Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Self-Service Stamp Machines - now Welsh receipts

Coincident with the issue of the Winter Greenery Faststamps on 13 November, machines in Cardiff's St David office have started producing bilingual receipts.  Thanks to Stuart for these pictures.  As this change was unannounced he may be the only person who collected sets with the Welsh receipt on the first day.  (Most users buy stamps for immediate posting, rather than Faststamps.)

This odd error was also produced !

Wincor-Nixdorf Post and Go, the latest list

Thanks to our friends at Post Office Ltd we can now show their list of Post Office branches which still have Wincor-Nixdorf machines.

Branch Code
Branch Name §
Address 2
Address 3
Post Code
Chester Le Street
137 Front Street
Chester Le Street
27 Strait Bargate
PE21 6EG
7/8 Guildhall Square
SA31 1PN
Crewe Town
13 Victoria Centre
Farringdon Road #
39-41 Farringdon Road
116-120 Seven Sisters Road
Holloway, London
N7 6AE
27 Cooke Lane, Airedale Centre
BD21 3PF
19/20 Vicar Street
DY10 1DD
Model office   ±
148 Old Street
91-97 High St
22 Chapel Street
Swiss Cottage
9/10 Harben Parade, Finchley Rd
South Hampstead, London

* WHS = Post Office is in WHSmith.  § Chester-le-Street is the only Crown Office.
± No Public Access.

# - There is one machine at Farringdon PO and three at Ludgate Circus (see below).  It's suggested that these will be the last four in operation (at least it will make maintenance easier; the engineer can just take his sleeping bag!).

Thanks to Anonymous for providing this. The timetable seems to ensure that no Wincor-Nixdorf machines will dispense any 2105 Faststamp issues, if the POL suggestion that Farrington and Tudor Street will be last to close is right.

Dear Customer
Ludgate Circus Post and Go service
Tudor Street, London, EC4Y 0AA
Proposed Permanent Closure

I’m writing to let you know that we are proposing to permanently close the Ludgate Circus Post and Go facility, which offers basic postal services and postage to customers.

Our contract with our existing supplier is coming to an end which means that the Post and Go machines at this location will be withdrawn from service in February 2015. Alongside this, since the facility opened in 2009 there has been a significant decline in customer usage which means that this type of service is no longer commercially viable in this location, either for Post Office Ltd or the Postmaster who operates the service on our behalf.

We have looked at a number of options that would provide a viable alternative, but we have been unable to find suitable premises in the area to accommodate a Post Office, either from existing nearby retailers or from potential new operators willing to take on vacant premises.
Post Office services in the area

We have therefore reviewed our services in this part of London and we are satisfied that the five Post Office branches which are all within a mile radius of this facility will be able to meet customer demand in the area. Details of the three nearest branches, all just over half a mile away, at Blackfriars Road, Aldwych and Farringdon Road, along with other branches in the area that customers may find convenient, are provided below.

Some of the branches such as Blackfriars Road and Aldwych have recently benefited under our modernisation programme, providing an improved environment for customers. These branches also offer enhanced facilities such as self-service kiosks where customers can pay for postage and send most mail items, including Special Delivery and Signed For items, without having to queue at the main counter. Also available at these branches is our free-to-join Drop and Go service, where customers can hand over their mail and pay with a prepaid Drop andGo card; more information on this service can be found on our website.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Website and e-commerce site problems - solved!

Yesterday were problems on many internet sites in the UK, caused by a failure at one of the major server hosts.  

The problems described below have now been fixed.

However, there may be unrelated PayPal problems.  If you find that you cannot pay via PayPal, please select 'pay by cheque', send us an email or put a note in the Additional Information box, and we will send a PayPal payment request.

Apologies for the inconvenience caused: all the stock which we held back has now been made available again.

This affected us morning, and made it difficult to access the admin side of our shop, to add new products.  I believe this is now all settled, but there may be some textual errors in descriptions/titles or images or pricing.  Edits, for which saves had been attempted failed, and had to be redone.

