Robstine Stamps are now recognised as one of the leading stamp retailers in the UK. How did we get to this point and where will our development take us next?
Back in 1981, we started on a part-time basis by selling stamp packets through shops and attending stamp fairs mainly around the London area. Our stock was very limited and while learning we handled whatever came our way. Like many dealers, much of our material was British.
Stamps were very much a secondary activity for us until in 1985,when we made several giant leaps forward. Crucial in this was the decision to handle only fine used stamps and not covers or mint stamps. That meant we could concentrate better on finding fine used stamps and not spread our efforts too widely. We chose fine used stamps because in Britain, more people prefer to build up a collection of stamps that have “done their job”. We restricted our range of countries too. At this time we stocked several European countries along with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA. We gave up British stamps and all other areas not fitting our chosen range.
Another important factor was the establishment of contacts abroad. Since then we have continually sought to maintain and expand a range of suppliers who can find us material not available in the domestic market. This way of working inevitably persuaded us to start listing our stock and selling by post as well as at fairs.
The next big leap forward was in 1991-2. This was when we finally went full time in the stamps business. It had numerous consequences. We attended a larger number of stamp fairs. Finding the organisation and publicity of many fairs to be substandard, we launched Christine Borwick Fairs, our own fairs circuit. We were in a better position to control our own destiny. We drastically increased our expenditure on advertising in the stamp magazines and this benefited our fairs and our postal sales. We became regular standholders at Stampex (until it changed venue to Islington) and attended a number of big events in Germany, Holland, Switzerland and even the USA.
Progress during the 1990s was rapid. Our stock grew in size and coverage and as we tried more venues for fairs we increased our customer base. Although we stopped attending overseas fairs in 1995, we travelled over much of the UK including Bristol, the Midlands, Manchester, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
Another major innovation, starting about 1997, was the Solo Fair. Having a large and diverse stock and regular customers in many parts of the country, we were able to set up a series of these events and make them work. These effectively replaced our participation in the larger fairs in London and abroad, which were very expensive to attend and by no means as good as they were cracked up to be!
In September 1999, we launched our web site, in advance of many stamp dealers. Our web listings have been useful for large numbers of customers. They show one of the major stocks of fine used stamps in the UK, listed mainly by individual items, not in sets. We appreciate collectors want to find odd values so we cater for this.
In September 2011, disaster struck as Christine was diagnosed with cancer and it was soon apparent that her illness was terminal. She fought bravely against the illness and remained positive throughout. Sadly she passed away on 24 October 2012. There is not much more one can say except she is sorely missed and I am grateful for all the good wishes I have received on her behalf.
During Christine’s illness I carried on working when I was not visiting her. At the start of 2012, I decided our web site needed refreshing. We had suffered from technical problems since the summer of 2011. With the help of our web site provider, work has gone on to overcome these difficulties. Since February 2012 I have been able to update the web site regularly and rapidly. One of the benefits has been that postal customers who use the site can be 98% sure that what is listed is actually in stock. We now have a Gallery of better items viewable on the site and this will expand shortly.
In 2013, I am continuing with a full Fairs programme (see elsewhere on this site for a full listing). Also the postal business continues to grow and I hope to show more developments on the site soon.
Robstine Stamps, PO Box 129, Bordon, Hants.GU35 8YD, UK