Monday, 9 May 2016

Time for a new approach, and this isn't it!

All over the world the number of stamp collectors is declining, and people who are worried where their collections will go are saying that we should attract more young people to the hobby.  As we know, efforts in this direction are often fruitless as young people have much more to do with their time than when we were young, even if they don't play out all day as some of us were able to.

Personally I think new blood in the hobby will come from older people.  Many young people don't 'collect' anything these days, not even Panini cards, unless it is Apps on their smartphones or pads.  No, the target audience should be anywhere from 25 upwards, but especially the over 50s, even if they don't get as much opportunity as a few years ago for early retirement and hours of time to fill.

So what are we to make of Animail, Royal Mail's latest attempt to attract the attention of children?

Edit: This is what Royal Mail wrote about them (and I apologise for not including this earlier, or at least providing a link to where it was on our website.)
"We have tried to have some fun with this stamp issue, designing stamps and stamp products that are particularly children-friendly and reminiscent of the highly popular Fun Fruit and Veg stamps issued by Royal Mail in 2003. Featuring six endearing animal characters that will wrap around an envelope or cling on to a postcard, these are perfect for adorning a piece of mail and making someone smile before they have even open the envelope.

"Andrew Osborne, who designed the stamps, was challenged to devise interactive stamps that particularly appealed to children and encouraged them to brighten up their letters and cards. He wanted to ‘push the envelope’ whilst working within the constraints of the technical requirements around postage stamps including the need for them to be easily read by Royal Mail’s sorting machines. Inspired by a character from Aardman Animations he came up with the idea of engaging, friendly and fun animal characters that could ‘cling’ to the top or side of envelopes. He wanted to create a variety of shapes and colours to generate interest but was mindful that each character had to sit comfortably alongside each other and have a degree of consistency so that they clearly looked like they were part of a set."


Self-adhesive, with a mix of values paying for 1st class inland, 20g Europe/10g Worldwide and 100g European letters, each stamp is marked with a line which, it is suggested (in instructions on the reverse of the sheet), should be placed at the edge of the envelope, with the smaller part folded over to the back.  Thus the snake, chimpanzee, bat and orang-utan would hang from the top of the letter, and the koala and woodpecker would cling onto the side.  So that reduces the chances of getting collectable stamps in kiloware, even if you could soak them off the paper!

Few young people will use them: even the use of email is being overtaken by things like WhatsApp and Skype. 

In my opinion, whatever the intention, it isn't going to work, and this will go down as another one of Royal Mail Stamps and Collectibles' desperate failures.

37 comments:

  1. Personally I find it rather sad that after 175 years from the iconic Penny Black stamp we end up with this.

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  2. Steve Wedgbury9 May 2016 at 18:25

    Having come back to collecting recently this issue just underlines the marketing strategy of RM. Sell to collectors and just keep printing the 'Classic Machin' for day to day. How many Commemorative stamps do you see on your day to day post ?. If you don't promote the use of commemorative stamps how do you expect to attract children to the hobby. I would suggest 5-6 sensible themed commemorative issues per year which were on sale for 3-4 weeks IN PREFERENCE to the Machin stamps. This would allow collectors to collect at face value and not have to resort to inflated E-bay prices 1 week after issue

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    1. How many commemorative stamps do you use on your day to day post? How many social letters do you send? I probably go a bit overboard on buying the stamps, but they are for eventual use on snailmail - letters to penfriends and correspondents. I have been a member of Postcrossing (postcards) and that site is immortalised on various stamps including a second issue from the Netherlands (received one from there on Monday). Yesterday, I received letters from Brazil and the USA.

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  3. Sorry to say that the whole general mini sheet looks like it is targeting the 2 to 4 year old age group looking at the graphics.
    As a buyer of kiloware I hadn't even thought of the idea of the legs or arms are for clinging onto the edges of the envelope, normal stamps are damaged enough already going though the post, this will make even higher percentage damaged. Sadly this won't encourage kids to collect stamps nor will it encourage the over 50's either by all accounts.

