Sunday, 19 February 2017

Post and Go News from Royal Mail

Press Release
Royal Mail is pleased to announce that Mail by Rail (1st Class only) stamps will be available at STEAM GWR Swindon from 20 February until 15 March.

Machine A005, currently situated at The Royal Marines Museum in Portsmouth, will be moving following a re-organisation at NMRN. The last day of sales at RMM will be 24 February.

A005 will be relocated to the East Anglian Railway Museum, Colchester from 20 March. The location ID will be EARM and it will vend Locomotive and Union Flag stamp designs.

Operational machine M011 is now live at MOD Filton Abbey Wood in Bristol. The MOD Open Day will be on 27 February §.

Operational machine M005, currently located at Croydon Enquiry Office, will be relocated in the next month. Details of the new site to follow.

§ Note this is not an open Open Day; I understand it is for visitors from other parts of MOD visiting Defence Equipment and Support I believe an additional inscription will be added to the stamps for a period from 27 February.  More details when we have them.

Monday, 13 February 2017

2017 Tariff Change may see some reductions - and increases!

It seems that the annual postal tariff change this year may see some reductions in airmail rates,
if the latest whispers are true.   I'm told that the new rate stamps will be issued on Tuesday 21 March 2017.

My correspondent, who has these new stamps on standing order from Tallents House, told me what the cost would be.  Allowing for the handling charge, the total cost - including the country definitives if that rate changes - is less than £14 for the set.

Back in 2015 the cost of the new worldwide airmail stamps (the postcard and basic rate stamp did not change from £1) totalled £14.  So, especially if the current £1.05 increases, some of the new rates would result in stamps of lower values than at present. 

Now it may be that my correspondent is mistaken - but whatever happens, we can expect some new Machin definitives in March.  Basic 1st and 2nd class rates will almost certainly rise, and as this will probably be on March 27th, it will make sense to buy any 1st class David Bowie stamps (issued on 14 March) before the rate goes up.

And don't forget Post and Go prices will also change, so if there is anything in the machines - Mail by Rail is issued this week - catch them before the increase as well.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Don't follow Royal Mail's advice on this Valentine's slogan!

After marking Saint Dwynwen’s day last month, Royal Mail celebrates St Valentine's Day on 14 February, but without actually mentioning the saint.

Of course, it's all designed to get you to post a card, but as my correspondent points out, we can't help thinking that you will be unlucky in love if you follow Royal Mail's exhortation to 

Send a card to someone special on February 14th 2017

A couple of days earlier might be a good idea, or Monday 13th at the latest!

UPDATE 14/15 February
I can now show the similar slogan produced from the other machines (North West Midlands, 10.02.17), 

and the Larger version from Edinburgh 10.2.17; not that on this version a sans-serif font is used whereas on the Swindon example above, it was seriffed.  (Thanks JE)

and the replacement slogan used on 13 February (Peterborough) for delivery on the day itself, with the slogan surrounded by hearts.  And the IMP version from Lancashire and South Lakes MC (Preston) with the slogan in 3 lines [JE]

Happy Valentine's


Delivery delays on £5 Accession stamp

We would like to apologise to customers who have ordered the new £5 definitive stamp.

Our initial supplies were lower than for a normal new stamp - such as are issued when the rates change in spring - as we expected these to be available from many more post offices than turned out to be the case.  Consequently we have seen unexpected demand, especially for blocks.

Our suppliers have also seen greater demand and have not filled this week's order, although we fully expect to have more supplies next week.  So we will not be taking a lettuce leaf out of the supermarkets' books, and there is no restriction on orders - just a delay.

UPDATE 10 Feb: Good news, more stock received including whole sheets and cylinder blocks.  Bad news, every single lower right corner stamp was damaged by bad handling.  Will supply cylinder blocks and sheets as soon as possible.

All comments about non-availability on original thread, please - see above.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Labels to Go makes it easier to post parcels: one more reason not ot use stamps

Press Release 1 February 2017

Royal Mail has announced new plans to make it easier for consumers to post and return parcels at Customer Service Points in Delivery Offices nationwide.

