Thursday, 11 February 2016

Crazy Australia Stamps Update ! Expensive kiloware!

An update on the Australian Emergency 30c stamps from Adelaide.  

Before you look at the answer which I have added to the original post, what would you think this single piece from kiloware.  Used on the first day of availability, 6 January 2016, cut quite close.

Remember this cover, which is not first day, sold for A$1694.58 - £842!!!

Here's the original report - there's money down-under, for the right thing!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Post and Go machine M001 had a life before BFPO

When Royal Mail announced that Post and Go machine M001 was being installeed at RAF Northolt's BFPO facility, some people asked where it had been before that.   The IAR website is silent on the subject, showing no 'history' on the relevant page.

So it happens that a complete coincidence has led to my being able to reveal the answer and show an example.  As you can see, these were purchased on 16 March 2015, at a time when the machines at Crewe and Bradford North were printing the location on their stamps.  This stopped on 30 March when rates increased.

The collectors strip had a top value of Worldwide 60g.  As you can see from this 1st class stamp, the location is Wheatstone House -

and as you can see from the receipt, this is in Swindon.

(Both images are from a photo which I have enhanced.)

A scan image of the purchases after the rate increase:


Wheatstone House is the base for ROMEC, Royal Mail's facilities management company, but there is (or was) also a Delivery Office there, because RM had adverts for postmen/women-drivers there.  On the other hand the local newspaper said that the DO was closing with relocation nearby, so only those really in the know can explain.

Anyway, my contact says that the machine was located at the training centre part of Wheatstone House and was accessible to anyone visiting the site, from outside contractors to postal staff. 
Apparently it did take cash but changed to card-only in early March.

After the tariff increase on 30 March the caption was removed.  The stamps I have seen from this period are from session 0085, so there were not that many transactions in the intervening period.  (On the other hand, session 0085 shows stamp numbers exceeding 150, so plenty were bought at that time.)

So, if the stamps were being bought on a regular basis by people who wanted to post letters, why have none appeared in kiloware?  One would expect that at least one would have shown up somewhere?  Or maybe sales were really very slow.   Maybe some people bought them as souvenirs of their training course??  (Stranger things have happened!)

There is an earlier mention of M001 on the oh-so-inconsistent IAR website, though this does not tie in with the previously mentioned kiosk history:
M001 on the move

M001, the first of the new Royal Mail Enquiry Office kiosks is being moved from its location in Wheatstone House to an Enquiry Office to help with the Christmas rush.

A site survey is being carried out this week, and we will confirm venue and installation date shortly.
No indication that Wheatstone House is in Swindon, and it never did turn up in 'an Enquiry Office'. My guess is that that move did not happen, and it was eventually removed for transfer to BFPO after servicing.

This official statement from Royal Mail (for which many thanks!) tells the story in more detail and accuracy:

Machine M001 was installed in Wheatstone House on 27 April 2015 [Date to be queried]. The primary purpose was as a development machine for the Enquiry Office Upgrade Project where new features could be tested prior to going live in offices. The machine never took cash – there is no facility to do so. Wheatstone House was chosen because it is the base for Royal Mail Engineering (as opposed to ROMEC) who undertake the various business approvals for any new equipment. The machine was available for use by staff and visitors but only as a straightforward stamp vending facility.

The overprint was removed, along with Crewe and Bradford, following feedback from collectors, so that the same stamps could be obtained from any enquiry office site (ignoring the print string variants). Therefore stamps, with and without the identifier are in the marketplace.

The machine was removed in October 2015 ( I don’t have an exact date) as there was no further requirement for it following approvals of its new features. It was then refurbished and was lined up to go to another enquiry office but the project is holding on five machines at present. M001 was therefore held in store for the period prior to installation at BFPO Northolt on 1 February 2016.

Have you ever seen a Post and Go stamp from machine M001 in 2015, mint, used, on eBay or actual?  Dates and session numbers will be most useful. 

Friday, 5 February 2016

First stamp booklet with backing paper print - from last year.

Following on from the Walsall-printed 2nd class Business Sheet (reported here) we can now show the first booklet reported on printed backing paper (also printed by Walsall).

GW has sent this image of the Long To Reign 6x 1st booklet, with O15R year code.  These ought to be fairly widespread but without knowing the size of the printing, it is impossible to know whether it will be plentiful. 

Further printing with O16R year code will surely appear later this year and those will also have the printing on the backing paper, but it may be that the O15R supplies will not be common.

We have none available yet - but when they are, there will be demand for booklets as well as for single stamps.

UPDATE 7 February 2016
2nd class booklets of 12 and 1s Large booklets of 4 have now been found with the new backing. Details are:

6x1st purple - packing date 06/01/16 and 12/01/16
12x2nd - packing date 23/11/15
4x1st - packing date 21/12/15

All have 2015 year code, and have the more recent duller phosphor. 

Thursday, 4 February 2016

We're Off! £1.33 counter sheet leads the way in new year Machin printings.

