An envelope called the Dawson Cover will be shown at Aripex.

Stamp collecting is a hobby that brings people of all cultures, incomes and backgrounds together – at least according to Kevin Lesk, chairman of the Aripex Stamp Show in Mesa.

“A lot of people are coming to the show from Europe, the East Coast and all over Arizona,” Lesk said of the event this weekend. “There are wealthy people who pursue this hobby, but you don’t have to be wealthy to succeed in and enjoy it.

“It’s really for everybody, and I’m always encouraging people to start collecting.”

Lesk’s father was the one who encouraged him to start collecting, a moment in his childhood that shaped his passion for the hobby.

“My father collected – I’m the youngest of four children – and he introduced it to my sister and brother, too,” he said. “I was intrigued more by designs, while my brother liked ones with animals.”

Lesk said his father didn’t really know the value of the stamps he had collected over the years, and it turned out the stamps Lesk liked – those with unique designs – were relatively valuable.

From there, Lesk has maintained interest in the hobby and first attended the Aripex show in 2012. He took over as chairman of the show in 2014.

Aripex is staged by the Arizona Federation of Stamp Clubs, a non-profit that promotes stamp collecting.

Lesk said he hopes the show runs smoothly, given all the details that go into it.

“There’s five convening societies, three of the five societies are local groups,” he said. “We have over 248 exhibit frames and each frame has 16 pages of stamps, covers, or postcards. Each exhibit is competing for awards and each exhibit tells a story.”

That storytelling aspect, combined with the cultural melting pot that the show has become, is what Lesk loves most about the hobby. The history of it is something that shines through the exhibits, too.

Stamps ranging from history of the soccer World Cup to Hindenburg passenger mail will be on display at the show. These windows into history, in the form of stamps, make the show that much more special for Lesk and the participants.

“It really runs the gamut of these historical events,” he said. “Each display tells a story. What makes this exhibit unusual is the rarity of what we display.”

Among those who will be at the show is Gordon Eubanks, a Silicon Valley success in the microcomputer industry, who won the top award at the World Stamp Show in New York in 2016.

Lesk said that although wealthy individuals are often involved in the shows at the world level, there’s an inherent inclusivity within stamp collecting.

“That’s the beauty of this hobby,” he said. “You don’t have to have millions of dollars to display at a show.”

Attendees of the show can bring in their stamps, covers and postcards for a free appraisal, as long as they pay the $5 admission fee. Native American attendees with their tribal card receive free admission to the event.

Aripex 2017 runs from Feb. 17-19 at the Mesa Convention Center, 263 N. Center St. The $5 admission price covers all three days of the event.

– Contact Ryan Clarke at rclarke@timespublications.com.

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