Sunday 18 December 2022

2216. ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง Acceptance.


  As we get older, usually, it becomes generally harder to ‘embrace’ change. Some accept it more easily than others. Some fight against it, some lie supine before it. Some think that all change is a good thing. Others hate even the slightest alteration to the steady and safe continuity of what they know.

  As a schoolboy in the 1960s, stamp collecting might well have been the number one non-sport hobby, known then, as it was, as  “The King of Hobbies and The Hobby of Kings”. For children it was cheap and easy to do. Everyone received letters, from home and abroad, with a range of exciting stamps on them. If you didn’t have foreign contacts yourself, and how many if us had ‘pen friends’ as children - I had  three (one in France and two in Seychelles)? - then your parents surely knew people who were sources of stamps from distant climes as well as those who were more local. It was exciting to be presented with covers bearing stamps from locations both exotic and more familiar and they fed a child’s imagination and built up their knowledge of the world, few at that time could ever imagine that transport costs and technology might one day, in a couple of decades time, make it possible to visit in person.

  Unimaginable too back then, for we 1950s and 1960’s children, that young people, sixty years later would be likely to have their own personal telephone to carry around with them in their pocket and that instant communication with anywhere in the world would be possible and that the need to send mail would have all but evaporated. And if no-one would need to send mail then there would be no need for postage stamps. And that would be the end of that beloved 1960s childhood hobby of stamp collecting.

  The details of the now revealed 2023 Royal Mail new issue programme are painful to many older and long-established collectors. Stamp collecting is no longer a hobby that counts to those responsible for the planning, production and release of stamp-related products, at best it is a commercial memorabilia-selling branch of the entertainment business. British stamps are produced to no longer commemorate Britain or the British - they are released to feature whatever trite and ephemeral entertainment has gripped the world’s population, now more than ever in need of bread and circuses, 

  Anyone who lives in Britain will know that ‘special’ stamps, apart from the Second and occasionally First rate Christmas stamps, are rarely, if ever, seen used on ordinary commercial mail so new ‘Special’ stamps are not released for use on mail. If that were the case then they would be more easily obtainable and even then you would have to want to sit down and write a letter and envelope, stick a stamp on the latter, and be prepared to walk to a postbox to send it on its way which few people wish to do now when an email can be sent in seconds, arrive in seconds and cost nothing to send. So ‘Special stamps’ have no practical use now.

  Special stamps may be issued to celebrate the country that issues them - its beauty, its wildlife, its scenery, its resources, its people and their achievements, both as individuals and as a nation. These would be valid reasons to continue the release of Special stamps but, clearly confirmed in the 2023 programme, Royal Mail has put aside these reasons to issue stamps as there is very little of national commemoration in the programme. 

  Why should Royal Mail do so anyway? After all it is not a national government-owned institution but a private business where the primary goal must be to make as large a profit as possible while providing a service to its customers of a standard which reaches a level where it can just about ‘get away with it’. And the organisation does continue to ‘get away with it’ and, it appears, makes a profit to satisfy its shareholders. It may represent the country as a licensed carrier of mail, nationally and internationally, but as a private not a state entity there is nothing to make it promote Britain and the British in its stamps unless that promotion results in financial profit for itself. Hence if a greater potential profit is perceived as likely to come from the sale of stamps portraying fantastical American comics characters rather than portraying decent, brave, hardworking Britons or their achievements or the beauty or remarkable views of the countryside or its great art and buildings then the American comics are now going to win out every time.

