Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Stamps Aren't Worth a Damn

Simon Heffer writes in the U.K.'s Telegraph, "...stamp collecting today is in a bad way. I do not mean as a form of investment – those who bought rare stamps a decade or two ago have seen returns on their outlay far superior to those the stock market or a pension fund has been able to provide. Small boys may no longer be interested in the pursuit – computer games appear to have seen to that – but stamp dealers continue to make a healthy living with the support of adult collectors who are putting together serious assets. However, to say that stamps today lack the romance and interest of those a half-century or century ago would be an understatement. This is not because we have lost an empire and have yet to find a new philatelic role with which to replace it: it is because the very philosophy of stamps has changed. Stamps are now, it seems, produced largely for collectors and only incidentally for postage: and the whole business has become, morally, a little seedy."

He goes on to opine, "By contrast, our own stamps today are rather tawdry. Perhaps this, like our toytown coinage, reflects our decline as a power: or perhaps it is just a lack of imagination on the part of the Royal Mail, coupled with their greedy desire to exploit collectors for money they are losing elsewhere. The lack of imagination comes in our definitive stamps, unchanged in design for 42 years now. The minimalist representation of the Queen by Arnold Machin has many admirers, not least the Royal Mail itself, which talks up this bland and outdated design at every opportunity. To me it smells of the worst of the Sixties and, like the temporary tower blocks that also distinguished that decade, should be consigned to memory. The Queen's diamond jubilee, just two years away, would seem to be an appropriate juncture for the Royal Mail to break out a new design, and perhaps one that is less bland and Wilsonian, and more in spirit with the elegant design by Dorothy Wilding that was on the first stamps of this reign."

He concludes, "If they can't bear to stop exploiting collectors for profit, then at least let them try more sophisticated ways – reintroducing watermarks, for example – to cheer everybody up, and ensure there were amusing varieties of them. Pumping out stamps to mark all sorts of pointless things and events is what banana republics do: and we must try to cling to the belief that we are not quite there yet."

Shown above (courtesy Stamp Magazine), The retail stamp book for London 2010 - six 1st class Machins and a cover advertising the exhibition. Due out March 30.

To read the entire article, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM