Saturday 7 April 2012

Royal Mail Postpones Stamp Issue - Has The Golden Goose Stopped Laying?

The British postal service, Royal Mail, has announced that it has "received feedback" from customers who have pointed out that this year's new issue programme is "a very busy one...with more than the usual number of special issues" and in response "we have decided to postpone the Dinosaurs issue scheduled for October 2012 to the following year and our Space Science stamp set will now be issued on 16 October". They go on to say "In addition we have reviewed our stamp programme going forward with a commitment to reducing the number of issues and will be issuing 12 special stamp issues in 2013. We are also reviewing the postage values used on the stamps to keep the collection relevant and affordable". The announcement expresses the hope that customers "agree that this is a positive step for the future of stamps and collectibles". So, less stamps than we expected from Royal Mail in 2012. Well, er, no. Actually in the same announcement Royal Mail also informs us that they are "very excited...we are going to celebrate the British Gold Medal winners [at the Olympic Games in the summer] with next day commemorative stamps that will be available in 500 post offices the following day or through Royal Mail by telephone...and our website". So in truth there will not be less stamps issued but more (though probably not very many more, it's hard to believe that there will be many gold medallists from Britain given the country's glorious sporting history of brave failures - even the advantage of being on home ground probably will not help that much). So, has Royal Mail really been listening to the views of its philatelic customers? Given what has gone before over the years that scenario sounds rather unlikely (Royal Mail's lack of interest in stamp collectors' opinions is as reliable as the British ability to fail at sport). More likely, philatelic sales are probably down as collectors finally give up buying much of the excess rubbish that Royal Mail and other postal administrations have been pouring out in ever increasing amounts over the past 10 to 15 years. A fall in sales is a much stronger message to a vendor than any complaints raised with them. Also, of course, we must remember that Royal Mail is about to increase enormously its postal rates which means that from the end of this month, any stamps that are sold to collectors will have considerably higher face values and carry a much larger instant profit so really to make the same amount of money they need to produce a significantly smaller number of stamp issues. In truth, Royal Mail's attempt to show its sympathy for its unfortunate philatelic customers and to address their concerns appears to be yet another example of commercial cynicism and contempt for collectors and the greed continues (honestly, does anyone really think that delaying the issue of a single set of stamps is such a dramatic concession to philatelists' concerns?). On a different note, or perhaps not so different, the April new issues announced on the dealers' website of the large philatelic agency based in New York include a set of four stamps and one miniature sheet to be issued by The Turks And Caicos Islands to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens, the greatest writer of novels in the English language. This is very exciting since it will be the first stamp issue to be released by the territory since 2008 (as mentioned in my blog of 17 January 2012). As I speculated in the January blog, the Dickens anniversary was highly likely to bring the islands back on to the stamp issuing scene and I'm sure we will see stamps coming along for the Diamond Jubilee and Olympic Games. Let us hope that this new phase of Turks And Caicos Islands stamps is not ruined by a flood of issues so typical of what usually emanates from its philatelic agent.

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