Monday, 5 December 2016

Royal Mail 2017 stamp programme

I'm sorry to disappoint all of you who expect that this post will show the programme, but it doesn't!

In years gone by (not so long ago) Royal Mail distributed the stamp calendar at Autumn Stampex but no more.  Although they announce the programme to the stamp trade at that event, with details of the first six months, all information is now on strict embargo.  And even if it wasn't, the last list I saw showed at least two 'To Be Announced' entries with not even the month known!

I've been told that the programme will not be announced until January.  All I can do is repeat what was printed in the October edition of the Philatelic Bulletin (and reprinted in some magazines):
- Ancient Britain
- Royal Mail Heritage - Mail by Rail
- Racehorse Legends
- Windsor Castle
- Post and Go
I expect Mail by Rail to be a Post and Go issue, and Windsor Castle to be similar to Buckingham Palace - so 6 sheet stamps, 4 in a miniature sheet and an expensive prestige stamp book.  I also expect there to be a 10 x 1st class set in March or April just before the postage rates increase.

To find out more about new issues readers should look at the websites of first day cover producers.  Restrictions by Royal Mail Stamps and Collectables mean that cover producers and others can often promote their own products 10 weeks before the issue date.

However I can't now publish pictures of any of the Royal Mail products (stamps, FDCs, etc - even if I was using a special postmark on my Royal Mail FDCs) "until the stamp images are released by us via our website or in mailings to regular order customers".

Typically Royal Mail will undertake PR on the day of issue with a “buy them now” notice.

So I'm sorry, I'm not going back to first day cover production just so that I can provide the pictures and other details at the earliest possible time.  And you can't rely on the philatelic press either because they have never had the '10 week' rule even though they have long printing lead times.

The Royal Mail Philatelic Bulletin costs £18.95 (UK and Europe) or £24.95 (rest of world): you can ask for a sample copy but I leave it to you to decide whether it is value for money, given that some of the details of new issues have, in the past, been omitted or inaccurate.

I've been told that there will be a PR announcement for 1 January about (all or one of) next year's new issues, but I have no details.  This may mean that - as last year - the first you read about some of the new stamps will be in the national press on that day, if you can be bothered to go and get a newspaper!   Again, look at the websites of majors, like The Telegraph.

Manchester Large Flat postmarking machine in use this year

We recently received a C3 envelope folded and taped to be almost square, cancelled with Manchester's 'Large Flat' postmarking machine.  

We first saw this a few years ago on a bulk mailing but have seen little reported about it since, and no extension to other areas.  The place and date portion is partly printed on adhesive tape, so it doesn't show, but there is no doubt that this is Manchester Mail Centre in November 2016.  Rather than any seasonal message it has the Postcode slogan.

Look out for unusual postmarks on your Christmas mail, and let us know what you find.  We'll be reporting more on slogan postmarks very soon.

New Machin Parcel Labels from Post Office SSKs

Readers will recall the changes to the Horizon labels (right) to incorporate the 2D bar code (reported in October 2015).  The purpose of this was to increase Royal Mail's ability to track parcels through their system even when the customer had not paid for a tracked service. 

This change had already been introduced for big users and contract customers, and Royal Mail was keen to extend it to packets and parcels sent from Post Office counters.  However that still left stamped mail, and mail sent using Open Value labels from the Self-Service Kiosks (SSK) in Post Office branches - senders were increasingly encouraged to use SSKs instead of the counter which could then be used more for foreign money and insurance transactions.

Although not unexpected, this change seems to have been unannounced.  I understand from the British Postmark Society that trials started in September and I know that the system is still being rolled out across the branch network.  The labels are dispensed from a third printer added to the machines - I doubt that the rolls can be loaded in positions 1 and 2 - but time will tell.  The new label is very similar to the new-style horizon label above:

As with other Post and Go stamps these have a year code, located to the right of the Queen's head:

Unfortunately the Norwich SSK machines are producing a very poor quality print, but the similarity is obvious, even if the details are repositioned.   From the top, the date, weight and value (£1.20 in this case).  At lower right, the destination postcode, house number, branch code and VAT code.  I presume that the country is shown if the destination is overseas, and the PO Box number in place of the house number.

