Thursday 12 January 2023

Mystery booklet has collectors baffled!

It's not often these days that the philatelic community finds something modern which nobody has seen before.  Yes, a collector did find a new 2019 printing of the 2nd class Scotland stamp last year, but....

The latest discovery is in a different league entirely.  It is is a booklet which has almost certainly never seen a post office, so most dealers and collectors would not have seen it in the normal course of events.

The story behind it is confused, but I'll start with the pictures:

Outside cover

Outside cover of mystery stamp booklet


Advertising slogan on inside front cover.

The stamps are clearly MSIL as they should be, and M14L indicating a 2014 year of production.

Investigating the elements.

The inside cover. The quote is from Nik Roope who was creative partner at Poke which he co-founded.  After the merger in early 2019 between Poke, Publicis London and Arc, he became creative chairman at Publicis.Poke.  He left the group in August.   (He's the one wearing the glasses in the photo.)

The outer cover. The source of the image appears to be a Royal Mail direct mail cmapaign, orchestrated by Publicis Chemistry according to an article in The Guardian in 2015, written by David Prideaux, executive creative director at Publicis.

We took the Royal Mail logo off the ads so there would be no negative associations whatsoever and replaced it with MailMen. We wanted our campaign to have a rallying cry, this set a playful tone for the campaign and made it feel a bit like a movement.

We wanted our mailmen to look like rock stars so we chose Kasabian’s photographer of choice, Neil Bedford, to shoot the ads.

Royal Mail Group awarded a framework contract for strategic direct marketing services to Publicis Chemistry in 2013.  Publicis was contracted to "provide all direct marketing services, including advertising, creative, design and sales promotion, for all of Royal Mail Group’s range of services."  The MailMen campaign launched in the early part of 2015.

See You Tube video on MailMen here.

Unfortunately although the video shows a wide range of approaches to Direct Mail users, and a pack sent to the CEOs of FTSE100 companies, there is no mention of the book of stamps.  Maybe it is in the pack?  Maybe there was more than one in each pack?  

Certainly many more than 100 would have been printed: although the inside cover advert could have been added manually, replacing the normal one, the stamps are stuck to the outside cover, so the same trick is unlikely.  You could bet that if the whole thing was made up manually, Royal Mail would have supplied counter sheet or business sheet stamps, rather than the sort that should be in the book.

The source of the story.

The story provided by the current owner of the booklet is that he and others visited a company that their employer was using.  "For their 100th anniversary they had commissioned a booklet from Royal Mail and I was given  one. I have never seen anything similar nor heard of any other company that did the same (or for which RM did the same)."

The identity and business of that company is unknown, but it seems from our investigation that this booklet was probably not custom-produced for that company for their centenary, but it's a very good find. 

Do please let me know if you have ever seen this or similar booklets, especially if you have one still!

UPDATE: And if you are interested, offers around £300 or more will be considered by the owner. Email me or phone - the number is at the top right.


  1. WK - Fascinating. And how interesting that the booklet uses the term ‘Mailmen’ rather than ‘Mail People’ though the cover strives to depict a diverse range of what look like well-paid RM higher level managers or advertising agency executives (we know that one of them is Mr Poke) rather than real ‘mailmen’ (in itself a rather North American-sounding term as opposed to the more familiar ‘postmen’). The quote about wanting the mailmen to “look like rock stars” is bizarre - the people on the cover don’t look any thing like rock stars to me - and it is also bizarre that Poke thought it a good idea not to use the RM logo because of its negative connotations (what an admission). I expect RM spent hundreds of thousands on this campaign which up to now has been heard of by no-one. What a state that organisation must be in.

    1. I found two YouTube Videos and only linked one. I thought it was this one which IDd the people pictures who are all CEOs (or similar), including The Sun, Saatchi & Saatchi, so not RM nor Ad agency people.

      MailMen is certainly catchier and a better domain name than MailPeople; the original domain now redirects to MarketReach which is RM's in house direct marketing promotion wing (Google it).

      You and I wouldn't have heard of it because it wasn't directed at us - unless you are a senior director/manager at a major UK company?

  2. That must be even rarer than the Penny Black Barcoded book of a year ago which, I think, we were only told was being postponed.
    Might it be included in SG and other catalogues ?