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  4. So, Ian and Brian are negative about these, but I as a very small part-time dealer/eBayer, already have two orders for these from abroad. Both are collectors of all self adhesives, Machins and Post & Go - so these fit in nicely. I really don't think (unless you tell me otherwise) these were specifically aimed at bringing new collectors into our hobby. Have either of you got any better ideas if they were ?

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  5. I hate the stamps, but then I am a lifetime philatelist. Having just reached the age of 60, I am clearly not the target audience, and that's perfectly fine. My only real objection to this issue (aside from the awful designs!) are the face values chosen. The previous attempt at encouraging the young to write letters (Fun Fruit and Veg) at least used all first class values, which stood a chance of being used postally. What percentage of kids (or adults for that matter) are going to write to someone in another country by mail today? We live in a world of "instant gratification" and waiting days or weeks to get a reply is unthinkable, hence the withdrawal of the once popular airletter forms in the UK. Had these new stickers also been first class, then I would have been less cynical as to the motives for issuing them. GLENN MORGAN

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    1. Plenty, the call for overseas penpals - in school 30 years ago, was given a form to fill out to get penfriends from around the world. I was partnered up with someone in Singapore, France and Canada. I still have those letters, although I took the stamps off the envelopes, although the correspondence did not last long. I did have other teenage penfriends in Germany (did school exchanges too). I see on reddit and other places, requests for overseas penpals for teenagers.
      My son has shown an interest in stamps (but not licking the stamp hinges to transfer into his SG world builder album) and likes to see the stamps I receive on my mail.
      Do you have young people in your family? Do you write to them, sending cards and use the commemorative stamps? My mother sends postcards to my son when she visits different places.
      Star Wars stamps should still be available on the RM website. These would encourage the younger generation more than these animail ones.

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  6. Ian, you are completely right. The future market for stamps involves older people and not children. This issue is terrible and the only way it can appeal to older people is that someone who wishes to send a birthday card to their infant grandchildren may find the stamps in it to be appealing for putting on the envelope - a limited market I think. The sheet has no philatelic merit at all. How on earth did Royal Mail come up with the idea of producing and releasing this item?

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  7. This goes to show how tough life can be for the queen. Just think of the hours she had to spend sniffing a chimpanzee's armpit whilst posing for the artist painting the picture. After that what did she have to look forward to? Well, it was on to the next portrait and a bat's behind.

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  8. Thank you all for your thoughts: I would refer you also to GBStamps blog on the same subject > http://www.gbstamp.co.uk/article/a-rant-about-the-forthcoming-animail-stamps-from-royal-mail-617.html

    And thanks to machinmaniac for the belly-laugh that your comment produced: good job I never have coffee at the computer/stamp desk!

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  9. It would've worked better if they were all 1st class. I cancelled my standing order after the Star Wars issue, since I didn't want to continue collecting expensive pictorial stickers, but this issue actually made me regret my decision. It's a very nice and refreshing design. Just a lot of fun! But still, won't buy them...

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  10. I needed something a lot stronger than coffee when I saw these stamps. Please tell me the RM FDCs will have the stamps carefully placed with the animal limbs nicely creased and folded over the edges of the envelopes?!

    PS Thanks for pointing out my rant Ian.

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    1. I, too, would have liked to have seen FDCs with the stamps carefully placed and folded. Since that's not an option, I'm going to pass on this issue. And, I'm one of those 'older' people who have returned to collected FDCs.

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  11. I read this thread with increasing dispair and anger. It is this kind of snobbish and condescending attitude towards anything that is not "traditional" or "Machin" that is killing this Hobby for me and the suggestion that the future lies in the over fifties is the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard. I've been a collector on and off since I was about ten and I turned fifty this year and for some time its been obvious to me, not least because I'm the youngest person I ever see at Stampex, that the hobby will have died out within 30 years and there is no rescuing it. My collection of 50+ albums of PHQs / maximum / postal museum cards and other event postmarked postcards is inevitably worthless. I am resigned to this yet I continue to collect because I love the stamps (some more than others its true) for the pieces of miniaturised artwork that they are and the same goes for the variety of special postmarks.
    Until everyone can embrace all aspects of the hobby whoever the marketing folk at Royal Mail are aiming for, rather than rubbishing and slating them for trying something new, it is just a matter of time...
    As for these particular stamps - I love them. My kids (11 and 9) will love them and we'll use them to send postcards to everyone from our holidays...