At one time one could find a comprehensive list of PO branches which had Wincor and then NCR machines, identified by Branch Code.  Unfortunately this is difficult to maintain without input from a great many people and a lot of work: as the network has expanded it has become more difficult and each relocation (eg from a Crown Office) brings a new branch code.  Norwich Castle Mall Crown Office was 019136; the new office in WHSmith's St Stephen's Street branch is 558136) 136 being the area code).

However, if you have a smart-phone with a QR-code reader or bar-code reader, you may be able to interpret the data included in the 2D barcode.   This one produced the data string:
JGB 422 2A021884384400397F558136000011
3100120241116122              133                                NR31NY  GBRNR13QP
with 133 NR3 1NY being the destination address, and NR1 3QP being the Post Office branch postcode.  241116 is the date of production of the label, and theoretically the date of posting, while (0)120 is the postage.   If anybody can interpret the rest, I will be pleased to add it.

UPDATE 6 December:
No sooner had I posted this than DP sent a link to a batch of Post and Go/SSK stamps on eBay which included this pair of Hibernating Animals.

I don't think there is any text on the upper one and I can't read the postmark.  He also writes:
Whilst I was buying the open value versions of the labels, the machine at Ealing printed the large letter label on the new large size label. I understand from discussions with the lady overseeing the machines that if either the 1st or 2nd class printer can’t print the label, it is printed on the large label, so large NCR labels with weights under 101g should be worth looking out for. I’ve attached a scan of the large and small size labels (although they are different weights they are both under the 101g that trigger the vending of the large label). Conversely if the large label printer can’t print it defaults to the small labels printers.
DP also provided this image showing £2.45 labels printed on large and small stock on the same day, three sessions apart (972/975):

On the left the new larger label for an airmail large letter.  On the right an Open Value normal size stamp for the same service.  The datastring on the OV stamp is 139006-68-00975-01, that is Branch 139006, session 68-975, stamp 1.  The large label is session 68-972 but the datastring printed vertically at the lower right (next to the large L) is 68-292.  The barcode on this one reads

JGB 426 7A02121EFE44001245139006000003
4100245181116526                                                           FRAW52NH
I suspect 'FRA' refers to France as a destination.

Empty Postmark Bulletin wasn't published.

A message from Royal Mail Special Handstamp Liaison in Edinburgh:
I can confirm that there will be no postmark bulletin issue for the 25th of November. As there were no postmarks to be advertised it was decided not to produce an issue for this date. The next edition will be on the 9th of December which will be the last issue of the year.
As collectors of postmarks and collectors who like to service their own first day covers with one of the sponsored handstamps will know, the number of sponsored postmarks has been declining over the past few years.

I believe this reflects a decline in the sales of first day and other commemorative covers, although some subjects (railways, for instance) still seem to have their followers.  There are fewer first day cover producers than there were even 10 years ago and anybody who goes to Stampex or smaller local stamp fairs will have seen Royal Mail standing order covers being sold at less than 50p no matter what the face value.  Even small limited editions sell for far less than their original cost.

Of course collectors buy for the enjoyment of what they collect, but don't imagine there is a fortune being left to your beneficiaries: they are almost always due for disappointment.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Around the world in something under 80 days.

I'm sorry I wasn't able to give the quiz answers as soon as I expected, but a large number of orders for the stamps which surfaced in our absence kept me busy, and then we had some pre-Christmas family visits to do.  So, before we get back to work, this being Sunday, a recap on our absence.

Our holiday was more than that, it was a celebration of 40 years of married life, and a chance to recharge the batteries.  The planning started this time last year, when we decided on 4 or 5 weeks in New Zealand, which eventually stretched to six weeks.  Since our 20s neither of us has ventured outside Europe, but decided that the direct flights to NZ were too long, so we would need some stopovers.  

