The British Empire and its effect on Plymouth

Stanley Gibbons

Stanley Gibbons was largely responsible for codifying and organising the fledgling hobby of stamp collecting ending up publishing the most authoritative catalogues of stamps available. Being a port, Plymouth proved to be the perfect location to get hold of weird and wonderful stamps from all over the Empire and the World as sailors passed through the city to and from their postings and sailings.

He had been born on 21 June 1840 in Plymouth. He left Hallorans' Collegiate Establishment, Plymouth, at the age of fifteen to become a junior clerk in the Naval Bank. On the death of his eldest brother only a few weeks later, he was apprenticed to his father as a chemist.

Already interested in the new hobby of stamp collecting, he started to trade in stamps in 1856 from a desk in his father's shop. He began trading as E. S. Gibbons, then as E. Stanley Gibbons, and later as Stanley Gibbons & Co. A lucky deal in 1863 caused his business to take off: he bought two sacks of Cape of Good Hope triangular stamps for 5 pounds from two sailors who had won them in a raffle in Cape Town. He later claimed to have made 500 pounds on the deal. In November 1865 he issued a sixteen-page price list and catalogue, the forerunner of Gibbons's catalogues.

On his father's death in 1867 Gibbons took over the chemist's business, and in the 1871 census he was described as 'chemist and dealer in foreign stamps'. He sold the chemist's business in 1872 and moved to new premises at 8, Lockyer Street on Plymouth Hoe. Here he published his first Gibbons 'V.R.' stamp album, followed by the 'Improved' and illustrated 'Imperial' albums.

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by Stephen Luscombe