Canadian Silks by Colorano

Canadian Silks by Colorano


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A Personal Tribute to Ray and Jennie Novak


Ray and Jennie Novak, originators/owners of Colorano, at work in the office of their home in East Norwich, New York circa 1975. This cover was jointly prepared  by Ray Novak  and Gordon Payne and included in a non-competitive exhibit displayed at the  2003 Toronto Fall Stampex Show.


 by Gordon A. Payne



A stamp dealer’s booth at CAPEX’87 held in downtown Toronto introduced me to Colorano Silks. I was immediately fascinated by them and decided to start a Canadian collection.


However, it wasn’t until five years later that a Colorano stamp dealer, Jean Dallaire (Zimo Stamps) in Sherbrooke, Quebec, was found. For the next 10 years, my collection was steadily put together with Jean’s reliable help.


Since then, I have had the good fortune to get to know Colorano’s originators, Ray and Jennie Novak, through many letters, e-mails and telephone calls over the last several years. Ray has been most helpful in supplying additional material (Original Paintings and missing Silks) and information and pictures of some of the commissioned Artists.


The Novaks’ many spectacular achievements over the years are a testament to their creativity and dedication to Colorano.  I daresay that through their efforts, they have provided countless hours of enjoyment to Colorano’s clientele.


Also, thanks to Rexford Briggs of , Atlanta, Georgia for allowing me the opportunity of helping him to complete his online Canadian Colorano Catalogue.


And, finally, thanks to Doug Holmes of Winnipeg, Manitoba for the excellent work he has done as webmaster.


Gordon Payne                                                                             October 15, 2010



Colorano Silks (Covers) are arguably the most colourful and attractive Silks produced in North America. The cachets are printed 4 colour on a silk-like fabric (rayon acetate). The actual process is a well-kept secret. The result is one of vibrant and luminescent colours creating a brilliant three dimensional-like effect. This Colorano effect cannot be copied by scanners, etc. Hence, the Silks illustrations herein will not reflect their true beauty.

The contents of the cachets are copies of either original paintings commissioned by Colorano or appropriate pictures, miniaturized to fit inside the gold border of the cachet. The best way to view an original cachet for maximum appreciation is under good lighting conditions and from different angles.


The originators of Colorano Silks, Ray and Jennie Novak, the Dynamic Duo of East Norwich, New York, began producing covers as early as 1958. Their first United States cover was for the Project Mercury issue of February 20, 1962 with the art work being done by Ray’s older brother, Arthur Novak. In 1965, the name Colorano was coined by Hans Frankel, the publisher of Ayal Albums. It was a shortened version of Color Ray No(vak) - before long, the name was being pronounced like Colorado.

Maximum cards were the first items produced under the Colorano name. However, in 1970 Ray saw silk cachets produced by the French firm Ceres and instinctively knew that was the route he wanted to take. Thus, in 1971 he replaced the Maximum cards with the now well-known “Colorano Silks”. The U.S. Wool stamp (Scott Catalogue # 1423) appeared on the first Silk produced by Colorano. Appropriately, Ray’s brother Arthur was the artist for the cachet illustration on this first FDC.

As the popularity of the Colorano Silks grew, operations were expanded to include other postal jurisdictions outside the United States, namely,

The following quote is taken from the June 24, 1989 issue of The Stamp Wholesaler,

“Ray (Novac)(sic) advertises that today most Colorano first-day covers are produced in quantities of 3,000 to 5,000 per stamp, many fewer than other FDC manufacturers.”

And from the same source, “During the FDC boom of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Colorano sales hit about $850,000 a year , Ray says.”

Recently, Ray estimated that Colorano produced Silks for about 15,000 stamp issues during the Novak’s period of ownership.

Distribution of Silks was limited to stamp dealers only with the dealers retailing them to the general public.

First Day of Issue (FDC) Silks

Canadian Operations

Colorano began its Canadian Operations with the first single commemorative stamp issued by Canada Post on January 31, 1973 (Bishop Laval stamp, Cat.#611) and ceased with the set of 4 Second World War - 1944 commemorative stamps issued on November 7, 1994. During this period, two basic categories of Colorano covers (commonly referred to as Colorano Silks) were produced.

