Thursday, 29 October 2009

Christmas Stamp Printing Dates & Cylinder numbers

Printing dates seen on this year's Christmas stamps:

2nd class - 10 July
1st class - 6 July
56p - 2 July
90p - 2 July
£1.35 - 4 July
2nd L - 9 July
1st L - 7 July

Cylinders on sheet stamps not yet seen.

Cylinders on booklets:

2nd class - D1 x 6, including a barely visible phosphor cylinder
1st class - D1 x 6, including a barely visible phosphor cylinder

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Smilers makeover- 4 new designs for consumers.

Royal Mail's Smilers (personalised stamps) service has been running since Stamp Show 2000 and over the years many stamps have been added and removed from the menu. Many of the stamps have also been available in the Business Customised Service [BCS] (those expensive sheets which look like posters with stamps stuck on, which are sold for prices even higher than Royal Mail's premium-priced Commemorative Sheets).

But despite the introduction of some new designs, some maintain that the menu has been getting tired, especially for the BCS, there being no stamps relevant to the subjects chosen for the sheets (which really proves that the stamps are irrelevant). Last year Royal Mail invited suggestions as to new stamps for the service, and Adrian Bradbury proposed some new designs which you can read about and see on the Smilers-Info website. (You can read some more of my thoughts on the subject there as well!)

Royal Mail have taken on board some of the suggestions, and recognised the fact that they can't issue new stamps in the Smilers service without making them available to collectors at face value (or nearly), by issuing a conventionally-gummed miniature sheet of all 10 new stamps:



There will also be a self-adhesive generic sheet.

As my headline says - 4 new designs for consumers, those on the right, which are two 1st class and 20 gr stamps for Europe and the Rest of the World. The left-most 6 stamps with themes of transport, remembrance and royalty are for the Business Customised service only at this stage.

You can see more details of this in due course on our website. FDCs and special handstamps will be produced.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Design Classics 2 = Classic Album Covers - 7 January 2010

After the success of 2009’s British Design Classics, 2010 opens with a look at the classic art of the album cover. For decades the album sleeve has been the canvas for some of the most imaginative graphic artists in the world. This stamp issue salutes this unique art form and celebrates some of the greatest examples, used by UK artists.



(Click on the image for a much larger one)


In the set of 10 self-adhesive stamps the albums, artists and cover artists are:

Sheet 1 - strip of 5
a. The Division Bell – Pink Floyd - 1994, design by Storm Thorgerson;
b. A Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay - 2002, design Sølve Sundsbø;
c. Parklife – Blur - 1994, design Chris Thomson / Stylorouge, photography: Bob Thomas;
d. Power Corruption and Lies – New Order - 1983, design by Peter Saville;
e. Let It Bleed – The Rolling Stones - 1969, design Robert Brownjohn

Sheet 2 - strip of 5
a. London Calling – The Clash - 1979, design Ray Lowry;
b. Tubular Bells – Mike Oldfield - 1973, design Trevor Key;
c. IV – Led Zeppelin - 1971, design Graphreaks, Art Directed by Jimmy Page;
d. Screamadelica – Primal Scream - 1991, design Paul Cannell;
e. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – David Bowie - 1972, design Main Artery

The Souvenir Sheet, in the form of a 'Best of...' album cover, contains the same 10 stamps, the same size, conventionally gummed and perforated. This sheet is 223mm x 188mm (8.8 x 7.4 inches)



The stamps and sheet will be issued on 7 January 2010. Other products include -

Presentation Pack. This is a fully illustrated folder which contains all ten Classic Album Covers Stamps.

Stamp Cards - postcard-sized enlargements of the stamps, sold in complete sets only.

First Day Covers (FDC) - special envelopes with designs to compliment the stamps.

Prestige Stamp Books consist of pages of stamps interleaved with information about the subject.


You can read more about these stamps and stamp products on our website. (If you are new to stamps, click on the 'newcomers' link to the right of the stamps image.)

In due course we will add an ordering page which will include the ability to order any quantity and pay. Otherwise we will take email orders, through the website.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Business Sheets: DLR die-cuts - just how significant is type 2a?

