Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Harry Potter causes trouble for USPS - over sales to Royal Mail!

The United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General has recommended improved
management controls at Kansas City Stamp Fulfilment Services (SFS) after finding that off-sale stock had been used inappropriately, and sold to Britain's Royal Mail at a discount, something prohibited by the rules.  (Full report and response)

"The Postal Service needs to improve controls over off-sale inventory at the Kansas City SFS. Management did not follow policies to dispose of off-sale inventory in the best interests of the Postal Service. Further, management provided Harry Potter stamps at a discount to Royal Mail without Postal Service Headquarters' knowledge or approval.

"Management sold off-sale inventory at a discount during exclusive employee sales events. Postal Service policy requires employee sales to be held in conjunction with public sales or auctions that have been advertised to the general public.

"Harry Potter Stamps
"Management provided Harry Potter stamps at a discount to Royal Mail without headquarters' knowledge or approval. Specifically, after verbal agreement, management provided 2,649 books of Harry Potter stamps with a face value of $24,371 (£16,564) to Royal Mail during FY 2014.

"Headquarters contributed to this issue by allowing an environment in which management operated the SFS without regard to established guidelines. Postal Service policy states that it is unlawful for Postal Service employees entrusted with the sale or custody of postal stamps to sell stamps for less than face value. As of April 6, 2016, the Postal Service has not received payment from Royal Mail and risks losing revenue of $24,371."

It's hard to believe that Royal Mail took any stock from USPS without some sort of written agreement.  There have been reciprocal arrangements in the past when Royal Mail sold stamp products from the USPS and Canada Post, and vice versa.  Although the US$ prices set by the USPS for British products were higher than the face value equivalent, it's difficult to believe that some discount was not offered, in both directions.  Possibly the main problem with the US Harry Potter issue is that nobody at PSHQ knew about it, and hence there was no documentary approval at SFS.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Now, why would anybody forge a £1 stamp?

If you've studied Machins closely it's more than likely that you have seen a forgery at some time, whether it was the old 24p brown with it's jumbo perforations or one of the new 'security' stamps with pointy perforation teeth.  I've shown a few here before.

This week I was shown a booklet of 1st x 12 red with interesting non-phosphor bands (you'll recall that imitation bands are simply some sort of varnish).  This booklet had a selection of oddities: no 'phosphor', side-band right, interrupted band (with a 1mm vertical gap), similar 1.5mm vertical band only, ending (if I recall correctly) with another non-phosphor at the right.  I suspect it was accidental: I can't imagine that the forgers (who are producing these for postal use) would deliberately create a selection of errors that a collector might spot and highlight - that would only draw attention to the forgery when the lack of any phosphor was noticed, let alone any other give-away features.

But how about this one, bought by a reader on eBay, along with some other on-paper oddities from kiloware?

It doesn't look 'right', does it - similar to some of the 2nd class forgeries it has a halo effect round the royal portrait.  Enhancing the image does reveal some of the iridescent printing, but the real give-away is the oblique picture that our contributor managed to take (these aren't easy!):

Here, you can clearly see the M14L at the left, and MTIL at the right.    Which means the forger used the same iridescent plate as for other products.

But the real question is why they bothered with a £1 stamp at all.   Most users won't know that the coding (if they realise it is there at all) means that this should be a booklet stamp, but how are the stamps distributed?  One of the main outlets for all stamps is corner shops, small shopkeepers selling 1st & 2nd class stamps either in books or cut out and sold singly.  eBay is another outlet - I saw 20 forged books of 12 (£153.60) sold for £100 (ebay item 152119322249 while it's still visible). 

So where do you outlet stamps which aren't used for basic postage rates, and for which no actual postage rates exist?  The £1 is a make-up stamp now. 

Has anybody else seen forgeries other than 1st & 2nd class?

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Latest Royal Mail Slogan Welcomes Home Tim Peake from ISS

Royal Mail is marking the safe return of European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Tim Peake with a very special postmark.

Tim Peake has been working aboard the International Space Station on his Principia mission for 186 days. He safely docked at the station on 15 December 2015 and is the first British European Space Agency astronaut to visit the space station. During his time in space, Tim has been trialling new technologies and carrying out scientific experiments that cannot be done anywhere on Earth. He has been investigating a range of different sciences including physiology, biology, materials science, solar physics, radiation physics and technology demonstrations.

Royal Mail’s postmark will be applied to millions of items of mail nationwide from Monday 20 June 2016 to Friday 24 June 2016.  It will say ‘Welcome home Tim Peake ‘.

A Royal Mail spokesperson, said: “As the first British European Space Agency astronaut to visit the Space Station, we wanted to mark Tim’s historic return to earth with a very special postmark.  The whole country has been captivated by Tim Peake's incredible time on the International Space Station. His regular updates, tweets and images have given everyone the opportunity to see the incredible sights that are swirling about our heads.”

UPDATE 20 June
As expected the dates quote refer to when Royal Mail intended this slogan to appear on your mail, so it was first used on Saturday 18th June.  Thanks to Barry and Mikefor confirming what I guessed would be the case.  Mike's image from Tyneside MC shows the actual layout of the slogan.

