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Ian’s Philatelic Biography



While it is a truth universally acknowledged that the grandest thing about the stamp world is the extraordinary people who inhabit it, there is a particular cause for jubilation when we are able to recognize among our colleagues an outstanding person, as we do annually at ORAPEX. And what a joy it is this year to salute Ian Kimmerly, who for over fifty years has graced the stamp world, as a mentor, collector, journalist, dealer, leader, exhibitor, and ever helpful friend. Celebrating Ian’s accomplishments gives us an opportunity to thank him not only for what he has done, but – what is even more important – for how he has done it. That involves a style the essence of which is suggested by his answer to a question once posed to him that wondered how he would describe himself, to which with a chuckle and without a moment’s hesitation he replied, “Sedentary male.”

Male yes, but sedentary… Hardly.

Ian’s interest in stamps started early – in 2010 he celebrated a 50-year membership in the American Philatelic Society, for example (which means he joined when he was 14) – and ultimately resulted in a varied philatelic career that he has described as “the equivalent of being retired and in heaven.” This phenomenon – taking up a vocation so congenial that in the end it seems more like a perpetual vacation – is not granted to us all, but as it invariably does with those so favored, it has helped Ian flourish.

Souvenir Cachet Distinguished PhilatelistThe move into a larger world of stamps was not preordained however. While at Carleton University, from which he graduated with a BA in 1972, Ian majored, as he notes, in chess and politics, and especially the latter. In 1971, while still an undergraduate, he ran as a provincial Liberal candidate in Ottawa South, and lost. (He tried the same again in Ottawa Centre in 1977, also unsuccessfully). His political activity while at Carleton involved writing some articles that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, and this link in turn led to an invitation in 1976 to write a weekly stamp column for that paper. The Citizen run continued for the next seven years and was followed by a further seven-year stint with a stamp column for The Globe and Mail, about 800 columns in all. It was the stamp column that led him to concentrate more and more on the stamp world.

In order to learn more about the Ottawa stamp scene, for example, he joined the Ottawa Philatelic Society (OPS) in 1976. The reading and research needed for the newspaper column helped broaden his knowledge, his library – and his own collecting. Over the years this included Small Queens, Canadian town cancels (especially those in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and PEI, of which Guysborough proved the most challenging), Heligoland, an unorganized accumulation of fakes and forgeries, and perhaps best known, his postal history collection of the postal agencies of the Solomon Islands which Ian has exhibited nationally and internationally. While many of these special collections have now been sold, the development of the Solomon Islands collection continues.

In 1978 with the help of a friend who advanced him the necessary funds he bought a large collection of Small Queens from a retiring dealer. It was the dispersal of this hoard that prompted his own career as a dealer, a process that ultimately led him to open a retail stamp store in Ottawa in 1984. Even then the economics were against such  venture, and though there were still a number of retail dealers in Ottawa at the time, starting up a new shop was a hazardous undertaking. From the beginning Ian determined to offer not just stamps but as full a service as he could organize, including the supplies and literature that help attract collectors. Some would say, however, that the most important element in that new venture was not so much the service as the Proprietor. Whatever the reason, today Ian Kimmerly Stamps in the only retail stamp dealership left between Montreal and Toronto. In time an auction function was added, then dropped, to be later revived in the present Sparks Auctions, of which Ian is President. Also, with the growth of the Internet an extensive online shop has developed.

An important aspect of Ian’s career is the role he has played (and plays) as a Mentor, helping individuals of every kind in the stamp community, including those who want to take a professional role in the stamp world, offering knowledge, guidance, advice and support in a wide variety of ways. Especially noteworthy is the never-ending stream of help, advice and counsel he makes available to collectors of every description, from the most innocent novice to the most accomplished professional.

Along the way Ian has served us in a number of specific ways. He was President of the Canadian Stamp Dealers Association in 2006-07. For many years he served on Canada Post’s Canadian Stamp Advisory Committee that advises on but does not actually select the stamps Canada issues. He has been a welcome leader at annual Summer Seminars conducted by the American Philatelic Society, specializing in Canada and the British Commonwealth. He is a long-time, active supporter of the stamp community in our area, including such ventures as MINIEX and ORAPEX. And — unheralded — he has made incalculable contributions to many committees, task forces, working groups, in spite of the fact that he dislikes meetings unless they are both infrequent, and short.

