Stanley Gibbons

Last updated
Stanley Gibbons Group plc
Public (AIM)
Traded as LSE:  SGI
IndustrySpecialist retailing
HeadquartersRingwood & London.
Key people
Harry Wilson - Chairman
Stanley Gibbons 399 Strand Stanley Gibbons - 399 Strand - London - 2.jpg
Stanley Gibbons 399 Strand
Edward Stanley Gibbons (1840-1913), the founder of the firm. Edward Stanley Gibbons.jpg
Edward Stanley Gibbons (1840-1913), the founder of the firm.

The Stanley Gibbons Group plc is a company quoted on the London Stock Exchange and which specialises in the retailing of collectable postage stamps and similar products. [1] The group is incorporated in London. The company is a major stamp dealer and philatelic publisher. The company's philatelic subsidiary, Stanley Gibbons Limited, has a royal warrant of appointment from Queen Elizabeth II.

London Stock Exchange Stock exchange in the City of London

London Stock Exchange is a stock exchange located in the City of London, England. As of April 2018, London Stock Exchange had a market capitalisation of US$4.59 trillion. It was founded in 1571, making it one of the oldest exchanges in the world. Its current premises are situated in Paternoster Square close to St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London. It is part of London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG).

Stamp dealer profession

A stamp dealer is a company or an individual who deals in stamps and philatelic products. It also includes individuals who sell postage stamps for day to day use or revenue stamps for use on court documents. Stamp dealers who sell to stamp collectors and philatelists are of many kinds and their businesses range from small home operations to large international companies.

Royal Warrant of Appointment (United Kingdom) Formal public recognition of a business relationship with the British royal family

Royal Warrants of Appointment have been issued since the 15th century to those who supply goods or services to a royal court or certain royal personages. The warrant enables the supplier to advertise the fact that they supply to the royal family, so lending prestige to the brand and/or supplier. In the United Kingdom, grants are currently made by the three most senior members of the British royal family to companies or tradesmen who supply goods and services to individuals in the family.


History of the company

Stanley Gibbons rubber stamp impression Gower Street 1881. Stanley Gibbons rubber stamp impression Gower Street 1881.jpg
Stanley Gibbons rubber stamp impression Gower Street 1881.

The company has a long corporate history, having started as a sole trader business owned by Edward Stanley Gibbons in 1856 and now being a quoted company with a number of subsidiaries.

Edward Stanley Gibbons English stamp dealer

Edward Stanley Gibbons was an English stamp dealer and founder of Stanley Gibbons Ltd, publishers of the famous Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogue and other stamp-related books and magazines.

Before 1900

The business started when, employed as an assistant in his father's pharmacy shop in Plymouth, Gibbons set up a counter selling stamps. [2] In 1863 he was fortunate enough to purchase from two sailors a sackful of rare Cape of Good Hope triangular stamps. [2]

Cape of Good Hope Headland of Cape Peninsula, South Africa

The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa.

In 1874 Gibbons moved to a house near Clapham Common in South London and in 1876 he moved again to Gower Street in Bloomsbury near the British Museum.

Clapham Common urban park in Clapham, south London

Clapham Common is a large triangular urban park in Clapham, south London. Originally common land for the parishes of Battersea and Clapham, it was converted to parkland under the terms of the Metropolitan Commons Act 1878. It is 220 acres of green space, with three ponds and a Victorian bandstand. It is overlooked by large Georgian and Victorian mansions and nearby Clapham Old Town.

Bloomsbury area of the London Borough of Camden, in London, England, UK

Bloomsbury is a district in the West End of London, famed as a fashionable residential area and as the home of numerous prestigious cultural, intellectual, and educational institutions. It is bounded by Fitzrovia to the west, Covent Garden to the south, Regent's Park and St. Pancras to the north, and Clerkenwell to the east.