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    1. David,

      Thank you for your comments. Whenever I write something controversial I always get a variety of views and responses, and that is exactly what has happened this time. As you will read in other comments (and in other blogs and magazines) not everybody agrees with you - and not everybody agrees with me!

      You yourself say that you like some stamps more than others yet you buy them all. Clearly not everybody can afford to do that, and increasingly collectors with more limited incomes, and those who have other things to spend money on, are deciding to pick and choose what they collect of Royal Mail's output. (And that applies both to collectors at the top end of the age-range and young people.) You - and they - buy because you like what you collect, and there is nothing wrong with that at all.

      But with the Post Office Ltd roll-out of the 'Local' model for post office branches - welcomed almost universally as providing better overall service and longer hours to all their customers - comes a reduction in outlets for 'special' stamps, reducing their availability to casual buyers.

      That in turn means that few are actually used on what social mail remains, and therefore few are seen on letters and cards that drop onto our doormats. Those worldwide used stamps found on letters and in bank-mail and mission lots were the source of inspiration for collectors when I was starting in the 1950s. Although many special stamps are still used (see my Modern Postal History blog > http://machins-on-cover.blogspot.com/) the proportion of those to definitives is far reduced and so the source for collections is not there. Where do your kids get their USED stamps from?

      I'm not saying that there is an easy solution: I think we have gone beyond the era where it is simple and straightforward to attract masses of youngsters to the hobby. But I am saying that this attempt by Royal Mail won't do it, for the reasons that many others here have outlined.

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    2. Yay, more stamp users! Although the folding arms/legs might not be great to use on postcards.

      As for Stampex, you weren't the youngest there: one of my Postcrossing friends is in her 20s, works for a stamp auction company as a describer and is totally potty about stamps. She definitely does not look like your average philatelist.

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  12. I actually think that stamp collecting has moved on in recent years. Realistically it is no longer affordable for most people to collect every stamp issue in various formats, especially in light of the introduction of Post & Go stamps. Novelty stamps like these do not help Royal Mails cause at all. There isn't much that can be said about them in terms of a theme. Perhaps the Royal Mail should narrow its remit to themes such as Sport, History, Science, TV/Film/The Arts so that collectors can focus on one aspect of collecting. At the same time what is the point of Royal Mail issuing stamps with face values of £1.33 and £1.52? Whats wrong with having 6 x 32p stamps (equates to 3 x 1st class?)

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    1. When I was a child and teenager, I did consider myself to be a stamp collector. I soaked off the stamps in the bath with me in the bath! I've only come back to stamps as an adult due to taking up penpalling again yet, although I accumulate used stamps, I don't quite consider myself a collector. What should I collect? Do I collect themes I am interested in? Do I try for Europa or other international themed issues?

      I did send in a list of suggestions to Royal Mail for the stamp issues (including one for the 10th year of Postcrossing) after seeing the Irish post office requesting ideas from the public via a website a few years ago, but they've ignored them. They could easily choose to celebrate birth/death anniversaries of various people (OK, they do Shakespeare, Darwin, Austen...) like Google does in its doodles.

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  13. Hi Ian,
    Thanks for publishing my rant. I agree that the root cause is definitely RM over-producing. Unnecessary Monthly issues of up to 10 stamps plus peripherals like PSBs etc not only makes it a very expensive hobby, it also undermines the whole point of collecting - that desire to find and acquire the rare. When production is specifically designed to exploit a market of "limited edition" customers, everyone else is put-off and even the collectors are duped - there may only be a limited supply, but if everyone has one then that wants one, then there is no rarity. You only have to look at other collector items - LLedo's "days gone by" model cars as an example to see that this is unsustainable.
    This is detracting from my main point though which is the frustration I feel when I see anything new being attached just because it doesn't conform to a particular taste of expectation. There have been many similar comments on here about Star Wars, Dr Who, various Railway stamps etc (my own bugbear is the volume of royalty related issues) but without these cash generative issues, that reach people beyond us, the hard-core collectors, Royal Mail will give up - particularly as it is now a private sector company.