A further unconnected problem now seems to have affected out shop, causing much frustration.  IT appears that the first stage of checkout has a coding problem, in that when customers enter their ID and password, the LOGIN button doesn't do anything.  Unfortunately failure to complete the checkout means that everything in the shopping cart will be lost, requiring reinput.

We reported this to the technical support people who host our shop, and are hopeful of an early resolution.  Meanwhile we have suspended all the latest additions (500g Special Delivery and all new Winter Greenery Faststamps.

Sincere apologies for these difficulties, we will make the new stock available as soon as possible.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Stamps Update: Winter Greenery Post and Go Faststamps

Winter Greenery Faststamps will have taken many collectors by surprise because there are only four designs instead of 6, and collectors who only have access to Wincor-Nixdorf machines will find that there are probably only 2!  But this does make the collection cheaper, with a basic set of 4 now costing only £2.30 (although the bureau pack is £2.81), and a full set of 16 from NCR machines having a face value of £17.36.

The Bureau Pack contains 1st, 1st Large, 2nd and 2nd Large stamps.

From reports received so far it would seem that all offices, including the BPMA, received the new stamps. These are the NCR Collectors sets:

Of course they are also available with open values (used on first day).

These are the sets from Wincor-Nixdorf machines:

A number of branches still have Wincor machines, I am waiting for a list from PO Ltd.  The latest I have heard of is Perth.

Farringdon Post Office loaded 2nd class into their Wincor-Nixdorf machine.  Can we blame them for making this mistake?  No, central stores should never have sent them to Wincor branches because they couldn't be used.  I know that Farringdon wasn't the only office to receive 2nd class in error.  Thanks to Dominic and Mike for pictures:

Incidentally, a detailed report on the developments at Farringdon suggests that individual collectors each bought one or a few sets, with nobody getting a bulk supply, mainly because most of them didn't realise the error in time.  Sadly one of the buyers spilled the bins to the staff and the machine was taken out of service until the roll could be changed.  Nothing yet on eBay, which tends to confirm the above accounts.

Balham Post Office was selling the 1st class type from their Wincor-Nixdorf machine a day early on 12th.  Listed on eBay they close on 19 November).   Update, per a comment from a reader: this error was Balham's swansong as the machine was removed today (14th).

The stamps were also in use at the BPMA, presumably replacing Poppies and the 2nd class Machin.  Thanks to Chris for this:

Stamps - but not BPMA or Farringdon - will be in our webshop on Monday.

Manic Friday - so much stamp news to report!

Post and Go Faststamp News

Earlier this month Alf sent me a picture of a pair of Post and Go flowers Faststamps, printed in sequence but with a blank stamp between them.  They are numbered 01 and 02 (click on the images to see larger versions).

I had a similar situation from one of Norwich's NCR machines yesterday with the Winter Greenery, with a collectors' set of 6 spread over 7 - except that the 2nd stamp was missing!

As I was buying collectors' sets in both formats (ie with the Holly at the top on some and Butcher's Broom on top on others) this could have had serious implications.  Any subsequent sets would have Holly at the top instead of Butcher's Broom, so matching those I had already bought, rather than being in the other order.  Fortunately this was the last of a batch, but it's worth remembering if you buy several sets.

The assistant told me that he thought that if a stamp was missing the machine could recognise the fact and skip the printing down to the next stamp.  I can think of a way in which this could be achieved but will ask Royal Mail before committing myself!

A more comprehensive report about Winter Greenery is in the next post.

Another Machin 2014 definitive.

It really is no surprise that following the appearance of the reprinted 100g Special Delivery stamp, the 500g has now appeared, with a printing date of 16/09/14.

This is numbered 2986.4 in the Norvic Catalogue and will be on our webshop later today.  A limited number of cylinder and date blocks will be available.

Slogan postmark for European Space Agency

Royal Mail have announced a special slogan postmark to mark the landing of the Philae lander on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko following the Rosetta orbiter’s 10 year mission across the Solar System.

