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Fenelon Stamp Club Introduces New Award Named After Founder, Marg Allen

August 10, 2023

Mark Armstrong with the Marg Allen Memorial Trophy

With Mark Armstrong

For anyone who has lived in Fenelon Falls for a long time, Marg Allen needs no introduction. From 1977 to 1993, Marg was the village’s librarian. Marg was someone who was deeply devoted to the community and took on many volunteer roles to make things better around her. In everything she did, “she was very patient, had a contagious smile and was extremely knowledgeable.”

Marg started out as librarian when the public library was on Colborne Street (since demolished to build the IGA, later Red Apple). Marg oversaw the establishment and expansion of the public library in its present location on Market Street. A generation of local youth grew up attending story time at the library, and for a lot of children and adults alike, she was a fixture in the community—and many will remember her with her can of Coke. Marg loved Coca-Cola, McDonalds, going to casinos and reading both fiction and non-fiction—especially history.

As a young adult, Marg tried her hand at teaching, first at a one room schools at Union Creek (near Kinmount) and Nogies Creek, before moving with her husband Clarence and family to Oshawa, where she taught in larger schools. The family returned to Fenelon Falls, adding a second story to their cottage to turn it into a permanent home. They would live there practically to the end of her time in the community. It turned out her true calling was as the village’s librarian.

Born on September 4, 1926, as a young girl, Marg took an interest in the many images that she saw on stamps. Later in life she would come back to this childhood passion, as she began to amass an impressive collection of stamps. She was an avid collector of Canadian stamps, she loved the British monarchy and stamps from other British dominions. As she was collecting stamps, she realized the value of the historic postcards that they came attached to, which would also lead her to amassing an equally impressive collection of local images. She took the time to record history talking to countless village residents, which would be published as Fenelon Falls Then & Now in 2000.

Marg was always someone who wanted to share her interests and possessions with her community. In March 1983, she advertised in the Fenelon Falls Gazette to create a Fenelon Stamp Club (she was adamant that it was to be “Fenelon” so it would be inclusive of everyone from the township, not just village residents), which met in room 103 of Fenelon Falls Secondary School. At the club’s second meeting, Isabel Wessell joined. From that day forward, “Marg and Isabel were like sisters, and today Isabel is the club’s longest standing member.”

Before long Marg would become a very important person in the world of stamp collectors, much as she was to her home community. She was a fixture at the local club, and also joined the Peterborough club. “She enjoyed looking at stamps from any country. She was also an avid traveller and wherever she went she looked up the local stamp club. It seemed that at most every club, someone knew Marg.”

When she founded the Fenelon Stamp Club, Marg registered it with the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) and for 11 years served as club co-ordinator, helping other communities establish a stamp club. “It was really important to her that stamp collecting was fun.” She also served as sales circuit manager for the RPSC, circulating books of stamps that would facilitate collectors finding purchasers for their stamps. She became an accredited RPSC judge—qualifying her to evaluate exhibitions at various stamp shows.

“I have spent a lot of time as a member of different stamp clubs, and attended many stamp shows, and have become an appraiser. But I have never seen a stamp collection that compares with Marg Allen’s. Her collection probably contains about 500,000 stamps. She knew what they all were, and could tell you about each individual stamp. She knew exactly where to find each one, that’s how organized she was.”

Though her stamp collection was undeniably a step above everyone else’s “Marg Allen never made herself appear to be better than you. She made you feel welcome in the club. When I was a youngster, I thought that my stamps weren’t that special, but she had a way of explaining the stories behind them, and after listening to her, my collection seemed much more worthwhile.”

Marg was always willing to make an effort to introduce young people to stamp collecting. In her later years, the Kawartha Lakes Library would host Stamp Camp, where kids would be encouraged to take an interest in stamp collecting. At the end of Stamp Camp Marg would give each participant a packet of stamps. But they were not any ordinary stamps, “her donation was worth a minimum of $1,000—they were high quality, very collectable stamps. That is how generous she was. I can still remember seeing Canadian stamps from the 1930s and 1940s, with a $1 face value. Looking them up in a catalogue, they were valuable stamps, and she donated 500 copies of each of those stamps, giving them to local kids to help the develop an interest in stamp collecting. It was heartwarming to see how she always found something to give.”

In the mid 1990s, the Fenelon Falls Stamp Club arranged to bring the rarest Canadian Stamp for a display. “It was a 2 cent large Queen Victoria Stamp, printed in 1868. It was printed on laid paper and there are only three copies known, one of which is in poor condition. It was up for sale, and one of the dealers arranged for it to be displayed for the public in Fenelon Falls.” Around that time, it sold for $150,000.

Marg continued as a member of the Fenelon Falls stamp club in her later years, and after she died on January 7, 2019, the club has not been quite the same without her. In preparation for this year’s Fenelon Stamp Show and Sale, Mark arranged to create a trophy in memory of the club’s founder. Made of crystal and weighing 56 pounds, the trophy will be presented to the exhibitor with the best stamp collection, as judged by the vendors at the event.

The annual stamp show, Fenpex 37, takes place at the Fenelon Falls Community Centre on Saturday, August 12, from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. “We have professional dealers from all around Ontario selling postcards, stamps and literature—there is a lot to interest collectors. Local stamp collectors will also be exhibiting their favourite stamps. At the show, the club will be raffling off an 1858 Fenelon Falls stamp-less envelope; a set of stamps from Queen Victoria’s 1887 Jubillee; and a 1949 50 cent lumber industry stamp. “The stamp collecting community is close knit, so it is a show where most of the people know each other.”

The Fenelon Stamp Club is also always happy to welcome new members. It meets at the Salvation Army at 6 pm on the second Monday of the month. If you are interested in collecting stamps, it’s wonderful way to meet people who share your hobby.

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