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“Universal” Out, “One-Stop” In

A few years ago, Royal Mail issued non-denominated stamps for overseas airmail letters and cards. These feature the Machin head, airmail half-chevrons down the right side, an indication of the item for which the stamp is intended and a word indicating the destination for which the stamp is valid. Today there are three such stamps: one with the words “Europe” and “up to 40 grams” for letters to Europe; one with “Worldwide” and “up to 40 grams” for letters elsewhere; and one with “Worldwide” and “postcard” for postcards to any destination. You can see all three stamps in the Virtual Machin Album.

At that time, Royal Mail referred to these as universal stamps. I commented then that the term “universal” was not really accurate, since none of these stamps is actually universal - each one has a specific purpose. In fact, it is the regular, denominated Machins that are really universal because they can be used for any mail to any destination.

Royal Mail seems to have come to the same conclusion. I note on their web site that these stamps are now called “International One-Stop” stamps. This is a much better term. Good thinking, Royal Mail. (Posted September 23, 2006) top


MBPC logo As stamps and stamp collecting change, so do stamp collecting groups and clubs. A big change affecting collectors of modern British stamps happened at the beginning of this year.

Two established clubs, or, more properly, study circles, merged to form a single new group, the Modern British Philatelic Circle, or MBPC. The MBPC’s scope includes all aspects of modern stamp collecting, including peripheral items, from the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 to the present.

The new club was formed by combining the Great Britain Decimal Stamp Book Study Circle (GB DSB SC) and the British Decimal Stamps Study Circle (BDSSC). Both of those clubs were founded in the early 1970s, around the time that Britain converted from Sterling to decimal currency. The new decimal issues provided an opportunity for collectors to start at the beginning of a new era, so interest in stamp collecting was high.

Booklets had long been popular with collectors, and over the years, the GB DSB SC compiled an enviable record, with both a consistently high quality journal, The Bookmark, and a catalogue that got better and better with each new edition. In fact, last year the circle got a great start on the eighth edition.

The BDSSC was formed to study all non-booklet issues of the decimal era. It has had a bit of a rough ride, with some periods of stagnation, but it has survived and served its members for over 30 years.

However, times change. One of the big motivators for this merger was the evolution of booklets and booklet collecting. With the conversion to self-adhesive format, collectors no longer had separate booklet covers and panes to study. In addition, standardization of booklets reduced or eliminated features, such as advertisements and pictorial covers, that made booklet collecting popular. The GB DSB SC therefore wanted to branch out into other areas, but any other subject in the decimal area would have overlapped with the BDSSC.

Another factor may have been the difficulty that nearly all stamp organizations have today in attracting new members. I don’t have any information about these two circles in particular, but this is a problem throughout the hobby.

The combination of the two circles, and the broadening of coverage to extend back to the beginning of the current reign, makes a lot of sense. To make the new club more attractive to members, the officers decided to keep the dues at the same level as the previous GB DSB SC dues (which were lower than the BDSSC’s dues), thereby giving members more than twice the value for their money.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that another British group, the Machin Collectors Club, has also significantly widened its scope. It added commemoratives (special issues, as the British call them) to its coverage a couple of years ago. Recently, it has accepted the task of updating and reissuing the Stoneham Catalogue, a defunct publication that includes all British stamps.

The MBPC has retained the name and style of the GB DSB SC’s bimonthly journal, The Bookmark. The first issue appeared in February. It gives the same thorough coverage to the January Animal Tales special issue as it continues to do for booklets. (The Christmas 2005 booklets are covered in this issue.) The issue also contains an 18-page reprint of a very detailed review of pre-decimal (1967-1971) Machins that was originally written by Douglas Myall and published in 1972 and last reprinted in 1983.

The new circle also retains the style of the GB DSB SC web site, though with an appropriate new address, http://www.mbp-circle.co.uk. The site is divided into a Members’ Section and Non-Members’ section. The latter contains information about the circle and its services, as well as a downloadable membership form. It also has some basic information about stamp booklets.

The Members’ Section retains the GB DSB SC’s comprehensive listing of decimal booklets and booklet panes. Information (but no prices) are given about each item, and each is accompanied by an excellent-quality scanned image. In other words, this is a fully-illustrated online catalogue of all decimal booklets and booklet panes.

Reflecting the circle’s new scope, a similar listing of all commemoratives of the past 15 years has been added to the site, again with high quality scanned images.