First Day of Issue Silks

FDC Silks were produced for all Canadian commemorative stamps including issues of single stamps, sets of multiple stamps, miniature/sourvenir sheet, semi-postal stamps and dual stamps.

Colorano issued Canadian Dual FDCs when Canada Post and another country agreed to issue stamps on the same day commemorating the same event. The FDC's stamps are cancelled with each country's respective postmark showing the same date of issue. Dual Silks were issued in addition to the regular FDCs. There are varieties of Duals. For example. the U.S. Bicentennial issue Catalogue #691. These varieties are identified in the Canadian section of catalogue as 691A and so on. (Special Note: Catalogue #691E - Ray Novak advised this author that he secured a supply of blank First Day of Issue envelopes from Canada Post enabling him to produce this variety.)


First Day Covers were not produced for the following issues:

Flawed Stamps

Unitrade’s Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps lists a large number of flawed stamps issued by Canada Post during the period that Colorano issued Silks for Canadian stamps. As the flaws were not discovered until some time after the stamps were issued an indeterminable number of them found their way on to some Silks. The known Colorano Silks bearing flawed stamps are as follows:

Unitrade Catalogue # Description of Flaw
579i Missing medallion on centre Indian’s Shoulder
655 “Hair over barn”
692i Dot to left of arm
693i “chin strap”
693ii “flagstaff”
693iii “1’826”
693iv “UFO” to left of building
749ii “fire in the Chimney”
960i “dent on car”
966i “log in snow”
1012 “double anchor hole”
1107i pink print flaw
1107ii line in DE of DE LA BAIE
1249 doubling of weapons
1274i “dripping barrel”
1277ii “thread between dolls”

Event Silks

Colorano also issued a number of Canadian Event Silks consisting of 2 types. Type 1 Silks bear first day of  issue postmarks (FDC’s) and were produced in addition to the regular FDC. Type 2 Silks bear postmarks of the date the event took place.

End of Operations

At the end of 1994, the Novaks sold Colorano to:

Mr. Charles Schmid,
7 High Street,
Suite 300,
Huntington , New York,
U.S.A., 11743-3417

The issuing of Canadian Silks ceased at the end of 1994 except for the “Duck” stamps mentioned above and the occasional special situation. The stock inventory remained with the Novaks, who now operate under the name of First Day Associates.

Delayed FDC Issues - In 1994, envelopes bearing the Commonwealth Games stamps (Cat. #1517-22), the Billy Bishop stamp (Cat. #1525) and the Prehistoric Life stamps (Cat. #1529-32) and appropriately postmarked with each first day of issue, were produced but the cachets were not!!

When the Novaks sold Colorano, Ray Novak agreed to furnish appropriate cachets for these uncompleted Silks not later than the end of 2003. This author became aware of the situation in mid-2003 and offered Ray several suggestions for the missing cachets. Ray accepted one of these suggestions, namely, the one for the Billy Bishop Silk (Cat. #1525).

Ray finished this task before the end of 2003. This is quite possibly the longest time on record for the release date of a First Day Cover!! 

Event Silks (Type 1)

The National Hockey League 75th Anniversary

Hockey Stars Biographical Series

October 9, 1992 (51 Silks)

Gretzky, Bossy and Potvin

To celebrate the N.H.L.’s 75th anniversary, Colorano, in addition to issuing a Silk for each of the 3 stamps in the N.H.L. set, also issued a special series of Silks headlining the 3 Hockey stars named in the heading. Seventeen different cachets were created - one Silk for each of the 3 National Hockey League stamps.

The 17 different cachets feature an original painting and 14 pictures of Wayne Gretzsky and one Silk each of the original paintings of Denis Potvin and Mike Bossy. Short biographical sketches of each of the 3 Hockey Stars appear in the lower right hand portion of  the Silk relating to the player depicted in the cachet.

Each of the images below can be selected to see a higher resolution images of the Silks.


In 1988, Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. With the L.A. Kings, Wayne continued his winning ways and while there, he scored his 802nd goal, passing Gordie Howe as the all-time leading scorer as well as becoming the all time point leader with 1,852 points. In his 7 seasons with the L.A. Kings, Wayne amassed a total of 231 goals, 606 assists for a total of 837 points over 437 regular season games played.

Before retiring in 1999, “the Great” Gretzky spent his last 3 years as an N.H.L. player with the New York Rangers. He scored 57 goals, 192 assists for 249 points over 234 regular season games.  During his 20 years in the N.H.L., he played in 1,487 regular season games, scored 894 goals, 1,963 assists for a point total of 2,857–an unequalled hockey record unlikely to happen again.  Small wonder he was nicknamed 

“The Greatest!!”


Mike “the Boss” Bossy played 10 seasons in the N.H.L. with the New York Islanders from 1977 to 1987.  Chronic back pains forced him to retire at the early age of 32. During his career, ‘the Boss” amassed 573 goals, 553 assists for a point total of 1,126 in 752 games. He was the first rookie to score 50 goals and topped 60 goals a season 5 times. He also scored 68 goals in 1980-81 equaling the legendary Maurice Richard’s record.


Denis Potvin played 15 seasons in the N.H.L. with the New York Islanders from 1973 to 1988. He served as Team Captain during the glory years when the Islanders won 4 consecutive Stanley Cups (1980 to 1983 incl.). As a defence man, he set a number of all time records which have subsequently been surpassed. During his 15 N.H.L. seasons, he scored 310 goals, 742 assists for  total points of 1,052 in 1,060 regular season games– a very impressive record for a defence man!!

Picture Cachets

Event Silks (Type 2)

From the American Revolution Bicentenary Series

Of the 197 Silks issued in this series, 2 Silks bear Canadian stamps and postmarks. The first one bears a postmark date of December 31, 1975, recognizing the  American defeat at the Battle of Quebec. Similarly, the second one bears a postmark date of June 7, 1976 recognizing the American defeat at the Battle of Three Rivers (Trois Rivieres). Details of each battle appear in the lower right hand portion of the Silk.

Queen Elizabeth II Royal Visit to Canada - October 14 - 18, 1977

5 Silks record the details of 5 of the legs of the Queen’s visit and the postmarks are dated accordingly.

Pope John Paul II Visit to Fort Simpson, NT  - September 20, 1987

1 Silk.

Calgary Winter Olympics - February 13 - 28, 1988

19 Silks are included in this very attractive series.  The 4 “1988 Olympic Winter Games” stamps Cat. #’s 1195-8 were used on these Silks.  The pictorial postmarks and the date of the postmark make these Silks unique. The first Silk shows a lit flame in the postmark and a date of February 13 signifying the start of the Games. The next 17 Silks postmarks depict athletes of different sports competitions and the date each competition started. The last Silk shows an unlit flame and the date the Games ended on February 28. 

The following information is taken from The Official Souvenir Program . The games opened February 13 and closed February 28. Pictured below are the 19 Silks issued, showing the special pictorial postmarks designed for the occasion. Under each Silk, the event and its starting time is noted. 

Opening Ceremonies 13:00

Hockey Tournament 14:30

Figure Skating 18:45

Speed Skating 17:00

X-Country Skiing 10:00

Luge 10:00

Ski Jumping 13:30

Alpine Skiing 11:30

Curling 15:00

Bobsleigh 10:00

Biathlon 11:00

X-Country Relay Skiing 10:00

Freestyle Skiing 13:30

Short Track Speed Skating 18:00

Freestyle Skiing (Moguls) 13:30

Nordic Combined 13:30

Nordic Combined Relay 10:00

Freestyle Skiing (Ballet) 14:00

Closing Ceremonies 19:30

All Star Game 1991  -  July 9, 1991

2 Silks.

American Stamp Dealers Association (ASDA) Official Show Silks

11 Canadian Silks were chosen as Official ASDA covers as noted below.

The Artists

The telling of the Colorano story would be incomplete without including information about the seven artists who created the original paintings.

