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The Glen Stephens (monthly)
"Stamp News Column" Page.



 May 2003      





Ignore Young Collectors?

This month I take a look at the long awaited Gibbons COLOUR British Commonwealth Catalogue.  And outline why attracting youngsters into stamp collecting IS a positive and essential thing.

I read fellow columnist Gary Watson's article with interest last month about junior collectors.  ‘Do we need to encourage them or not’  was the basic tenet of it.  It has created considerable comment among dealers and collectors.

I had mixed feelings on the matter, and can see the sense in much of what Gary said.  However I have always agreed with fostering young collectors however we can.  Without doing that there clearly will be no-one to replace the older more affluent collectors that pass away.

The reality clearly is that these older collectors are the ones now paying the record $217,898 in March for the 2d KGV tete-beche pair.  Or the 2/- brown Kangaroos imperf between sold by Gary's company for $96,800 etc.

Do we need young collectors?

I agree no youngster has $200,000 to spend on rarities.  To say therefore a company like Premier Auctions does not need young collectors is surely rather short sighted?

You can bet the top Gold Medal award winner collectors like Hugh Morgan and Arthur Gray all started off with an ETA peanut Butter stamp album when aged around 10.   As probably did every most older readers of this magazine.  And slightly less older ones like myself were "hooked" via the Ampol promotion.  

Mirroring the growth path of many large US based companies in the 1950s and 1960s, most comic books sold in Australia contained premium offers and enticements for approval packets.  Hundreds of thousands of Australian youngsters signed up for these offers.

Many very senior medal winning collectors in Australia today will sheepishly admit they got their start in stamp collecting from this comic book approval campaign.

The 1960s "Ampol" Promotion

If you did a survey of the Gold medal winners at "Australia99" I suspect you would find a surprising percentage started their collecting via companies like Seven Seas Stamps who were pre-eminent then among these mass stamp marketers.

Seven Seas Stamps were also very aggressive in using stamp packets as promotional premiums for large companies. In the mid 1960s one large campaign involved over 20 million packets of colourful world thematic stamps being given away with the purchase of one brand of petrol . . . AMPOL.

These packets contained an incredible 70 million world stamps - many of them MUH, and they 'entirely excluded cheap definitives' Bill Hornadge assures me.

Australia at that time had a population numbering about 10 million people, so 20 million stamp packets was obviously a vast amount, being about two packets given away for every man woman and child living in the country.

At one point Seven Seas Stamps in Dubbo were tearing up, packaging and dispatching 400,000 packets a week to meet the demand - which was many times the budgeted estimate.

AMPOL figured the usual "request rate" for a promo item would be the usual 15%. However, it immediately ran to around 50%, and stayed that way. I wish Seven Seas Stamps or someone else would get McDonalds, Shell, Dick Smiths, etc, to run such a campaign in the early 2000s!

Don't laugh ...  the concept certainly worked for AMPOL.  The Chairman of AMPOL was reported widely in the daily financial press in 1964 speaking at the company AGM, stating that sales and profits had gone up significantly,  and stamp packets were the specific reason for this upsurge in business.

                                             "ETA" Peanut Butter albums

The same idea also worked 30 years earlier. A new brand of peanut butter was introduced, called ETA. In 1937 they also decided to use stamps to gain attention to the new ETA peanut butter in Australia. Some 25 million stamps were given away.

A battered 1930’s “ETA”

In the first year 275,000 printed albums were sold, compared to an estimate of only 75,000 being needed! Sixty six years later, that 'new' brand is still the market leader peanut butter. Both AMPOL and ETA albums turn up regularly in auctions and dealer shops to this day, showing the enduring power of stamp collecting as an advertising medium.

I have a couple of different type old "ETA’s" in my current price list in a handful of kids albums from an estate if anyone wishes to re-live their childhood!

An inexpensive and very basic printed Ampol album was also made available. A massive 300,000 were sold, and again this was the formative spark that attracted many of today's leading collectors and dealers.

This writer was certainly introduced to philately via those AMPOL packets of exotic Triangulars from Mongolia and Goya Nudes from Spain. (Surprise, surprise, I still have the Nudes!)

The packets were cleverly "salted" with the occasional "goodie." When these were 'found' (coff, coff) the overjoyed child owner often got widely reported in the daily papers, creating more excitement and demand from AMPOL . . . and Seven Seas Stamps.

AMPOL would always claim to have initiated "an urgent investigation" as to how a 5/- Bridge or Penny Black or £2 Roo got into their cheapie packets. Seven Seas would profess it was a major boo boo and they hoped there were not more similar packing errors but could not guarantee that. The press lapped it up. A stamp worth $100 like a Penny Black would get them $100,000 worth of free media.

My thoughts are that getting youngsters exposed to stamps is an ESSENTIAL thing for this hobby, and the entrepreneurs that do this are doing philately in this country a great service.

 "The Globe-Trotting Philatelists"

Well there were no youngsters at one philatelic event I attended in April.  And this group of dealers I am sure were not aiming to attract them either!