I mentioned the two different types of die-cut arcs reportedly used by De La Rue on 1st & 2nd class business sheets earlier. Somebody asked me to get some of second type which has been labelled Type 2a by specialists.

In the normally adequate light of the club meeting room last night I couldn't see any difference on the 1st class. 2nd class? yes, there's the gap but a smaller one than on Type 2 (hence 2a), but the 1st class? How big do you need to magnify it to be sure? Can we prove that this is a definite variety?

Judge for yourself.

2nd class - Type 2a on the right


1st class - sorry, Type 2a on the left!

Yes it's there, you can just about see the notch at top and bottom - it's hardly a gap, more an slight raising (remember whatever they look like in the scans, these arcs are cuts, depressions, in the stamp.)

Ok, how about these. They are scanned at 2400dpi and yes, I can see the gap!
They go on sale in our online shop within the next couple of weeks!

United Kingdom Postcodes are 50 years old 2 - the postmarks used - Pass On Your Postcode

Royal Mail's Postmark Bulletin announced that letter cancelling machinery would have a commemorative postmark for a few days.

INK-JET SLOGAN POSTMARKS
An ink-jet slogan marking the 50th anniversary of the introduction of postcodes at Norwich on 8 October 1959 will be used 6-12 October at mail centres applying ink-jet postmarks. A bilingual version is intended for use at mail centres processing mail posted in Wales.

In addition, metal slogan dies are expected to be used at Norwich Mail Centre, 5-18 October. Eight dies are being sent to Norwich
a - Code It Keep It/Prevent Crime;
b - Get The Most From Your Post/Code It;
c - Help Us Push Postcodes;
d - Pass On Your Postcode;
e - Prevent Crime/Postcode Valuables;
f - Remember to Use The Postcode;
g - Be Properly Addressed/Postcode it; and
h - Sealed & Postcoded Correctly Addressed/Mechanisation/Will Do The Rest.

Six of these eight dies are expected to be used in the three CFCs (Culler Facer Cancellers) dependent on operational requirements.

This announcement is for information only. Collectors are reminded that Royal Mail no longer offers a reposting service for slogan postmarks.


Update
The slogan dies were supplied to Norwich from the British Postal Museum and Archive - it may well be that some of them were never actually used at Norwich in their first use. The Postmark Bulletin indicated that 8 dies were to be sent to Norwich which has three CFCs, each with two cancellers, so we wondered which would be used. Fortunately I've been supplied with incoming local mail from a local business and can report. Even more fortunately Norwich sorting office seems to have found some more ink - usually the postmarks are too indistinct even to read the date or placename!

CFC die 1- Get The Most From Your Post/Code It


CFC die 1 - Pass On Your Postcode


CFC die 2 - Get The Most From Your Post/Code It


CFC die 2 - Pass On Your Postcode


CFC die 3 - Code It Keep It/Prevent Crime


CFC die 4 - Sealed & Postcoded Correctly Addressed Mechanisation Will Do The Rest


CFC die 5 - Prevent Crime Postcode Valuables (all examples seen are shifted to the right)


CFC die 6 - Help Us Push Postcodes


Another die was used in the older machine - Remember to Use The Postcode



Example of IMP (ink-jet) slogan used at Worcester



Example of bilingual IMP slogan used at Shrewsbury


Example of ordinary slogan used at Shrewsbury*


* Almost all mail posted in the Shrewsbury area receives two machine postmarks, one the old style and one the IMP (ink-jet). Getting these is quite unusual!

Finally a copy of a much earlier slogan. Thanks to Stafford, Simon, Barry & Richard for information or examples of postmarks.

Recorded NVIs coming on 17 November (v2)

Readers may wish to know that images of the Recorded Signed For stamps are shown on the original posting.

Copycat stamp issues - maybe ours wasn't such a bad idea after all!

Remember these?



A gimmicky 2003 issue aimed at children which was sold not only at post offices but at Sainsbury's supermarkets. Didn't take off that well although some teachers found them useful and there are mentions on several "teachers' aids" websites.

Next year, Finnish residents will have the opportunity to use something similar on their mail as Intelia put their version on sale:

Friday, 9 October 2009

Royal Navy shifts left - single centre, and wide bands in PSB

A collector in Canada reports having received one of the Royal Navy Uniforms prestige stamp books with the phosphor on the Machin pane shifted to the left by 4-5mm.

The result is:

Right column: 1 single 'centre' band on 17p & 90p stamps

Centre column: wide band on 1p stamps, and on Crown label

Left column: wide 'centre' band on 17p stamps, single 'centre' band on 90p stamp.

Narrow phosphor band on left edge of stamps, to the right of the rouletting.

Four new stamps in total:

1p wide
17p narrow
17p wide
90p narrow

Glasgow goes back in time for Post and Go

When Post & Go machines break down, as - it seems - they quite often do, the software sometimes defaults to an original date, just as it sometimes does with yur digital camera, or PC.

On 1 October 2009 Glasgow machine 1 was dispensing labels which required the items to be posted a little earlier:



Thanks to Alan for this example - which arrived the day after his letter telling me that it was coming, and enclosing the machine's receipt!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

New 12 x 1st Machin book has reset cover


Thanks to Richard P for pictures of a new setting of the cover of the 1st class booklet of 12.

At first it looks as if the printing has shifted to the left, the figure 1 being cut by the fold. But a measurement of the gap between the upright of the 1 and the edge of the colon (to:) on the back reveals a reduction of about 6mm. (I don't have the actual booklets but an onscreen measurement reveals a reduction of about 37%.)

I'm told these books come from a new printing from cylinder W5 and are available in post offices now.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Recorded NVIs coming on 17 November

Royal Mail has announced the issue of two new Machin definitives on 17 November. The new NVIs combine the Recorded Delivery Fee and the 1st class / 1st class Large Letter 100gr fees.


We now have the images, and I admit to being a little disappointed. Whilst the stamps keep the 'house' colour scheme of the Recorded Signed For service, I expected that they would be 'flame' on a white background, similar to the airmail NVIs.

When we first heard about the possibility of combined 'postage and premium service' stamps we assumed it was because there was a need expressed by small/medium businesses who would normally use Business Sheets. However a Post Office Ltd spokesperson said that their introduction was because of 'an operational need at Post Office counters' and that they would be issued 'in normal counter sheets only'.

It is to be expected that the sheet format will be the same as other definitives, but whether self-adhesive or ordinary we don't know, nor therefore whether they will have security features!

We now know that these will be self-adhesive with security features. The basic stamp is 24mm square, making it 4mm wider than the ordinary definitive.

Royal Mail will provide definitive First Day Covers in the usual way. Product codes are as follows:



Recorded 1st class £1.14 DS114
Recorded 1st Large £1.36 DS136
FDC Tallents House
or Windsor £3.34 DF053




This is an interesting development. Currently all letters up to 100gr have to be stamped with adhesives, and Horizon Labels cannot be produced. But under 100gr items sent by Recorded Delivery can be sent with a Horizon Label.

However, as the address has to be entered into the system to provide the certificate of postage, and then the weight and so on, to produce the label, all this takes longer than just adding a stamp. Could it be that somebody has discovered the disadvantage - in a busy office - of the Horizon system?

Will the next step be a Special Delivery Machin? Probably not: what we are more likely to see - once all our posties get personal data assistants to scan bar-coded mail - is a Machin Horizon Label with a unique bar-code which will save the production and use of separate Special Delivery bar-code stationery. Or have you a better idea? Let me know, or comment in the space below. Watch this space for developments.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

United Kingdom Postcodes are 50 years old.

Yes, postcodes in their present form came were introduced in the UK 50 years ago this week.
This is what Royal Mail's Press Release - issued in the last few days of 2008 - had to say about this milestone:


50 years on - 1.7 million postcodes continue to deliver across the UK -
30/12/2008

We all have one and undoubtedly take it for granted, but 50 years on since it 
was first introduced, the postcode is still an invaluable tool for Royal Mail 
and many other industries.

In 1959 the first postcodes were introduced in Norwich with the first half of 
the postcode NOR representing the city name, and the last three characters each 
individual street. During the 1960s postcodes were rolled out to all addresses 
across the UK.

The use of the postcode has developed and it is now much more than a delivery 
tool for Royal Mail, forming the backbone of many services such as online 
shopping and satellite navigation systems.

