I promised you more on the Connoisseur, so here it is.
The first edition of the Connoisseur was published in 1977, just as the decimal Machins were starting to get complex. There was definitely a need for it. Douglas Myall hadn't published his handbook yet. I don't remember if Alan Wilson's catalog (the predecessor to the current Machin Collectors Club catalog) was available at that time. Gibbons had its specialized catalog, but not everyone cared for it. The British Decimal Stamps Study Circle was trying to publish a catalog but was never successful at it. So the Connoisseur filled a need and, as far as I know, enjoyed some success.
As you can see on their web site, annual editions were published through 1982, but then they started falling behind. New editions were three years apart through 1995, and then they gave up, except for a supplement in 2001.
However, two things have managed to keep the Connoisseur alive. The Connoisseur is published by a dealer, B. Alan, Ltd. B. Alan also published a new issue bulletin called "Variety Club News" (fondly known as VCN) and included in that were Connoisseur numbers for new issues. I don't know if B. Alan is still publishing VCN, but apparently new Connoisseur numbers are still being assigned.
There is also a Connoisseur album that has been updated through 2002, according to the order form available on the web site. Collectors who purchased the album have a motivation to continue using it, with its accompanying catalog. (The album is very nicely done - and rather expensive.)
All that said, however, there's the question of whether the Connoisseur, if brought up to date and made available online only, would be successful.
There are several factors to that. First, is it possible for an online-only publication to succeed with stamp collectors? Second, now that the Deegam Handbook and the Machin Collectors Club Catalog exist, with Gibbons still alive and kicking, is there room for yet another comprehensive Machin catalog? One dealer told me that the number of customers using the Connoisseur numbers has dropped off in recent years.
Another way of asking that is what does the Connoisseur bring that these other publications are lacking?
It's too soon to say, but I'll toss in what I think are one positive aspect and one negative one.
The positive one is that the sample chapter that is available for download on the web site is full of useful information about the stamps. The chapter covers "Non-Standard Design Machins and Decimal Definitives with Security Features", a group that includes the 1990 double-heads (with Queen Victoria's portrait added), the Millennium Machin, the Pricing in Proportion Machins, the decimal Wilding reissues and others. Each section is well-illustrated and contains an extensive description of the issues listed.
The negative aspect is the organization of the catalogue. That's a subjective judgment, and I know there are many opinions on that topic. My opinions are based on the organization of the older editions, and it is possible that the new version will be different. I will, of course, not make a final judgment until more chapters are available, but here's what Connoisseur did in the 1980s.
When the first edition of the Connoisseur was published, all low-value Machins had been printed by Harrison and Sons. In 1980, the British Post Office began to use other printers for a handful of values.
So Connoisseur was divided into sections. One was Machins printed by Harrisons. The other was Machins printed by anyone else. Worse yet, the organization of these two sections was different. If I recall correctly, singles and cylinder blocks were listed separately for Harrison stamps but combined for the other printers.
As the 1980s moved into the 1990s, the number of stamps produced by these other printers grew. From 1993 to 1997, Enschede printed the whole set of low-value Machins, leaving only a few stamps for Harrison. The division between "Harrison" and "everyone else" no longer made sense.
I suspect that the Connoisseur has rectified that situation by now. But I'm still concerned. Look again at the title of the posted chapter. It includes "Non-Standard Design Machins." In that group are the special Machins issued last year for the new Pricing in Proportion scheme - the ones that have the big numeral and small Machin portrait of the Queen.
But what if our worst nightmare came true and the full set of Machins was issued with that new design? Would it still be "non-standard"? Or would the PiP design become "standard" and the classic design (if I may call it that) become "non-standard"?
With the Machins, and with any current postage stamp series, there's a risk in assuming that what is true today will remain true in the future. Basing the organization of a catalog on today's truths can lead to problems with tomorrow's.
I look forward to seeing what B. Alan will do with this new edition of the Connoisseur. The site for the online edition is here.