August 02, 2014

The little boy in the village test - Part 2

In my last article I tried to explain why I would not be collecting or listing quite a large range of Post And Go issues - the ones that I really don't feel have ever been 'available' to anyone other than the people who sell them.

Now I am extending that still further, from the limited issue Machin definitive Post And Gos to the overprints that, by and large, were also only available at exhibitions and fairs. The same logic works for them. I never actually liked them anyway as it seemed that commercial organisations were getting space on stamps. I have nothing against Stampex, The BPMA and the like but simply don't see why they need to promote themselves on what I had thought were British definitive issues. That, of course, is where I had gone wrong. They aren't definitive issues. They are specialist labels that happen to be printed on similar backing to the stamps available to the public and whilst they can be used postally they really never seem to be. I mean, there are few enough of any Post And Gos on our post these days as it is, never mind the chances of encountering one of these with an overprint as well.

Mr Gibbons says that overprints were only available from those limited outlets but I am not so sure about that. I believe there may be one or two that have been more freely available to the public and it is important that we don't chuck out the valid collection babies with the specialist bath water.

I am going to have a bit of a job figuring out which to keep in the list and may remove all to start with and re-introduce any deserving cases when I get to know about them from my research. I know there are some real experts out there and maybe they might like to help. Clearly whoever has been advising Mr Gibbons knows his stuff but I feel he might have advised a little more carefully on one or two items, even if they were not likely to get far out in the wild. They might have reached my little boy in the village. His Granny might just have happened to buy one from a machine somewhere.

OK, point taken, let us assume, please, that Granny is not a Stampex fan.

So most of my overprint listings are going to disappear from the sheet and end up on Ebay in a week or so, along with the 'scarce' Machin types too.

Now, you're wondering. What on Earth is he going to do about the pictorial issues?

Well, I had previously abandoned the silly Presentation Packs. While they had specially printed versions that no-one is ever going to use on a letter and which are just going to stay in a plastic envelope then they seem no more than an advert. If anything, the Post Office should be giving these to us collectors, maybe when we buy a real set or something. But they are definitely pointless. There may be some examples where real labels, the same as those available to buy, are in the packs and they can stay. I haven't thought yet which might be in this category, if any!

Now I have to accept that the 'normal' ones are pretty much like the commemorative or special issues we've all got used to seeing. I gave up collecting them many years ago and really have not missed anything. Looking at the prices, too, there appears to be nothing of much value either, many sets from recent years being available at less than face value if you look hard too! The only real interest I had in the pretty ones was the variation in font styles that existed and the fact that some came with Worldwide 40g or whatever. Because they didn't commemorate anything they fooled me into regarding them as a bit 'definitive'. I had often written in years gone by about what might replace Machins and pretty stamps like these illustrations seemed likely candidates. So when they appeared I was a bit taken in. Now I just see them as labels with six different pictures on. Heavens! Remember the days when we felt we needed to have each value with each denomination. Mr Alan still supplies these as they are, indeed, different. I even got some for a couple of issues but at £77 for each set - and there were, of course, two types - that was way out of order. I think now what else I could have bought with £154. A really nice old Victorian stamp. Some mint early high values. All kind of lovely - and much safer as investment - stuff too.

So I am going to continue listing the pretty issues - those that are available generally, that is. Most of them are, I believe. It is the Flags and Robins that have complicated geneology but I'll figure it out eventually. I don't want to collect them myself, though, so my collection of all kind of weird and wonderful items - some with huge fonts and missing text but mostly just fairly boring - will be on Ebay soon too. That includes the 72 items I mentioned and also there are 30 Birds III with the wrong font I which I paid nearly £300 for. Good grief. Some nice items coming  for those of you in that Specialist pen in the field!

That will leave me with just the public issue Machins and one or two others. A modest collection but, to be quite honest, that's all these particular Post And Gos are going to be - a modest collection of items available for a while before something more permanent comes along.

I might have been inclined to think that the new NCR type Post And Gos would be that new something. However, Mr Gibbons doesn't mention them. That may be because they were issued too late for his catalogue. I personally think he hadn't decided at the time so just took the easy option! Mr Alan has placed his cards firmly on the table, though. "They're not stamps," he says. Apparently that's because they can only be supplied one at a time and have to be used straightaway. I reckon they're much more like a 'stamp' to the little boy in the village than any of those hundreds of pounds worth of Wincor, or was it Hytech, font style 2 with short phosphor and value overlapping the picture that came from one machine on a Tuesday in a room on the third floor of a building in York.

I am quite surprised that neither Mr Alan nor Mr Gibbon are supporting the NCR invasion. As I see it, machines are being enthusiastically installed at more and more Post Offices and they are, of anything, the most likely to be actually seen on some post. They replace the white printed labels type which I agree were never stamps as such. Interestingly, I have seen piles of the big gold Horizon labels. They have been very successful and if these NCR labels were to be used for the Horizon purposes too then that would be very interesting.

It is difficult when there could be so many values available but isn't that part of the fun of collecting? Dealers could do well supplying the full range for those who go for the easy route of collecting by standing order. Who knows, maybe Tallents House will beat them all to it! I detected some surprise at their issue of a 'Collectors' Pack' with five examples of them, describing them as Post And Gos in the write-up.

So I shall be listing these as best I can, with limited awareness of what is coming out and when but I'll try to get some information. Offers of help gratefully welcomed!

While I am on the subject of collecting stamps I have been feeling for some time now like one of those old people that collects decorated plates and gets a new one every month on standing order. They cost far more than she'll ever get back and they're never going to be used as plates. I may have cut out the special issues but I still get the Prestige books. I have always been taken in by these splendidly produced little booklets and would rush to see what was in that Machin definitive pane. I seldom noticed what else was in the book. For a while, these books were quite desirable and fetched good prices. After the first one or two, though, few of the stamps got used and more recently that became highly unlikely when they were priced at a figure higher than the sum of their contents. These books are the old lady's plates. They look lovely, can be quite interesting but the only reason I have been getting them is to have examples of those two or three variations of definitives or Regional issues that they contain. I know they'll never see the light of a postal day but the completeness drug is difficult to quit. What I need to do, I think, is keep the pane but use or the rest or sell them. Once a book's content might be predominantly Machin definitives, with several panes, but now it is usually just the single pane with special issues occupying most of the panes. So where before it might have made sense to keep the whole book - because it comprised just the panes I wanted to keep and because it had a significant value intact - now I am not so sure that is the case. One or two will always be a bit special but many may struggle on the open market to return face value. So I may just as well keep the ones I need for the definitive completeness and sell the rest.

Looking at most of the output for us collectors now, we really are being regarded by the marketing boys as the little old ladies with plates rather than the little boy in the village. We'll take without much question whatever comes out, stick it in a box, an album or wherever things go nowadays and not think a great deal more about it. The only real stamps are the definitives and a few special issues that get issued at post office counters or put in books that people buy day to day and that eventually get stuck on envelopes and packages. Like the normal definitives, some Post And Gos, some NCRs, even Horizon labels - the things the little boy in the village will want. The rest is pure income generation. We all need to wise up a bit.

You know what would make a really cool stamp collection? What we did when we were little - collect used stamps. Now that was collecting. What we do now is just buying. Anyone can do that, especially when you get old and haven't so many other things to pay for.

That's what the little boy in the village should want. Stamps that may cost nothing. Dealers can still supply ones to fill the gaps - and there'll be a lot of those if his mail looks anything like mine.