exhibit classes will be judged at the rescheduled London 2022 show.
“The reasons are three-fold,” added Verge, who was appointed as a judge for the exhibition’s literature, traditional and postal history classes.
The first reason organizers are aiming to judge the literature class this fall relates to the exhibition’s regulations.
“There is a five-year shelf date from publication to judging for handbooks; two years for periodicals; and unlimited for electronic,” said Verge, who added “95 per cent of the books and periodicals have already arrived in London.”
On top of that, organizers are also hoping to “make use of the already minted London 2020 medals,” Verge added.
“In the event Stampex is not held, then the literature judging would be done in December at the RPSL at 15 Abchurch Lane. And if that doesn’t happen, there will have to be another contingency.”