Every January, the St. Catharines Stamp Club hosts an annual bourse called Cathex.
The show is held at the club’s meeting venue, the Grantham Lions Club, on 732 Niagara St., in St. Catharines, Ont.
The 72nd Cathex will be held on Jan. 31, 2021. With free admission, the show will feature a 12-dealer bourse, a youth area, club circuit books and a popular lunch counter. The venue is fully accessible and will be open to the public from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Annual Cathex show ‘a buzz of activity’
By Jesse Robitaille
With the support of a vibrant local collecting scene, the 71st Cathex show continued a decades-long tradition in St. Catharines earlier this year.
Hosted by the St. Catharines Stamp Club, Cathex is a smaller show but packs a big punch with a bourse featuring “about 12 of the best dealers in Canada,” said Stuart Keeley, the club’s past president.
“It’s always been extremely well attended,” said long-time Cathex bourse chair and dealer Roy Houtby, owner of Roy’s Stamps, who has been organizing the show’s bourse since the late 1970s.
Held at the Grantham Lions Club – the same location as the club’s twice-monthly meetings – the one-day show entices dealers and collectors alike, added Houtby, who’s an honorary life member and past president of the club.
“It’s a familiar venue to most people in St. Catharines, and I think we all know that with local club shows, one day is probably enough. When you get to a second day – especially if it’s a Sunday – it’s generally not as well attended,” he said at the Jan. 25 show. “But this morning, there was a buzz of activity with a lot of people in the room.”
With attendees coming from as far away as Rochester, N.Y., and Kincardine, Ont., organizers like Houtby, Keeley and club President Dave Hillier were pleased with this year’s turnout. It’s owed in part to the city’s strong collector base and the club’s active membership, which numbers nearly 50.
“It’s pretty strong,” said Houtby, about the club. “They meet the first and third Tuesdays of every month, and they have an auction once a month so there’s a lot of interest from the local collectors.”
Hillier echoed those comments, adding the club has hosted three national-level shows and exhibitions – two Royals and a BNAPEX – in the past decade.
“There’s more experience at our show than even some of the big shows and clubs in Toronto. You get a feeling this club is really energized, and we have some absolutely outstanding collectors and exhibitors, like Les Molnar.”
A frequent award-winning exhibitor, Molnar, who’s a regular Cathex attendee, has been competing at exhibitions in Canada and abroad since 2006.
In 2008, he competed in the single-frame “Champion of Champions” event with his exhibit, “Victoria: The Five Shilling Laureate 1867-1912.”
At that same show – the American Philatelic Society’s now-defunct AmeriStamp Expo – he also won the single-frame Grand Award for another exhibit, “The Two-Shilling Woodblocks of Victoria.”
More recently, at the 2018 Royal Convention in St. Catharines, he had the two highest-scoring single-frame exhibits, one of which (“Victoria’s English Mail TPO System”) won the Single-Frame Grand Award.
At the 2016 Royal Convention in Kitchener, Ont., he also took home the Grand Award for his exhibit, “The Travelling Post Offices of Victoria,” and a year earlier he won the annual show’s Reserve Grand Award.
“I don’t do it for the awards; that’s kind of secondary for me,” said Molnar, who also co-authored the book, Victoria: The Travelling Post Office Services 1865-1932, with John Waugh in 2015.
A member of the club “off and on” since he was a teenager in the 1960s, he took time away from the hobby to pursue a career and start a family – a common path for collectors – and returned to philately in the 1990s.
“When the Internet emerged, things like eBay opened up the market globally,” said Molnar, who was then collecting early Australian states. “In those days, it wasn’t always easy to find material. Communication with people in Australia wasn’t ideal, and even auction catalogues were rudimentary. The Internet opened up a lot of things, including stamp collecting, so I got back in and rejoined the American Philatelic Society and the local club, and I’ve been a member ever since.”
Having since sold his award-winning Australia collection, Molnar now attends Cathex “to make my presence known and socialize with people.”
“I think it’s actually quite vibrant,” he said, of the local club, which typically draws between 30 and 40 people to its regular meetings. “There have been some other clubs that have faltered or even failed, but we always seem to get a good turnout unless the weather is really bad.”
Part of the club’s success – especially in hosting the Royal in 2009 and 2018 plus BNAPEX in 2015 – is its strong volunteer base. “There’s always a solid cadre of volunteers willing to jump in and take over,” said Molnar.
A COLLECTOR CITY
Since 1977, Houtby has also organized the Best Western Stamp Show five times a year.
“They’re also very well attended,” he said. “They’re small one-day shows, too, but nonetheless, they’re successful because there’s a good collector base here with strong collectors who attend these kinds of shows and support the hobby.”
At Cathex this January, Houtby sold “several boxes” of worldwide collections, which were “really hot” that day on the bourse.
“I don’t cart those around to most shows. A lot of people enjoy going through those collections, or large lots and accumulations, to see if they can find that stamp that they need.”