Recently Ian’s home club, the OPS, awarded him an Honorary Life Membership, something it does not do often. The citation that went with this Award perhaps best sums up the affection and regard with which he is held by his friends in the stamp world:

Recognizing that he has been a valued member of the Ottawa Philatelic Society since 1976, served as President of  the Society in 1980 and 1981, and has for over fifty years made an outstanding contribution to philately as a collector, exhibitor, journalist, dealer, friend and person, Ian Kimmerly is hereby created an Honorary Life Member of the Ottawa Philatelic Society.

Sedentary Mentor, and Friend – we thank you.

-Jack Gray

Ian’s Collecting Interests

Ian’s Canadian Postmark Collection has evolved into two main collections:

  • Nova Scotia postal history especially strong in Guysborough County which one day might be exhibited.Guysbrough
  • Prince Edward Island postmarks. Ian received a National Vermeil for P.E.I. 1873-1914 (Confederation through Rural Mail Delivery period).

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  • Solomon Islands After buying a collection of Postal Agency covers Ian became interested in the postal history of this group of islands. He is actively looking for better covers and/or postmarks (e.g. he would love to buy a SS KULAMBANGRA on cover.


  • Fakes and Forgeries At present this is more an accumulation than a collection. Like many customers in the store, Ian thinks this will perhaps be a retirement project.
  • Heligoland Another that is more an accumulation than a collection.
  • Philatelic Literature


Like many of his contemporaries, Ian collected stamps as a youth and then intermittently as a teenager. When he was 14 years old he joined the American Philatelic Society but otherwise his collection was undistinguished.

The collection was untouched for nearly 10 years until Ian revived an interest in Canadian town postmarks. The major event which propelled Ian into a serious interest in philately happened in 1976 when he started writing a weekly column on stamp collecting for the Ottawa Citizen. In 1983 Ian moved over to the Globe and Mail until that paper dropped many special interest columns including stamp collecting in 1990.

Needing content for the column, Ian bought and read any books he could find, joined the Ottawa Philatelic Society, and became more immersed in the hobby of his youth. By 1978 Ian was working part-time describing stamps for Jim McIntosh and in partnership with George LeMesurier started Ottawa Stamp Auctions. In 1979 the partnership was dissolved and Ian decided to try his hand as a full-time dealer.

While continuing his association with Jim McIntosh, Ian also started a partnership with Sergio and Liane Sismondo which ran a Rex Auction in 1982 and started attending stamp shows while remaining active with the Ottawa Philatelic Society serving two terms as President.

In 1984, Ian opened a stamp store at 90 Sparks Street, moving to 240 Catherine Street 1990-92, 110 Sparks Street 1993-1994, 112 Sparks Street from 1994 to 2006, and to his final retail premises in October 2006. In February 1990 the first Ian Kimmerly Stamp Auction was held and these continued successfully until the last Public Auction (#113) was held in November 2001. During this period Ian received front page newspaper and national television exposure for philately.

Ian Kimmerly Stamps attended many dozens of shows over about a twenty year period including CAPEX 96. After trying an in-house internet auction (KeMP) long before eBay, iankimmerly joined eBay in 1999.

In 2007, Sparks Auctions was established in Ottawa, with Ian as President and Auctioneer.

From 1994 to 2000 Ian was an active member of Canada’s Stamp Advisory Committee. In 2000 Ian attended the APS summer seminar on Fakes and Forgeries, and in 2003 returned to teach a course on British North America philately.

Ian has often served as an advisor to stamp clubs (he was instrumental in encouraging ORAPEX to become a national level stamp show), a judge at Exhibitions and a speaker at stamp club meetings. He consults on valuations and identification with the editors of The Unitrade Catalogue of Canadian Stamps. Ian has helped hundreds of collectors with knowledge and advice.

Ian and his wife Elizabeth moved to Victoria, British Columbia, in 2014. While retired from the business of operating a stamp store, he continues to visit shows and clubs, sell on-line, and as President of Sparks Auctions.