From April 2017, customers will be able to print off delivery and return labels at all of Royal Mail’s 1,200 Customer Service Points.

With the new self-service solution, Labels to Go, customers returning items online or buying postage online will receive an email containing a unique QR code.  When this is scanned at a Customer Service Point, the QR code produces a postage label which can be applied to the parcel.

Currently, customers returning items using the Royal Mail returns portal or buying postage online using Click and Drop are required to print the postage labels at home.  But increasingly consumers are ordering, paying for, sending and returning items online.

With over 50 per cent of UK shoppers using a mobile phone for their online purchases, customers will benefit from the convenience of being able to print postage labels and post their parcels at the same time. It will also save time and money as they do not need to have a printer at home.

For businesses, this means even more convenient returns for their customers, high print quality of returns labels, and the visibility of Tracked Returns through the Royal Mail network.

My thanks to John Enfield for pointing out my error in suggesting that this might impact - either way - on Post Offices.  These are, of course, Royal Mail customer service points at Delivery Offices (DO).  Most of us are not familiar with these - unless we have to collect undelivered or underpaid items.  My local DO is very small, with the CSP about 8 feet square, so it doesn't immediately spring to mind as a place for posting anything, especially with the regular opening hours excluding the period from 10 am - 12 noon, the most likely time for a visit for many of us. 

The press release also includes a reminder that "The company also announced [last year] that customers will be able to send pre-paid parcels from Delivery Offices across the UK."   Not being a regular visitor I have never seen this happen.  Perhaps readers who visit larger offices can tell us what happens and the procedure.  I can see how it would work for on-line prepaid parcels with a home-printed certificate of posting, but if stamps are used what do they use to cancel the stamps?  For those few offices with Post and Go machines, what happens if you use P&G to send a parcel at a Delivery Office. 

All contributions welcome, especially with evidence of cancellation and/or receipts.  Thanks!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Unannounced new Post and Go BFPO Installation

Thanks to Trevor we can report that a further BFPO Post and Go machine has been installed.

M011 is now located at the Ministry of Defence offices at Abbey Wood, Bristol. 

Images provide so far show session 0007 session was on 2 February (last Friday) so it is quite possible that this was the first day of live operation.  Both Machin and Union Flag stamps are available but it isn't possible to see the year code from the images.

UPDATE 7 February
I'm indebted to JG for providing a photo of later output from M011 - session 013 rather than session 007 above which shows a much better receipt, with a graphic logo.  DES = Defence Equipment and Support.

And Anonymous tells us that the Machin is MA13 and the flag is undated.

Any customers who require examples of either, or just the 1st class, please let me know and I will try to help.

UPDATE: We will shortly have these in collectors strips and individual 1st class stamps.

As we can see from the picture, this is one of the really slim machines.

New Security Backing Paper on latest definitive printings

Last year we mentioned that Royal Mail had ordered a change to the security printing on the backing paper of self-adhesive stamps so that the paper could be used inverted without producing a variety.  This would be achieved by printing alternate pairs of lines upside-down.  If the paper had to be re-rolled, it would still be up the right way!  We're calling this 'Security Backing Paper v2' or SBP2.

The March issue of Stamp Magazine reports that a 9 December 2016 printing of the 1st class counter sheet stamp is not only on backing paper with a security print (the first time for a counter sheet), but that it follows the described pattern.  So this is two 'firsts': the first De La Rue counter sheet with security backing paper, and the first with the alternate inverted printing.  The year code is M16L - it also appears to be in the new dark shade.  If this proves to be the case these M16L stamps may be in short supply, in the light of other news below.

We also understand that there is a new December 2016 4 January 2017 printing of the 2nd class counter sheet, with year code M17L, so this would be the second stamp with a year 17 code: we don't have any confirmation that this has security backing paper, but it seems likely. (The Windsor Castle booklet stamp already announced will be the third - probably!).

UPDATE (later same day):  the 2nd class counter sheet and business sheet have also been reported on new backing paper.  The counter sheet may be the same 04/01/17 printing referred to above, but this has not been confirmed. The business sheet has M16L and a printing date of 15/12/16.