We don't like extreme heat so, deciding that Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok would probably be too warm, we opted for Tokyo.  We left Heathrow on August 29th (bank holiday Monday in the UK), flew overnight (and over Norwich!), and spent three nights in Tokyo.  As identified by several readers, picture 5 does indeed show Tokyo - the Sky Tower on the left, and the Asahi Beer HQ across the river from the Asakusa landing for the Tokyo River Cruises.

As you can see it was clear blue skies and our plans went awry at the first hurdle as the temperature climbed to 33C or more!   We weren't brave enough to try the trains or buses on this short visit and took the boat from Takeshiba to Asakusa where we guided ourselves to the Senso-Ji temple.  Due to high tides we could not return on the boat we had planned to, and so our return journey was through Tokyo at night.

We thoroughly enjoyed our brief stay in Japan and we hope to return to see more of the country.

The next long flight was to Auckland.  Neither of us slept well on the aircraft so we were pleased not to have hired a car from the airport to start our tour immediately.

We used Top 10 Holiday Parks and pre-booked out first stop at Kauri Coast (Kaihu).  After a couple of nights there we headed to Russell on the Bay of Islands.  Picture 9 is taken from Flagstaff Hill on the Russell side of the bay, and shows the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, as correctly identified by a few readers.

At Russell I reset the options on the GPS: from Kawakawa we should have gone to Opua and across the ferry to Okiato, but the device led us on an interesting journey via Waikare Road and Russell-Whakapara Road.  Those who know the area will appreciate that this was our first experience of New Zealand's unsealed roads - what fun! 

For our next stop we headed beyond Auckland.  We were aiming for Coromandel but most of the sites were booked up for Friday night so we ended up in the backwater of Orere Point.

Then we headed down the coast of the Firth of Thames, past Tauranga to Rotorua from where we visited some of the thermal lake areas, and the Buried Village. We took a stroll around the town, and I found a collectable shop with some postal history and couldn't deny myself the opportunity!  One walk took us to the former bath house which is now the Rotorua Museum, as shown in picture 4. 

After a few days we headed on to Gisborne, via Whatakane and Matawai using the Waioeka Gorge.  Good job we didn't have to ask how to pronounce some of these names - four vowels in a row!  At Gisborne we were close to the beach and quickly went for a walk before the evening light faded.  In a nearby park was the statue of Captain James Cook shown in picture 13, again correctly identified by some readers. 

Our next stop after Gisborne was a few days at Hastings on Hawke's Bay, which included visits to Napier and Havelock North.  Picture 14 is on the second storey of the Art Deco Centre - and also on one of Universal Mail's stamps, sold only at the Napier I-Site (information centre).  Highlight, though, was the Gannet Colony at Cape Kidnappers - but I could bore you with hundreds of pictures of birds, so I'll post them on flickr later.  Meanwhile here's a link to one on Photobucket.

While planning our route through North Island there was always a problem in deciding where to go and where to leave out.  It would have been good to go to Taranaki, but that is right over on the west, and we hadn't even done the whole of the East Cape area.  With an Interisland crossing booked for 27 September we went west to Whanganui before heading down to Wellington.  Picture number 1 is indeed at Whanganui, this stainless steel globe sculpture by David McCracken on the riverside is here viewed with a long lens from the top of the Elevator at Durie Hill.  And picture 2 is the Wellington Cable Car tunnel, which took us from the huge Botanical Gardens to the downtown area - and Wellington is so much more appealing than Auckland.

And so to South Island!  Of course the first stop was Picton as that is the Interislander ferry terminal.  And picture number 15 (below left) is one of the more difficult ones in the quiz.  Pita Rua carved the whale into a tree using his chainsaw.  St Joseph's Church is in the background.  While at Picton we had a short excursion to Havelock (yes, the original one), along Queen Charlotte Drive.

