Friday, 15 November 2013

End of the line ? Or is it just me ...

Call me a saddo - but I have collected stamps on and off since I was a boy.  I was set to inherit my grandfathers complete collection of post WW2 UK stamps, unfortunately he sold the lot to a dealer for a pittance. 
How long will pre-printed picture stamps remain ?
As with many things in life, and along the lines of every door closed sees another open, I ended up inheriting my wifes uncle Johns collection which was far larger than the one I had missed out on.  Karma ?  Now I have an annual subscription to purchase every UK mint stamp issue, thinking that one day the whole thing will be worth a small fortune.
Unfortunately, a short visit to a stamp dealer has highlighted that my money making strategy is never going to work and the only way to see real capital growth is to spot the 'rare' issue first day covers and early stamps (of the penny black era) & these are engineered each year to bolster the inaccurate misconception that stamps offer an investment opportunity. 
Thus, my historic collection is probably worth less than the value of the stamps, but I can't give up collecting.  Why ?  Well, stamps won't be around much longer and this might either see them become worth even less or perhaps a little bit more.  They say that paintings can appreciate in value once their creator dies, knowing that the supply is finite.  In any case, I like the collecting process and the investment I put in is relatively small fry in the bigger scheme of things.

Southwest corner of Founders, Royal Holloway University of London by Carey 1890

This got me thinking about other things that are on the brink of extinction.  Verbatim, the Japanese multinational makes profits from markets that continue to buy diskettes.  (You won't have seen one of these for ten years in UK).  A great example of taking opportunities with products at the end of the product life cycle. 

I wrote post cards two times over the summer during our various visits (as featured in this blog), but failed to post them.   Weren't paintings early post cards ?  I am still in shock over paying more than £2 for postcard stamps in Stockholm and threaten to send email based Christmas greetings now that the Royal Mail wants to charge 66p for a first class stamp.  The tourism literature is beginning to address the simultaneous experience exchange now feasible due to widespread wifi.  I sent gloating images of my kids in the pool with regular temperature updates to family and friends back home whilst we were away - what is then the point of postcards ?

Software companies (like  appear to be in the process of shifting their business model to a service or lease basis, enabled by web 2.0 broad band delivery and away from the intriguing iterative release product concept.  The end of software piracy ? 

The iPad has shown that these days you don't need a disk drive or USB stick any more, unthinkable and a major product flaw when it was launched.  Bam ! and virtual memory skydrives are all the rage. I certainly don't covet bigger, smaller, cooler memory sticks any more - I have a collection that is little used.

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are being developed by leading Universities (including our very own University of London) offering free access to leading teaching using innovative, scalable teaching approaches.  Might we see campus based education propositions lose their "right of passage" status in favour of cheaper, work friendly learning propositions ?

Can virtual reality and imitation tourist experience obfuscate the need for holidays that see you travel ?  Surely it is possible to construct a full range of experiences that would satisfice this need without using up precious carbon credits. 

Might shareware programmes, as trail blazed by Mayor of London and the Barclays/Boris's bikes scheme (and various car pooling options) see us forgo conspicuous consumption that sees many expensive assets underutilised ? 

Smart phones and touchless near field technology could see virtual payment become main stream and replace centuries old physical money.  Cheques are used less and less each year,  young people even claim not to write cheques (or watch real time terrestrial television for that matter), soon banks will charge big bucks for using cheques, which will be seen as an expensive and antiquated system. 

What else do you think will be gone or on its way out by 2020 ?