Wednesday 16 October 2013

315. Gibbons Catalogue Editor's Damascene Conversion?

  In his column in the November 2013 edition of Gibbons Stamp Monthly, the editor of the Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogues writes about the Guyana $20 surcharges on various and numerous previous stamp issues which I have mentioned in several previous posts of this blog. He draws attention to the fact that although various philatelic agencies have, for many years, produced countless stamps with the names of a considerable number of countries printed on them, many of these items have not received actual postal usage in the respective countries and are often produced in highly inappropriate values which are usually much greater than that which is actually required for use on real mail within those countries.
  He writes, "....there was also doubt that these stamps were actually in use in the countries whose names they bore and perhaps catalogue editors like myself should have been less ready to include them in our listings" - an interesting admission. It is also a rather weak statement - many people have expressed negative opinions about such issues and there have been widespread feelings for many years that such items should not receive full catalogue listing (see Blog 1, 13 May 2010) so the admission that catalogue editors "should have been less ready to include them" now is compatible with closing a stable door after the horse has bolted and being the one who led the horse to the open gate. 
  Stamp collectors, as I have written before, are addicts, if something exists and they do not have an example of it in their collection then they will move heaven and earth to obtain it - meanwhile the empty space gnaws away at them till it is filled. Therefore if an agency produces a "stamp" which is relevant to the collector's accumulation he or she will obsessionally  need to obtain it and this need is magnified manifold if the editor of the collector's preferred internationally recognised catalogue actually includes it in the catalogue's listings. That is how exploitative agencies have flourished so long - they know that collectors "must" have stamps to fill empty album spaces and catalogue recognition reinforces this need. The agencies understand the psychology behind all this and it is hard to believe that an experienced stamp catalogue editor has only just become aware of this. Or perhaps it's just that stamp catalogue editors are ridiculously naive.
  In his article, the Gibbons Catalogue editor acknowledges that "in the developed world" the "proliferation of new issues" "....stamps do receive some postal use, even if they are clearly produced primarily as "collectables", rather than to show that postage has been prepaid, or to celebrate, commemorate or promote important persons or events". I disagree - commemorative stamps receive very little postal usage in Britain now - it has been a very long time since I received mail from anyone who does not have philatelic connections which had a commemorative stamp applied to the envelope. Even Stanley Gibbons does not use postage stamps on its mail as I demonstrated in a previous blog; indeed you can not even find postage stamps being used by Royal Mail! 
  Yet, doubtless with the dubious belief that "stamps do receive some postal usage", the current Stanley Gibbons Catalogue editor decided to fly in the face of stated Catalogue policy and to add a listing of Royal Mail "Prestige Booklets" sold for a price above that of the total value of the stamps inside them and to do the same for the never-ending flow of such booklets from Australia Post. The latest edition of Gibbons Stamp Monthly adds one new Royal Mail "sold at a premium above the face value of its stamps" booklets and 4 new similar items from Australia. If the Catalogue editor bends the Catalogue's own rules to accommodate such "unhealthy developments" as these overpriced "Prestige Booklets", then there seems little hope that he will review his policy towards the listing of the "proliferation of issues" by agencies  for countries in "less developed parts of the world" despite wondering if "catalogue editors like myself should have been less ready to include them in our listings".
  Indeed, evidence is supplied by the November 2013 Catalogue supplement which accompanies the discussed "Catalogue Comment" that the editor has not experienced a Damascene conversion to excluding excessive agency issues because the listing actually includes a number of issues from a New York-based agency which has long produced vast numbers of stamps, often with subject matter of no relevance to the territory named on the stamp. In the Commonwealth Catalogue section, we find new issues from Grenada Grenadines and St. Vincent (8 sets in total) and so this very fact suggests that while wringing his hands at the "proliferation of new issues", the editor is not going to change his policy towards the listing of such stamps in the catalogue for which he has responsibility. Pity.

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