And the other format from Peterborough MC on mail received here today:

Saturday, 18 June 2016

... but maybe a problem with Pink Floyd MS Souvenir envelope.

As most people know, since last autumn, Royal Mail have been selling what we all call unaddressed First Day Covers for 3 months after the date of issue.  To avoid presenting the non-philatelic population with 'jargon' products ('first day' & 'covers') these items are identified as 'Stamp Souvenir' or - in the case of the miniature sheet covers - 'Stamp Sheet Souvenir'.

On Wednesday 15th Post Office branches - those few which sell philatelic products - were sent a recall notice for product AW027, the Pink Floyd Stamp Sheet Souvenir. Oddly the recall notice describes it as the '10 x MUSIC GIANTS STAMP SOUVENIR'.  (The set of 6 stamps is product AW026, and as far as I can see there is no '10x' Souvenir available on the Royal Mail website or any list that I have been sent.)

Meanwhile, on our website, two new pages have been added, one for the Pink Floyd issue on 7 July, and the other for the Beatrix Potter bumper bundle on the 26 July.  The only thing expected to be of any interest to definitive collectors is the Potter PSB, with the retail booklet expected to contain 1st class purple stamps coded O16R REIGC.  The 5p, 10p and £1.05 stamps in the PSB should be coded M16L MPIL.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Important Announcement from Royal Mail regarding World War I stamp issue

Readers may have already read the comment on the blog posted this morning:

Just to let everyone know I have just spoken to Tallents House and they told me that the 1st World War issue will be delayed by up to 8 weeks caused by a printing error. They could not tell me if the 2nd 90th Birthday booklet due to be issued with it will also be withheld. More bad news from Edinburgh.
This comment was made in good faith, and the information was provided by Customer Services in Tallents House in good faith, but there is no printing error as such.

Royal Mail have confirmed to me that:

- the stamps, miniature sheet, PSB, and first day envelope - which are already with dealers and Post Office branches are correct in every way.

- the date of issue remains 21 June, next Tuesday and all first day and other special handstamps will be applied to first day covers sent to special handstamp centres.

- a minor production issue has affected some products not mentioned above, and this will have to be corrected.  Consequently the distribution of these stamps to Tallents House ordinary customers, and casual buyers will be split, with the products mentioned being distributed as normal (ie on or for Tuesday 21 June).  The distribution of the affected products only will be delayed by up to 8 weeks.

I am assuming that the second Queen's Birthday Retail Booklet, which somebody said was being distributed at the same time as WWI, will form part of the first distribution.

1. Reports from all quarters say that PO Ltd have told their branches not to sell the Presentation Pack OR the miniature sheet.  Seeking clarification from Royal Mail. 
     Clearly a misunderstanding between POHQ and branches, and possibly RMHQ and POHQ, not helped by the fact that the miniature sheet appears not to have been in the PO Horizon System this morning. 
     Despite that some people have managed to buy all mint stamp products with no problem. 

2.  This is the letter sent from Tallents House to standing collector account holders re the items which would be delayed.

As is always the case, RM Special Handstamp Centres will accept covers for processing when they are eventually sent, ie in a couple of months' time.

However, the Trade has not been told to hold back on distribution of serviced Royal Mail FDC.

UPDATE 22 June:
This is the notice that was sent to Post Offices on Monday.  The layout could cause confusion and may be the reason that some offices decided that the Miniature Sheet could not be sold.  But anybody who read the whole instruction would have got it right.  Of course it doesn't help that the product codes are not on the actual products, otherwise there might have been less confusion.

1. It states three items.
2. It shows which items they are - and most offices do not get any stock of the first two.
3. The last line shows that 'all other products supplied should be sold as normal'.
4. There is no mention of the blank first day envelope, which has the same insert as the souvenir products, and so the same error!

But if you don't get right to the end, the eye will settle on 'Mini Sheet' and 'Pres Packs'.  The notice may (or may not!) be easier to read on the Horizon screen, but the way it translates to the paper makes it open to misinterpretation. 

Meanwhile, as indicated in the comments, dealers are happily selling both the pack and the first day covers, because we have not been asked not to.

UPDATE 23 June
I had the opportunity to ask my village postmaster (who wasn't on an Outreach this morning) what he thought of the notice above.   He looked at it again and said, "I didn't understand it... I don't know what these things are, so I took everything off sale."  He said that it seemed clear that the Mini-sheet (and hence the Presentation Pack) were wrong.   I explained what the 'souvenir' items were - things which he didn't get anyway - and told him what he was able to sell.  He shrugged and said that for the time being they can stay in the safe!

16:00  Latest update from Post Office is a new instruction to make sure the things which should be on sale are on sale: 


Saturday, 11 June 2016

Royal Mail 500 Tour reaches London, and Post and Go A009 comes out for the occasion.

From Royal Mail's website:

"Royal Mail 500 Event

"Post and Go machine A009 will be attending an event to mark 500 Years of Royal Mail at Guildhall Yard, London on Saturday 18 June.

