Robert Murray Stamp Shop,
Edinburgh
Scotland's Best-Stocked and Most Popular Stamp Shop

1981 Royal Wedding Omnibus Stamp Collection
Many of these collections were sold, mainly as a result of glossy advertising by direct mail or through the Sunday supplements etc. The majority of people who signed up were not regular serious stamp collectors, though many did have an existing passing interest in philately.
Such was the success of the marketing of this series of commemorative stamps that some post offices issued more stamps than they had originally intended or suggested, in the knowledge that there was a virtually guaranteed market for them. The companies that were most active in the marketing were happy to see the increasing numbers, as this made extra sales and extra profits.
A typical collection, ordered from Stanley Gibbons Promotions, was sent out in monthly batches, each batch costing about 30. Many of these collections took three years to finish, therefore costing a total of about 1,000. ("Typical" might mean for example Commonwealth only - mint sets, miniature sheets, sheetlets, overprints, and booklet panes.)
People who were really "in the know" realised that the whole thing was getting overblown. People that were not so well-informed didn't necessarily know what they were letting themselves in for. (. . . . unless of course they were customers of Robert Murray Stamp Shop, in which case they got a copy of the letter reproduced below. Almost all of our customers took the hint from our letter.).
[Article continued below.]

1981-royal-wedding-letter
Many, many thousands of these collections were sold by a number of companies, but Stanley Gibbons Promotions accounted for a large percentage, with Urch Harris as another big player. As far as I understand, Stanley Gibbons Promotions was a separate company, and were often supplied with stock by the main SG company. Probably most of the people who signed up expected that the collection would take a few months at most to complete, and although they had a right to cancel, often possibly thought that {a} it surely wouldn't be much longer till it finished and {b} that the collection might lose some value if it wasn't complete. Some people had enormous expense if they signed up for all the extra categories such as non-Commonwealth issues, used stamps, booklets, first day covers, specimens, and varieties.
While the collection was still being distributed, Gibbons published a catalogue of the Royal Wedding issues, with prices that purported to be market prices. The catalogue was made easily available to their customers. It was my opinion at the time, and still is, that this catalogue was produced principally with the intention of suggesting to clients that what they had already bought was "money well spent" and that it was indeed worth carrying on.

Market Values; [For the purpose of this section, a "collection" will be taken to mean a standard collection, costing about 1,000, with its appropriate albums etc.] Almost immediately this collection was sold as new issues, they started to turn up second-hand. Right from the start they would sell for some discount below cost, perhaps getting five or six hundred pounds, but it wasn't long until the royal wedding enthusiasm started to wear off, and larger numbers of collections started to come onto the market. Prices declined quite dramatically and within a few years collections would be available in auction for about 150 to 200 each. By about the mid-1990s this was down to about 100. In the weeks and months after Princess Diana's death there was a mild revival of interest, but massive stocks were available to satisfy that demand. At the time of writing (2012) we can report that we have recently had collections through or hands in the 40 to 60 region.

I can think of no reason why the market might get any stronger.
My 1981 prediction of "dismal investment potential" could not have been more true.

Need a reminder of what the 1981 advertising was like ?  Well, we have on file one of Gibbons' original leaflets, and you can see it by clicking here.
(And isn't the wording very similar to advertising still being done now by various companies ?  Always beware !)
We have another leaflet, from Harry Allen dated April 1981, which says "Make no mistake - this series, even more than other "Royal" issues such as the 1953 Coronation set and the recent Royal Silver Jubilee series, will be in great demand and, in our opinion, will prove a very worthwhile "financial asset" as well as a compelling souvenir...". Their accompanying letter actually used the words "wonderful investment".

New lows !!  At our auction of 5 November 2012 we had two "standard" collections for sale, each originally costing probably about 1,000. Each of these lots sold at 20 - twenty pounds !

And More Bad News. There are times that people believe that their collection is better than average because it has "better" items in it. Usually these "special items" only go to prove either {a} how gulible buyers were at the time, or {b}how money-grasping the sellers were.
Some explanation;
Stamps overprinted "specimen" are traditionally produced in only small numbers, and have limited distribution. They were for example distributed to senior post office officials, or sent to foreign countries under UPU regulations, or given to government representatives by printers promoting business. Those included in 1981 Wedding collections were printed in large numbers simply for the purpose of selling in these collections. In some cases, the postal authorities or agents would simply get the required number printed to fulfil their orders.
In the normal course of respectable stamp printing, some of the world's best security printers turn out high quality stamps, as they are expected to do. They have mechanical and human checks on the print quality, and high security to ensure items are not improperly removed. Then most post offices carry out further checks and extract any stamps that are found to be below standard. Through all these safeguards, only very small numbers of printing errors ever get sold to the public (and some of these pass unnoticed). In the case of unscrupulous philatelic agents, the exchange might well have gone somethings like this (fictional of course, and oversimplified, but hopefully making the point). Marketter; "We've got some sheets from you with missing colours. Do you have any more ?" Agent; "Can you sell them ?" Marketter; "Yes we can sell them - can you supply them ?" Agent; "How many would you want ?" Marketter; "We can probably sell about ten thousand." Agent; "Okey-dokey. We'll have that delivered to you in a fortnight." They would then go and get the stamps printed specially with missing colours, without perforations, or double overprints, or whatever was wanted.


Page Last Updated Tuesday 6 November 2012.Content checked 15 August 2017.

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