On the definitive front, there was just one new stamp value on the tariff change in the spring, producing one Machin and four country definitives. A welcome change from the £14-worth of Machins in 2015. Royal Mail seem to have been at sixes and sevens over booklets and stamp colours with the last of the Long To Reign purple stamps (in the Beatrix Potter booklet) being issued on the same day as the first red booklet stamp (in the padlock booklet), with both types being replaced by a new darker colour three months later. The use of the new colour in all booklets and business sheets went part way to making up Royal Mail's financial shortfall from the spring.
Post and Go output continued apace with more museum locations and Enquiry Offices added, although the output of Open Values from Post Office self-service kiosks has abated - only to be replaced with a larger horizon-type label with 2-D barcode. That this carries the Machin head and has a year date, suggests that Royal Mail are hoping that collector interest in these will continue. Certainly they are an important element of the evolution of postage payment, and should be included in a postal history collection - has anybody received one suitable for keeping yet?
The special stamp output continued unabated with the highlight for me being the Agatha Christie issue, a marvel of design and intricacy and so much better than photographs of whatever this week's subject was. Many new issue distributions suffered because of problems with Royal Mail's computer accounting system, with delivery of customer orders very erratic and sometimes very late. Dealers suffered less than ordinary customers but were affected by the accounting failures. The fall out from this may not be over, but at least we can draw a line under the delays and customer service shortcomings that occurred. I understand that there are still problems with customers not being told when their deposits are exhausted, or when credit cards have passed their end date.
That Royal Mail find it unnecessary to publicise the multitude of slogan postmarks that are being used, often for very short periods, continues to frustrate collectors and reporters alike. On the other hand the Postmark Bulletin (which shows special handstamps) is now available free and also online. Sadly the number of sponsored postmarks continues at a low level. The non-availability to collectors at special handstamp centres of some 'postmarks' applied to Royal Mail (expensive) special souvenir covers is annoying and seems to go against all post office principals. If it cancels a stamp on a special cover, it is a postmark. If it is a postmark it should be available to everybody.
And so we come to the end of another year. Once again I am unable to use the photograph that I prepared last year and which was inappropriate due to the mildness of Christmas here. (You'll see why when it does eventually get used). My thanks to all our customers, to the readers of this blog and especially to the many contributors - many of whom remain anonymous meaning that I don't know just how many there are. Despite our 10 week holiday, you have remained loyal to this source of information, and I am very grateful for that - as are all the readers.
Once again we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Most people will realise that this is not a picture of winter in Dereham, this year or any other. It was taken in the Mount Aspiring National Park in New Zealand's South Island. I don't know which mountain it was, they were all snow-capped in mid-October, but the sky was blue and the sun was warm!