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Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Future of Smilers - Your Feedback for Royal Mail and Business Sheet Producers

A new sheet from Benham Covers has been announced celebrating the 175th Anniversary of Great Western Railway. Surprisingly, at least for me, the number of sheets printed was 1000. The appeal of these sheets must be based on thematic interest and may explain why Benham and others continue to focus on trains, boats and planes.

This sheet bucks the trend of lower production runs of c. 300-500 sheets, seen in recent months. I am not surprised by this trend as interest in the sheets seems to be down as producers ignore the basic rules of supply and demand - producing more and more sheets does not necessarily mean people will buy more and more. It is a well known principle of consumer marketing that people tend to become more selective when given more choice. In my view we are perhaps seeing a re-positioning of the Smilers sheet market from one with broad appeal to one where collectors are selective about what they collect. As a result, the hardened Smilers sheet collectors will loose interest and probably focus on other less expensive areas of collecting (perhaps commemorative machine labels - whatever next!) and as a consequence demand for these products will continue to decline effectively killing off the goose that laid the golden egg.
Sheet producers take note - be more creative and innovative with your products - if you want your business to survive. Planes, boats and trains are no doubt interesting if you like that sort of thing but what about the rest of us? Bradbury has focused on the History of Britain but will one day run out of kings and queens and although very well designed the sheets are very "samey". The brightest star on the horizon this year for me was Phil Stamps but Steve has just announced he is shutting up shop at the end of the year so we will be deprived of a potentially interesting source of these sheets. I am not advocating radical change just a modicum of creativity to match the producers desire for profit. What about a circular label design, a horizontal format self adhesive business sheet, some sporting events covered - the possibilities are endless unlike the mindless pursuit of thematic and historical topics.


  1. finally we are all coming to our senses . i could not agree more with mr howards comments.

    buisness smiler sheets should be about advertising companies/clubs/organisations not 90% of the drival pumped out on the market with false claims of numbers printed, overprints, and newly found stock.

    i really hope that the smiler market survives as i feel there is a place for these sheets in stamp world , however some of the bigger producers need to take a good look at themselves .

  2. At the risk of repeating what I wrote a month ago on the overprint topic....

    "Likewise the railways series and many of the others - the stamps have absolutely no relevance....
    if you want an Elvis/GWR Poster, buy an Elvis/GWR poster. It doesn't need stamps on it."

  3. Well done Graham - I am one of those selling off my Collection as the 'Smilers' market has run out of all control. The Business Sheets are largely nothing to do with 'businesses' of any description. I do like Gary Harrop's / Rushstamps Series of 'Art' Themed Sheets whose overprinting is to a very high standard - 'Artizan' is very talented indeed. Planet Prints would also do better to stick to the true 'Business' theme - they are, however, closer than most to that and I wish them well.
    I loved the 'Smilers' community in the earlier days and tried to stick with it but prices have left me disillusioned as have all the 'money-grabbers' who have used it as, you quite rightly state, a 'golden goose.' Well the goose has laid far too many eggs and supply has outstripped demand - we need a period of correction in the 'market' if it is to survive and, more importantly, attract new Collectors.

  4. Dammage is done.most sheets are on e-bay at half or less then they were a year ago.

  5. The reasons why Benham (and Buckingham and Bradbury) are still able to produce up to 1000 per issue are (a) Royal Mail take up to half their stock to sell through their customer base and (b) they break many sheets for cover production. It would be helpful to collectors to know how many residual sheets remain.