Friday, 1 July 2022

End of the line for Royal Mail's Philatelic Bulletin

Royal Mail has announced that its Philatelic Bulletin will cease at the end of this volume in August, after 59 years of publication.

Citing a declining subscriber base (it costs £22.95 to Europe and £29.50 to the rest of the world) and increasing costs, the editor has announced the end, and the refund of any balance of subscriptions.


The reduction in subscriber numbers must reflect the decline in number of collectors of modern Great Britain, and so is to be expected.

But is this the only real reason?


The July issue received today includes detailed information about the Pride issue released today, but also about the Cats set issued on 9 June information about which was embargoed until the issue date, after the June edition had been posted.  So by the time subscribers get this edition they have already had the cats stamps or at least seen them in blogs, websites, dealers lists, national press, or at the Post Office.  There's no point, then, in advertising first day covers in the Bulletin !

I believe collectors who subscribed to this Bulletin signed up originally because they wanted details about forthcoming stamp issues. The marketing department has had a increasing influence on just when to use the national press for publication, and so the actual news content has declined.

Even ahead of that influence many collectors were able to get information from online sources, with some of us providing information through channels that the PR team weren't using. Eventually they put pressure on us not to publish information as early as we had been, with some ridiculous embargoes.

UPDATE 4 July: I heard from a regular contributor that the contracted editor (not the person whose name appeared in the Bulletin or on the letter) was told at the end of May just before his contract ran out, so it looks as if it was something of a last-minute decision

I understand that they may be considering a pdf alternative, but if they aren't including articles such as provided by the contributor quoted above, then one wonders what will be in it!  If it's just the details about new issues, but more accurately, then it will be welcomed by us all.



 

27 comments:

  1. For many years, my Philatelic Bulletin subscription was renewed automatically. Then for some strange reason Royal Mail decided it had to be renewed on an annual basis, which meant I missed-out on several copies before I realised what was happening. Eventually I simply gave up the ghost. I wonder how many others were in the same boat as me, which might explain their declining subscriber base?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Frankly, I'm not surprised. I subscribed for some 30+ years but cancelled my subscription a few years ago. In addition to Ian's comment on timing, increasingly the information on new issues was usually incomplete and occasionally incorrect. It was usually OK pre-internet days, but declined rapidly once the Philatelic Bureau effectively became Stamps & Collectables.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hopefully RM will also work out the world no longer requires pretty but pointless sticky labels and the whole collectable market is pointless and emotionally and environmentally unnecessary.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Perhaps they could do the same with the endless stream of 'special stamps' and cease production, very expensive big issues, so frequent, quite drab really, lets just stick with the bar coded stamps.

    ReplyDelete
  5. “For some strange reason Royal Mail decided it had to be renewed on an annual basis” is because their new computer, unlike the old one, couldn’t deduct biennial or even annual subscriptions to the Philatelic Bulletin. I sent a cheque to top up my account and to re-subscribe clearly stating from which month but they initiated it immediately meaning duplicate copies, which I returned, for three months and a few letters each way before it was satisfactorily resolved nearly three years later – absolutely abysmal service, and it was no better with the first Second Class barcoded stamps and the 95th Birthday debacle to the extent that I’m beginning to doubt if they really deserve any customers.
    As for “the whole collectable market is pointless” there must be widespread agreement with this given that the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion forum reports dozens of countries that produce NO new issues each year. Nearer to home I understand that Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are each down from about 250,000 sets of each commemorative to about 4000, and their increase from a dozen to dozens of new stamps each annually does nothing to retain long standing customers, nor does Alderney’s “daft” Black and White Jubilee stamp gimmick.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Amazing that Royal Mail recognise that huge price increases of the Philatelic Bulletin would drive customers away but at the same time, they clearly don't recognise that the relentless production of an increasing number of commemorative issues, many of which don't actually commemorate anything, does exactly the same thing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I too was a long-term subscriber to the Bulletin, and have every issue from the first right through to 2016. At its peak the Bulletin was a mine of useful information, and I still find myself referring back to some of those articles even now. However, I decided in 2016 that the content had become too trivial and littered with errors to be a worthwhile use of my cash.

    Its demise makes the work of this blog even more important than ever. Let us not forget that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bear that in mind; sometime, somebody will have to take over!

      On the other hand, this is one of the easier parts of my job.

