No commemoration is included in Royal Mail's announced programme, although many people have suggested that the gap in the programme in October is for just such a commemoration - albeit a month late. In fact as far as the palace is concerned, this is a bit of a non-event, as the Daily Telegraph suggested in March:
Don’t expect a commemorative stamp. Forget gilded carriages, rows of painted faces along the Mall, cardboard periscopes in red, white and blue. There will be no Red Arrows fly-past, nor any salute of guns in Hyde Park or at the Tower of London; no concert or picnic or fireworks display to disturb the peace of Buckingham Palace gardens. Instead, according to royal aides, Wednesday September 9 2015 will be 'business as usual’. As far as the Palace is concerned, this is not a day for celebration.
However, in mid-July regular customers of Royal Mail were advised of future payments to be taken from their accounts - including one entitled "Long to Reign Over Us".
DF tells me of a recent exchange with Customer Services at Tallents House:
"In the letter from Royal Mail it advises how much my debit card will be charged for the issue. I telephoned to see if I could get a breakdown of costs and what would I be receiving. They told me they don’t know much about it and not really sure – except information was still embargoed!! They suggested that as I had miniature sheets and Retail books on my standing order then I could assume I would be receiving these. I also mentioned that I had definitive stamps on standing order. The reply was that this issue ‘maybe crosses over between commemorative and definitive’ So I asked whether there are any definitive stamps involved. They didn't really know!!" [Well think back to the Diamond Jubilee issue: the counter sheet definitives were not on automatic distribution to standing order customers, the Diamond Blue definitive replaced the gold, there was a miniature sheet and a press sheet. ]
Royal Mail's Postmark Bulletin last Friday (21 August) includes a number of special handstamps for 9 September. This is not surprising - indeed it would be a surprise if the major cover producers did not mark the event with special covers. But at the back of the Bulletin are three sets of official First Day postmarks, two being for the upcoming Stampex issues: Rugby World Cup and the Sea Travel faststamps. Page 8 is captioned "The following first day of issue postmarks will be available for the Long To Reign Over Us stamps to be issued on 9 September 2015." Page 11 includes the stamp programme for the year - but nothing is listed for 9 September !
In early August pictures appeared on the web of the Rugby World Cup retail booklet which included not the usual 1st class Machin definitive but a lavender-coloured version.
In mid-August PO branches received supplies of the new stamp in counter sheets and booklets. You might have expected that these 'secret' stamps would be enclosed in opaque packaging with a clearly stated date for opening, but this was not the case as I have found in two branches, one in Wales and one in north Shropshire.
Not only were the stamps delivered to POs not properly 'protected' from sale, but they were actually placed on sale and were used before August 20th as these pictures, sent by regular contributors to this blog JF and RP, show. I'm told that the counter sheet was offered because the PO branch had run out of red 1st class stamps. UPDATE 26 Aug. Richard reports (see comments) that there was "no special packaging and no indication of the date they were to be issued."
Although dealers have known about this for some months, Royal Mail intend that the issue will not receive mass-media publicity until the stamps are actually issued on 9 September. That the Queen will break Queen Victoria's record will be the major news story in that morning's newspapers, radio and television and Royal Mail's aim is that they will get maximum publicity for their new stamps and other products at the same time.
Unfortunately because the news embargo is still in place I cannot provide full details of the products which will be used to mark this important event. Poor distribution arrangements have meant that - as with many other special stamp issues - the stamps have been sold earlier than they should have been. For all the secrecy imposed on a few dealers it is the main retail distribution network and Royal Mail's own Postmark Bulletin that has leaked not just their existence but the stamps themselves at least three weeks before they are due.
We know that a degree of secrecy is necessary when a proposed stamp issue is the subject of intellectual property rights (such as for Dr Who).
But 'Long To Reign Over Us', begs the question, as the event was almost certain to be marked by the issue of stamps in this country, whether such secrecy was really necessary - and whether there will ever be an occasion for such a farce in the future.
UPDATE 28 August. An important point for collectors of FDCs and maximum cards. Mike asked: