The inaugural meeting of the Oriental Philatelic Association of London was held at
the premises of Harmers, the London auction house, on 8 November 1949. Some twenty-five
people were present, mostly collectors of Egypt and the Sudan, but gradually others
interested in neighbouring countries spread the geographic focus until the Society
became established in its present form, covering the territory of the Ottoman Empire
in its heyday, and forming a crescent of states around the Eastern Mediterranean
from Libya to the former Yugoslavia.
From time to time over the past fifty years, there has been fierce debate about the
Society's title. This arises from the word “Oriental” which has changed its meaning
over the years from “East of the Mediterranean” (Concise Oxford Dictionary) to its
modern meaning which takes in the whole sweep of Asia south and east of the Himalayas.
As a result we now get people applying to become members from Japan and S.E. Asia.
However the current consensus is that the acronym “OPAL” is how we are best known,
and so that is how we will stay.
Like most societies OPAL has had its ups and downs: the late 70s was a low point
with the membership less than 100, however a meeting of members at the London 1980
exhibition proved a turning point, and under the guidance of Keith Tranmer, backed
by Bill Robertson, the society returned to its former vigour. The current definition
of OPAL's aims was set out at this time and for the first time a proper constitution
was adopted (recently revised to keep pace with modern practice).
The current membership is about 275, with half in the UK and the rest spread around
the world. There are over 50 members in the USA where we liaise with ONEPS, our
US equivalent; European numbers are slightly less with a strong group in Germany
where we have links with our equivalent society, Naturally there is a strong Turkish
group with others spread around the world from Sweden to Australia.
Because of its wide geographic spread, the Society has always seemed fairly rootless.
In the early days regular meetings were held in Caxton Hall, London, (which is probably
why that city features in our name) but now there is only one regular meeting – the
Annual General Meeting – held in the late spring, usually in London. In recent years
locally organised meetings have been held in the UK and USA. The main unifying
thread in the Society is the Journal – which went from strength to strength under
the editorship of Jeff Ertughrul, who received many awards for the standard which
he set. The Journal is now edited by Kemal Giray
Many of the Society's members, past and present, have distinguished themselves in
the world of philately, particularly in the wide range of published works by people
such as Coles & Walker, Tranmer, Birken, Bayindir, Phipps. Others, such as Otto
Hornung and the late Christopher Cruttwell have distinguished themselves as prominent
The Society is proud to have made a significant contribution to the world of philately
in the past, and is confident of maintaining its influence in the future.