NOTE: I know many people will or have read this and then contact their usual supplier for all the versions that they didn't ask for before Stampex. Most of us bought what we could either on pre-order or from the machines. If two versions of a stamp were available on pre-order (B machine) and we only got one, then that can't be changed! If two versions were available at the public machines and this wasn't discovered until later, then it can't be changed. Our customers will get what they asked for and if we happened to obtain other variants, then they will be offered. Aside from that, it can't be done. Have faith in your suppliers: they can't work miracles!
As regular readers will know, I always visit Stampex on day 2 as that is when Royal Mail do their Trade Briefing. So the first good thing was that while on the train to London I picked up emails from several regular contributors who had been on Wednesday! (I'll answer you individually later today.)
As a reminder, this is what I wrote about what would be in the new-style Post and Go machines:
Spring Stampex 19-22 February - contents the same on all 4 days
Machines A2 and A3 - A: Spring Blooms, B: Machin with additional inscription
Machine A4 - A: Union Flag; B: Machin with additional inscription, 4 days
Machine B1 - Spring Blooms on both reels, all 4 days
Machine B2 - Machin with additional inscription on both reels, all 4 days.
I thought it was clear from this that ONLY the Machin would have an additional inscription (or overprint), not the flags, not the new pictorials (which never have additional inscriptions). Some people seem to have been looking for the Stampex 2014 inscription on the others. Sorry if it wasn't clear! It does get complicated at times.
Wednesday visitors soon found out that, unlike in previous events, there were no Post and Go stamps being sold over the Royal Mail counter, apart from the Spring Blooms packs. So all publicity about 'B' machines applied only to pre-orders. And the only people who knew how to pre-order were we dealers!
(Incidentally we didn't get the pre-order information until 30th January and then it omitted the Flags. As this would have required us all to crowd the public machines to get them, they were added. Pre-ordering was only online; and there was an minimum order value but this was not mentioned!)
The omission of the B machines from the back-office meant that not only could collectors not obtain them, dealers could not get more than their original pre-orders. There may well be good technical reasons for the change, but this hasn't been explained yet. It suggests to me that some of the changes had been driven by the software supplier rather than by Royal Mail.
On the positive side, I talked to Royal Mail about the fact that - for us - arrangements for and availability of Post and Go stamps seemed to change for every Stampex (one time we couldn't pre-order multiples of 1st class, only collectors strips and sets), and I've been told that lessons have been learned and things will be regularised.
As we had already found out, new machines were used for the first time (I hope to get some pictures later). The user-interface on these is different, so there was again a learning curve. Printing was faster, and more could be bought on one transaction. We were told that the maximum was 999, but on using the machine I found that this had been reset - for reasons not explained - to a limit of 350. Still better, but not perfect. The machine also estimates how many labels are left on the roll, so that if the order quantity is too high (for a particular roll) the touch-screen will not accept the order - the machine will not halt in mid-transaction leaving payment 'taken' but stamps not dispensed. (A GOOD THING!)
These new machines were not A2, A3 and A4 as originally announced but A3, A4 and A5! I didn't try them all, but from what I bought and what I have seen on eBay A3 had Machins and flowers, A4 had Machins and ? (probably flowers), and A5 had Machins and Flags.
UPDATE 21 Feb.
And I put this in the BAD because it shouldn't have happened, there should have been greater control and consistency. Responding to a question sent as a comment, I find that the overprinted Machins I have from A5 are without year code, but those from machine B2 are coded MA13. So not only were B machine stamps not sold over the counter, but the ones that were produced are different to those sold from the public machines. What a farce: I'm now faced with customers wanting both types but I have very few spare of either type.