UPDATE 8 Feb: The 2nd class M17L counter sheet is on plain backing paper. (Thanks RL)

UPDATE 9 FEB: As suggested by the para below the images, we don't have stock of ANY of these yet, only reports from readers.  When we have them I'll list them in our webshop and provide a link and photos here.

Click on images to see a larger version.

UPDATE 10 FEB:  I now have some stamps from the 2nd business sheet with SBP2. These and others will be added to the webshop after Stampex - that way all the news stamps will be added at the same time, and customers won't be tempted to order one and then another on separate orders.

Earlier on I repeated that the with new printing the paper could be re-rolled as it 'would always be the right way up'.  Not quite true, which I should have realised with a little more thought.  As you will know the text is printed in two sizes, Large (L) and Small (S).  On SBP the lines are alternated, ie L/S/L/S.  On the new paper the pattern is different if inverted.  Using additional abbreviations for upright adn inverted, we now know that the format is:

SU - LU - SI - LI - SU - LU - SI - LI 

So if the paper is inverted it will appear as

SI - LU - SU - LI -  SI - LU - SU - LI

Obviously this can be manipulated for any individual stamps, but it will be interested to see if any booklets, business sheets or counter sheets turn out to be on inverted paper!

More information and pictures as soon as we have them !  And if you find them first, contact details for your pictures are at the top right.

New stamps news - restricted availability of £5

As previously mentioned the stamp issued to mark 65th Anniversary of the Accession of HM The Queen has been roundly criticised as unnecessary, not for the commemoration itself but for the issue of a £5 stamp rather than some other format.

As you probably know, the 'high value' definitives (£1.50, £2, £3, and £5) originally issued in 1995 and converted to security format in 2009 are no longer stocked by most post offices because there is no operational need for them.  Indeed many no longer have the £1 or 50p stamps either for the same reason.   The days when the counter clerk would calculate what stamps to use for a £4.95 parcel are long gone.  (I would use £3.30 plus 3 x 2nd class.)

Now they simply press a button and print a label.  Even if some of the postage is already paid, this can be deducted from the total and a label printed for the balance.  So you can look in vain for these at most post offices - and on Royal Mail's collector website, which only lists definitives for 2015 and 2016.  (To be fair, these can be found on Royal Mail's webshop for business users, but only in multiples of 10 or 25, not singles.) 

SO what possessed the Stamps and Collectables team to decide that it would be a good idea to resurrect the 1977 Machin format for high values (when £5 was worth £5!) and use it for this commemoration?  And is it a definitive or a special stamp?  It's been announced to us as a definitive, but it has a commemorative iridescent printing, and a commemorative inscription in the margin, like a special stamp.  Like other special stamps, there is no printing date or sheet number.  Like other definitive stamps the year of issue/production is included as a secret code in the iridescent print.

And how are ordinary collectors to obtain these?  If you have a standing order with Tallents House for special stamps you will probably NOT get these.  If you have a standing order for High Value Definitives you probably WILL.  I can't be sure, but the lass in Sunderland (didn't know that was an outpost of Scotland, did you? That's where Tallents House calls are handled now.) thinks that they are probably regarded as definitives for standing order purposes.

But if you gave up on Tallents House standing orders last year because of their (still) astonishing accounting systems change, and lamentable service, you can buy them at your post office, right?  Wrong!

Of course we know that since Post Office Ltd moved your friendly sub-post office into the nearest convenience store it now opens all hours so you don't need time off work to buy your stamps.  But under the new Network Transformation 'Locals' scheme these branches no longer stock special stamps - except at Christmas, when 'ordinary' customers would complain.  The dwindling number of collector customers don't matter.

But that still leaves about 8,000 out of the roughly 11,500 branches?  Well no. If you live in England  outside Berkshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, County Durham, Devon, Essex, Gloucestershire, Greater London, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Isle of Wight, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Surrey or Wiltshire you are out of luck. Likewise in Scotland if you are not in Edinburgh or Glasgow.  And if you are in Wales or Northern Ireland, forget it - neither the Post Office nor Royal Mail want your money.