  We collectors must come to terms with the situation. Stamp collecting is now nothing to Royal Mail. Stamps are now a means to make money, one offs, from people who have no basic interest in stamps but are obsessed with some modern day aspect of the broad entertainment industry. Collectors find this hard to grasp. We must do so. For a long time I hoped that things would change, that we would eventually return to affordable stamp issues which commemorated Britain and the British. This is clearly not going to happen in the foreseeable future because Royal Mail sees no real profit in producing stamps for devoted postage stamp collectors.  The collecting of newly issued British stamps has reached the end of the line. And rightly so - these are products which now have very little chance of ever being used as postage stamps by being affixed to an ordinary mail user’s letter and in that respect have ceased to be postage stamps. They no longer celebrate the country whose name appears on them, they are frequently poorly designed, ever more often a photograph is used with a bit of text fitted on to it, they are outrageously excessive in the number of different items produced and the cost to the buyer and if the basic stamps are unlikely to be postally used how much more does that apply to the accompanying multitude of miniature sheets, collectors sheets, booklets and so on.

  The Linked In website entry for Matt Parkes, the Managing Director of Royal Mail Stamps and Collectibles, who took up the post in August 2016 reveals why the death knoll sounded for British new issue collecting when he was appointed. It reveals that he had worked in the ‘entertainment sector’ for 25 years “with a particular emphasis on general management, licensing, business development and marketing”. He described himself as “a strategic thinker with an analytical approach, my keys areas are organising change, developing business strategies, business planning and building partner relationships”. He stated that “Many of my strategic initiatives have won industry awards and I have delivered record-breaking results for organisations including Royal Mail, BBC, BSkyB and Microsoft”.

  It really is not surprising that with this individual, with his 25 years in the ‘entertainment’ world, leading the Stamps and Collectibles branch of Royal Mail that we should find RM stamp issues where they are today and the position they will be as the 2023 programme proceeds during the year. As long as he holds on to this post it is clear that with his particular interests, skills and associations, ‘British’ stamps will continue to celebrate the trivial and have little meaning for the long term collector of British stamps. British stamp collectors often write that they are thinking of giving up collecting new issues, and some do, but others hang on in the hope, I suppose, that “things can only get better”. Well, with Mr Parkes firmly wedged in his seat as Managing Director of Royal Mail Stamps And Collectibles for the foreseeable future, there’s little hope that RM’s approach to new issues will improve any time soon. If you haven’t jumped ship yet then the 2023 programme may tell you that this may very well be the time to do so. Just think how much money you will save.

  RM’s new issue programmes have been a source of grief to many traditional collectors in recent years - one has only to read reader’s comments in magazines or on chat boards. There are said to be five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I suspect collectors of new issue Royal Mail stamps will have experienced all of the first four stages over recent years and if they have not already arrived at ‘acceptance’ then this may be the time to do so - acceptance that the commercial Royal Mail Stamps and Collectibles business, lead by an entertainments expert with no interest in national image or  dignity, is going to continue to consider stamp collecting as unworthy of consideration for the foreseeable future and that the outrageous 2023 new issue programme is the natural result of it all and unless Parkes leaves the organisation, though the damage is already done, things will never get better.

  Royal Mail, as a producer of new issues, is now only one level above Stamperija - therefore, as with that dreadful wrecker of new issue philately, I shall not illustrate most RM products in this Blog from the beginning of 2023.

  I have reached the stage of Acceptance that collecting new British ‘Special’ stamps has, for the present at least (well, who knows, if Parkes ever does move jobs and RM is still issuing stamps, a return to respecting stamp collectors just might occur) ceased to be a hobby worth spending money on.


  1. Well, I'm one of the seemingly rare people who still write letters and send through the post. I do prefer to use the "special" stamps but now it is an adventure to get them (other than resorting to buying half sheets+ online), as my local crown post office has decided not to stock them (though they have been getting the miniature sheets).

    Should philatelists make the effort to send more mail with proper postage stamps (rather than labels, excluding post & go)?

  2. Hear hear ! Couldn't have put it better my self and it's such shame that it's gone down hill so much

  3. A brilliant post, with not one word with which I would disagree.

    It is immensely sadding to read the glee with which Parkes boasts (on LinkedIn) of the "new content strategy" for which he is eager to take full responsibility - "Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel Comics...."

