World Stamps

For sale: British stamp firm Stanley Gibbons

Apr 28, 2021, 8 PM
Great Britain’s Royal Mail honored the British stamp firm of Stanley Gibbons in 1982 with a £4 prestige stamp booklet titled “Story of Stanley Gibbons” (Scott BK146).

By Matthew Healey

Stanley Gibbons, the venerable British stamp firm, has confirmed that it is open to takeover offers from “any interested party” as part of restructuring efforts begun last year.

The company, a mainstay of the British philatelic world for much of its 161-year history, is listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investments Market (AIM). As such, it must promptly inform shareholders and the public of any matters affecting its valuation.

It revealed that it had recently received an inquiry from Disruptive Capital Finance, a London-based investor, that it took as an expression of interest in buying Stanley Gibbons Group or some of its parts. However, the BBC reported that Disruptive has denied making any definite offer.

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In a written statement released June 12, Stanley Gibbons said:

“Following a complete overhaul of the Board and the executive leadership last year, the Company has now been comprehensively restructured.”

The new leadership includes Harry Wilson, a respected philatelist, as chairman.

The statement continues: “During this time, the new Board has successfully reduced annualised operating costs by over £10 million [$12.8 million] and announced disposals totaling £6.3 million [$8 million].”

Disposals include the recent sale of some of its non-philatelic businesses. For the financial year ending March 31, 2016, the firm had a pretax loss of almost £29 million, on sales of £59 million. Results for the most recent year have not yet been released.

The statement goes on to note that the firm believes its “heritage brands and expertise” would benefit from fresh investment allowing it to make the most of its strengths in the global market.

“Against this backdrop, the Board has resolved to conduct a full strategic review … which, for the avoidance of doubt, could include a sale of some or all of the Group.”

The firm says proposals will be accepted throughout the summer and may be made in secret.

Stanley Gibbons is renowned worldwide for buying and selling stamps, producing a range of popular albums; a glossy monthly magazine, Gibbons Stamp Monthly; and the authoritative catalogs for the stamps of Great Britain and its former empire. It also publishes albums and catalogs for the rest of the world. Its proprietary numbering systems are firmly entrenched in the British collecting world.

The firm was founded in 1856 by Edward Stanley Gibbons (1840-1913), who traded stamps from a side counter in his father’s chemist shop in Plymouth, England.

He appears to have published his first price list in 1864. The firm began holding auctions in the early 1900s, a practice that continues to this day.

Beginning in the 1960s, the firm established a presence in the United States, with retail offices, regular auctions, and a joint venture with Whitman Publishing to produce a magazine and catalog. The firm rolled up its U.S. operations in the 1990s.

In recent years, Stanley Gibbons has expanded through a series of acquisitions of firms dealing in coins, art and antiques, and fine wines. Many observers believe the capital drains stemming from these acquisitions placed a heavy burden on Stanley Gibbons and jeopardized the firm’s health, leading to its recent corrective actions.