April 2017

Jean Alexander is probably best known for her wonderful Thematic collection on ‘Waterfalls’ and her fine collection of the 1929 Postal Union Congress issues. However, by special invitation from the Vice-Chairman, she brought her ‘Social Philately’ collection of ‘Supermarket Philately’ to entertain Bookham. And entertain us she certainly did!
This collection, first exhibited at Stampex in 2003, was the first ‘Social Philately’ (now known as Open Philately) exhibit ever shown in this country, and what fun it is…
Jean explained that the Collection almost started by accident when one day in the late 1970’s, she was on her weekly shop when she spotted a tin of Heinz soup with a promotional offer of a GB presentation pack, which you could obtain in exchange for eight soup labels. She quickly snapped up the required number of tins of soup and after stripping off the labels duly sent off for the offered stamps. (It was only later that she realised she now had several tins of something the contents of which she knew not what, and that for some time supper was to be an adventure and surprise, as you never quite knew what you were going to get until the tin was opened!)
From this first promotion, many soon followed, for example Kellogg’s cornflakes offered a FDC, SMASH instant potato promotion was a 50p postal order, whilst Cadbury’s chocolate fingers sent you a free book of stamps; there seems to be quite an interest from many manufacturers to include some form of philatelic material in their promotional offers, and Jean made sure, all during the 1980s and 90s, she never missed one. Even the family pet had to join in as, in exchange for 35 tokens from tins of Kattomeat, you could obtain a free booklet of 1st Class stamps.
The second part of the display concentrated more on special offers and promotions purchased from some of our biggest retail outlets, ASDA, M&S, Boots, WH Smiths, and of course from Royal Mail itself, including special stamp booklets, greetings cards and writing packs, some especially prepared for children. There were even promotional booklets containing ‘scratch covers’ for the 1996 Olympic Games. However, Jean never knew if she had won any of the free prizes on offer, including a free trip to the Games, as she didn’t want to ruin the booklets by ‘scratching’ the cover to reveal the prize!
Not only did Jean show the ‘freebies’ she had obtained, all beautifully mounted and written up, but, and to the delight of the audience, she brought along much of the packaging displaying the original promotional offers, drawing each one from her many ‘shopping baskets’ as she explained each of the promotions, along with many amusing anecdotes!
This was philatelic fun at its best and a delightful collection, the like of which will probably never be able to be repeated as manufacturers’ promotional offers seemed to have almost ceased, certainly in this type of philatelic format.
Derek Weston gave the Vote of Thanks on behalf of a very appreciative Bookham Stamp Club audience, and said he, like half of the men present, was left wondering why he hadn’t volunteered to do the weekly shop in his earlier years, and was now rueing his missed opportunities!