As the sea forecast was poor we headed west to Greymouth instead of taking a whale-spotting tour from Kaikoura, a place many of you will have heard about recently.  The Greymouth site was right next to the beach - and the airfield (where no permission is required to land), and the railway.

The west coast highway was far easier than I had expected, and we headed south through Hokitika to Franz Josef and a trek to the glacier, or as close to it as we could get. Seeing an ice cave alongside the track did make us wonder how much of the 'rock' we were walking on and round was actually ice.  But the weather was better on the day we left, and we took the opportunity to drive to the Fox Glacier viewpoint and this provides picture number 17, another long-lens shot (above right).

Another pre-booked stop was at Te Anau for the Milford Sound excursion so we headed down to the Haast Pass, and on to Wanaka, by-passing Queenstown which is said to be almost as expensive as Auckland!  Picture 18 is indeed the village of Milford Sound from the boat.   We were blessed with excellent weather at Wanaka, Te Anau and Milford (named after Milford Haven).  Another off-road highlight was from Wanaka to the start of the Rob Roy track - a mostly unsealed road, with 9 fords!

From Te Anau we headed to Dunedin, including driving the Presidential Highway.  What?, you say, New Zealand doesn't have a president!  No, but it does have a 44km road which runs between the towns of Clinton and Gore!   After Dunedin we headed to Christchurch for our flight to Auckland, and then out of New Zealand.  Pictures 16 and 6 were correctly identified as Dunedin Railway Station and the Re:Start Mall in Christchurch, the latter made from containers while the city is rebuilt after the 2011 earthquake which toppled the cathedral spire and resulted in most of the central city blocks bearing the red and white logo of Wilson's car-parks.  The devastation which is still evident was very sobering.

Our air ticket was designed as 'round-the-world' requiring us to continue in an easterly direction.  Val had wanted to visit San Francisco while I had a liking for New Orleans, so we flew from Auckland to San Francisco, staying for a few days and seeing the Japanese Garden in Golden Gate Park (picture number 3).   Although we were losing hours with every eastward trip, we gained an extra October 15th, checking into our SF hotel at an earlier local clock time than our flight from Christchurch, on the same day.

Rather than drive to New Orleans - or fly direct - we decided to take the train, specifically the Sunset Limited from Los Angeles which left LA at around 10pm on the Wednesday and scheduled to arrive in NO just before 10pm on Friday.  Of course we missed southern California (it being dark), and a further stretch, but there was plenty to see during daylight hours including El Paso Amtrak Station - picture 7.  This is much more impressive than, for example, the station at Houston Texas which is more like a couple of portacabins.

We had a great time in and around New Orleans including the Steamboat trip and a visit to the alligator swamps, and of course, street jazz, bar jazz, and excellent food.  Cutting a long journey short for the purposes of this narrative, picture number 11 is indeed Jackson Square with St Louis Cathedral in the background as identified by a number of readers.   New Orleans is another place added to the 'must go back' list, but maybe not San Francisco.

As we had relatives in Halifax NS we paid them a visit coinciding with Halloween, needing two flights, via Newark NJ.  While in (largely sunny) Nova Scotia we visited Lunenburg, the colourful subject of picture number 10.  We hired another car to drive down to Boston as our ticket package didn't allow a return flight from Halifax (only JFK, Washington or Boston - or Vancouver).   On the way through New Brunswick we had to visit a third Havelock just to get off the fairly tedious highway - nothing to see but trees, not even much traffic.  In New England we passed through the deprived areas of rural Maine, and through and around the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the famous Bretton Woods Mount Washington hotel. - picture number 12.


We couldn't see Mount Washington - New Hampshire was largely cloudy and wet.   But Boston - where we had an afternoon and much of the next day to wander - was sunny and bright, and we enjoyed our last day.  On the opposite side of the bay to the city is Boston Logan Airport with - as one person identified - the Hyatt Hotel on the left with the control tower behind (picture 8).