The very first steps toward the modern day postcode were taken in 1857 when, 
faced with London’s ever-burgeoning population, Sir Rowland Hill, inventor of 
the postage stamp, introduced a scheme to accelerate mail delivery. This divided 
the capital into 10 separate postal districts - N, S, E, W, NE, NW, SE, SW, EC 
and WC. The public were then asked to add these district letters to the bottom 
of addresses.

There are now in excess of 1.7 million postcodes across the UK, covering 27 
million addresses. Postcoded letters can be read by Royal Mail’s machinery and 
sorted 20 times faster than by hand. However millions of people still forget to 
put the postcode on letters and cards with almost 20% of non-business letters, 
cards and packets not bearing a full or accurate postcode.

Giles Finnemore, Head of Marketing at Royal Mail’s Address Management team, 
said: "Although the postcode is celebrating its 50th birthday in 2009 it’s still 
as important today as it ever was to help Royal Mail sort and deliver mail 
quickly and efficiently. Our postcode system now lies at the heart of many forms 
of modern technology, such satnav systems, online mapping and route planners and 
of course online shopping."

Did you know?
• Royal Mail’s online postcode checker gets around 4.5 million hits per month - 
equivalent to 55 million checks per year

• Santa Claus has his own special postcode - SAN TA1 - and gets 750,000 letters 
every year to his North Pole address

• Some famous addresses have their own postcode - Albert Square in Eastenders 
(E20), Coronation Street (M10) and Ambridge, home to the Archers (AM1)


So how did they decide to mark the anniversary - special miniature sheet? Smilers Sheet? No, all was deadly quiet until last Friday when a small entry in their Postmark Bulletin announced that letter cancelling machinery would have a commemorative postmark for a few days.

INK-JET SLOGAN POSTMARKS
An ink-jet slogan marking the 50th anniversary of the introduction of postcodes at Norwich on 8 October 1959 will be used 6-12 October at mail centres applying ink-jet postmarks. A bilingual version is intended for use at mail centres processing mail posted in Wales.

In addition, metal slogan dies are expected to be used at Norwich Mail Centre, 5-18 October. Eight dies are being sent to Norwich
- Code It Keep It/Prevent Crime;
- Get The Most From Your Post/Code It;
- Help Us Push Postcodes;
- Pass On Your Postcode;
- Prevent Crime/Postcode Valuables;
- Remember to Use The Postcode;
- Be Properly Addressed/Postcode it; and
- Sealed & Postcoded Correctly Addressed/Mechanisation/Will Do The Rest.

Six of these eight dies are expected to be used in the three CFCs (Culler Facer Cancellers); dependent on operational requirements.

This announcement is for information only. Collectors are reminded that Royal Mail no longer offers a reposting service for slogan postmarks. An article on the 50th anniversary of postcodes is published in the October issue of the British Philatelic Bulletin.


Look out for all 8 - and the more widespread ink-jet slogans from the IMP machines, including the bi-lingual ones from Wales. Send us your images to show here, please!

UPDATE
Images of all the postmarks so far seen are in a new message here.

Friday, 2 October 2009

GB 2010 stamp programme updated

The Great Britain programme for 2010 has been revised from the outline announced in February:

7 January - British Design Classics II - this will NOT be similar to the 2009 issue as previously thought

2 February - Girl Guide Centenary

25 February - 350th Anniversary of the Royal Society

1 March - Castles of Wales generic Smilers Sheet (last in series)

11 March - 150th anniv Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

23 March - Kings & Queens: House of Stewart

13 April - Endangered Mammals

6 May - Accession of King George V (London 2010 issue)

8 May - The King's Stamps (ditto - 1st day of London Festival of Stamps)

13 May - Britain Alone (commemoration of events of 1940)

15 June - Children's Books

-- July? - Olympics & Paralympics II

19 August - Stage Musicals

16 September - Great British Railways

12 October - Kings & Queens: House of Stuart

2 November - Christmas
-----------------------------

Some of these are sets, some are miniature sheets, some have prestige stamp books, some will have generic Smiers Sheets. There will also be retail booklets advertising London 2010 (March) and the Olympics (January & February).

More details and images in this thread as embargo dates are passed, and here on the blog