    He also proclaims his Christianity - although he seems not to know that, like all of the major religions of the world, the faith to which he claims to adhere denounces pride as sinful - whilst happy to prey upon the weak and gullible, which doesn't seem very Christian to me.

    Both in his profile picture and his own description of his career, Parkes comes acrtoss as a thwarted, talentless, fanboi who gets a cheap thrill from associating, however tangentially, with people of real creative talent.

  4. Wonderful analysis, couldn't agree more. Matt Parkes yet another totally inept RM manager put in charge of Stamps & Collectibles

  5. RM and others (Australia Post and NZ Post for example) are trying to get as much profit as possible now the number of collectors and sales are going down and will be going down even faster in the near future.
    Look at the average age of the visitors at stamp clubs and fairs. 9 out of 10 is above 70. It will be all over in 2030.
    Iceland pulled the philatelic plug in 2020 and they will not be the last.
    Maybe Royal Mail will only issue definitives in the 2030s and the 200th anniversary of the first postage stamp in 2040 will be commemorated with a farewell issue...

  6. Like the first poster - I do send letters and cards and I do seek out Special Stamps to make the envelope stand out. And I know I'm in a minority. I do have a local sub-PO where the staff order in each issue so I can get a few of the ones I like - but only the ones I like.

    It's obvious from the first line of the Parkes bio where he mentions licensing and marketing that this is why he was brought in to the role - to maximise the sales to other collectors or casual buyers. Sales that will add straight to the bottom line as the stamps will never see an envelope.

    We've seen it coming for a few years. We could probably ignore one or two "cash-in" issues a year to fund the rest. But 2023 is a tipping point and may well backfire.

    1. Hi Neil, glad I'm not alone!

      You are lucky to have a nice little sub-PO. The one I used to go to, closed down because of retirement (he used to work for SG and some other stampy companies in London).

      I want to support the little sub-PO but well, difficult to find those that will sell the special issues. One I found, is just down the hill from a bridge featured on a postage stamp, but unfortunately the bridge is "falling down" (well, a slight exaggeration), and is closed to all vehicular traffic.

      Another PO I've been to before dislike it when I turn up (the stamps haven't been issued to the counter, come back tomorrow).

      The casual buyer will be buying online... Many won't know there are new stamps. Newspapers maybe mentioning on day of issue. No posters in post offices (trying to think when the last lot of posters I saw in the PO was... Classic Album designs? Dr. Who?).

      And for those who will be sending letters/cards... perhaps pick an issue still available from RM online, and buy the stamps you'll likely to use for postage. Yes, you could get ordinary stamps from shops/supermarkets, but don't go complaining later that you can't get hold of modern but used commemoratives.

  7. "Couldn't have put it better my self and it's such shame that it's gone down hill so much" and " A brilliant post, with not one word with which I would disagree" are precisely my thoughts on this.
    Her Majesty apparently approved all designs because she always had done but is there a chance that His Majesty will act differently and refuse to be associated with whatever American comic Parkes decides will make a few quid for a private company that's lost its way?

  8. one of the most relevant and correct presentation of points I have read in a long time. well written and well said.

  9. Although I agree 100% with what you have written, I will miss your anti RM embargo date showing of future issues I don't use Twitter to get them myself I like yours as it enables me to prepare my album pages with the appropriate size Hawid mounts ready for insertion another part of acceptance

    1. Well perhaps I might still illustrate the basic items (stamps and miniature sheets) if they are available to illustrate. It’s sometimes interesting just to see how awful some stamp issues are.

  10. At some point, proper postally used stamps will become more valuable than mint stamps, well, for the wall paper that have been produced for the better part of thirty plus years for most countries. Canada Post put out some poster once, entitles "Reflections of Canada". The first were stamp issues from 1851 - 72, the second 1972 - 80, the third 1981 - 86. This alone explains why I gave up on Canada (my home) long ago, and have retreated into Victorian era stamps until things grow better once again.