Saturday, 28 May 2016

Delayed West Ham United Commemorative Sheet on sale

Thanks to Graham Howard of smilersinfo.co.uk for passing on the news that the West Ham United Commemorative Sheet, first mentioned by Royal Mail back in the winter, has now been made available (though I haven't checked to see whether it is on their website).

Entitled 'Farewell Boleyn' (ahead of the team's move to London's Olympic Stadium) the sheet shows the assembled squad in front of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand at the ground universally known as 'Upton Park', but originally known as 'The Boleyn Ground', and referred to as that again because the corporate wizards decided they wanted to remember their roots, or somesuch.

According to one discussion forum:
The club rented Green Street House and grounds in the Municipal Borough of East Ham from the Roman Catholic Church from around 1912. Green Street House was known locally as Boleyn Castle because of its imposing nature and an association with Anne Boleyn, who had either stayed at, or as some believe, owned the house. Hence renting the grounds of "Boleyn Castle" the name Boleyn Ground came into being. Today the ground is far more commonly known as Upton Park, after the area of London in which it is located.
Anyway, back to the stamp sheet.  The stamps are the Union Flag, with 10 different labels.  The sheet is printed by ISP in litho, self-adhesive.  In a limited edition of only 10,000 and designed by "Royal Mail and West Ham Design Teams', the folder was produced by Zentih Print and Packaging.

The Royal Mail product code is VA285 and the price is the usual £14.99.  The first day of availability was 18 May 2016.


Friday, 27 May 2016

Slogan Postmarks for May and June 2016

It was my intention to publicise Royal Mail's operational slogan postmarks in monthly batches, but there has been nothing since the 23rd April St George's Day - nothing for The Queen's birthday (thus preventing any FDCs of the new stamps), and nothing to congratulate Leicester City FC on their success this year.  

And now we are nearly at the end of May and I can report the first new slogan, in use at both iSLM and IMP mail centres.

HAY FESTIVAL
imagine the world

was in use on 25 May (2nd class mail Peterborough MC) and 26 May (1st class mail at Norwich MC):





Also in use at Gatwick MC, but the example I've seen wasn't clear enough to scan.  I'll be pleased to show other examples.

UPDATE: here's the other format from North & West Yorkshire with the Welsh version of 'delivered by', used on 25th May, 1st class.  (Thanks, SW).




Thursday, 26 May 2016

Changing Royal Mail's Corporate Identity Will Mean More New Booklets

Machin collectors who thought they were being left out - or getting off lightly - by the omission
of Machin definitives from the World War I Centenary PSB will be heartened (or horrified) to know that somebody has decided that the Royal Mail corporate identity is tired, and needs updating.

Another new font (admittedly the first for some years) is to be used throughout the business meaning that new retail booklets and business sheets will be issued later this year.

Apparently there is also a new livery on some Royal Mail vehicles already, incorporating a padlock ('a trusted business"?) and this will be extended to a 6 x 1st class red booklet to be issued on 28 July.

This will only be short-lived, though, and likely to be missing from many post office branches.  On 20 October ALL booklets (including that one) and all business sheets, will be reissued with a the new font.  No images have yet been released.

IMPORTANT: I have been told, but await confirmation, that these will NOT be sent to ordinary bureau customers as part of their visible change standing orders.  More news later on this - meanwhile can anybody confirm one way or another whether the products with new 0345 telephone numbers were distributed on standing order basis in July 2014?  They certainly had new bureau product codes in the stocklist.


Royal Mail Wish You Were Here on the Dark Side with an Endless River of Stamp Issues

Royal Mail's First Big Secret this year is that the 'Music Greats' issue to be issued on 7 July is dedicated to Pink Floyd, as some people suggested earlier in the year.

The really tenuous reason for this block-buster, designed to make money from Floyd Fans, is that "2016 marks 50 years since Pink Floyd turned professional and became the ‘house band’ of the London Underground movement of music and arts."

UPDATE: From Royal Mail's Press Release:

The stamps will be available to purchase in 8,000 Post Offices from 7 July 2016

Which means that there are 3,000 Post Offices where collectors and fans will NOT be able to buy these stamps.

A set of 6 stamps and a miniature sheet are the products that stamp collectors are expected to buy.  The set includes 3 @ 1st class and 3 @ £1.52

The Piper at The Gates of Dawn, Atom Heart Mother, The Dark Side of the Moon.
Animals, Wish You Were Here, The Endless River.