Ray Novak, engaged a number of very talented and competent artists to create paintings for the Colorano Silk Cachets operations. Seven artists, some of whom were professional illustrators, created paintings for the Canadian operations. Where available, photographs of the artists are shown. Resumes of the artists are also shown together with samples of their original paintings and corresponding F.D.C.’s.

The purpose of this section is to pay tribute to the Colorano artists by showing examples of their work. The contents of the Colorano Silks Cachets are taken from original paintings by artists hired by Colorano and from available pictures. Unfortunately, the viewer will not be able to fully enjoy the spectacular results of Colorano’s miniaturizing and colouring processes from painting to cachet. One needs to see the original and view the cachet from different angles to get the full luminous and almost 3 D effects.

All the paintings are done in watercolour. The painting for the Peace Bridge F.D.C. is a collage of watercolour and other materials. The paintings were done on heavy duty cardboards of varying size and qualities, presumably at each artist's discretion. The actual sizes of each painting is provided with the image.

Arthur Novak

 Arthur Novak, Ray’s elder brother (now deceased) painted the portrait of the Bishop of Quebec for the first Canadian Commemorative F.D.C. issued by Colorano and also did the painting of the P.E.I. seaside.

Ray Novak writes…..

“Arthur, my brother, graduated from the Pratt Institute of Art and Design in Brooklyn, N.Y., taking advantage of the G.I. Bill. Arthur ….took me to see the Brooklyn  Dodgers at Ebbets Field on many occasions. He introduced  me to music – opera….. New York Musicals lessons. He had a very good operatic voice. He liked to cook and did quite well. We were all a bit on the heavy side.

Arthur served in the Air Force as a Radio Operator and left the Service with a medical discharge. He contracted malaria too often after serving in New Guinea in the Pacific and came back from the Admiralty Islands on a medical ship. I believe it was 1944.

Arthur … really helped me get started with Colorano. He did most of the art work of the first Colorano issues of 1971, 1972 and 1973. Without him, I could never have put Colorano on the map…..” (May 31, 2008.)


Bishop of Quebec. Scott Catalogue #611. Actual size - 8" x 9 1/2". This is the first Canadian FDC issued by Colorano.


Tom Dunne

Tom Dunne writes…..

Tom Dunne was born in Queens, New York and spent the first four decades of his life on the North Shore of Long Island. He attended Pratt University and studied traditional drawing and oil painting with Harold Stevenson (one of a handful of Norman Rockwell’s students) and Alma Galanos. Besides working with  Colorano First Day Covers since the mid-seventies, he has had a career in advertising and editorial design illustration, clients including CBS, Sony, IBM, Time, American Scientist, and Muse magazines.

Tom has lived in the Durham, North Carolina area since the early nineties, where he continues his work as a freelance illustrator as well as teaching and selling his fine art”. (November 26, 2007.)

Mike Bossy. Scott Catalogue #1444. Actual size - 6 1/4" x 7 3/4".


Chris Dunne

Chris Dunne, Tom’s brother, did some paintings for Colorano in the mid-seventies. Like his brother, he was a very competent painter and did some very meticulous  work. Since then, he has had a varied career in the entertainment field ranging from actor  to script writer to director  (his one film which he scripted and directed in 1999 is an adaptation of Titus Andronicus by William  Shakespeare). More recently, he is billed as a Sea Chanteyman and presents live performances of traditional nautical-themed ballads humorous maritime songs and classic sea chanteys.

He continues to dabble in art, painting and wood-carving props, etc., for his entertainment work. He also engages in some art  teaching activities. (February 2, 2009.)

Canadair CL-41 Tutor Aircraft. Scott Catalogue #903. Actual size - 7 1/2" x 6".



Ray Novak writes…

“While at Cape Canaveral in Florida I met an Italian stamp dealer who was trying to buy stamps. He couldn’t get it across  to the clerk exactly what he wanted. With the little Italian that I speak I  was able to help the dealer, Luciano Fraschetty, who was in Florida for the same reason I was - the Apollo moon landing shot. We became friends immediately and of course we had our translator with us, my wife Jennie who speaks fluent Italian. Luciano was also a first day/event cover dealer in Italy and his  art work was fabulous.