The FULL list of Post Office branches which are stocking these stamps is:
Bristol (The Galleries)
Cambridge (City St Andrew's Street)
Chester (St John Street)
Colchester (North Hill)
Croydon (High St)
Durham (Market Place)
Edinburgh (Princes Mall)
Exeter (Bedford St)
Glasgow (West Nile St)
Grimsby (Victoria St)
Harrogate (Cambridge Road)
London: Eastcheap (City of London BO)
London: House of Commons
London: William IV St (Trafalgar Sq BO)
Newport IOW (Pyle Street)
Norwich (St Stephens St)
Nottingham (Queen Street)
Plymouth (New George St)
Portsmouth (Slindon St)
Southampton (Above Bar St)
Southend-on-sea (High Street)
Stevenage (Queensway)
Stroud (Russell Street)
Trowbridge (Temp Unit Lovemead Car Park)
Truro (High Cross)
Windsor (Peascod St)
York (Lendal)
Yes, the full list of 27 includes the House of Commons (so that makes 26), and the Isle of Wight (well, that saves locals from having to pay for a ferry).

UPDATE: Add Goring-by-Sea, Sussex, to the list because they are selling them as well.

So, in answer to questions, yes I'm sure it qualifies for catalogue status because it is readily available at some Post Office branches.  It would be a serious and significant step if the Stanley Gibbons catalogue editor decided to relegate any modern British stamp sold at a post office to a footnote in history.  But maybe that is the wake-up call that Royal Mail needs?  Maybe I'm shooting myself in the foot by putting of genuine collectors, but there are plenty of older stamps around to collect, and to deal in.   SO will this be in your collection?

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

65th Anniversary of the Accession - update

Details and illustrations of the £5 commemorative/definitive have now been added to the earlier blogpost, and to our webshop for delivery after 6 February.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Unusual Machin Trials Surface 20 years After Production

Complete sheets of three trials of the Machin head, produced in 1997, have just come to light in this, the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Arnold Machin’s iconic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Machin definitives were first printed in lithography in 1980 as Royal Mail expanded its range of suppliers. However, by the mid-1990s it had decided that all the standard definitives should be printed in gravure. At the time The House of Questa, based in south London, did not have gravure capability.

So Royal Mail permitted Questa to approach Helio Courvoisier SA of Switzerland, probably with a view to subcontracting the gravure printing.

Courvoisier was founded in 1880 and started printing stamps in 1937. It was noted for the high quality of its photogravure work, but sadly it ran into financial difficulties and ceased trading in 2001.

(Click to see larger images)

The undenominated trials were undertaken on 20 October 1997 in sheets of 100 with the Courvoisier imprint along the vertical margins. They exist in three colours: deep green (as used for the 2p), light grey (as used at the time for the 29p), and flame (as used for 1st class). Courvoisier had been printing the then current Kenya definitives, and these trials are printed on the same coated paper, without phosphor bands, and have perforation 15 x 14 (although the stamp image is slightly smaller than that used on Machin definitives.

The stamps are printed in 10 rows of 10, with the imprint


reading upwards in the side margins.   The sheets are perforated on the outer left margin (though the perforations are almost completely guillotined off on the flame sheet), suggesting panes of two.  Sheet numbers are in the lower right corner, with the grey sheet showing (0)10531 though it is not known whether the numbering was reset for this trial, so this is no indication of the total numbers produced.

In the event Courvoisier had no further involvement in producing Machins. Questa, having been acquired by MDC Corporation, moved to premises in Byfleet, Surrey, where it had gravure facilities.

The total quantity of panes printed is unknown at this time, but they are now in private ownership. Allan Grant of Rushstamps has arranged for a set of the sheets to be donated to the new Postal Museum in London, and they will be on display at Spring Stampex (15-18 February) in London's Business Design Centre.

Stanley Gibbons has confirmed that they will be included in the next edition of their GB Specialised Catalogue Volume 4, Part 2 (Decimal Definitive issues).

According to US magazine Linn's Weekly. Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions of Danbury, Conn, USA is representing the owner, who “has not put forth plans for a sale”. Collectors interested in the trials should contact Rick Penko at Kellehers (

How much would you pay for a set of the stamps?!

(Click to see larger images)