To anyone involved in philately, Stanley Gibbons means the stamp catalogue we refer to constantly to identify our stamps. But how did this catalogue come about.
Stanley Gibbons was born in 1840, the year in which the first Penny Black appeared in England. At school, he developed a keen interest in stamps and his father allowed him to set up his stamp business in his chemist shop. When he was only 13, he purchased a sack full of rare Cape of Good Hope triangular stamps which gave his business a very good starting point. After his father died, he sold the chemist business and concentrated on his stamps. In 1890 he sold his business for £25 000 and retired but continued as Chairman of the company. During his retirement he travelled extensively, mainly for pleasure but also buying stamps for his old company. During his lifetime he was married five times. Four of his wives died at a relatively young age. Because he remarried very swiftly on each occasion, there were suspicions, but there is absolutely no evidence that he was in any way involved in their deaths. He died in 1913.
The Stanley Gibbons Company has a very long history, having started in 1856, when Stanley was only 16 years old. The shop and offices of the company were amalgamated and remained at premises in The Strand for many years. In 1906 a new issue department was opened. A year after Stanley’s death, the company received a royal warrant from King George V.
The company celebrated its centenary in 1956 with an exhibition at the Waldorf Hotel. In that year the company was granted a royal warrant by Queen Elizabeth II as her philatelist. In 1968 the company was listed on the stock market after having ventured into the United States in the previous year. The company became larger still when it acquired the stock of the firm Chas Nissan and in 1979 the company was bought for £19 million. There were many buyouts and takeovers, none successful and in 1985 the company was bought by a consortium for a mere £3 million. Since then the company has changed hands on many occasions, but now has again a very good name in the philatelic business.
The company issued its first catalogue in 1865 and since then has issued catalogues at regular intervals. The Gibbons Stamp Monthly is a magazine listing new issues and publishing philatelic articles.
The company also operates as a stamp dealer and they produce their own philatelic products such as albums, stock books, etc. Stamp auctions also form part of their business.
Stanley Gibbons Catalogues have become one of the most relied upon tools for Philatelists the world over.