We landed at Heathrow at 9am on November 6th, breezed through the formalities and met our taxi driver by 9.30.  He had us back in Dereham in not much more than a couple of hours, and it was all over!

Thanks to everybody who took an interest.  I'll check out the replies and contact the prize winners before the end of the week.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Machin Definitive Stamps issued in 2016

Barring any last minute surprises we now have a complete list of Machin definitives issued or first available during 2016.  The surprise change in colour of the red stamps has boosted the total with 2016 codes to 39 - and there remains the possibility that the counter two sheet stamps might also appear in the darker colour, and any of the counter sheet stamps may have been printed by De La Rue on security backing paper, if their earlier problems have been resolved.

These stamps have been incorporated into the comprehensive Norvic Philatelics Security Machin Checklist which is available to download now.   

2016 stamps summary - these have been issued or first found in 2016

2015 Year Codes   (8)
2931R.5 -   2nd class coil - MRIL - reported used, then mint

2911B.5a - 2nd class business sheet MBIL on security backing paper (SBP)

2914B.5a - 1st class red business sheet MBIL on SBP 
2915B.5a - 1st Large red business sheet MBIL on SBP
2931.5a -   2nd class book of 12 MTIL on SBP

2936.5a -   1st class red book of 12 MTIL on SBP

3745a  -     1st class amethyst purple book of 6 on SBP [O15R]
2937.5a -   1st Large book of 4 on SBP

2016 Year Codes (M16L unless otherwise stated) (39)
2911.6  -    2nd class counter sheet - plain backing paper (PBP)

2911B.6 -  2nd class business sheet MBIL on security backing paper (SBP)
2913.6 -    2nd Large counter sheet printed 15/01/16 - plain backing paper (PBP)
2913B.6 -  2nd Large business sheet MBIL  11/02/16 on security backing paper (SBP)
2914.6 -    1st class counter sheet (PBP)

2914B.6 - 1st class business sheet MBIL 17/03/16 SBP
2914B.6a - 1st class deep scarlet business sheet 08/09/16 MBIL SBP
2916.6 -    1st Large counter sheet printed 12/02/16 -  (PBP)
2916B.6 - 1st Large business sheet printed 15/02/16 MBL SBP
2916B.6a - 1st Large deep scarlet business sheet printed 07/09/16 MBL SBP 
2931.6 -    2nd class book of 12 MTIL on SBP

2933.6 -   2nd Large book of 4 MFIL 
2936.6 -    1st class red book of 12 MTIL on SBP  
2936.6a -  1st class deep scarlet book of 12 MTIL on SBP 
2936C.6 - 1st class deep scarlet from mixed book of 6 MCIL SBP 
2936S.6 - 1st class red book of 6 MSIL on SBP from redesigned booklet 
2936S.6a - ditto, deep scarlet  
2937.6 -   1st Large book of 4 MFIL 
2937.6a - 1st Large deep scarlet book of 4 MFIL  

3001.6 - 1p counter sheet printed 02/02/16 - PBP
3002.6 - 2p counter sheet printed 12/01/16 - PBP
3005.6 - 5p counter sheet printed 04/02/16 - PBP
3010.6 - 10p counter sheet printed 11/01/16 - PBP
3020.6 - 20p counter sheet printed 03/02/16 - PBP

3101.6 - £1.00 brown counter sheet printed 10/02/16 - PBP 
3105 -    £1.05 counter sheet printed 20/01/16 new tariff - PBP
3133.6  - £1.33 counter sheet  08/01/16 - PBP

2991.6 - 1st class Signed For - printed 10/05/16 - PBP
2992.6 - 1st Large Signed For - printed 01/03/16 - PBP
2985.6 - Special Delivery 100g - printed 03/10/16
2986.6 - Special Delivery 500g - printed 03/03/16
3744.6 -    1st class amethyst purple counter sheet printed 21/01/16 - PBP  [O16R]
3745a.6  -  1st class amethyst purple book of 6 on SBP [O16R]
3746.6 -    1st class amethyst purple from mixed book of 6 on SBP - issued 21/04/16
3748 -       1st class amethyst purple gummed paper from PSB O16R REIGP issued 21/04/16