In fact, the web site is so well done that it alone is worth the annual dues. I certainly hope that they add a Machin section to the site. In spite of all the Machin information that is available today, I think there is room for the MBPC to add Machin information in the same style that they use for their other listings.

MBPC cover

This cover was sent to members of the GB DSB SC and the BDSSC who automatically became members of the MBPC when it was inaugurated on January 1, 2006.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether the MBPC will survive and thrive. While the journal and the web site are signs of an encouraging start, there’s no question that sustaining interest in and getting articles about older issues will be a challenge. After more than three decades of having a steady flow of new issues to write about (ignoring a few periods where the flood of booklets slowed to a trickle), the MBPC will now have to get its members to write about historical subjects to balance the articles about new issues and attract new members who collect the older material. That’s a big change and a big challenge.

It will also be very interesting to see how the club handles the Machin and pictorial definitives, an area also covered by the Machin Collectors Club and Douglas Myall’s Deegam Handbook and Deegam Reports. Will the MBPC have any effect on those two efforts? We’ll just have to wait and see.

(There are certainly no hard feelings between the MBPC and Douglas Myall. Myall was a founder of the GB DSB SC and was the editor of its journal and catalogue for many years. He was also president of the BDSSC for its first 18 years. Members of the MBPC get paper copies of the Deegam Reports as part of their membership.)

In summary, the MBPC offers an excellent bi-monthly journal, a comprehensive and well-illustrated web site and the Deegam Reports. And I haven’t even mentioned the frequent auctions — typically over 1,000 lots with each issue of the journal.

What would you expect to pay to get all these services? 20 pounds a year? 30?

Believe it or not, the annual subscription rate is a bargain £12 per year for anyone outside the U.K. (and an even better bargain at £8 per year if you are willing to wait for surface mail). Full membership information, along with the membership form, is available here. So leave the rest of this site until later. Go and join the MBPC now! (Posted March 20, 2006) top

London 2010, Festival of Stamps

Great Britain will continue its tradition of decennial international stamp shows in London with “London 2010, Festival of Stamps” from May 8 through May 15. There was some question whether a show would be held in 2010 because of the rising costs and the increasing financial difficulties of Royal Mail, who is usually a big sponsor.

Brian Trotter, Chariman of the exhibition, is quoted in the British Philatelic Bulletin as saying that Royal Mail is part of the team putting together the event, though there is no indication of whether they are providing any funding. Other team members are the Royal Philatelic Collection, British Postal Museum & Archive, Royal Philatelic Society London, British Library Philatelic Collections, Philatelic Traders Society, and Association of British Philatelic Societies.

The mail location will be the Business Design Center in Islington, currently the home of the semiannual STAMPEX shows. There will also be parallel events at other locations that will overlap with the main exhibition. Some of these will extend over the year as part of the city’s preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games. (Posted February 15, 2006) top

Deegam Handbook Supplement published

I have often recommended Douglas Myall’s The Complete Deegam Machin Handbook as the best, most comprehensive Machin reference work available. The third edition was published in 2003, so the first supplement, which appeared last summer, adds two years of information plus some new content. It includes a total of 846 new or updated pages.

Of course, last year also saw the release of the Handbook on CD. At the time of initial release, it, too, was current through early 2005. And since Douglas Myall keeps the CD up-to-date, anyone who purchased the CD after the Supplement was printed has all of the information in the Supplement and more.

But for those of you who prefer the printed version, or who have both versions, the Supplement is a necessity. The Supplement costs £35 plus postage of £10.30 for surface mail to the US or £19.05 for airmail. (Postage cost is subject to increase after the April 3 rate increase.) The Handbook can be ordered from John Deering at PO Box 2, South Molton, Devon, England EX36 4YZ or email machins@johndeering.demon.co.uk. Deering can also supply the full Handbook if you do not already have it.

Myall has generously made a special offer to collectors who have bought the CD version directly from him. If you quote the personal reference number that you got with the CD, he will give you a £10 discount off the price of the Supplement. The postage charge remains the same. You can contact Myall at 2 Elizabeth Avenue, Bridport, Dorset, England DT6 5BA or email deegam@btopenworld.com.

Buyers of either the printed or the CD version of the Handbook may receive the periodic Deegam Reports that offer new and updated information several times per year. The reports are free by email or at a nominal charge by postal mail. (Posted February 15, 2006) top

Last update: March 20, 2006   Macintosh!
Copyright © 2006 by Larry Rosenblum