British Museum National museum in the Bloomsbury area of London

The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury area of London, United Kingdom, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection of some eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, having been widely sourced during the era of the British Empire. It documents the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. It was the first public national museum in the world.

By 1890 Stanley Gibbons wished to retire and the business was sold to Charles Phillips for £25,000 (equivalent to £2.6 million in 2016 [3] ). Phillips became Managing Director, with Gibbons as Chairman. [2]

Charles James Phillips of London, England, and New York City, was a philatelist highly regarded in both England where he started his philatelic career and in the United States, where he emigrated to in 1922.

In 1891 a shop was opened at 435 Strand in addition to the Gower Street premises, and in 1893 the shop and offices were amalgamated at 391 Strand where the company's retail premises remained for many years until they moved to 399 Strand.

Strand, London major thoroughfare in the City of Westminster, London, England

Strand is a major thoroughfare in the City of Westminster, Central London. It runs just over 34 mile (1,200 m) from Trafalgar Square eastwards to Temple Bar, where the road becomes Fleet Street inside the City of London, and is part of the A4, a main road running west from inner London.

Stanley Gibbons colour guide stamps printed by Perkins Bacon Stanley Gibbons colour guide stamps Perkins Bacon.jpg
Stanley Gibbons colour guide stamps printed by Perkins Bacon


A new issue department was opened in 1906.

In 1914 the company received a royal warrant from George V. [2]

In 1956 the company celebrated its centenary with an exhibition at the Waldorf Hotel opened by Sir John Wilson. It is in that year that Queen Elizabeth II granted her royal warrant to Stanley Gibbons Ltd as her philatelist. [4]


In 1967 the firm expanded into the United States in a joint venture with Whitman Publishing. A magazine and catalogues were produced.

In 1968 the previously privately held Stanley Gibbons Limited was floated on the stock market through a tender arranged by S.G. Warburg & Co. Ltd. The offer was a huge success and was oversubscribed five times. The shares were sold at 20 shillings rather than the minimum tender price of 12 shillings and six pence. [5] It was estimated that there were 30 to 35 sharesholders before the offer and they still owned 66% of the equity after the offer, worth at least £1.8 million before trading began. [6] Prices subsequently slipped back, however, later in the year.


In 1970 The Crown Agents acquired a 20% stake in the company and appointed two Directors to the Gibbons board. [7] The stake was sold in 1976 by which time it had grown to 25% of the company.

In 1977 Stanley Gibbons acquired the stock of the firm Chas Nissen, once run by the eminent stamp dealer and philatelist Charles Nissen.

In 1979 Gibbons was bought by Letraset for £19 million in an attempt to diversify away from their dry-lettering business, but the acquisition did not go smoothly and like Flying Flowers later, Letraset faced difficulties integrating Gibbons into its core business. [8] The Chairman of Letraset blamed "indiscriminate expansion" and "imprudent" investment decisions for the problems at Gibbons and was quoted in The Times as saying "We significantly overpaid for what we got." [9] The US$10 million paid by Gibbons for the Marc Haas collection was also questioned.


In 1981 Letraset was taken over by Esselte after Esselte fought a takeover battle with Mills & Allen International for the company. Letraset had been fatally weakened by losses sustained in its Stanley Gibbons subsidiary. Later the same year Gibbons was put up for sale by Esselte as they said it did not form a logical part of their long-term development. [10]

In 1981 Gibbons bought the stock of the late H.F. Johnson.

