Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Which stamps are these major media outlets missing for 2015?

It always happens during the Christmas break, though now I can spot these things on my iPhone.  There were multiple splashes on the web on 27th December (and probably in the printed media) about Royal Mail's 2015 stamp programme (though not in the Archant Group which publishes my local paper).  Most concentrated on The Two Ronnies stamp to be issued (with others) on 1 April.  [Now added to our website here.]


Typical reports:

The Mirror -'Best of British' stamps to honour our famous battles, bridges and The Two Ronnies

Western Morning News - Bridges, rugby and comedy legends to feature on stamps.
Two areas in which the West Country excels - engineering and rugby - are among the items to feature on stamps in 2015.

Digital Spy - Royal Mail to honour Two Ronnies in 2015 Special Stamp programme

Daily Mail - First class! The Two Ronnies on a stamp.

Wales Online – Bees, Comedians and Rugby Union (with reference to rugby and stamping)

Shropshire Star/Herald Scotland and others -- BRIDGES TO BE FEATURED ON STAMPS
Several digital outlets showed the Forth (Rail) Bridge to illustrate this story. 

Most mentioned Bridges, the Centenary of the First World War, and the British Inventions with specific reference to the invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee (the only one they seem to have had a picture for).


Several of the reports included this paragraph:

The 2015 special stamps programme will start with British inventions, such as the world wide web, followed by a set of 10 stamps celebrating the engineering of some of our most famous bridges.

Now you know, and I know, that this is just not true.  The Inventors stamps will be issued at Stampex on 19 February.  What's missing are the Alice in Wonderland stamps issued next week, and the new Greetings stamps for the Smilers service issued later in January.


So why the odd reporting?  Well, as you know we couldn't show the Alice in Wonderland stamps as early as I would have liked§ - say in late November or early December - because of Royal Mail media restrictions.  I was told that they would, as usual, have a big push after Christmas when news is quiet so as to get maximum coverage for their first new issue of 2015.  So what went wrong?  There has been no press release about the Alice stamps yet: instead they set out the list for most of the rest of the year (full text below) in which they suggest that the 2015 programme starts in February!

Casual collectors who don't follow stamp news websites or blogs, or buy stamp magazines may be forgiven for thinking that they could pay their pre-Christmas credit-card bills in January and not worry about adding to their stamp collections until later.  Wrong!  Alice will cost £9.42 for a single mint set.

§ In the light of a couple of comments on this blog I should explain that Royal Mail do allow dealers to show the stamps in conjunction with their own products eg FDCs, but not on Royal Mail fdcs, or as stand-alone items.  This is why major cover dealers are showing them a month or more ahead of the date of issue.  It doesn't explain why other dealers are listing on eBay for 30 days of advance sales before the issue date, and why other writers are showing them without permission on their blogs.  Oh for some sanity!

Press Release
ROYAL MAIL REVEALS ITS SPECIAL STAMP PROGRAMME FOR 2015
  • The British sense of humour is celebrated with the Comedy Greats issue. The set features iconic comedians who have provided some of the nation’s most memorable laugh-out-loud moments in television, film and theatre history, including one of the nation’s best loved comedy duos, The Two Ronnies
  • Prominent key British inventions, such as the world wide web, will be marked with the Inventive Britain issue
  • 2015 will see the second issue in the five-year series of stamps commemorating the First World War. Featured in the set is an image of the football used by the London Irish Rifles during the Battle of Loos in 1915
  • Bridges celebrates the engineering of ten of these iconic structures from across the UK
  • 175th Anniversary of the Penny Black  is to be marked with a miniature sheet of stamps
  • 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta will be commemorated with a set in June
  • The bicentenary of The Battle of Waterloo and the 75th anniversary of The Battle of Britain will also be commemorated
  • The sport of Rugby Union features in 2015, with England hosting the eighth tournament, the Rugby World Cup set of stamps launch in September 

Royal Mail’s 2015 Special Stamp programme is set to showcase the Best of British from great inventions to some of our most cherished Comedy Greats.

