Sunday, 1 March 2015

Office closed for a week

The year is galloping away and we've reached March, so it seems appropriate that we should have our first break since January 1st.   

I'll try to publish your comments, when I have a signal, but we'll be back on 7 March.  

Happy Hunting!

Slogan Postmark: Great Festival of Creativity Shanghai

A lot of people don't take any notice of the postmark on their letters, and those that do are mainly collectors.   So I wonder who will NOT scratch their heads and wonder about this one!

Fortunately Google is our friend, even if Royal Mail can't bring themselves to make any pre-use announcements.

From the UK government website:

The GREAT Festival of Creativity event will support British businesses looking to secure opportunities and growth in China. More than 500 world leading British companies will use the festival to reach the Chinese and global business audiences to show how British creativity can help their businesses innovate and grow.

And behind 'GREAT' is the 'Britain is Great' micro-site

This example was used at Peterborough on 27 February; only by observation can we find out when the postmark campaign started and finished. I thought the World Wide Web Inventive Britain slogan was going to be in use on 28th - maybe I am mistaken.

Friday, 27 February 2015

New Royal Mail postage rates from 30 March 2015 - some losers, but many winners.

As expected Royal Mail have announced the new tariff for inland and international post to take effect from 30 March 2015. Under the current regulatory regime the company is required to give 30 days notice of any material changes.

While there are expected small increases in some rates, there are significant reductions in others and a further restructuring of international letter and inland parcel rates and weights.

Headline changes

Inland 1st and 2nd class letters rise by 1p to 63p and 54p respectively.
1st class Large Letters rise by 2p to 95p and 2nd class by 1p to 74p.
Royal Mail signed for fee remains £1.10 and there are small rises in Special Delivery rates.

The basic International letter rate rises as expected to £1 from 97p. This covers European letters up to 20g, Worldwide letters up to 10g and postcards. In a further restructuring the 60g weight step is abolished with the new rates for 100g being only slightly more than the present rates for 60g, so a significant 35% reduction on the present 100g rates.
A new category of International Large Letter is introduced with four weight steps from 100g to 750g. This replaces the current small parcel up to 100g and offers a welcome reduction in that rate, from £3.20 / £3.80 / £4.00 for Europe / World Zone 1 / World Zone 2 to £2.45 / £3.15 / £3.45.

For inland parcels the trial £2.80 rate for 2nd Class Small Parcels up to 2kg is retained on a permanent basis. For Medium Parcels the 1st class rates are unchanged, but 2nd class rates are reduced with a single rate up to 2kg of £4.89, down from £5.20 for 1kg and £8.00 for 2kg, a saving of 38%!

New stamps
No new stamps are required for the inland letter rates, nor the Signed For or Special Delivery rates. New stamps for international letters will be

£1.33 replacing £1.28 for World 20g
£1.52 replacing £1.47 for Europe 60g becoming 100g
£2.25 replacing £2.15 for Worldwide 60g which becomes 100g

Whilst no new £1 Machin stamp is required Royal Mail may take the opportunity to change the colour again, despite some Post Office branches still selling the £1 ruby! There will be new £1 country definitives in the Oak Tree, Lace, Thistle and Daffodil designs.

Post and Go / Self-Service Kiosks

The biggest change for collectors comes in the Post and Go Faststamps which will see service indicators change again. The overall cost of a collectors set rises from £7.42 to £7.68. Will we see the installation of new static machines before the new tariff takes effect?  (They wouldn't be that cynical would they?)

1st class 100g
1st Large 100g
Europe 60g*
Worldwide 20g
Worldwide 60g*
* changing to 100g

It is to be hoped that the cupboards full of old Faststamp stock have all been used up and we will not see the appearance of everything from Birds 1 to Winter Greenery with the new service indicators. As Wincor-Nixdorf machines are supposed to be out of service by the time the new tariff is in force the only changes will be on NCR Self-Service Kiosks and IAR's Royal Mail II machines at exhibitions and static locations.
News of the colours etc of new stamps will be published when provided by Royal Mail.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

BFPS Marks Centenary of RAF Northolt with special cover

RAF Northolt - 100 years of Aviation History

One hundred years of service (95 as a military flying station), means that RAF Northolt, based in South Ruislip is a reflection of aviation history. Northolt pre-dates the establishment of the Royal Air Force by almost three years, having opened in May 1915. It has the longest history of continuous use of any RAF airfield. More recently it has become a multipurpose Tri-service base serving the growing needs of a modern Armed Forces.