In 1982 Clive Feigenbaum staged a management buy-out followed by an application in 1984 for a listing on the UK's Unlisted Securities Market in order to raise funds for new acquisitions. Following the buy-out, Feigenbaum, the Chairman, had owned over 50% of the shares with the others owned by the rest of the board. [11] The listing went ahead but the shares were suspended within moments of their debut even before trading had begun, following concerns about Feigenbaum's background highlighted in an article in the Sunday Times. The suspension was said to be the fastest on record at that time. The concerns had surrounded Feigenbaum's expulsion from the Philatelic Traders Society for breaching their code of ethics and his sale of "23 carat gold" stamps of no postal validity from the island of Staffa. U.S. government tests had shown the stamps, sold at £10 each, to have a gold value of about 5c each. The debacle was said to have caused considerable embarrassment, not just to the company but also to its USM brokers Simon & Coates. [12] Shortly afterwards, Feigenbaum resigned as Chairman and was bought out by a consortium of institutions and individuals for £3 million. [13] A further attempt at a listing was planned for 1985 but did not go ahead.

In 1989 Paul Fraser began to invest in the firm, and he purchased a further 30% stake in the company from New Zealand businessman Sir Ron Brierley who is a stamp collector. [14]


Paul Fraser was appointed Executive Chairman in 1990. [15] By 1995 Fraser had acquired 76.83% of Gibbons shares and he purchased the rest of the shares in December 1995. [2]

In June 1998 the company was sold for £13.5 million to Flying Flowers. Paul Fraser took shares in Flying Flowers instead of cash and was left with an 8% stake in the enlarged company following the deal. [16] The merger was not a success and in 2000 the two companies were demerged again after a series of profits warnings and trading problems. Paul Fraser's stake was reduced in value from £13.5 million to £4 million. The de-merged Stanley Gibbons became and was listed on AIM. The chairman of Flying Flowers was quoted as saying the deal "...was at the wrong price and at the wrong time." [17] [18]

Since 2000

In August 2007, Paul Fraser resigned as Executive Chairman [19] and in April 2008 he sold his remaining shares to focus on Paul Fraser Collectibles. [15] Bob Henkhuzens became Interim Chairman and the current Chairman is David Bralsford who works in a non-executive capacity. [20]

On 20 September 2010 the company announced it had acquired the trade and assets of the Benham first day cover and collectibles business from Flying Brands Limited. [21] On 21 November 2013, Stanley Gibbons successfully completed its acquisition of Noble Investments, bringing Apex, Baldwin's, and Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions into the group. [22] In 2014, two further acquisitions followed: On 31 January the company acquired Murray Payne, the world's leading dealer in British Commonwealth King George VI stamps [23] and on 23 October The Fine Art Auction Group, holding company of the Group's subsidiary, Dreweatts and Bloomsbury, announced that it had acquired Mallett Antiques - a world-renowned dealer in the finest antiques and decorative arts with retail premises on London's Dover St and New York's Madison Avenue. [24]

On 28 January 2015 the company was awarded 'Deal of the Year' at the 2015 Quoted Company Awards for its acquisition of Noble Investments. [25]

In July 2015 the company announced that The Fine Art Auction Group had acquired Bid for Wine, a specialist online wine auctioneer founded in 2008 by barrister Spenser Hilliard and ex-management consultant Lionel Nierop. [26] [27]

Later in 2015 the group's share value started to fall significantly, dropping from 240p in August 2015 to 15.75p in April 2016. This general decline continued, with lows of 2.75p being recorded in February 2019. [28]

Stanley Gibbons (Guernsey) Limited, the group's subsidiary which handled investment portfolios, was placed under administration on 21 November 2017, with Nick Vermeulen and Zelf Hussain as joint administrators. [29] [30]

Stamp catalogues

The cover of a 1914-15 edition of the "Part One" British Empire catalogue. Stanley Gibbons Priced Catalogue of the Stamps of the British Empire 1914-15.jpg
The cover of a 1914-15 edition of the "Part One" British Empire catalogue.

The first Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogue was a penny price list issued in November 1865 and reissued at monthly intervals for the next 14 years. [31] The company produces numerous catalogues covering different countries, regions and specialisms; many of them are reissued annually. The catalogues list all known adhesive postage stamp issues and include prices for used and unused stamps.