The British sense of humour is celebrated with the Comedy Greats issue on 1 April. This set of stamps features iconic comedians who have provided some of the nation’s most memorable laugh-out-loud moments in television, film and theatre history, including one of the nation’s best loved comedy duos, The Two Ronnies.

May 2015 will see the second issue in the five-year series of stamps commemorating the First World War. Included in the set is an image of the actual ball used by Rifleman Frank Edwards who led his fellow troops into what became known as the Battle of Loos, by kicking a football into play on the battlefield ahead of their initial attack.

Royal Mail will also honour prominent key British inventions with the Inventive Britain issue in February. Included in the set is a stamp to mark the invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee.

Bridges in March will see 10 stamps celebrate the engineering genius of these structures from across the UK.

May marks the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black, the world’s first ever postage stamp.

The 2015 calendar continues the military theme with Special Stamps marking the bicentenary of The Battle of Waterloo in June and 75 years since the start of The Battle of Britain in July.

The 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta will be marked by the release of a set of stamps in June, while a series of national events across the country will commemorate this historic document.

Rugby Union features in September with a set of stamps launching as England hosts the eighth Rugby World Cup.

In what is set to be a notable year of stamp issues, other sets include Bees and Christmas, which will take a religious theme.

2015 Special Stamp Programme
February                     Inventive Britain
March                          Bridges
April                             Comedy Greats
May                              Penny Black
May                              First World War: 1915
June                             Magna Carta
June                             The Battle of Waterloo
July                              The Battle of Britain
August                         Bees
September                  Rugby World Cup
November                   Christmas

- See more at: http://www.royalmailgroup.com/media/press-releases/special-stamp-programme-2015#sthash.7H5s8G66.dpuf


So if you read these strange reports in your Daily Express, Daily Mail, Metro, Mirror, Western Morning News or many other regional newspapers and thought, "Newspaper's got it wrong again!", now you know why.  I suppose we will have another splash next week about Alice, but that may be too late for anybody who wants to prepare their own first day cover.

Happy New Year !



Saturday, 20 December 2014

Six more shopping days ? - We'll be having a break !

The pre-Christmas posting rush is nearly over, and soon we can all relax.  Perhaps you will get some philatelic goodies in our Christmas sacks - a new UV lamp, or a new stockbook?  A big bag of kiloware so that you can hunt for the elusive 'direct-mail-only' security Machins, or some scarce Post and Go stamps at 2nd class rates on flags, or flowers, or anything else that they shouldn't be on!

The queues of people at Post Offices still posting parcels, or mail-order returns or - like me - sending out orders continues unabated.  The future looks good for the Post Office branch network and for Royal Mail while it can maintain a good level of parcel and packet business.

We will not be posting anything next week, and maybe not the week after - it will depend on how well the relaxing goes, and how fine the weather is.  So the office will be closed from 22nd December to 2 January 2015.  But stamp ordering on the internet is a 365/24/7 process: last year we had orders on 24 and 26 December.  As usual orders placed in this time will be dealt with as quickly as possible after we return, and those posted after 6 January may have Alice in Wonderland stamps on.

It is, of course, a time for family and friends, and particularly for children, and we will have a quiet family day on 25th, and a hectic multi-family day on 28th with a visit to a household which should have at least 16 people by the time we arrive!


We would like to thank all readers and contributors to our blog - without you it would be far less useful - and most of all, thanks to our customers.  Thanks, too, for the Christmas cards and other greetings that you have sent in the last few weeks: they really are much appreciated by the whole family. 

We are pleased to be able to supply new stamps for your collections, and hope that in 2015 we will be able to make much more available - we're planning to add some older Machins, Booklets, regionals, and worldwide postal history.  Meanwhile, we wish you ...


This year's picture is adapted from a 1905 'hold-to-light' picture postcard, which has cut-away sections on the top picture layer, to allow the windows to be 'lit' when held to the light - probably candle-light when these were posted to rural areas of Norfolk, 109 years ago.


Instead of the inkjet postmark - last uses of the old-fashioned machines

As most UK readers know our letter post, if it is postmarked at all, is handled by one of the Mechanised Mail Centres and receives an ink-jet postmark. Some post still receives a counter datestamp (CDS), usually Special Delivery and other tracked mail.