The postmark will appear on letters delivered Friday and Saturday 14/15 November 2014, which implies that it was only used on 13th, but see below!

Thanks to Martin for these pictures and to everybody who sent emails about the announcement whilst I was 'enjoying' myself, shopping in Norwich.  (Well, I had to go to get the Winter Greenery stamps, so saved myself a second journey into the teeming city later in the month!)

And thanks to Bob for these including Swindon MC on 12th

Here is an example in the other layout, which also shows time in addition to date

This Welsh one is also dated 12 Nov, just 4 hours after the landing

The postmark has continued in use after the weekend.  Swindon, South East Anglia, North & West Yorkshire, SE Wales and Exeter Mail Centres.  This Swindon 17 November copy from a square envelope.

The only one I have seen on a Space stamp (with thanks to member

GERMANY has also marked this event with a special handstamp:

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Post and Go and other Stamps News round-up

As reported elsewhere I was fortunate to visit Kidderminster last Sunday and buy some different Euro20/World10 Faststamps from the Wincor machine in the WHSmiths branch*.  It seem unlikely that any more new stamps will now be found (other than Winter Greenery perhaps) so it is a useful time to summarise and link to the stock we have on our shop.

Click on the image to go to that stamp in the shop, and click on Recent Additions when there to see the others - while stocks last!

Spring Blooms
Spring Blooms Faststamp Euro20/World10 from Wincor machine.

Machin undated and MA13
undated Machin Faststamp Euro20/World10 from Wincor machine.Machin MA13 Faststamp Euro20/World10 from Wincor machine.

Sheep and Pigs
Sheep Faststamp Euro20/World10 from Wincor machine.- Pigs Faststamp Euro20/World10 from Wincor machine.

Freshwater Lakes
Freshwater Lakes Faststamp Euro20/World10 from Wincor machine. 

Also reported but not yet stocked by us, Cattle, Union Flag and possibly other Freshwater Life.

It's not clear whether the Winter Greenery stamps will appear in Wincor-Nixdorf machines.  The manager at Kidderminster told me that they had not had Poppies or Symbolic Flowers, so it seems unlikely.  The situation is not helped by the Royal Mail Post Office split, the official response from Royal Mail being:

The intention was for Symbolic Flowers to be followed by the Poppy and then, on 13 November, to be replaced by Winter Greenery. Maybe some offices didn’t receive the information and therefore didn’t order the stock.

This indicates that the PO Supplies Department at Swindon is not sending the stock out automatically (although I think they ought to for new issues).  If we are reliant on individual branches ordering new stamps then it may be difficult in the future to be sure what will be on sale where, unless concerned collectors and dealers approach the branches a couple of weeks before a new issue is due.  Even then, it's reported that NCR offices, which mostly have at least 3 machines, received two rolls of Poppies and then were unable to order any more, meaning that some have no Poppies on sale in the period immediately before Remembrance Day.

* For those visiting Kidderminster, the branch is about 150 yards from The Bullring, where you can also find J D Wetherspoons Penny Black pub which serves a good all-morning breakfast and Sunday Roast!

New printings of reissued stamps

I checked Norwich's stock of definitive-sized Lest We Forget Poppies stamp on 21 October and found that they had a 2013 printing.  However, the 1st and 2nd class 2013 Madonna Christmas stamps are also reissued this year (the 2007 stamps having been retired), and the ones that Doug has sent pictures of are new 2014 printings, 11 June for the 1st class, and 23 June for the 2nd.  
UPDATE: Robert reports 12 June for 1st class and 20 June for 2nd.  (21st & 22nd were weekend)

These top-half sheets do not have the cylinder numbers but I don't expect any changes there, especially given the 5-Nov-2013 Sale Date still present in the left margin (but who knows otherwise?)

Thanks to John F for pointing out that on the examples he has seen the date in the phosphor is still ‘2013’ for both first & second class. This points to the same cylinders being used and means that there will be no new catalogue entry for these.  However, it doesn't mean that there will be no shade variations, as happened with the various printings of the previous long term 'alternative' Madonnas.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Yes, another short break in transmission !

