Western Fair’s 150th anniversary focus of this fall’s Canpex 2018

By Jesse Robitaille

This fall’s Canpex will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Western Fair, which has been held in downtown London, Ont., every September since 1868.

Organizers are hoping for continued growth this fall for its third gathering, when scores of people are expected to gather for Canpex 2018 –  hosted by the Middlesex Stamp Club – on Oct. 13-14.

“With summer coming to an end, people are getting back into the hobby. One of the reasons we have the show in October is to celebrate Stamp Collecting Month,” said show co-chair John Sheffield, who’s also the executive director of the Canadian Stamp Dealers’ Association.

“The other reason is to provide people the opportunity to see world-class exhibits without having to travel to Orapex in Ottawa or the Edmonton national show in Alberta.”

An award-winning exhibitor himself, Sheffield said exhibiting is “one of the keys to the future growth of the hobby.”

“Lots of people only exhibit at their annual club show, and this is an opportunity to learn to exhibit at the national level. It’s a chance to step up from the local level.”

The show’s competitive exhibition is part of the American Philatelic Society (APS) “World Series of Philately,” which is limited to 35 shows in Canada and the U.S.

The Grand Award winners from these 35 shows – including Canpex; Orapex; Novapex in Dartmouth, N.S.; the Edmonton Stamp Club National Spring Show; and the annual convention of The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) – are invited to exhibit at the APS StampShow each year. The winners of the single-frame Grand Awards are invited to the APS AmeriStamp Expo.

“We generally shoot for anywhere between 100 and 125 frames, and with the summer holidays ending, I anticipate us being able to get to that number as per usual,” said show co-chair Steve Johnson, who’s also the president of the Canadian Aerophilatelic Society.

APPEAL FOR JUDGES

One of the challenges in organizing a national exhibition is finding accredited judges, Johnson said.

“It’s getting harder and harder to have judges going across the country every given year. The pool for national-level judging is pretty short, and even if you only have four shows a year, you need quite a few people to do it,” he said, adding this is “the biggest challenge going forward.”

The jury for Canpex 2018 is chaired by Sam Chiu, who’s also vice-president of The RPSC. He’s joined by Robert Pinet, Michael Peach and Bob Anderson.

“We’re lucky here because we have a number of national-level judges within a two- to three-hour drive, but everyone is getting older and you need to get new people involved,” said Johnson, who’s a national-level apprentice judge. “It sounds daunting, but I have a great time.”

Canada’s exhibiting season – when it comes to national-level shows – is focused around the spring except for Novapex, which runs as a national show every other year in Nova Scotia.

“Beyond that, there really isn’t anything towards the later fall or early winter – obviously due to weather – but for London, there’s a large collector base that doesn’t really travel north of Toronto,” said Johnson.

“It’s a great opportunity to see wonderful exhibits and amazing material. We’re trying to get the local clubs to participate in the exhibiting process, and we’ve been fairly successful getting new people to exhibit.”

As for exhibit highlights, Sheffield said there are two collectors of Western Fair advertising covers that will enter exhibits to tie into the show theme.

“Any one of those should be spectacular exhibits,” he said, adding Canpex is “more than a commercial bourse.”

Organizers have also produced four souvenir covers to celebrate the Western Fair’s 150th anniversary.

“They’ll be available for purchase at the show,” Sheffield said.

CENTRAL LOCATION

With numerous local clubs within a two-hour drive of London, which is less than a day’s drive from more than 150 million people in Canadian and U.S. urban centres, the city is an ideal location for a stamp show, Johnson added.

“There’s plenty of free parking and easy access from all major highways,” said Sheffield.

“And I’ve been told it’s the best lunch counter of any show,” Johnson added. “But it’s really about getting people in the hobby together. There are only a few of these shows left in Canada, so there aren’t a lot of opportunities for people to go to a national show in this country. It’s a great chance for people to open their eyes to the hobby, see their fellow collectors, see the exhibits and see dealers they probably don’t have a chance to see at their local shows.”

There will be nearly 25 dealers spread across 30 tables of material on the bourse this year, Johnson said.

“The dealers bring a variety of material, from moderately priced items to the rare things you just want to see.”

For more information about Canpex 2018, visit canpex.ca.

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