Although the 1st and 2nd class NVI counter sheets do get reprinted, there are so many other sources of these stamps - booklets, business sheets - and so many 1st class special stamps, that many Post Office branches don't need these basic values in sheets.  No surprise then that the first M16L printing to appear is the 20g Worldwide airmail stamp, the £1.33.

This has been found with a printing date of 08/01/16, demonstrating that production is sailing quite close to the wind as these are out in Post Office branches already.  Remember that De La Rue are moving stamp printing to Malta sometime this year so anything could happen!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

New Logo on Postal Museum Faststamps - But not without problems.

As could have been predicted, the production of new Post and Go Faststamps at the newly-branded Postal Museum (see earlier) wasn't without its problems.

The Museum opened on schedule at 10 am but no stamps were sold until 11.19am, apparently due to a problem with the way the logo was printed.  Nonetheless, on the stamps which were sold, the logo and text layout on the pictorial stamps is quite different to those on the Machins.  (Images from Chris, thanks also to Brian and Doug.)

Trelantis reports that year codes are: Brown Machin MA13, Union Flag Undated, Heraldic Lion MA15 and 2nd Class MA12.

I can only think this is deliberate, to allow for extra text to be added, when needed, on the Machins.  This would preclude any additional inscription on the pictorial stamps, such as the various Transport stamps in the Postal Heritage set, which may be used singly at the BPMA to accompany different exhibitions during the Royal Mail 500 year.

UPDATE 3 February.  Thanks to DP for this image of the actual new handstamp:

Brian reports that the new logo has also been extended to other merchandise, and they also have a different logo for Post and Go.  This appears on their website in two forms. The 'negative' form is essentially transparent and I have coloured it so that it shows.  It does seem odd to to have two different forms, and have the text in two different styles.

[For those reading on some mobile devices the lower logo may appear squashed and out of proportion: that is a problem with the display.  On desktop it appears in approximately the same dimensions as the upper one.]

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Burns Night Slogan Postmark returns

As last year, Royal Mail used a slogan postmark last week to remind us of Burns Night.

The postmark appears to have been used only on Saturday 23 January for Monday 25th delivery.  This is a particularly good example from Exeter sent by Robert, aided by the position of the stamp!

It also exists in the other format, this example from Manchester

By the way, this is post number 1000 - thanks to all the people who have made this possible!

Sunday, 31 January 2016

And you thought some Post and Go stamps reached crazy prices!

Unusual stamps, errors, and varieties often have a value greater than the normal stamps.  Once upon a time a dealer would find something, and offer it to his regular customers, or put it into the specialist auction where a price would be achieved.  Even in more recent times this method of sale has continued, with the Victoria Cross Prestige Book with missing gold reaching over £10,000 at auction.

But these days, casual finds by collectors and non-collectors are more likely to end up on the eBay internet auction site.  More people use it (whether for stamps or other goods), more people access it - around the world - and more publicity is generated.

Back in November, Australia Post was given permission to raise the postage rate from 70c to $1 (a massive hike, which recalls Royal Mail's jump from 46p to 60p).   [At the same time a new Priority letter service was introduced - a bit like our 1st class - costing $1.50, but that's another matter!]

Plenty of time to print new $1 stamps, and arrange for supplies of 30c stamps to supplement exisitng letter rate stamps, one would think.  (Australia hasn't grasped the concept of NVIs yet.)  But close to the end of the year the new 30c stamps were still being distributed and sure enough when the rates increased on 4 January, there were shortages. 

Luckily, Adelaide GPO still had the 22 year old Counter Printed Stamp ("CPS") machine that they have used for decades to produce special overprints at some smaller stamp shows in the Adelaide region, and used that.  The base stamps, like our Post and Go stamps, are produced for the value and other text to be added when needed.  In the 1990s the machines were used all over Australia and the stamps appeared with text for shows such as Philakorea, Austrapex 95, Singapore 95, Hong Kong 97, Melbourne GPO, etc.  The stamps in use this year have the year 1994 micro-printed in the design - these have been gathering dust for a long time!

So, with a machine available to print stamps on demand, what would be more obvious than to print extra stamps locally until such time as supplies of the ordinary 30c definitives were delivered.  And that's what they did.  To alleviate the shortfall the Adelaide GPO printed up an unknown quantity of 30c Counter-Printed Stamps with 'Adelaide 2016' text.

The news broke on the Stampboards forum on 17 January. 

The stamps were distributed to Adelaide metropolitan corporate post shops that reordered 30c stamps that week and these Corporates also re-distributed supplies to Licensed Post Offices in their immediate area.  The issue is a retail product, and NOT a philatelic product, and therefore No FDI covers were, or will be, produced.   To reinforce the treatment, as retail products the stamps were distributed in packs of 100 stamps, usually made up of strips of five as they are easier to count.   Adelaide GPO had them in strips of five or ten and the more collectable strips of six (different designs) could only be sourced from those strips of ten. As distribution was only to offices that ran out of 30c stamps during a four day period only they will be worth chasing.   More on Stampboards.

