August 02, 2014

The Little Boy In The Village Test - Part 1

Type II*

Type III*

Type III

Type II
The first problem the SG Concise Stamp Catalogue presented has been the numbering of PostAndGo font styles. Mr Alan and Connoisseur have 1 to 4 with some 'a's thrown in for good measure and clarity. Mr Gibbons has just I to III with an A thrown in.

Both agree on 1 or I and generally what I had as 2 was SG II and even 2a was IIA so all was going well. But it all goes wrong at 3 or 4. There really are huge differences between the two III styles and I also have doubts about a II as well. Where Mr Alan and Connoisseur will talk about Font type 4, Gibbons just says it's III. So, as I feel I need to reflect the SG Catalogue now to avoid confusing people who have never encountered Connoisseur and I really do want to keep things simple if I possibly can, I have re-done my PostAndGo lists with the SG I, II, IIA and III font types. As, I hope, the wider, lighter style of III is on the wane now and what I used to call 4 is likely to be the most commonly found, I list the wider as III* and the heavier, slightly narrower font as III. There shouldn't be many more requiring a * in future.

The II* is an oddity. I just have the one example as shown above where the font on the coding is much narrower and taller than 'normal' II and it's definitely not 2a or IIA which is so distinct I haven't even bothered to illustrate it above. It is in a previous post anyway.

As it is so different I have to mark that and have just made it II* for now and, hopefully again, I won't need to have too many more odd variations from the Catalogue in future. 

The lists don't yet have SG numbers but that's a task I'm working on this week. It may well be the case, when you read further, that the question of those odd fonts that SG doesn't list turns out to be academic.

I have also rearranged things a bit. I now show a grid with the service indicators for each seemingly different issue. So some have 5 or 6 values in an issue, others may just be the two or three new ones added.

That's the main Machin Post And Gos almost sorted in theory. 

SG don't list the ones issued at Fairs or places like BPMA where they may only have been available to the public in a pretty limited sense. As there's no obvious way someone would know whether an item came from a 'freely available' source or a 'limited' one they do provide a table but it is heavy going both visually and textually and consultation without a stiff drink to hand is not advised.

I have not made any note of where mine originated so I shall have to mark my listing accordingly. It may well be the case that those deemed to be from 'limited' sources get consigned to the 'very specialist' field. At first I tended to rail against that but the last couple of days have moderated my views considerably. Yes, it is lovely to have all these fascinating variations of font and placement and this or that value appearing on this or that backing. However, I shall apply my little boy in the village test to determine whether an item is something that should be listed in a catalogue of stamps he might aim to collect.

Will that little boy in the village ever be likely to see one? Is there a hope in hell that either one could appear on an envelope that drops through his or a neighbour's letter box or that he could cycle down to his local Post Office and buy over the counter or from some device? And by 'device' I don't mean the internet on his phone or a computer where he could buy something from a dealer's site or even mine for that matter.

Those items that are only available at Exhibitions and odd places like that are really only going to be bought by the type of people who go there: usually specialist collectors and dealers. So I am all for them sharing stuff within that specialist circle and by all means advertise their findings but these should not be items that the average collector of stamps should be bothered about. I really doubt whether any actually have been used postally anyway, other than sent on self-addressed envelopes to satisfy some perverse desire to have a used copy (as it would be impossible to get one any other way). My old friend Mr Vincent used to get his First Day Covers 'tipped' at the local Post Office in Kings Langley where the counter staff knew him well and for years applied a circular date stamp very carefully on all the covers he supplied for his colleagues, including me. I did rather think that was cheating a bit but soon gave up on FDCs completely anyway and thought little further of it.

If you think about it, these items only get into the wild when those dealers advertise them for sale. By definition they are often quite rare, available only for a day or two at one particular place. The fact that they are a little different to the normal issue - that change of font or backing or style of layout - that makes them initially seem like something we must have. And, perversely, the less 'available' they were, the rarer they'll be and, guess what, the more expensive they'll be! Oh boy. I must go to some of these Exhibitions and Fairs and buy a bundle of strips which I can then sell at a considerable profit because it genuinely is a scarce variety of a current issue. You can hardly blame dealers, can you? Especially if they take the view that their variant may eventually get into the wild naturally when a particular type of machine is planted all over the country. Then we'll all be kicking ourselves for not buying, even at a hefty price, the very first example of that particular type.

I am almost arguing myself back into saying that they should all be listed. Luckily I recognised what was happening. Yes, one or two of these items that I am saying should be ring-fenced in a field somewhere called Exhibition Issues may be the predecessor to a number you can get down the road on a Saturday morning with the newspaper. OK. I'll live with that. If it is absolutely identical then all that it will be is an earlier print which no-one will really be too bothered about so it won't be discernible or worth any more. If it isn't identical then it stays in the field anyway.

So, in conclusion on this matter, I concur with Mr Gibbons and will cease to collect or list 'limited public availability' Post And Gos. I am happy with those that are only available in a one or two Post Offices or even those pop-up affairs as long as they're in public places but I don't want any more that were only available from a machine in a corner at a Fair or Exhibition, even if public admission was free. Quite how I shall break the news to Mr Alan I haven't thought yet and that may well be beyond his data selection procedures. But there is worse news for him anyway. More about that in the next rant, I mean , post. 

I promise you'll find it fascinating.