"The machine will vend the Machin stamp design with a '500 Years of Royal Mail' overprint. This is the same printing as previously issued at Stampex in February 2016. Royal Mail will also be offering a standard Smilers service."
 As postage rates have increased since February, the price of a Collectors' Set is higher and the receipt will be different.  And of course the stamps will be different.  There may even be Machins from both rolls.

From 'Things to do in the City of London':

"Witness a replica horse-drawn mail coach journey from the Southwark's George Inn to Guildhall Yard in the centre of the City, where it will join a host of vintage Royal Mail vehicles including vans, motorbikes and a car from the Mail Rail network

"You can also join in a walking tour and take in the sites of the first postal buildings in London as well as Postman's Park (donations welcome).

"Why you're there why not welcome Mark Penfold complete the final leg of his 500-mile walk from Edinburgh to London, as he raises money for The Lily Foundation.

"The mail coach departs The George Inn, Borough High Street at around 11am and is expected to arrive at Guildhall Yard around midday (on display until 2pm).

UPDATE:  18 June 2016
Thanks to Mike for this picture of the strips and the receipt.

As Mike writes, there is nothing obviously remarkable here, other than there being two shades; neither has a year code.

"Smilers were doing a good trade and seemed to be working okay, but would have been better had there been a 'generic' design rather than a need to supply a mugshot!!."

New York 2016 FIP International Philatelic Exhibition - Post and Go

As mentioned several times earlier, Royal Mail (and other) Post and Go machines were at New York's international stamp show at the beginning of the month.  And not only (we're told) did their agents not have any Machin definitive stamps, there was no Machin to be had from the Post and Go machines either!

Thanks again to Chris for providing these pictures, presented for the record - we are not stocking any of these.

Royal Mail UK - New York Skyline from Sea Travel set, and Union Flag (no year code)

Jersey Post 'Arms' (with show logo) and Guernsey Post 'Bailiwick Life'

Jersey and Guernsey Flags also with show inscription, from Danny at ATM World

Gibraltar Year of the Monkey and, possibly, Barbary Ape

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Gibbons' new Concise catalogue means some renumbering for booklets

As we should have expected (but forgot), the retail booklets with security-printed backing paper have been allocated new whole numbers in the new 2016 edition of Stanley Gibbons' Great Britain Concise catalogue.

I have renumbered the entries in our webshop, with the previously allocated number in brackets at the end of the title. 

Note that for correct sorting, I show 'RB5' as 'RB 5' - so that RB 9 comes before RB10, so if you are searching for a booklet by number, remember the space.

The next scheduled booklet issues are on 28 July when Beatrix Potter mixed booklet of 6 (with purple stamps), and the 6 x 1st red with new corporate logo will be issued.  In October there will be 6 and 12 x 1st, 12 x 2nd, and 4 x 1st & 2nd Large - all these will have new numbers in Gibbons Concise, so the printings of the recent ones may not be large.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Battle of Jutland Post and Go Stamps, including new locations.

As mentioned last month, the group of Royal Navy Museums has been extended to include HMSs Caroline and Trincomalee, and all locations applied the additional inscription for the Battle of Jutland.

Thanks to Chris Hockaday of Royal Navy Covers, I can now provide images of some of these as on his eBay listing.

Machine A002 is at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth:

 Machine A003 is at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton:

Machine A005 is at the Royal Marines Museum in Portsmouth:

Machine A008 is at HMS Caroline in Belfast, but has no features to distinguish it from the Portsmouth stamp aside from the machine number.

Similarly the A006 machine HMS Tricomalee (Hartlepool) has the same inscription - image awaited.  Chris reports that the RN Submarine Museum machine didn't work at all in the three hours he was there, but he has now sent a picture.

Trelantis reports the following versions of the Machin stamps at various machines:

Royal Navy - undated and MA15

Fleet Air Arm - MA13

Royal Marine - MA13 and MA15

RN Submarine - MA13 and MA15

Note that Chris's images clearly show the yellower shade on the MA15 (Marines) compared with the FAM (MA13) and NMRN (undated).   Only MA14 stamps appear in both colours and these have not been used in Royal Mail machines, only POL self-service kiosks.  (Thanks to John Gray for reminding me of the details so that I could make this comment clearer.)

Monday, 6 June 2016

Queen's Birthday retail booklet first day covers

The second retail booklet marking the Queen's 90th birthday is issued on Thursday 9th.  Most Post Office branches will not have these on the day of issue which makes life difficult for
collectors wanting to prepare first day covers.

Even if you get your booklet from a post office or direct from Tallents House, the latter don't have any blank FDCs left!  Post Office branches don't normally sell blanks after the day of issue which in this case was 21 April, so you probably can't get any from Crown Offices or from other post offices which do frequent housekeeping to return or recycle unsold FDCs.

So if any of our customers requires a first day cover like the one attached please get in touch immediately.  No more than 9 of these will be available, and the price will be £5 plus postage (they can be included with other, future, orders inclusive of postage).  Only this postmark, from Anmer King's Lynn, is available.