I’d made an appointment to see the eponymous Mr Murray of Robert Murray Stamp Shop, in Inverleith, Edinburgh. He turned out to be a charming gent who I trusted on instinct when he told me my rag-tag collection of stamps from the late 60s/early 70s wouldn’t fetch enough to cover his auction fee.
I had done almost no internet research: in fact, the only sketchy look I’d had the night before had been in relation to the Forth Road Bridge first day covers. I had three of them, but it appeared from that brief internet trawl that they were of virtually no value, despite now being over 50 years old. Sure enough, the only thing Mr Murray showed a flicker of interest in was the invite to the Bridge’s opening that was in one of the envelopes.
However, this was one of the few things I wanted to keep. It had been my Mum and Dad’s invite, through my Dad’s job and, as I may have mentioned before, I have a connection with the old Road Bridge as it was opened on my second birthday in 1964.
So I kept that, handed over most of the rest to be sold off for charity at the next auction, and ended up spending a fiver on the presentation pack Mr Murray had put together in 2014, on the Bridge’s 50th (and my 52nd, obvs, although it isn’t all about me) birthday. It’s a nice little thing to have (pics below) and I thought it book-ended my involvement with the Bridge nicely (I was also briefly involved with it through work, and went up it a couple of years ago as a result).
The more interesting bit is the story Mr Murray told me about the original first day covers – and one reason why they’re not worth anything now. Back then there was a guy ran a stamp shop as a hobby in a small West Lothian town near Edinburgh: with some interest growing in the opening of the new Bridge, and knowing the Post Office were bringing out a first day cover, he put a tiny, two-line advert in the Daily Express (back then still a widely read newspaper of some repute).
His offer was to buy the first day cover and the stamp, address it to the relevant customer, and send it on to them on opening day, 4th September – because everyone knew that, to have any value, first day covers had to have a postmark. All you needed to do was to send him your address and a postal order for an amount which gave him a small profit on the transaction.
A couple of days later the postie arrived at your man’s main business, a carpet shop, with a sackful of postal orders: in the end, he had to close it and focus on the first day cover venture, enlisting his family to do the licking, sticking and addressing by hand: 12,000 requests in all. It didn’t make him rich, but I bet it gave him a very sore tongue!
This isn’t an advert for anything. Except, I suppose, Robert Murray Stamp Shop – and I’ve not been paid for that; more adverts I haven’t been paid for below…