Our office will be closed again from 28 October to 3 November 2014.  

All orders will be dealt with automatically and we will process them will as quickly as possible on our return.

Comments on the blog will be processed if we have email access on O2's mobile network.

I will check back through previous reports and comments, but does anybody know if Kidderminster, Walsall, Solihull, or Hereford have Wincor-Nixdorf Post and Go machines?

See below for details of what we found at Kidderminster, which does still have a Wincor-Nixdorf machine (card only when I left it!)

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Post and Go Catalogue ? - not yet, not here!

Now that our Machin Security Definitives Catalogue is available - and thanks for all the kind comments about it - a number of collectors have asked if we are doing something similar for Post and Go Faststamps.

If anything these are more complex, and we all accept that the listing of these in Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise catalogue is very basic, even with all the caveats in the introduction about intentional and unintentional variables.

But I'm afraid for the present the answer must be no, I don't have time, nor the detailed knowledge, of all the variants that exist.  There are two other source of detailed information about Faststamps:

- John McCullum produces the periodic ATM Informer newsletter which is sent by email.  Contact details and more data on Postal Mechanisation and so on can be found here.  John has plenty to do apart from philately and I don't think he currently has time to produce a comprehensive Catalogue to match the Norvic Security Machins catalogue.

- Vince Patel produces a detailed listing of the stamps available from the many different machines at Exhibitions large and small.  The latest can be downloaded here.  If you want to contact Vince to get on his mailing list, email me and I'll pass on your request. (That avoids putting his email address here and attracting spammers!) 

I do recognise that my own numbering system - used on our webshop - is probably incomprehensible to most collectors.  I'll try to produce a simple guide to help you find your way - or change the numbers!

But if anybody else feels like producing a comprehensive and detailed catalogue of Post and Go Faststamps I'm happy to help with the publicity and distribution.  I can even help with some illustrations - which I think will be more important with Post and Go than with Security Stamps!  There is a demand out there - who's up for it?  Send me an email!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Yet another unannounced Post and Go Faststamp change

Remember the Tariff Change at the end of March, when Royal Mail suddenly realised that they really ought to keep the 97p postcard and basic Worldwide letter rate? 

Emergency measures were taken with Post and Go machines and, after a false promise of a nationwide change in April, the NCR software was changed in June so that the 'Europe up to 20g' stamp was changed to read 'Euro 20g / World 10g'.

The special machines in use at philatelic events, and at the BPMA and NMRN also used this service indicator.  Those of us who thought about it generally reckoned that with the Wincor-Nixdorf machines being replaced rapidly their software would not be changed.  The Philatelic Bulletin (October p 55) confirmed that "The dual-value label was not vended from Wincor machines."

So imagine my surprise when this picture turned up this week from the other end of England to where the main action was supposed to be going on (London and Portsmouth) :

From machine number 1, so clearly not an NCR machine.  In fact, Spring Blooms from Chester-le-Street's Wincor-Nixdorf machine!

We await with bated breath your reports of availability on other stamps.  Brown Machins (various dates), Union Flag (also various dates), Symbolic Flowers, and possibly some of the older stock if any of it is left in Post Office branches yet to be converted.

This undated Union Flag (collector's strip) from Leeds was listed on eBay by melrider1949 *:

* Update: the same seller now also has the new Poppy stamp with this change, despite assertions elsewhere that this would not be provided to Wincor-Nixdorf offices.

Undated Machin example from Farringdon Road:

The Collectors Set shows clearly how the new caption is out of step with he others which were changed earlier in the year.  The 60g stamps still have the 'wrong' size figures which means that there are three different types in one set!

UPDATE 27 October:
Cattle were in the Macclesfield machine on Monday, but when that roll was exhausted they switched to Sheep, and then Freshwater Lakes. (Thanks to Robert and Stuart for these pictures)

Meanwhile at Chester-le-Street, Freshwater Lakes are now in use (thanks to Brian for the image )

Iain reports having bought Symbolic Flowers and Freshwater Rivers, but I don't know which offices these came from.

