It really wasn’t a bad idea. A magazine devoted to all the funny little things that people collect, that aren’t catered for by other general publications. There’d be books and postcards and cigarette cards, of course, but there’d also be air sickness bags, bill posters, matchbox labels, in fact anything and everything that people wanted to write or read about.
So I did my market research, investigated some potential advertisers, all that stuff, and then approached Stamps publisher with the idea. And he loved it. Gave me an immediate go-ahead. Wanted to see the first issue within a month. In fact, I got everything I wanted, except for one tiny little detail. he wanted it folded into Stamps itself, as an uttely irrelevant “extra” that I just knew was going to drive our core constituency of readers insane.
Stamps was already in trouble. Declining circulation and ad revenue were beginning to bite, while the positively insane notion of relaucnhing it as an “upmarket” investor-quality publication…. achieved by seriously paring our once eccentrically glorious covers down to one “classy” image, and upping the cover price by almost one-third, to a wallet-boggling 1.70… hadn’t made us any friends, either. This new notion was going to kill us.
And I was right. You buy a stamp mag, you don’t want to read about the high prices being obtained at auction by Sex Pistols ephemera. You don’t want to read about Enid Blyton and Thunderbirds. And you certainly don’t want to read about the world’s largest collection of air sickness bags. The complaints came in, advertisers went out, readers stopped me in the street (or at Stampex, anyway) to make their feelings known. Even our contributors, some of whom had relished the idea of being able to write about their own most eccentric collecting pursuits (air sickness bags again), weren’t happy.
But we… newly-promoted editor me, newly-arrived assistant Zak, ace art editor Liz and advertising-whizz Amanda… persevered. We did one issue with Printed Matters as a “stand alone” supplement, printed on vile poo-colored paper, then folded the contents into the main mag, in the hope of them blending in a little better. They didn’t, of course, but it looked a lot better.
What none of us knew, of course, was that the decision to sell Stamps had already been made; dated back, in fact, to that ill-conceived relaunch. Printed Matters was management’s way of telling us to do what the hell we wanted, they didn’t give a monkeys anymore.
I kept the faith, though, and since 1999, I have buying and selling postcards, cig cards, ephemera, stamps and coins through my online store D&A Collectibles. So there.