When I used the Jersey machine it dispensed both Jersey and UK flag stamps with no problems. I had a report of Jersey flags with UK service indicators on, which suggests a transposition of the rolls in the machine rather than a software problem. Pictures when/if I get them. The receipts from the Jersey machine have Jersey Post's logo, and show the actual purchase price. However, as Jersey is not in the EU and does not come under the UK's VAT regime, VAT at 20% is added to the cost of purchasing Jersey stamps and this shows on the card receipt. (The same has always applied to stamps sold by the islands at UK stamp events: "face value" = face value+20%.)
Also, very pleased to meet Sally from Jersey Post who is very enthusiastic about the Post and Go system: more news from her, and maybe Guernsey Post, ere long!
I'm told that 'the machine broke down a few times' but I suspect that may have been reel exhaustion as much as anything, as demand was great especially from European dealers, who were still present when I went at 5pm on Thursday (when the machine was reloaded once again). Demand was given a boost when the Machin replacement rolls were coded MA13 - the dealers wanting just as many as before all over again.
And now an apology to our German readers. Evidence from the comments made on the blog and emails sent makes it clear that some people have over-reacted to what actually happened over the three days last week at the BPMA. It seems that some collectors are too impatient, and some exaggerated the extent of the problem. And some people just don't seem to realise that not all collectors can - or want to - travel to London to buy these stamps. An except from a comment that I didn't publish in full:
"So you [a dealer] are able to sell on at a profit when other individual customers later actually can't get any of them either. And individual collectors have to ask 'politely' for you to move over when you are printing out hundreds to make a profit for yourself."Well, I'm sorry 'Anonymous' but dealers supply far more people than can make the trek themselves, and their 'profit' has to cover travelling, hotel accommodation, and taxes. I am supplying to people from Cornwall to Cumbria, and Israel to Australia. As per another comment,
"We only have ourselves to blame, if collectors didn’t want completeness and dealers eager to meet demand, this wouldn’t happen."I think we will find at future events that only one version of each base stamp will be available: none of this MA12/MA13/MA14 all available at once.
The staff at the BPMA have their normal 'day jobs' to do, and they may rue the days when there are changes to the Post and Go machines. They can't be expected to 'police' the queues to ensure that no one person or group monopolises the machine causing lengthy queues.
One saving grace of the new machines with their greater and faster output per payment is that such clogging will be vastly reduced.
Due to lack of time I didn't get any BPMA stamps yesterday but I hope somebody will get them for me today.
The 'overprint' on the Machin stamps was, as announced 'Stampex 2014'. But I've been sent this image of a stamp with the wrong imprint 'Stampex Spring' :
As you can see this is from session 0258 on machine A5. On eBay I've seen session 247 with the correct inscription, and those I bought yesterday had the correct inscription. So how is this explained? Evidence from several buyers suggests that this error started around 2.30pm and continued for the rest of the day, ie 7pm.
Update from John, the lucky buyer:
The time on my receipt is 21:39:29, but in reality it was about 3.15. [Session 247 was about an hour earlier.] This might suggest there had been a breakdown during that time requiring some resetting, but that doesn't explain why the text changed!
Further update from Keith:
Session number was 267 timed at 22:00:16 (but actually about 4pm) and also shows the wrong caption.
A new value (service indicator) has appeared on some stock supplied on pre-order from a B machine. (Note that the times and dates on receipts are irrelevant and artificial as these were printed before Stampex opened. ) Our thanks to Phil for this picture:
The Royal Mail stand didn't have much in the way of new stock - all the 88p regionals were from the original printing, for example. But there were adequate supplies of 1st class Large MA13 sheet stamps, and they are back on stock. If you need date blocks or cylinder blocks please contact me!
We're moving all our operations to a new server - that's mail and website. Mail has already moved - you won't have noticed (I didn't!), and the website will start early next week. The old shop site is nearly empty and closed (yet we still had an order yesterday!) and stock is now at shop.norphil.co.uk which is hosted independently.
This may mean that I cannot deal with emails and orders quite as quickly as usual, so please bear with me and all should be well in a couple of weeks. If you notice anything missing, broken links, etc, I really would appreciate being told so that we can put things right.