First introduced to the world by Australia Post in 1999, personalised stamps have spread to postal authorities around the world. In many cases the personalisation is on a label attached to the stamp, but in others the stamp has a blank area for the customer's photograph. In the former case, the associated stamp is often available in other forms, so collectors can add them to their albums. So it was with the first Smilers product, also available at Stamp Show 2000 (see right).
Such was the attraction of Smilers Stamps that the Post Office and then Royal Mail have continued the Smilers programme which is still popular today, with the latest addition being four stamps from the Star Wars set. As usual, Royal Mail produced a sheet for collectors, known for some time now as a Generic Sheet. For only a small premium over the face value of the stamps, collectors can avoid paying the much higher costs of personalisation.
New stamps are added to the Smilers range regularly, starting with the Christmas stamps in 2000, and various sets of Greetings stamps, and including some commemoratives, such as one issued for the 2002 World Cup, the Union Flag (Rule Britannia sheet), Fun Fruit and Veg, and various regional definitives. In all cases, the stamps in the Generic Sheet are also available for personalisation - until now.
However, if the 2015 Christmas stamps are not included in the Smilers service, collectors don't need a cheaper substitute - so is there any need for the Generic sheet at all?
The stamps and sheets will undoubtedly be included in some catalogues* and some pre-printed albums. They are legally issued stamps valid for postage. And the sheet is not unattractive, but is it something even 'completist' collectors need?
UPDATE to clarify
* Despite the fact that the stamps from the sheet are litho and not gravure (like the sheet and booklet stamps), and have elliptical (US=syncopated) perforations (unlike the ohers) they will not get separate listing in Stanley Gibbons catalogues: none of the previous 15 years' of Smilers Sheet stamps has.