But I have found that old-style machines are still in use around the country, and not just at Christmas!

This is a place to record the use of these old machines, commonly referred to as Universal or 'unified' as the style is the same but the manufacturer of the machine cannot be identified by the postmark impression. 

Click on the images to see them enlarged.   Firstly some from earlier in the year:

CITY OF INVERNESS - with inverted wavy lines, and space between elements of date
SWANSEA - same error as Inverness but with line between date elements



CUMBRIA DUMFRIES GALLOWAY
NORTH AND WEST YORKSHIRE  with space between elements of date


Now from the Christmas post, 4 types of IPSWICH SUFFOLK postmark (I am fairly confident that the one with the slogan is from Ipswich). Three from the same square envelope, dated 4 Dec 2014, and one 9 Dec 2014 with the inverted Happy Christmas / PLEASE USE / THE POSTCODE slogan, with a snowman,



Although comments are welcome, to be useful we need a picture of the postmark, so please email to ian@norphil.co.uk  (a 300dpi scan is perfect)

UPDATE 21 DEC:

Thanks to Doug we can show that North and West Yorkshire have used the 'Candle' Post Early slogan this year.  Happy 54th(?) birthday to the Candle postmark!  (There's an example on the British Postmark Database from York in 1960.)


Another one that I overlooked from Doug's December reports:

Plymouth / Cornwall & W. Devon (inverted town die) with Happy Christmas /PLEASE/POST EARLY snowman slogan.  8 DEC 2014



Tuesday, 16 December 2014

What more for Machin Security stamps ?

And so we approach the end of another year, a year in which Machin definitives and Post and Go Faststamps have made the most GB philatelic news despite the efforts of Royal Mail's special stamp programme to engender some life into other areas of collecting, and to attract new collectors.  As written in the latest Stamp Magazine, the lack of mainstream media coverage of, for example, the Prime Ministers issue (which included Margaret Thatcher, surely one of the most controversial of modern PMs) demonstrated that the nationals didn't really take any notice of Royal Mail's output.

But are we finished with this year's Machins and, aside from the Alice in Wonderland booklet stamp, what will be the first new Machin Security Stamp to appear next year?  The only low-value stamp still to appear with a 2014 reprint date is the 1p, a value used so much to supplement the others that it must surely have been reprinted alongside the other low values and will appear quite soon.  But my bet for the first sheet stamp to appear with a 2015 code is the 97p.

Reprinted 6 times since the first (January 2014) printing this is possibly the most-used value outside the 2nd and 1st class NVIs.  Post Office branches reported stocks running low in the Christmas period as, quite inexplicably, the value was not included in the Christmas set.  There's no 97p in the Alice in Wonderland set either, which does - bizarrely - have two 81p surface mail stamps.

We can expect the rate to change in the March/April review (probably to £1 which will save having a new stamp), but I doubt that there will be any 97p special stamps before then.  The last set before the rate change is always a set of 1st class stamps - they have to be printed so far in advance of a decision being made on new postage rates that stamps with a face value are never included in the set issued in March.


Machins first issued or discovered in 2014 - 36 this year
In the order they appeared:

2931R.2W - 2nd class coil 10,000 printed by Walsall - M12L MRIL

4002P.3E - 2p From Classic Locomotives of the UK prestige stamp book M13L MPIL
4005P.3F - 5p ditto.  4005P.3E was in the Merchant Navy PSB with inverted perforations

2911.4 - 2nd class counter sheet

3081 - 81p "holly green" - emerald
3097 - 97p "purple heather" - bluish violet
3147 -  £1.47 "dove grey" - lavender-grey
3215 -  £2.15 "marine turquoise"- greenish blue

2913B.4 - 2nd class Large business sheet MBIL MA14
2936.4  - 1st class red MTIL from booklet of 12

4010P.4 -  10p MPIL from Buckingham Palace PSB
4020P.4  - 20p  MPIL from Buckingham Palace PSB
4100P.4  -  £1 MPIL from Buckingham Palace PSB