3702P.6  - 1st class red MPIL  gummed paper from PSB issued 21/04/16
4005P.6 -  5p gummed MPIL M16L from Beatrix Potter PSB

4010P.6 - 10p gummed MPIL M16L from Beatrix Potter PSB 
4105P -    £1.05 gummed MPIL M16L from Beatrix Potter PSB 

New Definitive Stamps, Booklets and Business Sheets.

New Booklets and Business Sheets 20 October 2016
As mentioned earlier Royal Mail have decided to standardise the typeface/font used in their public communications, and this means that stamp products have to change to the Chevin* font.  At the same time the colour of the 1st class and 1st Large stamps has been changed by the incorporation of 5% black ink to make the stamps darker, and closer to the 'Royal Mail Red' used elsewhere including on vehicles and postboxes.  In Stanley Gibbons catalogues this colour will be called 'deep scarlet' although it is very similar to the rosine used for the 8p and 26p stamps.  The new colour is also used for the booklet covers (which seem to have become more and more orange of late), including the Royal Mail cruciform on all booklets.
* The Chevin is the name given to the ridge on the south side of Wharfedale in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, overlooking the market town of Otley.

These images shows the new booklet below the old, the first class clearly showing a change in stamp colour, but also showing the change to the text.

Surprisingly the 6 x 1st booklet with padlock design was included in this issue.  When the original was issued on 28 July we thought that this was the first of the 5 booklet changes and were surprised when the font looked the same as on red and purple-cover booklets.  Obviously we misunderstood the information issued by Royal Mail! (Here the new booklet is above the old.)

These booklets were produced very close to the issue date of 20 October.  The booklet packing dates and business sheet printing dates I have seen are:

6 x 1st Mr Men - 21 September - [Cylinders not known]
4 x 1stL -  22 September - Cylinders W3 (red), W1 (iridescent), W2 (phosphor)
4 x 2ndL - 26 September - Cylinders W2 (blue), W1 (iridescent), W2 (phosphor)
12 x 1st  -  28 September - [Cylinders not known]
12 x 2nd  -  7 October - Cylinders W6 (blue), W1 (iridescent), W3 (phosphor)
6 x 1st   -   11 October - Cylinders W7 (red), W1 (iridescent), W2 (phosphor)

100 x 2nd -  1 September
50 x 2nd L - 5 September
50 x 1st L -  7 September
100 x 1st  -  8 September

On the business sheets, not only have the font and red colour changed, the layout of telephone numbers has changed from three lines to one.  All sheets are changed in the same way but I'm only showing the 2nd Large here.

The fonts on the barcode and FSC certification remain unchanged in the international standard designs.  The colour of the 2nd class and 2nd Large stamps seems slightly darker than before but this is not deliberate so these stamps will not warrant new catalogue numbers.

New stamps.  The Norvic numbers for the new stamps are:

2914B.6a    1st deep scarlet MBIL - business sheet
2916B.6a    1st Large deep scarlet MBIL - business sheet
2936.6a       1st deep scarlet MTIL - booklet of 12
2936C.6      1st deep scarlet MCIL - Mr Men mixed booklet of 6
2936S.6a     1st deep scarlet MSIL - Padlcok booklet of 6
2937.6a       1st Large deep scarlet MFIL - booklet of 4

New Booklets.  I expect Stanley Gibbons to allocate new whole numbers to this redesign, in which case numbers should be
MB18          6 x 1st padlock
ME7            12 x 2nd
MF9            12 x 1st
PM53           6 x 1st Mr Men
RA3             4 x 1st Large
RB6             4 x 2nd Large

Other new stamps
Totally new sheet stamps - we have been waiting for these for some time.  In addition to the July printing we understand that the 2nd class may have been reprinted in February, but we have seen no examples with this date.