UPDATE 28 October:
Now, here's a surprise - the Wincor machines were not all changed at the same time!  Roy reports that Chesterfield has two machines, with K2 being from the previous office at 1 Market Place and retaining the branch code of 011340.  Whilst K1 was changed as previously described, K2 was unchanged at 11.45 am:

This error has since been rectified.

As a result of advice from readers (many thanks all) I visited Kidderminster on Sunday and secured some Machin MA13 versions from their Wincor-Nixdorf machine.  No other Faststamps were available because all old stock was returned to store when the Crown House post office closed and operations moved to the WHSmith shop in Vicars Street, about 100 yards away.

Meanwhile, as reported in the comments, Macclesfield's WN machine has been removed and is not being replaced.  Fortunately Stuart managed to get me some Pigs and these (with the Machin above) will soon be in our webshop.

In its last 2 weeks Macclesfield was using up old stocks which included all of the Farm Animals and at least two of the Freshwater Life sets.

On this subject, these reports have been received in the last few days:

(1) Further conversions to NCR have now reduced Wincor in the Capital to a handful.
Wood Green has been NCR for some time and recent conversions are Great Portland Street and Junction Road.

Kensington (of poppy fame) has had Wincor withdrawn so NCR is imminent there.

I am sure it is not official but from today's observations it seems if a Wincor goes defective it is not been given priority for repair with Farringdon Road and also 2 of the 3 kiosks out of service at both Tudor Street and Clapham out of service.

The kiosk at Holloway is showing a Windows start up fault as it did two weeks ago, not checked were Finchley Road and Balham.

(2) I'm reliably informed that Harrogate W-N machines were removed this week (16 October) and York will be changed on 30 October.
(3) London's Baker Street's 2 W-N machines were withdrawn on 21 October.
(4) Sevenoaks NCR went live 31 October; Macclesfield W-N removed 31 October and not replaced;  Leeds W-N removed 27 October;  York W-N last day was 25 October.
I'm trying to get up to date information from Post Office Ltd.

Another rarity in the Trafalgar Day Post and Go update from BPMA & RN Museum

As regular readers will know there has been some discrepancy between what Royal Mail have announced and what we have been told by other sources regarding today's Post and Go changes.

In brief, the machine at the BPMA has been changed so that more than two types of stamps can be sold, and the NMRN machine will have Trafalgar Day inscription on the flag stamps and Remembrance on the newly installed Poppy stamps.  Thanks to Chris for this report and the pictures.

"Staff placed the Poppy Reel in the machine and it all started well, printing Poppy with ‘NMRN’. Only when someone queried the absence of the ‘Trafalgar Day’ overprint on the Union Flag, was it discovered that the machine had not been updated overnight.

"We were assured* that the only overprint on the Poppy would be ‘NMRN’, until 11 November when ‘Remembrance would be added for that one day only. When the software was updated, the ‘Remembrance’ overprint was available immediately!

"Only about 900 stamps exist with just the ‘NMRN’ on the Poppy stamp."
*(as I had been told last week by Museum staff) §

The Trafalgar Day inscription:

Chris and Mike have also sent pictures of the four stamps available from the BPMA machine today, showing that (after the Postage Due and Airmail inscriptions) the inscription has reverted to the lower position as it was in 2012.  Note that these four are all from session 1546.

On these the Machin and Flag are undated, the 2nd class is MA12, with the Poppy being MA14 of course.

The 2012 version:
It's not the same, of course: there have been (too?) many changes in 2 years - the font, the machine number and data string format.  But on a simplified level it's the same.

§ Mike commented ....

".... I was told by the 'minder' at Portsmouth that the software updates had been timed for 10.30* despite the BPMA having been under the impression that they would be done at 07.01 to allow them to cater for their needs before opening to the public).

"RM (or whoever) seriously need to address this so that all PO branches and any other machines are updated before they are timed to open to the public."