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  14. I think these are fantastic stamps, something really different and nice to look at. Remember that these are not aimed at dyed in the wool philatelists, who can enjoy Machins with overprint codes.
    BUT, and it's a big BUT, these need to be 6 x 1st class perhaps in a retail booklet, to have any chance of working. The average customer just won't need or want the airmail rates so they would be stuck with them (perhaps that's what Royal Mail want, as unused mint stamps with these kind of face values are basically pure profit to them). They could be popular with postcrossers and penpallers IF they become aware of them(My wife who does penpalling absolutely loves them, and will use them, but she only knows about them because of my interests). There seems to be a fairly consistent missing link somewhere in the decision making process at RM Collectibles between what might stand a chance of working and what actually gets issued.
    Rob

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    1. Rob,

      I'm sure you're right - penpallers and postcrossers will love them. But with no publicity in more than 90% of the post office network (it's mostly the few remaining Crown offices which have display cabinets for collectibles) even those people who might have liked them and buy them will not know they exist, unless they are on friendly terms with their sub-postmaster who knows that the customer likes buying 'nice stamps to send abroad'.

      I was remiss in not including, above, the Royal Mail justification and reasoning for this issue: I've now made good that error. Given these stated aims, but the lack of any real publicity (yet) for these stamps, I think my comments are justified. Their reasoning may be good, but their marketing is poor. This hasn't be marketed, it won't attract people who don't already know about the stamps - and it won't, therefore, reach the supposed target audience to attract them into the hobby.

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    2. I'm wondering where to go next as I do prefer, if possible, to get the stamps from smaller branches. I will be on my 4th nice little post office because the lovely sub postmasters have retired (a husband and wife couple retired earlier this month with the branch moving next month into Spar). My nearest crown post office doesn't let me have as many stamps as I want (they won't order more), but the next town's one will be my last resort. I used to be able to order online too but the sheets of the values were no longer advertised (although I could ring RM up to order).

      I am trying to think of the last time I regularly saw posters advertising the stamps. There was one for the Classic Album covers (still got one or two Ziggy Stardust left), and maybe one for the Doctor Who issue, but I don't recall seeing others recently. The newspapers tend to details on day of issue but that's about it if you don't follow stamp news online. You then go to the corner little post office in a little convenience store to find they don't stock them (apart from the Christmas issue at that time of year).

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  15. I'm effectively very sceptical now of the RM commemorative issues and stopped my completist approach at the end of last year. Saying that I carry on with generic sheets, prestige books and the retail booklets because I like them a lot and they are relatively affordable. I was also a serious P&G collector (well at least in terms of obvious variations like commemorative events) until the sudden deluge of varieties from the military Museums last autumn but also others. Just not worth the huge amount of money involved with little or no investment value and nothing attractive about them (I stick to the basic pictorial sets that come out 3 or 4 times a year and they are lovely!)

    But despite my scepticism and vastly retrenched position on buying new issues, I actually, like David, really like the animail set! They are fun, colourful and different. I am bored with black and white pictorial sets of ten or twelve. Animail I will be buying! (PS I'm 49)

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    1. ASH, thank you - I'm sure others are in your position.

      And readers will be interested to know that some people in Royal Mail do read this blog and the comments. They will be heartened by the supportive comments, and they will have been expecting the critical ones!

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  16. If RM really expected these stamps to "turn on" kids to writing postcards and encourage postcrossing fans then maybe a sheet with, say, two 2nd class stamps (most postcards aren't urgent), two first class and a 50p & a 41p stamp to top up either 1st or 2nd to the euro/worldwide postcard rate (which is £1.05). Total cost £3.29 and of far more use. But if the aim is to sell a sheet of six stickers, many of which will never be used, for an inflated price to encourage yet more collectors to abandon ship then they've done just fine.

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  17. I'm not overly upset by the designs of the stamps themselves. I'm more bothered by the trend towards the use of large 'miniature' sheets that only just fit on a standard sized first day cover.