2911.6      2nd class - 04/07/16
2914.6      1st class - 23/06/16
2992.6      1st Signed For - 05/10/16
2985.6      Special Delivery 100g - 03/10/16 

New sheet printings of existing stamps:
1st class -  28/09/16
1st Large - 28/09/16
1p -            04/07/16 and 20/10/16
2p and 5p - 05/07/16
10p -          20/06/16
20p -          21/06/16 and 20/10/16
£1.05 -       22/06/16

As the 1st and 2nd class counter sheets printed in the spring and summer have now been made available, and with Christmas stamps in post offices, it seems unlikely that counter sheets with the new dark red will appear any time soon.  However, that does not mean that they have not been printed in 2016 so we may well see deep scarlet 1st class and 1st Large counter sheets with M16L codes early in the new year.  The Large stamps are more likely to appear first, though.

"All the picture stamps are put into the 2nd class slot" - Crown PO.

Shortly before we went on holiday one of our readers related the story of his trip to a Crown Post Office in SE England.

He found that they were dispensing Union Flag stamps from the 2nd class position on their SSK machines - but they thought that this was perfectly correct.
Staff tell me that this is not wrong despite assurances from me that they have mixed up the rolls.  In fact I was told by the (very unhelpful and belligerent lady) clerk that they “always put blue ones in the 2nd and brown ones in the first – the flags are blue”.

Of course people in official positions don't like being told by customers that something is wrong in their system, but rude and obnoxious behaviour is no excuse when collectors - who nearly always know more about the stamps than Post Office staff do - try to avoid their possible embarrassment or censure.

I asked our contact if he was in the area again would he be brave and maybe get me a pair, which he duly did and they arrived last week.  Although a different member of staff was in attendance he met the same rudeness and the same story:
Again I was told that the stamps are not wrong as they tell me that when they get other picture stamps they are also put them in to the second class position!!  (I said – “so you mean you put any stamps in the 2nd class position such as when you get, say, ‘flowers’ etc.” – their reply “Yes”).  I did try to explain at length the reasoning and the function, but it just fell on deaf ears and they were not interested.  In fact she told me that her husband was a postman and he knows everything about them…!!!! And clearly I was wrong.
The moral of the story is, if you do have occasion to be near a Post Office with SSK machines, venture forth and spend 55p buying a single 2nd class stamp - maybe from each machine.  You never know what you might find!  And if you do find something previously unreported and are prepared to buy some for me, give me a call.  [If this is at all likely and you would like my mobile number, please get in touch by email.]  Any such purchase will always be made worth your while, and will spread your good fortune to a number of other collectors.

UPDATE 6 December:
DP reports that Blackfriars Road also had and Union Flag in the 2nd class printer and Ladybirds in the 1st class printer, in September.

Lunar New Year of the Rooster - last generic sheet for 2016

This continues the series of Lunar New Year Generic Sheets Royal Mail has issued since 2012. 2017 is the ‘Year of the Rooster’ which runs from the 28th January 2017 to 15th February 2018.   The sheet was issued on 15 November 2016, Royal Mail stock code AT095.

"The sheet designed by hat-trick features 20 x First Class Smilers ‘Fireworks’ stamps alongside labels showing images of Chinese New Year festivities in named cities around the UK set against an ornate background featuring paper cut-outs created by artist Rebecca Sutherland. The Rooster is the tenth of
the 12 animals featured in the Lunar New Year. Individuals born under this sign are likely to be observant, hardworking, confident, courageous, frank and honest."

We will not be stocking this sheet.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Norvic Philatelics Security Checklist

A new version of the checklist is in preparation, and I'll make it available just as soon as I have all of the information and all of the stamps.  That should be later this week or early next.

The new version will include all stamps issued or found up to the end of October.