A new set of British postage stamps honoring American-created comic book superheroes comes with an epic price tag for those collectors looking to scoop up every bit of ephemera associated with the series.
While the 12 stamps in the “main set” are available for about $22.40, it will cost the serious collector almost $1,400 to obtain one copy of every item associated with the Sept. 17 new issue, including six stamps only issued as a special “miniature sheet” designed principally for philatelists.
Featured on those 12 stamps are Batman and what Royal Mail called “his allies and foes through the ages,” specifically: Batwoman, Robin, Batgirl, Alfred, Nightwing, The Joker, Harley Quinn, The Penguin, Poison Ivy, Catwoman and The Riddler. Of this dozen, the only character with any direct British connection would appear to be Alfred, butler to Batman and his alter-ego Bruce Wayne.
The other six stamps, Royal Mail said, “celebrate the Justice League — the World’s Greatest Super Heroes joining forces to protect the planet, featuring: Batman; Green Lantern and The Flash; Wonder Woman; Superman; Cyborg and Aquaman; Supergirl and Shazam!”
The new stamps are a joint venture between Royal Mail, the United Kingdom’s privatized postal service, and the Warner Bros.
Consumer Products unit. All 18 stamps have been specially commissioned for Royal Mail and illustrated by British comic book artist Jim Cheung and colorist Laura Martin.
In a statement, Matt Parkes, Royal Mail’s stamps and collectibles chief, said: “Generations have grown up, spellbound by the adventures and the personalities of these Super Heroes and Super-Villains. These illustrations detail each character with such vivid imagery that they look ready to leap out of the stamp!”
Also ready to leap out, it appears, is a substantial amount of money. The Royal Mail website features two pages of DC Collection-related items, including framed copies of stamp sheets staring at approximately $41.50 and going to $63.63 apiece. For $138, collectors can get one of only 750 “DC Collection Silver Wonder Woman” medals, showing the new Wonder Woman stamp design from the miniature sheet. The Royal Mail website advertised the item as “a lucrative and distinctive collectible.”
Veteran stamp collector Lloyd A. de Vries, who has run the online Virtual Stamp Club website for more than 25 years, posted the news from Royal Mail about the stamps. He said he was intrigued by the number of items in the collection offered for sale when he visited the Royal Mail site.
“Two pages of products, ranging from 30 [British] pence to 100 [British] pounds. I just said, ‘Oh my God, how much does all of this cost?’ I called up the calculator and started adding it up. And I think I came up with the £995.41 figure.”
At the time of writing this article, that total price worked out to $1,377.27 U.S., exclusive of shipping charges.
Asked about the appeal of all these items, Mr. De Vries said, “These are what I call the ‘Hey, look at me, stamps. Hey, we’re still relevant. We’re still a big, big deal. Everybody wants our stamps. Everybody’s talking about us.’”
Such a quest for relevance is a far cry from traditional stamp issues that celebrated noted historical figures, art or literature.
“The silver lining in this bloated, wretched excess issue from Britain is it puts some of the American issues that I and others have complained about in perspective,” Mr. De Vries said. The recent USPS commemoratives featuring “Backyard Games,” with a face value of $4.40 when issued, was far less of a commercial venture, he said.
“Had you bought one of every postal product” for the August U.S. release, it would have cost “less than $100,” Mr. DeVries said. “It kind of makes us appreciate the [USPS] a little bit more.”
Asked about the eye-watering price for a complete range of DC Collection items, a Royal Mail spokesperson said via email, “Many of the products – such as the framed stamps are designed to appeal outside the philatelic community and have long been available across previous stamp issues. … The stamps and other products in the range are designed to be sold on a modular basis to ensure they can be enjoyed at an affordable price for all.”
One individual who questions the affordability of the latest collectibles is Eric Friedman, an executive with Rushstamps, a 55-year-old stamp firm in Lyndhurst, a large village in the New Forest National Park in Hampshire, England.
“After this year, we won’t sell new issues from the Royal Mail,” Mr. Friedman said in a telephone interview. “It’s just not worth it.”