Royal Mail has issued a surprise item among the 10 new "Comedians" stamps released on 1 April 2015. It is the most original philatelic gimmick to come along for a long time. In Blog 542 I grumbled about the use of philatelic gimmicks, such as the recently announced rose-scented stamps from Isle Of Man, on the grounds that gimmicks were incorporated in stamps at the expense of undistinguished designs along with the fact that most gimmicks are hardly original - there have been scores of issues over the years with all sorts of scents attached to them as well as stamps with holograms, stamps printed on strange forms of paper, stamps printed on metals and textiles, strangely shaped stamps, stamps in the form of music records and C.D.s and so on.
But the new item from Royal Mail is both original, clever and hilarious....a stamp that laughs! Royal Mail is using a clever piece of paper technology which gives the effect that when a finger is rubbed along the reverse of the stamp over the special gum, a noise is made which convincingly sounds like the laugh of a woman. The noise produced by the stamps is very funny and the specially-treated paper has been used appropriately in the printing of the French And Saunders stamp because of the female-sounding rather than male-sounding laugh produced by the special paper.
Unfortunately, and doubtless of some annoyance to some collectors and stamp dealers, because of the cost of producing this specially-treated paper, only one sheet in every 200 containing the French And Saunders stamp will be printed on the specially-treated laughing paper (and then only the F and S stamps themselves) which means that collectors will need to hunt around for the special laughing stamp because the special sheets could turn up at any branch of the Post Office and to make the quest more interesting the Philatelic Bureau will not be offering the special laughing stamps for sale as items separate from the basic set - it will be a matter of pure luck if a collector obtains the laughing stamp. What fun!
Counter staff at local post offices, despite being busy carrying out all the duties associated with their work, seem to be having an excellent time rubbing the reverse of their French And Saunders stamps to see if they can make them laugh and in the post offices where the laughing stamps have turned up, the noise has brightened up most of of the customers lining up to be served and whole queues have been observed to be in stitches as someone rubs their newly purchased laughing stamps.
Well done Royal Mail in coming up with the best philatelic gimmick for years and making 1 April 2015 a date of issue to remember. Even if we collectors have to hunt around to obtain our laughing stamp it's a search well worthwhile to be able to add this highly original stamp to our collection and to have the resulting good laugh.