The first mint set appeared on eBay on 20 January.  For a face value of A$1.80 (90p) it sold for a remarkable A$1051.11 (£522.80).  Here's a single

But of course that was only the start.  This emergency issue made headlines in the mainstream media, newspapers, radio and television - Sydney Morning Herald, Canberra Times, ABC Radio, etc.  So more non-collectors in the Adelaide area looked in their wallets and purses and out came more.  A single stamp on a cover with a clear date attracted 67 bids which pushed it up to A$1694.58 - £842!!!

This piece of kiloware has one of the emergency stamps used on the first day of availability, 6 January 2016,  and sold for A$2,025 - that's £1,420 !!

Collectors of Australian stamps are much more aware of the value of building up a modern postal history collection than those of most other countries.  Sure, some collectors concentrate on a particular stamp or issue and find genuine commercial uses for as many values and destinations as they can, but those are the exception.

Of course it helps that the Australian Commonwealth Specialists' Catalogue lists the purposes for which the stamps of those rates were issued, and values each and every special stamp on cover.   Specialists recognise a genuine use to an uncommon destination as being scarcer and more desirable than to common destinations, and are prepared to pay more for them to enhance their collections.

So, if you have friends in Adelaide who have written recently, take another look at the stamps on the envelope.  And if you have access to Australia kiloware, look closely in the coming months because most of these - like the example above - were used by ordinary people on ordinary letters.

Now only if we could start collecting similarly in the UK.   Certainly the non-philatelic use of modern higher-value stamps issued by Royal Mail is not commonly collected.  For people who do collect stamps on cover, I shall be offering some like this later this year.

£1.52 definitive paying 20-100g rate to Belarus December 2015
£1.60 and 2 x Waddington(?) 4d on Special Delivery London - Bury St Edmunds February 1988

Meanwhile, I have some Australian stamps to look at!
Thanks to Glen Stephens and all at Stampboards for images and text which produced this article.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Post and Go Museum Update

From Royal Mail's Post and Go News website:

BFPO Trial

Kiosk M001 is to be installed at BFPO HQ in RAF Northolt. It will be used as an evaluation kiosk for BFPO requirements. The kiosk is not available to the public and initially will vend stamps for personnel on the base. Weigh and Vend scales and other equipment will be added at a later date as the evaluation progresses.

Royal Air Force
Machines A006 and A008 will be installed in RAF Hendon and RAF Cosford respectively from March 2016.  [These two machines will be at Spring Stampex for the last time, therefore.]

Exact dates to be advised. Both locations will carry the overprint ‘Royal Air Force’ and will vend Machin and Union Flag stamp designs. 

..... and, no doubt, Poppies at the appropriate time.  I forecast these locations a while ago, which suggests that I am spending too much time thinking about Post and Go!  No more guesswork for me!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Stampex Post and Go stamps update, update V2

Royal Mail have advised that the Machin and Locomotive stamps may be pre-ordered in strips of 6, which means that it will be easier for dealers to supply 1st class only from those designs from B001.  Stampex details here.

Why can't they just make a decision and stick to it?

From Royal Mail's Post and Go News:

Spring Stampex 17-20 February 2016
Kiosks A006, A008 and A009 will be in operation at Spring Stampex.

All machines will carry the new issue RM Heritage Transport designs with machines A008 and A009 also carrying the Machin design with a ‘500 Years of Royal Mail’ overprint.

Machine A006 will also carry single design reels of the locomotive design from the RM Heritage Transport set.

Jersey machine JE01 will carry the new issue Jersey Crest designs along with the Jersey Flag. The flag design will carry a ‘500 Years of Postal History’ overprint.

Guernsey machine GG01 will carry the new Bailiwick Life designs along with the Guernsey Flag. The flag design will carry a ‘500 Years of Postal History’ overprint.

Gibraltar machine GI01 will carry the new international Year of the Monkey design alongside the Gibraltar Flag. No overprint will appear on the Gibraltar Flag design.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Latest stamps added to our webshop.

The weekend trip to the York Stamp and Coin Fair was successful and uneventful, and I obtained supplies of the two new 2nd class Machin stamps, the 2015 coil and the business sheet with printed backing paper.

Also in this shop update we have added some VFU and fine used definitives, which we know some customers, especially outside the UK, find hard to obtain at reasonable prices.

There are also some Christmas high-values very fine used.  As usual you can find these by clicking on the 'Recent Additions' link.  (Remember, they are shown chronologically according to when they were added to the shop.)

All the used self-adhesive stamps are on white paper.  Many collectors believe that - despite the extra bulk of part of the envelope - the stamps are better presented this way, and will have not suffered any damage during the removal from the envelope by whatever chemical means.

Coming soon: the five airmail NVI stamps in various forms, and the booklets in which they were issued. These are three of them.