What Does the Future Hold for GB Stamp Collecting?
While Portobello stamp delaer David Bailey acknowledges in his article that Royal Mail have heeded advice and slightly reduced planned special stamp new issues, he still voices concern given the rapid decline in the actual usage of postage stamps on mail.
In my view David makes a very solid argument. He points out that mail bearing postage stamps has declined around 40% in just the past five years while 2012 sees a massive number of new issues due to the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics on top of a regular new issue timetable. Given the fast falling use of postage stamps David suggests they could soon enter the realms of other collectables produced with no realistic use in mind and gives many examples of such "collectable products" that perform very badly when it comes to holding a value. Some might argue the continuing deluge of press sheets, smilers sheets, prestige booklets et al, took a huge chunk of philately in this direction long ago anyway. David also notes how the high value definitives have stopped using a pictorial design (Castles) and have now adopted the old faithful standard format Machin design meaning - as these are the stamps that really get used - there's potentialy less interest going to be generated in GB stamp collecting by their use on mail.
Try as I might I can't be at all certain about the future direction of the GB stamp collecting hobby with Royal Mail rushing head-first toward privatisation. The headlines made by April's huge price increases for postage stamps seemed to have been magically erased from most people's brains within a few weeks. We've since been told that the huge losses being made by Royal Mail that "justified" the price hikes had actually vanished last year and, in truth, the core postal services were back in profit. While I can still see there was a case for a modest real terms increase in postal rates, hikes of 30-40% in these tough times now looks to have been a cynical rip-off to me aiming to juice the numbers for potential city investors in a year or two's time.
So what future can we imagine for our hobby in this developing scenario? Given I have plenty of family photos to show off, I have no interest in buying colourful miniature sheets to frame and place on my shelves. Sadly, that seems to be the future of the hobby being promoted by Royal Mail now. Just as I don't want to buy coins that have no practical purpose in circulation, I've little interest in stamps that don't do a real job either.
The only new issues I am now actively interested in are Post & Go stamps (faststamps). Like the workhorse Machin definitives, these were introduced for a real reason and are being vended in real Post Offices rather than being restricted to "philatelic counters". Their development and use has a proper basis in my opinion and, as a result, I can tolerate the inevitable philatelic spin-offs that will result. However, while I'm sure Royal Mail would prefer me to dutifully buy the retail packs of these issues forever more, I only did this for the first few issues where back-demand from new collectors should underpin their future value. My main interest now is in the actual traceable machine vended Post and Go stamps from the Post Offices and philatelic or commercial covers bearing these stamps.
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