The Miniature Sheet celebrates the live performances of Pink Floyd’s stage shows, with 2 @ 1st class and 2 @ £1.52:

The UFO Club 1966, The Dark Side of the Moon Tour 1973, The Wall Tour 1981, The Division Bell Tour 1994.

For Floyd Fans there are also 10,000 Dark Side of the Moon Maxisheets (priced at £12.95 and reminiscent of the sheet issued in the summer of 2010), a 'Syd Barrett Souvenir Cover' (edition of 3000 priced at £24.99), and some framed products with a top price of £79.99).  Floyd Fans will probably remember - stamp collectors certainly will - the Division Bell Sheet issued in March 2010*.



* This is the 2010 sheet, which followed the Classic Album Covers stamps issued January 2010.  This is available in our webshop.

As I recall, distribution of these ways delayed past the official date of issue.  Let's hope Royal Mail gets its Tallents House in order before July so that Floyd Fans are not kept waiting for the new stamps.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Machin definitives, catalogues and albums - how's your collection formed?

Good news and bad news for collectors recently.  First the good news: Stanley Gibbons' GB Concise 2016 Catalogue  will be published on 31st May, and our own detailed Checklist with cross-references and sources, is now available to new readers via this link.  (Collectors who have an earlier edition should go to this link instead.)  

The Gibbons product will include all the new definitive and Post and Go stamps and, of course, all the commemorative stamps, booklets and generic sheets, probably until March of this year.  Following requests I have now restored the Gibbons-Norvic cross-reference and the list of issue dates to the main listing in our Checklist which now runs to 32 pages.  In ensuring that tables are not unnecessarily split there maybe more white space than usual, but doubtless that will soon be filled up by more new stamps! 

The bad news comes for collectors who use Gibbons' Windsor album, and don't really care about the many variants of the Machin security stamps, preferring to collect on a simplified basis.  The introduction page attributes the extra pages to popular demand, with this note in the 2015 Supplement. (And although the 97p U3020a is mentioned, they forgot to include a space for it!)


Now, those collectors are faced with adding extra stamps to their collection - no mean (or cheap) feat 7 years down the line - or discarding the unwanted pages which, as the introduction indicates, are "intended to work independently" to show all Machins which have one or more date codes.  Of course if collectors do use these pages, they can be assured that they will have to discard many of them next year, and pay for a new set.

Here is one of the pages for the 2nd class blue (the counter sheet stamps, U2945, are on an earlier page), with my additional notes on sources.


This includes the six business sheet stamps from 2010-2015; the six booklet stamps from 2010-2015; the four coil stamps: one for 2010, two for 2012, and one for 2015; and two variations of the one that was included in the 2010 King George V prestige stamp booklet.  But already we have the 2016 booklet and business sheet stamps, thus necessitating a replacement next year. 

Some of the stamps for which there are spaces in the supplement are easier to acquire than others.  If you collect mint stamps, then you come will have a problem with U2962a.  In the 2015 Concise the issue date is listed as '(6.12)' that is, June 2012.  But the album shows a space for one with the year  code MA10.  We know that this was first discovered in July 2011, so why is that not mentioned in the 2015 edition of the catalogue?  Because it is only known in used condition - a fact noted in the table on page 348.  So collectors of mint stamps will forever have a space unless they exceptionally use a used copy here.  The PSB stamp for which two spaces are provided also gets a mention in that table where the existence of both types, first reported by us shortly after the 2010 exhibition, is noted.  But it isn't mentioned in the catalogue listing, not even as a footnote. 

What does this tell us?  That whether or not you get the stamps from your local post office, from Royal Mail's bureau, or from me or another dealer you should get them early, while they are available.* Some printings were never plentiful and the prices in the Concise table reflect this - the 2nd Large MA10 business sheet, the two Recorded Signed For MA10 stamps, and the 2nd Large MA10 booklet stamp are all priced £14 or more, much higher than their contemporaries, reflecting their scarcity.  Try as we might, further supplies eluded us.  They should have been in post office branches, but they aren't even plentiful in used condition from kiloware.

* A few words of clarification. As explained below, the most common stamps are the booklet stamps, which many collectors find in their supermarkets or card-shops, even if they never see particular types in the post office.  I try to obtain as many as I think I will need to sell both as whole booklets and as singles, but my supplier has his customers to satisfy too! 

Most collectors don't buy business sheets, which are sheets of 100 small stamps and 50 Large Letter stamps.  I aim to get an initial stock of 100 of each stamp, that is one sheet of small and 2 sheets of large, but that doesn't always happen if the source has only a few sheets.  Depending on demand I'll try to get more and may be able to add a further supply laterBut quite often the source is replenished with earlier printings, and I can't get a large quantity.  It's quite an interesting balancing act!