Over the course of time I asked Luciano if he could allow Tenzi  to do some of my art work for the space covers I produced. He  had no objections. Tenzi painted many of my space issues but only the one for the Canadian issues. I was told by Luciano that Tenzi worked as a prison guard in Italy. His space art was exceptional…..”. (November 22, 2007.)

Marconi. Scott Catalogue #654. Actual size - 5 3/4" x 8".


Harrison Gillette

Ray Novak writes…..

“Harrison Gillette lived in Gatesville, Texas and was a retired postal worker. Art was his hobby. He wrote to me back around 1974 and sent several paintings for me to look at. A friend of his suggested that he do this. I liked what I saw and the rest is history. Harrison did a thorough research job on all the paintings he did for Colorano. … Many Colorano collectors found his work  to be exceptional.

He worked for me for many years and was getting on in age when he stopped …in 1994. I believe he died a few years later. His family no longer lives in Gatesville……”. (January 19, 2004 & October 18, 2008.)


Quebec Folk Song - "Les Raftsmans". Scott Catalogue #1492. Actual size - 6" x 7 5/8".


Lawrence Finney

Ray Novak writes…..

“Lawrence Finney was a young black  man who worked with another black artist, Mal Cann (see below). He did most of his work for the  U.S.  cachets. He started working for me when he was 17 years old.

He was a fabulous artist and did really tight work. As he got older and more experienced he left me for more lucrative work. I know that he became a very fine illustrator”. (June 29, 2007.)

This is the only painting Lawrence Finney did for a Canadian cachet. As Ray Novak indicated, Finney developed into an accomplished artist and enjoys a highly regarded reputation in Afro-American art circles.

 Terry Fox. Scott Catalogue#915. Actual size - 5 1/2" x 7 1/4".

Ray Novak advises that this is the only painting done by Dave Finney for a Canadian Silk.


Mal Cann

Ray Novak writes…..

“ Mal Cann was a black artist  from New York. While doing some thirty paintings for me, he also taught Lawrence Finney (see above). Some of these thirty paintings were a combined effort of both Mal and Lawrence. I haven’t heard from Mal  and am not sure if he is  still active……”. (August 17, 2008.)

The Jacket Flap web site records the following biographical details ……

“Mal Cann is a published illustrator of children’s books. A published credit of Mal Cann is My Favorite Toy.”- (Google, April 2009).

Peace Bridge. Scott Catalogue #737. Actual size - 6" x 7 3/8".


This painting is a collage of watercolours and other materials.

Colorano Catalogues

There are 3 Colorano Catalogues in existence at this time. 

Catalog of Colorano ‘Silk’ Cachets

Ray Novak produced annual editions of a catalogue from the early 70's until the 1995 – 1996 edition. The last edition is a 36 pages printed catalogue. This marvellous achievement by a cachet maker is probably unparalleled! Images of the pages relevant to the Canadian operation are provided below. Click on an image for a larger version or see the Gallery for still larger versions.

There are a few Canadian Event Silks listed elsewhere in this catalogue. Incidentally, the Hockey Stars Biographical Series Silks mentioned earler, does not appear to have been listed in this catalogue.



Knottywood Treasures

The second catalogue is fully illustrated and can be accessed online at  The owner of this web site, Rexford Briggs of Atlanta, Georgia, originally planned to set up a complete Colorano catalogue of all issues. This author learned of this situation in 2005 and offered help for the Canadian section of the catalogue. This resulted in scanned images of 712 Silks being sent to Rex by this author and added to this catalogue.

Canada FDC

The third catalogue is fully illustrated with many of the same images as those appearing in the Knottywood Treasures web site. It can be accessed online at, in the Gallery, under Member Albums, Gord Payne. The images are organized by year of issue. Alternatively, this shortcut should take you there.

About the Author

Gord Payne