      Delete
  8. Mike,
    I've been to The Postal Museum at Mount Pleasant to read the earliest Philatelic Bulletins of 1963 but have all of them since 1970.
    Their compact size helps with storage.
    Until recent years they provided ALL the information I needed and, importantly, in advance of the stamps being issued.
    The "studies in traditional philately and postal history" often interest me and there are actually four of them, totalling twelve pages, in the latest edition, Paquebot, Mourning George V, Parliamentary envelopes of 1840 and a slow Express Delivery.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree with many of the comments above. While it felt odd to pay for the Philatelic Bulletin, when many other countries published new issue bulletins for free, the breadth of interesting articles from many experienced philatelists made it worth the price. However, like Mudgie my subscription lapsed, the emphasis of the publication became more trivial and even the competitions became less interesting. Sad to say that it was one of the many reasons I stopped GB new issues, as you couldn't plan or see what was coming out in advance.

    I find it surprising that Australia Post continues to publish a free Bulletin every two months for 50+ years. The emphasis has always been on new issues, postmarks and philatelic events. Yes there are errors, but the editors have made changes that have saved publication costs without greatly lowering the quality.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Doug(Enfield): The solution is quite simple. Just issue the "First" small brochure with accurate details about a month BEFORE an issue is due. Forget about all those embargoes - it is bad enough that many POs don't even know what they have or can order etc. One of my local POs had the 'Cats' issue in their safe but nobody there had heard of them! The other PO could not understand I was after a book of 4x2nd large with the matrix. I had to show them a picture last week but they knew nothing about them! Perhaps just send a "First" to each PO" as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doug,
      Yes, and surely it shouldn't be too difficult to combine the "First" and the "Order Advice Note" into the same mailing.
      .
      There's little doubt that few Country stamps are sold but are some of the "Special" stamps equally unpopular ?
      Many sub Post Offices don't sell them, from what I've (not) seen delivered Tallants House doesn't have many Standing Order customers for its new issues and the associated first day covers ( and, yes, fewer still for the Philatelic Bulletin ) and I doubt if many are sold elsewhere.
      We'll probably never know them but the print runs or sales figures would be most interesting.

      Delete
  11. Doug(Enfield) - Bulletin no longer worth it. e.g. No mention at all of the Country Definitives due 11th August.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Now I wonder if they will take back my 3 still packaged up binders that I purchased. HaHa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are selling them discounted now, but they might if you say you have no use for them as all your bulletins are in binders and these were for the future. They ought to send a return label as well for return of 'goods no longer of any use' !!

      Delete
  13. Despite being a subscriber, I have not received a copy of the letter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you turn over the statement that came with the latest edition?

      Delete
  14. Following an email to RM about whether their will be an alternative publication / PDF giving details of forthcoming issues in better detail, I was told we have the 'First' and the Annual Stamp Calendar. As we know both these publications concentrate on Commemorative Stamps. No alternate answer was forth coming. Thus the email has now been passed to RM Management for a definitive response. I won't hold my breath...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well the reply was quick, Just the 'First' and Annual Stamp Calendar will be provided. Total lack of foresight, I don't even think the complaint was passed to Management for their consideration.

      Delete
    2. Well we dealers had our own information bulletins, on which my publishing is based, but it is often provisional, or incomplete. The Philatelic Bulletin was also provided, but the although we used to get First, that stopped some years ago. I've been told that we will get it: time will tell.

      Let's give them a chance to provide timely and accurate information, but don't hold your breath!

      Delete
  15. With the demise of the bulletin can anyone tell me how to subscribe to “first”? I used to get it but it’s long since stopped arriving

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ring up the bureau at Sunderland, tell them your account number and ask for it.

      Delete
  16. Interesting to note that in the August 2022 edition there appears to be no mention that it is the last edition, indeed on page 3 there's still the standard text regarding subscribing to The Bulletin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I noticed that. Given how long it seems to take them to get an issue out, ie after the commercial stamp magazines, I would think those pdf files were already prepared and it was easier not to adjust them, especially if the editorial and prep staff were on their way out of the door.

      Delete
  17. First i knew about this happening was letter that arrived on Saturday 13th Aug. What i found really odd was second paragraph started 'further to previous letter', when i had not received any. I tend not to use internet as i am to old at 62 to understand it, so normally ignore it. Found this site by accident.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I indicated in the blog post above, the 'previous letter' is printed on the back of the statement which accompanied the previous Bulletin.

      As for 62 being too old to understand the internet, it does depend when you started. Having started before I was 50, although there are occasional difficulties, 25 years later I manage most of what I want to do!

      Delete

Thank you for reading the blog and commenting: please use an identity (name or pseudonym) rather than being Anonymous; it helps us to know which 'anonymous' comments are from the same person to avoid confusion. Comments are moderated to avoid spam, but will be published as soon as possible.