Unlike other dealers' catalogues, Stanley Gibbons state that their catalogue is a retail price list. In other words, if they had that exact stamp in stock in the exact condition specified, the current catalogue price is the price that they would charge for it. This contrasts with most other catalogues which are produced by firms that do not sell stamps and therefore base their pricing on an average of market values in the country where the catalogue is published.

In practice, the actual price charged by Stanley Gibbons for an individual stamp may be different from the catalogue price because the specimen for sale is of a different grade, the market conditions have changed since the catalogue was produced, the firm has a plentiful or restricted supply of that stamp, or for a variety of other reasons.


Gibbons Stamp Monthly Gibbons Stamp Monthly.jpg
Gibbons Stamp Monthly

Gibbons Stamp Monthly is a magazine that lists new issues and publishes articles of interest to philatelists. Gibbons have published a number of journals over the years but only settled on Gibbons Stamp Monthly as their core magazine in 1927. [32] On 23 January 2009, Gibbons acquired the philatelic trade magazine The Philatelic Exporter from Heritage Studios Limited. [33]

Retail stamp business

As well as publishing, Stanley Gibbons is a stamp dealer with a retail business located on the Strand in their Central London offices offering both older stamps and new issues and fulfilling customer want lists. They produce their own line of other philatelic products, such as albums, stock books, and other accessories.

Auction house

The company is also a philatelic auction house and has held thousands of international sales since it was established in 1901.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Philatelic literature

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Stanley Gibbons catalogue stamp catalog

The first Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogue was a penny price list issued in November 1865 and reissued at monthly intervals for the next 14 years. The company produces numerous catalogues covering different countries, regions and specialisms; many of them are reissued annually. The catalogues list all known adhesive postage stamp issues and include prices for used and unused stamps.

Telegraph stamp

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Edward B. Evans British Army officer

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Walter Morley British philatelist

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Ted Proud Postage stamp historian

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Stanley Phillips British philatelist

Frederick Stanley Phillips was a British philatelist and prolific philatelic author who signed the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists at Folkestone in 1937.

Clive Feigenbaum Business person

Clive Harold Feigenbaum (1939–2007) was a colourful and controversial British businessman who was involved in a lifelong series of scandals in the world of philately. Particularly notable was the sale of "gold" stamps from Staffa and his role in the collapse of attempts to list Stanley Gibbons on the Unlisted Securities Market in 1984.

Oswald Marsh British stamp dealer

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Paul Ian Fraser is a British businessman. He came to prominence through his involvement in the purchase and sale of the famous stamps firm Stanley Gibbons which he sold at a great profit, only to see most of the proceeds lost following trading difficulties. Before this Fraser had a background in accountancy, mail-order, retailing and property development.

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  3. United Kingdom Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth "consistent series" supplied in Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2018). "What Was the U.K. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  4. Tyzack, Anna (2012-05-21). "Royal Warrant holders: the seal of approval". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  5. "S Gibbons struck at 20S" by John Gilmore in The Times, 6 April 1968, p.12.
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  8. "Coming Unstuck in Stamps" by The Financial Editor, The Times, 13 August 1980, p.17.
  9. "Stamp of success eludes Letraset" by Peter-Wilson Smith in The Times, 17 January 1981, p.19.
  10. "Stamp firm Gibbons back on sale" by Paul Maidment in The Times, 8 December 1981, p.15.
  11. "Stanley Gibbons to join market" by Michael Clark in The Times, 26 March 1984, p.19.
  12. "Stanley Gibbons suspended within moments of debut" by Michael Horsnell & Jonathan Clare in The Times, 3 April 1984, p.21.
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  15. 1 2 "Our Expert Panel". Paul Fraser Collectibles. 2010-03-29. Retrieved 2010-09-29.
  16. Cope, Nigel (1998-04-08). "Owner sells Stanley Gibbons for pounds 13.5m". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2010-09-29.
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  27. Name * (2010-02-18). "Fine wine profile: Bid for Wine". Retrieved 2018-03-18.
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