2936C.4  - 1st class MCIL from Buckingham Palace mixed retail booklet

3010.4  -  10p M14L/MAIL from counter sheet
3020.4  -  20p M14L/MAIL from counter sheet
3101.4  -  £1 bistre-brown M14L/MAIL from counter sheet

3128.4 - £1.28 M14L/MAIL emerald from counter sheet
2914.4 - 1st  M14L/MAIL class counter sheet
2916.4 - 1st Large M14L/MAIL counter sheet

2916B.4 - 1st class Large business sheet MBIL MA14
2913.4 -  2nd class Large counter sheet M14L
2931.4 - 2nd class MTIL M14L from booklet of 12
2914R.3 - 1st class coil (of 10,000) by Walsall M13L MRIL

2911B.4 - 2nd class business sheet MBIL M14L (correction)
2914B.4 - 1st class business sheet MBIL M14L
2933.4 - 2nd Large MFIL from booklet of 4
2937.4  - 1st Large MFIL from booklet of 4
2936S.4 - 1st class red MSIL from booklet of 6 

4010P.4a -  10p MPIL from Great War PSB - shade and phosphor difference.
4020P.4a  - 20p  MPIL from Great War PSB - shade and phosphor difference.
4100P.4a  -  £1 MPIL from Great War PSB - shade and phosphor difference.

2985.4 - Special Delivery 100g M14L
3002.4 - 2p counter sheet M14L
2986.4 - Special Delivery 500g M14L
3005.4 - 5p counter sheet M14L


In value order

3002.4 - 2p counter sheet M14L
4002P.3E - 2p From Classic Locomotives of the UK prestige stamp book M13L MPIL
4005P.3F - 5p ditto. 
3005.4 - 5p counter sheet M14L
4010P.4 -  10p MPIL from Buckingham Palace PSB
4010P.4a -  10p MPIL from Great War PSB - shade and phosphor difference.

3010.4  -  10p M14L/MAIL from counter sheet
4020P.4  - 20p  MPIL from Buckingham Palace PSB
4020P.4a  - 20p  MPIL from Great War PSB - shade and phosphor difference.
3020.4  -  20p M14L/MAIL from counter sheet
3081   -   81p "holly green" - emerald M14L/MAIL
3097   -   97p "purple heather" - bluish violet M14L/MAIL

4100P.4  -  £1 MPIL from Buckingham Palace PSB
4100P.4a  -  £1 MPIL from Great War PSB - shade and phosphor difference.
3101.4  -  £1 bistre-brown M14L/MAIL from counter sheet
3128.4 - £1.28 M14L/MAIL emerald from counter sheet
3147 -  £1.47 "dove grey" - lavender-grey M14L/MAIL
3215 -  £2.15 "marine turquoise"- greenish blue M14L/MAIL

2931R.2W - 2nd class coil 10,000 printed by Walsall - M12L MRIL 
2911.4 - 2nd class counter sheet
2911B.4 - 2nd class business sheet MBIL M14L (correction)
2931.4 - 2nd class MTIL from booklet of 12
 
2913.4 -  2nd class Large counter sheet M14L
2913B.4 - 2nd class Large business sheet MBIL MA14
2933.4 - 2nd Large MFIL from booklet of 4

2914.4 - 1st  M14L/MAIL class counter sheet
2914B.4 - 1st class business sheet MBIL M14L
2914R.3 - 1st class coil (of 10,000) by Walsall M13L MRIL 
2936.4  - 1st class red MTIL from booklet of 12
2936S.4 - 1st class red MSIL from booklet of 6 
2936C.4  - 1st class MCIL from Buckingham Palace mixed retail booklet 
2916.4 - 1st Large M14L/MAIL counter sheet
2916B.4  - 1st class Large business sheet MBIL MA14  
2937.4  - 1st Large MFIL from booklet of 4

2985.4 - Special Delivery 100g M14L
2986.4 - Special Delivery 500g M14L

Friday, 12 December 2014

Special postmark to mark restoration of Charles Dickens' postbox

From a Press Release:

Charles Dickens’ postbox, installed by Royal Mail at the author’s request in the 19th century, has been recommissioned and put back into service following a special ceremony held today (Wednesday 10th December).

