Philatelists celebrate Louis Riel Day with stamp show

The Prairie Mountain Philatelic Society will host its winter show and sale on Louis Riel Day Feb. 18 with a special exhibit of Canada Post Riel stamps. Parking and admission to the event, which takes place at the Seniors for Seniors Co-op from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., is free.

Stamp collectors from throughout southwestern Manitoba will honor one of the province’s founding fathers on the statutory holiday celebrating his contribution to history.

The Prairie Mountain Philatelic Society will host its winter show and sale on Louis Riel Day Feb. 18 with a special exhibit of Canada Post Riel stamps. Parking and admission to the event, which will be held in the Seniors for Seniors Co-op on Park Avenue from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., is free with the first 25 attendees receiving a free package of stamps.

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Among the various exhibits planned for the show is a substantial collection of Louis Riel stamps developed by Donna Boles, president of the Prairie Mountain Philatelic Society. It was her idea to honor the 19th Century politician with a show and sale on the holiday in his honor.

“I thought it would be a good event to help celebrate Louis Riel Day and bring more attention to him as a man. Most families are not working that day and there is no school, so it’s a great day to get Manitoba’s history out and about,” said Boles.

“Usually, we hold our show later in the spring, but there are a lot of stamps with Louis Riel and we felt it was an appropriate thing to do on that day. I don’t know if that many people know this, but Riel took it upon himself to appoint a postmaster (for the region).”

Boles would not provide details about her Riel collection of stamps, except to say it was substantial. Canada Post created its first stamp honoring the Métis Rebellion leader and federal politician in 1970 to mark the centennial of the climax of his political career.

Boles has been collecting stamps for 51 years. Although she admits her entire collection is “major,” she said other Prairie Mountain Philatelic Society members have been doing it longer, with one winning both provincial and national awards for their compilation.

“When it comes to stamp collections, it’s not always based on the quantity of stamps you have in your collection, but also the quality. We have other members with some amazing stuff in their possession,” said Boles, who believes stamp collecting is a celebration of both history and geography.

“Stamp collecting can be very expensive or affordable depending on what kind of collection someone wants. You can do topical collections where you cover just one subject. There’s stamps for whatever your interest is. Some people are gardeners, so they collect flower stamps. When I was younger, I was into geography. Now, I have narrowed that to do Manitoba history and am trying to get Manitoba cancels from post offices across the province. I also try to tie in the history of little, small towns because a lot of small communities are dying or gone. You might have an envelope from a town in the 1950s that has a cancel on it, but the town is gone.”

A “cancel” is a postal marking that is placed on a stamp to ensure it can’t be reused.

The 62-year-old started the Prairie Mountain organization about two years ago. Today, the society includes more than 20 members from rural western Manitoba, including the communities of Crystal City, Boissevain, Forrest, Erickson, Brandon and elsewhere. Most of the members hail from the Westman and Parkland regions of the province.

For more information on the Prairie Mountain Philatelic Society, visit their website at prairiemountainstamps.com.

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