    1. The Penny Black booklet (Stock code UB540) might get issued sometime, but don't hold your breath.

      At the moment it is in the category of 'withdrawn before being issued'. I doubt that it will be listed in any catalogues until it is properly issued unless some are discovered, then it would have to be at least a footnote.

      This one was never on sale, so won't be listed, but given that there is one known, it isn't as scarce as the Penny Black, yet.

    2. Thanks Ian.
      I've seen a photograph of the Penny Black booklet stamps on a first day cover so presume some of them got to dealers even if no further. So that's quite different from the 95th Birthday pane I ended up paying £25 for last autumn.
      For decades Royal Mail knew that all serious philatelists aimed for their collections to be complete and so all special issues, and PSBs, were on sale in all Post Offices and even the eight Readers Digest coils from 1981 to 1995 were available from Philatelic Counters and the Bureau. The 2001 Submarines booklet selling well above face value for many years proved how many collectors 'needed' the self-adhesive version of that stamp. I doubt though if more than a few thousand collectors now get the 'collectors sheets' at above face value for the self-adhesive as well as the gummed version of all 'Special' stamps especially as that can increase the set from twelve to twenty stamps. Not being able to get the Penny Black barcoded, the 95th Birthday pane or this book from a few years ago will put yet more collectors off collecting if the cost, irrelevant subjects and grotesque designs haven't done so already - not that that might be of much concern to Matt Markes with his own agenda.

    3. The stamp half only of the 1d black book was sent to cover producers to prepare their covers in advance of the issue date, as is usual, so that they could send the serviced covers to their customers on or soon after that date.

      These were all recalled, so they do not exist as complete mint booklets in dealers hands and all FDCs should have been returned to Edinburgh for refund.

      It isn't in the same category as the 95th Birthday Pane.

      I could have published this sooner, but although it was recalled, we were never certain that they might not issue it, as a complete booklet, sometime.

      I deleted my draft blog entry (from last January) since Christmas, as it was never going to be published, now that the Queen has passed and justifiable strike action has made promoting Sunday parcel collections seem more of a red rag than it did before.

    4. Ian,
      Thanks for that information about the Penny Black barcoded book and stamps which, assuming the recall was successful, explains why a few of them apparently aren't going for a high price on that well known auction site. Was a reason given for them being recalled ?

  3. Surely there is nothing to indicate it was produced by Royal Mail it is a mock up Cinderella - I could produce some with you own picture if you wish for £299.

    1. Really, and include the stamps in perfect alignment ?
      Surely this one WAS produced by Royal Mail.

    2. Difficult to judge without examining the physical object (thickness would be a giveaway), but it could simply be a genuine RM booklet with a designer 'wrap' - after all, it was produced by/for an ad agency, whose bread-and-butter can rely upon the effectiveness of mock-ups to show clients - with the absence of a barcode seeming to imply that, as shown, it was never intended as a retail product.

    3. Sure it was never intended to be sold, what would be the point in selling such an item to the public, it doesn't even have the Royal Mail branding on.

      Read the linked article, watch the video. Although the booklet isn't mentioned anywhere I'm prepared to believe that it was in the pack sent to the CEOs of FTSE100 companies.

    4. I've no doubt that it was produced for Royal Mail but with one only being "found" eight years later surely there's the possibility that other versions have been printed too, but is there any way of finding out ? The Postal Museum wouldn't necessarily know.

      "We wanted our mailmen to look like rock stars" they say but I think the tallest one looks like the late Dennis Waterman.

  4. £300 would be an absolute bargain compared to the £366 a collector paid for the first of dozens of the 95th Birthday mint panes a German dealer offered on that well known auction website !

  5. There are far less daft collectors and a lot more cynics these days . Still a few dreamers it seems.

  6. I believe the mailmen campaign was launched by Marketreach, the planning, creative and design service launched by Royal Mail in 2015. So it seems Royal Mail produced a booklet for marketing that was not sold but given as a PR campaign. Not many who received it must have been stamp collectors so not sure if many or any other have survived.

  7. MIght be too obvious, but has anyone bothered trying to contact the public relations arm of the agency in question (or its successor(s)) for clarification?


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