The postbox in Gads Hill, Higham, Kent, was officially reopened outside Dickens’ former home and now school, Gads Hill Place, by his great, great granddaughter, Marion Dickens.

A plaque has been attached next to the box to highlight its historical connection to the author and reads:

This letterbox outside Gad’s Hill Place, home of Charles Dickens, was used by the author and his family between 1859 and 1870.
Proudly restored in his memory by Royal Mail, 10.12.14

A special postmark will also be applied to mail posted in the box bearing the letters ‘CD’, in tribute to the way Dickens used to seal his mail before he posted it.  The postmark will be applied from Monday 15th December to Thursday 18th December – the last recommended posting date for Second Class mail.
-----------

I can't help thinking that the date should have been shown as 10.12.2014 (or even 10 December 2014).

Unfortunately the press release does not identify whether this will be an operational slogan, or a special handstamp; or whether it will be applied to all mail posted in the area or only mail posted in the restored box.

More details will be provided if we can winkle them out of Royal Mail.


The special postmark is revealed to be a short-term handstamp in the latest Postmark Bulletin, and may be obtained from the London Special Handstamp Centre at Mount Pleasant, Ref 13298.

UPDATE 16 December: Thanks to Graham I can now show this picture of the box and plaque:



It's Christmas time! "Last Posting Dates" slogans

Royal Mail has started using 'Last posting dates' slogans as we get closer to Christmas.  Both types feature a decorated Christmas tree and show posting dates for 1st class and 2nd class mail.  Collectors aiming for a complete collection should look out for a new type from 18th, just showing the 1st class date.

Norwich Mail Centre 08-12-2014


North and West Yorkshire 09.12.14


On square envelopes the stamp is often detected at the top left corner, and the elements of the slogan are reversed.  Thanks to Robert for this example from Tyneside MC:



Has anybody seen any similar slogans used 17-20 December with only the 1st class posting date - I may have mis-guessed RM this time as I haven't seen any.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

New Machin security stamp printings - the last for 2014?

Several new Machin printings have appeared in recent weeks, one of which has produced yet another new stamp for 2014.

Following the 2p M14L printing, and the two Special Delivery stamps, the 5p (reprinted on 17/09/14) has now appeared.  This will be numbered 3005.4 in the Norvic Catalogue: a new edition will be available in January.  The stamp, cylinder and date blocks are available now in our webshop.



Other new printings recently available include two more printings for the 97p - obviously for the Christmas market despite Royal Mail's assertion that this value wasn't need for Christmas, which was why they issued £1.28, £1.47 and £2.15 Christmas stamps but not the value which does double duty for 10g Worldwide and 20g Europe letters/cards.

97p - 18/09/14 and 03/11/14
£2.15 - 17/09/14

When new dates are found I generally only buy a few date blocks for customers, although for totally new stamps I buy sheets.  The new 97p printings are a case when I really wished I had bought the whole sheet: had I known about this mis-perforation I would have! The die-cut is shifted to the left and up, leaving the left-hand security cut passing between the two figures of value.  There is no colour on the tips of the left-hand perfs, but that is only by luck - all the perf-holes on the right-hand side cut into the colour.





This block will probably be offered in the next MBPC Auction.

The Holly and the Ivy - and the Poppy: mistakes at POs lead to some scarce stamps

I reported in the middle of November on the Post and Go error at Farringdon, in which the blue Winter Greenery stamps were loaded into their Wincor-Nixdorf machine, producing 1st class to Worldwide 60g on Mistletoe and Ivy stamps with single phosphor bands. 

It seems that it was a case of both The Holly and The Ivy from supplies department as both designs were sent to all Post and Go offices including the few remaining Wincor offices (although Perth PO maintain that they only received the Ivy- 2nd class - rolls).

Earlier the (solo) Remembrance Poppy stamps were loaded into one NCR machine at Norwich in both 1st and 2nd class slots.  It was several days before this was noticed by a collector, and the '2nd class' roll was quickly used to produce Collectors Sets (ie pairs: 2nd class and 2nd Large) and a few 2nd class Open Value stamps.  How many had already been used by the general public and for what services is impossible to know, but it will be worth looking out for them in kiloware.