To mark this historic centenary the British Forces Philatelic Bureau, in conjunction RAF Northolt, has produced a special commemorative cover that will be released on the 3ʳᵈ March 2015. The cover image uses the spoke from the station badge to depict the various units and activities that are now part of the base. This issue will include a limited edition of 500 flown covers, some of which will be signed by the Station Commander and Officer Commanding Operations Wing.

Most of the covers have been reserved for RAF Northolt, however BFPS has secured a limited quantity for sale to its customers. The covers may be purchased from the BFPS online shop ( These will cost just £6 (UK/BFPO postfree) for the unsigned version, £8 for the flown only and £12 for the signed versions. They are available to order now on a strictly first-come-first-served basis. The covers are also available by post by sending a cheque (payable to ‘BFPS CIC’) to BFPS, The Old Post Office, Links Place, Elie, Fife, KY9 1AX, United Kingdom.

Friday, 20 February 2015

The Guernsey Post and Go Stamps Stampex Project.

Readers of a certain age, whether or not they were directly involved with IT systems will probably recall the frustration of the differences between what the specification showed, what was programmed and what the user actually wanted, summed up in this widely distributed cartoon or a version of it.

This probably 40-year old cartoon came to mind as I travelled back on the train from Stampex yesterday evening, having found that things there were not totally as expected.  So here is my version:

#1. How the customer planned it.
Guernsey Flag stamps with normal Guernsey Service Indicators: GY for Bailliwick and UK for UK mail.   The plan was for the machine at Stampex to include a Spring Stampex February 2015 inscription.
#2. What the contractor delivered - Stampex inscription on Guernsey Flag stamps.
Note the service indicators for Bailliwick mail are the same as were produced for Jersey Post, "Local Letter" and "Local Large".  It would have made more sense to use the shorthand form that Guernsey islanders and visitors are used to.


#3. What the Bureau advertised ...
... what we advertised, and so what our customers ordered -  as #1 and #2 but both in vertical strips of 6.

#4 What the Facilitator decided ...
... and what the machine dispensed.  Stampex inscription on Union Flag stamps, but not on Guernsey Flag stamps.  [Jersey stamps were sold without a Stampex inscription when they first appeared at Stampex, and 'somebody' decided that this was a precedent which should be followed, despite announcements and advertisements suggesting otherwise, and despite the initial supplies to the island being with Stampex inscription!  Although this should have been a Guernsey Post decision, it seems that Royal Mail had a strong influence in the result.]

GU_PG_Flag_GG01_plain006.jpg GU_PG_UFlag_GG01_Spex006.jpg

#6. What this customer thought.

Having asked customers for their orders I have obtained what I think they will want, and the extra versions which were not as advertised.  Of course it may be that some people will have ordered some strips direct from the Bureau, as they were not expected to be on sale at Stampex.*

If this happened with Royal Mail stamps, it would be less of a problem, because any surplus can be used for postage.  But despite my best efforts at making sure than I knew what was happening, including telephoning the island to double-check, I am likely to be left with surplus Guernsey stamps.

* Orders will be processed early next week.

Rumours at Stampex yesterday suggested that both the Isle of Man and Gibraltar postal administrations would introduce Post and Go machines either at Europhilex or Autumn Stampex.

UPDATE 24 February
The latest comment (below) led me to think more about the changes, and misinformation.

If the decision to go with plain Guernsey Flag stamps meant that the Union Flag GG stamp had the 'Stampex' inscription, that probably explains why the Royal Mail machines switched the 'Stampex' inscription from Machin to Union Flag stamps.  It would not have been right to have Guernsey printing 'Stampex' on the Flag if RM were not.

But we were told about the switch from Machins on 5 February, so there was plenty of time for Guernsey Post and IAR to change the pre-issue information about what they were producing.  It begs the question just how early the Guernsey Back Office flagstamps (WITH the Stampex inscription) were printed.  If the decision was taken before 5 February, why was the Guernsey bureau supplied with Stampex-inscribed Guernsey Flag stamps, given that there was then 2 weeks to Stampex?

More slogan postmarks but too late for collectors

This week there have been two more slogan postmarks in use at Mail Centres with IMP and iLSM ink-jet machines.  Oddly the first was mentioned in Royal Mail News on the myRoyalMail website, but not in the press release which received some mainstream media coverage, and the second does not seem to have been announced at all, although it FDC collectors would have appreciated advance notice.  One day Royal Mail (Group - all the disparate elements that make up what is supposed to be a major communications company) will communicate with each other and realise that there are revenue benefits to effective publicity - minor ones, but nonetheless they exist.

The announcement at 0300 on 19 February on myRoyalMail was for the Chinese New Year and included:

A special postmark will also appear today on all stamped UK and international mail.
It will read “Happy Chinese New Year 2015” and will feature a translation in Mandarin Chinese.

