Monday 27 June 2022

Catalogue Reviews

Now that the Gibbons Concise catalogue has arrived, it is time to review that and the latest edition of the Burgess Complete Machin Catalogue.

The cover price of Stanley Gibbons' Great Britain Concise 2022 edition has increased by £2 to £39.95. It has 14 pages more than last year’s, with 12 pages devoted to the additions from Royal Mail’s special stamp programme, and the others covering the datamatrix Machins.

On the latter, the catalogue editors, despite leaving some spaces in the numbers they allocated in GSM to the Stamps issued in April, have already decided to change some.  For some reason the editors no longer take the trouble to help dealers and collectors by highlighting those changes in the Preface, although there is plenty of space to do so. 

One thing editor Vince Cordell does start to address in the Preface is the impact of Royal Mail’s invalidation of certain stamps on catalogue values.  He writes:

“The more difficult issues can only remain sought after, the more common issues whose prices have been propped up by their face values will undoubtedly need some future adjustment.”

This is an important confirmation of something I have thought about for some time.  

From my recent experience of sorting QE2 stamp booklets it is clear that the booklet section could be improved. Eliminating inconsistencies in the listing of changes to covers and contents would mean additional numbers and might mean changing some, but this is not without precedent.

They could also make it easier to identify the contents without constantly having to flick back to the relevant pages in the main listing by providing more illustrations. This is especially true of the Q (Greetings) booklets where not all the panes are even illustrated.

Indeed Gibbons could provide actual illustrations of all the booklet panes instead of the diagrams they use in the Machin section. Whilst these do convey a lot of information, it is surely easier for readers to identify a pane quickly if it is in full colour, rather than black and blue as at present. The phosphor bands could still be added in yellow.

When the internet first attracted hobbyists most of us were still using dial-up connections with low download speeds, and web authors generally provided a lot of text and small, if any, illustrations. Remember, at this time it was possible to set your web browser to load pages without illustrations, such was the saving in cost!  

To some extent I suspect Gibbons are still in this mindset, but in print.  Whilst providing all the essential textual information and illustrations of all the stamps in a set (once at least), other useful illustrations are not considered.

This is where Gary Burgess’s Complete Machin Stamp Catalogue has some advantage. Starting in the 21st century when the whole attitude to information sharing has changed - and printing costs, especially in full colour, are relatively cheap - this catalogue has full colour illustrations of many booklet panes as well as covers. Indeed the 2022 edition now includes all PSB panes not just those with mixed values.  

(Just to clarify, the Burgess catalogue does not picture the Greetings booklet contents either, but then it is a Machin catalogue.)  

Correction: I edited that sentence into my draft from memory: Gary reminds me that the contents of the booklets ARE illustrated in his catalogue - something I suggested to Hugh Jefferies for the Concise some years ago.

This opus is devoted principally to Machins rather than the whole of Great Britain since 1840, and so it’s 320+ A4 pages weight much the same as the Concise, but there is much more ‘white space’ making it easier to read.  

I also like the classification of Post & Go stamp types as A, B, C, D, E, rather than Gibbons’ (John Deering’s) I, II, IIA, III, IIIA, which is more difficult to read in the listings with the sans-serif typeface.

New for this edition are sections on the Open Value P&G labels from self- service kiosks in PO branches, which don’t get anywhere near as much attention from most collectors as the stamps churned out from Royal Mail’s museum machines. Their variety and in some cases scarcity makes the recording of them here all the more important.

Likewise Horizon labels which, whilst not collected as widely even as Post & Go, are an important part of postal history whether collected singly or on cover/piece so another new section in the catalogue is devoted to them. This should certainly assist those collectors who have squirreled away examples and now need to sort them out.

Paradoxically I know some collectors who are trying to obtain any label from every branch, a task magnified by closures, reopening and outreaches. Sensibly those details are not included in this catalogue!

The Complete Machin Stamp Catalogue costs £32.99 softback, and £19.99 as a pdf, plus postage.  It's also available from several stamp dealers who visit fairs.

Nobody should be without the Concise.  But users who want more help in identifying their definitives, without going to the Deegam level of complexity and numbering idiosyncrasies, should get the Burgess catalogue as well.


  1. One thing it took me a while to get to the bottom of with the Concise - the lines of text in the listings are closer together in the 2022 edition than with the 2021 edition. I wonder how long before they are forced to issue it as two volumes?

  2. It would be great to have a spiral bound A4 plus size option where the pages lie flat.

    1. Yes, and that would apply to both.
      Unfortunately the cost of either spiral bound (which has it's disadvantages in wear and - inevitably - tear) or loose-leaf would be considerably more than the softback edition that we get.

      If it was something less volatile, published every 4-5 years that might be sustainable, but I don't think it is. An alternative is a digital edition, but I haven't tried either the SG or Burgess books that way. I'd be interested in publishing information from anybody who has.

    2. I purchased the 2019 Concise as a digital edition, really a total pain to use. The system works on a program called Paperlit. This gives the catalogue within the browser window, so the space used is about 7-8 inches high by about 10 wide (on my laptop). Unable to get it to full screen. Pages can be enlarged but then part disappears out of view and has to be scrolled. Search facility is available but does not seem able to jump to a year start or a page number. Bookmarks can be made for returns. Single or double spread pages are the options. Would never purchase again unless it comes as pdf file. Needless to say all the adverts are included.

  3. The Burgess Complete Machin Catalogue. is a very good Catalogue which I did purchase the last time it was in print but the price they put a this to Australia on eBay is 64 pounds which is rather expensive look like a profit on the postage as well. I'll stick with SG this time out, great blog by the way very informative.

  4. £64 in total to Australia for both catalogue and postage. Unfortunately Royal Mail seem to have high postage rates for Australia. I can assure that no profit is made on the postage to any destination as I have tried to keep it as cheap as possible. I do in fact lose several £'s posting to Australia due to the weight of the catalogue but wanted to keep it in line with last years costs.

    1. I can confirm.

      The weight is 1.11kg, and it's a small parcel.

      Use Royal Mail's pricefinder to check if you want, but the actual standard, ie non-registered postage to Australia (Zone 2) is currently £23.75. Pay by PayPal and the seller loses a % of that, and we're not even counting the cost of the secure protective packaging.

      Gibbons Concise costs the same to post, and you can be sure they would charge more, which is why it is cheaper if you can find a local reseller. Unfortunately the discounts SG now offer small volume resellers are so low that resellers will be scarce.

  5. All catalogues are 1.36kg with their protective box and packaging and always sent via International Tracked postage which is £28.90 to Australia. Like Ian says, paypal skim a % of the total which leaves the seller in this case a few £ short. Here rests the defence.


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