What if you have a used collection, which are the sleepers there?  Well, look at your incoming mail - that small amount that is stamped.  The most common 2nd class usage is from booklets (MTIL) or business sheets (MBIL), and the most common 1st class usage is the same, and then the other two booklets (MSIL and MCIL).  What's missing? - the similar stamps from counter sheets - MAIL.   In the case of the 1st class stamps this is because of the volume of 1st class special stamps issued, which some branches find is quite sufficient and they never order the Machin sheet stamps (let alone the Country definitive - that is another story!).

In the case of the 2nd class, social users buy booklets, businesses that use stamps buy business sheets.  So these two (right) which arrived here recently deserve a place in my collection of used on cover.  The lower one is the M15L coil on a mailshot from Laithwaite's, but the upper one is the M15L counter sheet MAIL, from a friend without a computer.  This might be the first one of these I've seen on a letter - it would be ironic if the coils have been more collected than used counter sheets!

I've been pondering for some time how a collection of one of each of these stamps is best stored.  Even if you choose a stockbook there are options.  Do you collect by face value, or by year?  Certainly collecting by year will mean less rearranging as, these days, few stamps appear during the year with the previous year's year code.

How do you keep yours?  And do you collect used on cover?  If you do, and have gaps, I may be able to help with some clearly dated commercial covers.

UPDATE 31 May: 
I've been sent this analysis by Trevor, who sorted four weeks' office mail.  A surprisingly high number of 2nd class stamps from counter sheets (11) though there were far more from books of 12 (57), and only three 1st class counter sheet stamps, one red and two purple.  Thanks Trevor.


1st Red Qty 2nd Qty 1st Purple Qty Others Qty














M12L MBIL 1 M11L MBIL 1 O15R GN 1 Humanitarians 3
M12L MAIL 1 M12L MTIL 1 O16R GN 1 Queens 90th Birthday 4
M14L MTIL 14 M13L MTIL 1 O16R GC 1 Locos of Wales (Mix Bk) 1
M14L MCIL 1 M13L MBIL 1 O16R GS 9 Diamond Jub Machin 1
M14L MBIL 2 M14L MTIL 11 O15R GS 48 Gold Machin 1
M14L MSIL 2 M15L MTIL 40

Shakespeare 2
M15L MBIL 4 M15L MBIL 5

1st Lge MA15 MFIL 1
M15L MSIL 8 M15L MAIL 11

Xmas 2015 1st 5
M15L MTIL 19 M16L MTIL 4

Xmas 2015 2nd 1
M16L MTIL 1



Xmas 2014 2nd 3








53
75 60
22















210

Friday, 20 May 2016

New Wales 1st class definitive, but only on Smilers.

Graham Howard reports on Smilers News that the latest personalised Smilers Sheet which has
appeared on the market includes a change to the perforations which some people will regard as producing a new collectable stamp.

Currently Royal Mail have no Generic Smilers sheets on sale with country definitives, but if they return to this sales line (although what subject can they tempt collectors with?), they may* well be the new type.  Almost certainly printed, as usual, by the Cartor wing of ISP the new perforations are 'square-edged'.  As you can see from the image, this also has elliptical perforations.



* No guarantee, of course.  Royal Mail, like Post Office, are not renowned for following the normal stock rotation principles of 'first in, first out'.




More Machin variants likely later this year.

News has reached us of another change to the printing of Machin definitives which will produce a further variant and cost for those collectors who want to have examples of everything.


Once again this stems from an operational/production requirement, albeit one that ought to have been foreseen and been avoided.  First some background. 

In the first write-up on Security Backing Paper I indicated that papermakers Tullis Russel were involved in producing the backing paper for British definitives.  They have been doing something similar for other countries for some years.

Whilst they are involved in producing the paper which will be used later this year by De La Rue for counter sheet definitives, we understand that the paper used by ISP (Walsall) is actually produced by Avery Dennison. As they do not have the facility to print the 'ROYAL MAIL' wavy line text and this has been carried out by a third party subcontractor (in Europe) prior to the substrate sandwich being manufactured by Avery Dennison.  

So far so good, and the collector is unaffected. However, so that the paper may be used in any direction, especially useful if there are part-reels to be used, the security printing will be changed so that alternate lines (or maybe pairs of lines) of text will be inverted.  Any of the current year's production of booklets and business sheets could be printed on both types of backing paper, thus providing a further set of variants.