Sadly this was too late for collectors to post letters to get the postmark.  Two versions exist, shown here from machine 1 at Medway Mail Centre (iLSM) and Lancashire and South Lakes (IMP):

I was told that a series of 8 slogans would be in use in conjunction with the Inventive Britain stamps.  So far the only ones seen have celebrated Percy Shaw and his Catseyes.

Again, myRoyalMail indicates that there will be special postmarks over this week and next and Royal Mail van displays.  This announcement was also at 0300 on 19 February, so too late to get a first day cover with the slogan unless you were fortunate enough to see the announcement.

Update from Press Release:
In addition to the stamps, Royal Mail will also be issuing special ‘Inventive Britain’ postmarks across the country from 20-28 February. Post across the country will (except Sunday) will be stamped with a message dedicated to one of the inventions.

Also, in locations where there are strong links to the inventors, Royal Mail vans will feature an image of the relevant stamp from the ‘Inventive Britain’ issue. They are; Halifax; Epsom; Sheffield; Edinburgh; Cirencester; Dumfries; Docklands and Mortlake. 

Inventive Britain Stamps, Catseyes, Percy Shaw.
Lancashire and South Lakes on the Catseyes stamp, a first day cover:

and a day early from machine 6 at Medway MC (18 February):

Thanks to John C, John E and Bob M for alerting me to these.  More examples will be shown on the Stampboards Forum for inclusion in the British Postmarks Database - an excellent searchable resource.

Further Inventive Britain postmarks:

Stainless Steel, Harry Brearley - Mount Pleasant (?) 19-02-2015

DNA Sequencing, Frederick Sanger - Glasgow 21-02-2015 and Bristol 21.02.15

Fibre Optics, Charles Kao + George Hockham - Greenford/Windsor 23.02.15, and Swindon 23-02-2015

Carbon Fibre,William Watt - Bristol 24.02.15 and Swindon 24-02-2015

i-Limb, David Gow - Manchester Mail Centre 25.02.15

Colossus, Tommy Flowers - SE Wales 26.02.15

World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee - SE Wales 27.02.15

More to come - please continue sending them - and thanks to Bob, Robert, John E, John G and another John E!  And peterh on Stampboards.

Monday, 9 February 2015

The thin end of the wedge at Crewe and Bradford: Time to Stop the Gimmicks?

It is with great sadness that I report that Royal Mail has followed the lead of Jersey Post and is now using location identifiers in the new Post and Go machines at their Delivery Offices.

I've been sent these pictures from the new machine installed at Crewe today (thanks SL) and have no reason to believe that the Bradford ones will not be similar. 

The 2nd class are MA12 and the 1st class MA13.

We reported earlier that the new M series machines would be installed today to replace A003 and A004 which are going to Stampex and then on to new (Museum?) venues.

UPDATE 12 February
I can now show the Bradford North stamps; the lucky buyer also got a bonus with blanks at the start of his strips.   My advice with these would always be to keep them as they are.

Union Flag Post and GO Faststamp Pack Reprinted.

It has recently come to our attention that the Union Flag Faststamp in the Bureau pack has been reprinted with a different font and layout.  As far as I can see, there is no change to the carrier in the pack.

The original is shown above the current version.

The content of the datastring and service indicator is the same, but the second line is now left-justified in line with the first line.  In addition the shape of the lettering of 1st Class up to 100g is much different, and there are slight changes to the shape of the digits in the datastring.

It seems that the first type also exists with the text spacing from the left margin varying considerably, but otherwise the same.

In the original pack, issued on 21 May 2012, the printing is the same as that on stamps in the Farm Animals packs.  This format continued until the Symbolic Flowers pack of September 2014 on which the printing has the same characteristics as the lower stamp shown above.

The new pack is on sale here.

St Valentine's turn for a special slogan postmark

As expected, the special slogan postmarks for Burns Night and Wales' love-saint St Dwynwen are followed by yet another unannounced slogan for St Valentine.

So far only seen from Chester Mail Centre, our thanks to Adrian for this one, in use last Saturday, 7th February 2015.  I suppose we can expect to see this all week until Friday 13th.  Mail from Peterborough MC on 7th had the 'Stroke association' postmark, as did mail from South Midlands MC on 6th.

Examples of the other format are now arriving, thanks to our readers.  This is the best example so far:

But none of them is particularly clear

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Stampex Post and Go - all change

An announcement just received from Royal Mail

Stampex Overprint

The Stampex overprint ‘ Spring Stampex February 2015’, which was originally scheduled to be applied to the Machin Post and Go stamp will now be switched to the Union Flag design.

I'll be writing to customers who have placed orders for these.