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    1. Large - or 'Olympic Format' - miniature sheets, yes how many times have I told them at briefings that they are impractical. The point I make is that they are not suitable for putting on c5 envelopes to send orders to international customers.

      With the sheet in the conventional place it is very difficult to put the bar-coded tracking label and airmail labels in the conventional places for them. Then there are the additional stamps to make up the rate (or Horizon label) - oh, and then we need space for the address as well.

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    2. You wish to use miniature sheets for postal purposes, Ian? Shame on you, as that would deprive Royal Mail of its profit if you were to use them in this manner. Seriously, I agree that the size is too large.

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    3. A customer in Italy asked me to use the Queen 90 MS for his postage. But the postage was much less than the sheet, and the c6 envelope much too small - so I divided the Royal Family and sent him the Queen and Prince Charles !

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    4. I had a slight accident - I carry letter writing supplies in a little plastic box thing, and when I buy stamps, they go in too before they go into somewhere better at home. I spilled my drink and just got a corner of the miniature sheet (not stamp) damp. I'm wondering who to use first! Wasn't it Prince Charles who did something Dalek-y on his visit to the set? I think I still have some Dr Who miniature sheets.

      I use mostly c6 envelopes for correspondence. There isn't much room if you use one of those great big stamps and have to add extra Machins (e.g. Waterloo + 5p for Europe), and I also add my return address label to the top right corner.

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    5. Look on the bright side, the Animail set could have been 'scratch and sniff' like some other countries sell.

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  18. This set goes to show what a pointless exercise to release a stamp set like this, they could have done without releasing this set, considering the release schedule for the first six months is pretty hectic and expensive, but having stamp sets released so close to each other. I wasn't keen on the fruit and veg stamp set. I'm glad the next stamp set is in mid June.

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  19. Completely unprompted on my part when I asked for a couple of the sheets in a central London post office this morning I received the response "Really ...? I don't like them!". Says it all really.

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  20. Sorry to flog a dead horse and I appreciate it's all about personal taste but now I have the Animail sheet in my hand, having queued for over 20 minutes in Birmingham's main central post office to buy it, I really do think the item is utterly woeful. The problem is that the depiction of the animals is completely charmless - has there ever been a less adorable-looking koala illustration in the history of commercial art?
    By the way, as far as I could see the wait in the post office had nothing to do with anyone else buying the sheet or for that matter anyone else carrying out a transaction to do with the sending of post. Why they still call it a "post office" I'll never know.

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  21. I bought some yesterday from a crown post office. I had to wait for the safe to be opened as they didn't realise the stamp issue was then. While I waited, the next person to be served had a letter to send to Hong Kong, but don't know what kind of stamp for £1.33 was affixed.

    Today, I selected the Koala to use on a letter to Canada. It wasn't the easiest stamp to remove from the miniature sheet and I was at risk of ripping it - those little ... no idea what they are called - often found when removing die-cut pieces from the rest of the sheet... didn't want to let go of the koala. I decided not to bend the limbs

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  22. I think they are quite fun and different. I am personally getting tired of what feels like every second set being in black and white. England is always known as having bright and interesting stamps (I am from South Africa) and I think this is something interesting. I will definitely buy an extra set to get someone to post over to me. Just without bending the arms and stuff.

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  23. I can't see why we don't go down the U S Forever route modified as follows.

    All domestic rate commemorative stamps should be self-adhesive produced in booklets of 6 and 10 denominated 2nd and 1st and issued via ALL outlets on the next replenishment until exhausted- then go on to the next one. Those who want completion should obtain their stamps from crown offices or Royal Mail direct. 2nd and 1st class definitives should be confined to sheets/rolls or special order to corporate customers.

    That way we will get "pretty ?" stamps to use on our everyday mail without huge cost to Royal Mail and thus hopefully stimulate collecting to the mutual benefit of the public and Royal Mail. There is nothing to stop the production of the current raft of special products as well - who knows more use of "pretty" stamps on normal mail might encourage people to purchase the expensive stuff too.

    Royal Mail pretends to be "Commercial" but it couldn't sell snow to eskimos - and as far as I can see creative marketing is non-existent.

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