So look out for these on booklets, especially, as they are more widely sold and could easily reach retail outlets unnoticed.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Don't read only this blog, there are a lot more out there worthy of your attention

Magazine sales decline as more people find all their content on the web, and with a blog the interaction is often immediate, with comments being added and answered within minutes of the blog being posted.


Not all are like that, some bloggers don't have time to moderate comments and don't want to leave the gate open to spammers - one comment I did not allow through today was apparently innocent, but if you click on the username it linked to a website about pressure cookers! 

But if you want a good read there is a list of other blogs lower down on the right-hand side under the heading

Other philatelic blogs

These are arranged chronologically, so the most recently updated is at the top.  Some are no longer being updated - those stay at the bottom of the list - but contain some very useful and interesting information.  Others are very specialised, but often contain some general observations on the hobby or trade as well.  You can click on the main blog title, or individual entries.

Recently GBStamps has posted a series of observations on how stamps ought to be marketed by the postal authority, specifically Royal Mail, why collectors should be cheerful, and a reality check for buying (and selling) on eBay.

There's no direct comment facility on this site, but if you go to the home page, there is a discrete 'Contact Us' link in the right-hand panel, so if you have something to add, go ahead.  I'm sure your feedback will be welcomed.


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

In her 91st year, the Queen turns grey on the Scotland 2nd class stamp.

In what is probably a move to reduce costs, the silver plate is slowly being removed from Royal Mail's country definitive stamps.

The latest (23/02/2016) reprint of the Scotland 2nd class stamp has the face value and royal profile head printed in grey instead of silver.  This can be done with the black ink, and therefore no silver ink is used,  and one less printing plate is required.




The 2nd class follows the Scotland £1.05 tariff change stamp which also has the head printed in grey, although the face value is reversed out, and shows as white.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

On behalf of ordinary collector customers of Royal Mail's Philatelic Service

Two months ago I wrote about a Meltdown at Tallents House, resulting from the replacement of their separate comupter systems, Unisys - handling Philatelic/Collectors - and AS400 - covering retailers and trade customers - by a new system, known as S+C One, developed by EPICOR.

And after a lot of early frustration collectors reported several weeks later, that their phone calls were being answered in 5-10 minutes instead of 40-50, and that some missing items had been delivered - in some cases more than once!

But all is still not well.  Understandably, the Queen's 90th Birthday stamp issue attracted a great deal of interest with advance orders coming from all over the world, and ad-hoc orders flooding in after the miniature sheet design was revealed to include Prince George.  I'm guessing that a lot of interest was from people who don't normally collect stamps but are royalists so that will be more to Royal Mail's bottom line!

So what's gone wrong with the order processing.  This question/comment was posted on the blog earlier today:

Is it just me, or has anyone else not yet received their Standing Order for the QEII 90th Birthday issue? I've called Tallents House several times now, and although they are always polite, understanding and apologetic, I feel this is very poor service. This issue will have been planned months, if not years, in advance and could easily have been predicted to have been popular, and yet RM just don't seem to have geared up for it. No way to treat a Standing Order customer (for all issues) of over 35 years! My ANZAC Customised Sheet has also not arrived, presumably caught up in the QEII issue debacle. Shocking planning and service.
And another collector sent this email to philatelic.enquiries@royalmail.com:

Again The Royal Mail management do not appear to know how to handle their customers' Regular Orders. In the dim and distant past orders were received on the issue date. Then,  it seemed to change to 5 to 7 days before receipt. Now with the Queen's Stamp issue of the 21 April delivery appears to be 24 working days!! That's according to the Philatelic Bureau today, and you have the audacity to charge delivery.
When can we look forward to the current management being changed to one who believes in Customer Service?
Several other people have also mentioned not receiving their Queen's Birthday orders - and many of these are standing orders which should have been packaged up and ready to go well before the date of issue, just as those to dealers usually are.  One of these is producing special first day covers - he's not a regular cover producer, and not a registered dealer, though he does sometimes sponsor special handstamps - if he's hoping to sell those, the market will have evaporated by the time he gets the covers back from the handstamp centre.  Too much monkeying about, perhaps...?

Well, here's the good news - they do have the stock!

Last Wednesday I put in an order for a dealer friend of mine and on Saturday I was able to supply him with the freshly-delivered Queen's Birthday Prestige Book (and Star Wars PSB, and Royal Mail 500 miniature sheets).

It's not all roses for dealers, though.  Their new S+C One accounting system hasn't yet produced any statements - none at all.  We should have had February, March and April by now.  And we buy on credit account, so while they (a) have your money on your standing order account, (b) take your money on ad hoc orders, they are (c) not even telling us how much we owe them!