Each year a small group of mainly British dealers do a very deluxe "Roadshow" to 5 capital cities.   They book a nice function room at classy hotels, each set up a table with their goodies, and invite a selected and pretty restricted list of collectors along to inspect the treasures.   It is all over in about two hours – one evening only per city.

The concept seems to work well.  I have looked in on a few of the Sydney ones,  in either the Hilton or Marriott,  and there are waitresses walking around with trays of finger food.  And better still - trays of champagne and wine, and beers etc.

All very civilized, and the formula seems to work well, as the dealers keep coming back.  The local anchor each year is Melbourne stamp auctioneer Charles Leski.  Charles always has lots from his auctions along for viewing.

I have no idea where it all comes from, but the material in his catalogues is always mind boggling to me.  Every sale.  Unusual and esoteric stamp material and in recent years an unbeatable niche in airmail covers, and sporting and related memorabilia.

The April 28 sale was no exception, and then essays for the 1956 Olympics stamps I am sure have found good homes as you read this.

Prices to be scared by!

The British dealers involved always include Chris Rainey,  Argyll Etkin,  Euro-Yu,  Gerald Bodily, and this year Peter Singer was representing the USA.  The range and prices these guys have its quite an education.  No "ETA" albums OR their contents on display here!

Gerald Bodily had many things there with prices that were way over $20,000.  I noticed one set that was relatively inexpensive.   This was a set 4 of the Murray River Steam Navigation Co. priced at £850.   With some adjustment down for UK VAT etc, that is a pretty good price for easily our rarest "locals".

3d Murray Steam Navigation Company

Charles Leski mentioned to me he has just moved to new premises in Hawthorn which at 12,000 square feet are 3 times larger than his 9 year old Camberwell address.  There was a detailed map in his page ad in "April" magazine. 

As a contrast, I attended the ANDA/APTA stamp show at the lower Sydney Town Hall on April 4.  If ever there was a glaring example of why people are NOT attending these shows as they once did, that one had the answer.  Adults $12, and children $7 as I recall.   No pensioner concessions.

I saw the old couple in front of me walk away when told by the uniformed security goon that it was "$24 entry - no exceptions".   Crazy.   I hope the Committee gets the message - these shows must have a NOMINAL admission fee, or people will simply not come.  The dealers paid plenty for the stands,  and a new entry price policy should be looked at.

New-look Stanley Gibbons British Commonwealth COLOUR Catalogue


After many, many, months of waiting and great indecision as to era of contents inside, the new "British Commonwealth” Catalogue has arrived air freight. It is an interesting concept.

The old traditional 2 huge volume "Part One" book is morphed into a single volume to cover the Commonwealth - around the outer size of one of the usual volumes. It runs close to 1000 large pages. Stamps are in 4 columns, not 3, so more data is on each page.

The most striking feature this year is that nearly all stamps are illustrated in FULL COLOUR. Now my guess is that there about 15-20 photos a page average meaning 15,000-20,000 colour illustrations.

Anyone who has scanned a few stamps for eBay etc knows how time consuming it is. Imagine doing 20,000! And THEN pasting them into the correct places in the text.

That was an opus work to get the artwork done. Most especially to source the actual stamps to scan. After all, who has collections of modern Guyana to use for reference?! You can bet SG do NOT, that is for sure.

I have been involved in publishing, and the time and COST to get this together must have been terrifying. Great to see SG enter the world of colour. The paper stock is excellent too.

A nice crisp fresh white, so cheery and alive compared to my already VERY yellowed 2002 SG with sad grey illustrations.

I had a friend look at over when it arrived today, and who interestingly works in publishing. She compared it right next to the old edition and said it is a 1000% improvement visually. I had to agree.

The old "Part One" is no more. This new volume covers 1840 to recent issues and does so in a simplified manner, with no watermarks, perf varieties or M/S etc. That is a drawback, but this is the way SG have gone, and seen confident this is what collectors will buy. They offer no other option.

Cost is not low at $A185.00, due to weight of books for shipping, and strong British pound. Bear in mind that the 2 volume mono set was WAY dearer so the cost all becomes relative. I have about ten copies pre-sold to clients, so it seems many folks are waiting anxiously for this.

I also am selling from my website a lot of the 2 volume “Part One” sets from 1999 on special for $90, that do have all the perf and watermark combinations. Once these old stocks are sold, there will be NO recent SG reference for all this material, and many will soon wish they were not working off a 1985 SG Part 1 which I KNOW many collectors are!

I am a Dealer Member in Good Standing Of:

Full Time Stamp Dealer in Australia for over 30+ years

Life Member - American Stamp Dealers' Association.  (New York) 
Also Member of:  Philatelic Traders' Society.  (London)    



Full Time Stamp Dealer in Australia for 35 years.

Life Member - American Stamp Dealers' Association. (ASDA - New York) Also Member - Philatelic Traders' Society
 (PTS London) and many other philatelic bodies.

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