Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Christmas comes (very) early in West Yorkshire

Regular readers will recall that this year's Christmas issue will include not only the regular 8 values with a religious theme, but also stamps designed by the winners of this year's design competition for children.

All these stamps will be issued on 7 November, the competition winners being in both standard and Large Letter stamps.

But one reader has sent this picture today, showing the 1st class stamp issued already and posted in West Yorkshire.

Now we know that Christmas stamps used to be issued earlier, and that the surface last posting dates for international mail are approaching very soon, but this is exceptional.

And it's very easy for many special stamp issues to be sold early, despite the selling date in the margin (not usually present on Christmas stamps), but surely anybody with a hap'orth of sense would know that mid-September is far too early to sell Christmas stamps?!

Perhaps its the fault of the greetings card companies, who have already filled the supermarkets and other shops with cards before some people have had their summer holidays; if the cards are on sale is it not unreasonable to sell the stamps?  [It is, of course, but some people just don't think!]

Saturday, 16 September 2017

New plans for even later deliveries?

It's hard to believe that anybody in Royal Mail thinks this will be an acceptable situation.  According to reports from Cornwall Live:

St Austell could lose morning postal service if Royal Mail proposals go through

The change would see mail arriving for sorting at the delivery office at 11.30am, rather than 6am.  This would mean that the local delivery postal workers would start not long before most people start their lunch, and deliver from about 12.30 onwards.

Now we know that wherever you are somebody has to be at the end of the line.  I made this point in a newspaper article over a decade ago when I suggested that people retiring early to the country to set up their own business should, as well as looking at internet speeds, should find out when the mail was delivered.  At the time I was delivering as late as 2pm to some farms and other businesses in rural homes half-a-mile from the nearest country road.  And what about the 9am Special Delivery service? That would involve extra van journeys, just to get one piece of mail delivered.

But things have changed.  Commuters don't expect to get the mail before they leave for work, retired people don't get so much mail anyway, and a large part of the population relies on social media and the internet for their communications.

But businesses in rural towns should be entitled to their mail early enough in the day that they can process it and get some answers out again the same day.  Some business still receive a good number of cheques and are in rural town with banks, and it is good to get the banking done the same day, if only to reduce the interest paid on their loans.   Even here in Norfolk where the postmen start at 6 or 7, the local council and a large supermarket are now paying extra to have their post delivered at a reasonable time because the 'normal' time was too late.

With the bank cut-off at 3pm, if you don't get the mail delivered until 2pm, because the delivery office doesn't receive it until 11.30 (on a good day), you're going to lose a day.  The only saving grace, if your delivery van also does the collections, is that you'll still get 24 hours to turn round anything that needs to be (say) signed and returned, because the collection will also be later!

But if this goes through in Cornwall, then other areas could follow.  Just think, the postmen could do deliveries from one town in the morning, and then do another in the afternoon?

Friday, 15 September 2017

Autumn Stampex report

As usual I went to London Stampex in Islington on Thursday.  It was moderately busy with several people looking at the exhibits - there were many displays of postal history, and some good examples of Machin decimal covers, which it is always good to see as more attention is being given to modern material.

The Royal Mail stand was reasonably busy with the relatively new Royal Mail staff from Sunderland who have thereby met the collectors face-to-face and thereby learned more about their idiosyncrasies!

As far as I know - and I've had few reports - there have been no Post and Go errors. A steady dribble of people were buying some of the stamps, but it is no longer a battle.  If you left a credit card in the machine you wouldn't now find the next buyer rushing over to give it to you, but could go back a few minutes later to collect it!

Left to right: Machin Anniversary with Autumn Stampex 2017 inscription (only 1st class)
Poppy MA15 with WWI Battle of Passchendaele inscription (6 values)
Mail by Air collectors set of 6 values.

Jersey and Guernsey both had Prince Philip inscriptions on their flag stamps, with Jersey selling their new Fruit and Berries set and Guernsey continuing the Lighthouse stamps issued in February.

(As in all cases, click on the images for larger views)

The Post and Go offerings from Gibraltar Post were a surprise as I hadn't seen any publicity about them before Stampex, and can't find anything on the official or IAR website.

The Year of the Rooster stamp, issued earlier in the year and available at Spring Stampex in the usual strips of 4, was this time sold with the additional inscription Autumn Stampex 2017, and the collectors strip, this time of of 6, consisted of Local 50g, Spain 50g, UK 20g, EU 20g, Worldwide 20g and Worldwide 40g stamps.  The other reel dispensed what I think is a new issue - not mentioned on the Gibraltar Post website.

These were available in the same Collectors Strip values as the Year of the Rooster shown below.

As for the rest of Stampex, I don't go intending to buy much and this time ended up with far more modern British postal history than I expected!  I'll report on them on my other blog in due course.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

More Post and Go News

In the absence of news about ordinary stamps, and in particular Machin definitives, some more news today about Post and Go, from Royal Mail and Jersey Post.

Royal Mail
Royal Signals Museum - Kiosk A011
On 9th June A011 at the Royal Signals Museum will commemorate the White Helmets Motorcycle Display team, who are disbanding. Motorcycles were used extensively by the Royal Signals as courier transport. There will be a new logo on the Union Flag only and this will run until the stamp is replaced with the Poppy Stamp.

Jersey Post

From 18 September until 16 October, the JE02 Post and Go kiosk at Broad Street post office will dispense Jersey Crests stamps with the inscription: Super League Triathlon 2017, in honour of the first ever Super League Triathlon event which takes place in Jersey from 23rd - 24th September. A limited number of collectors' strips will be available from the Jersey Philatelic Bureau whilst stocks last.

Super League Triathlon is a new championship series combining the three core triathlon disciplines but with an alternative approach to the Olympic standard. Points are awarded for three individual stages: the Triple Mix, the Equaliser and the Eliminator rounds.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Unannounced Post an Go changes at RN Museums

Stuart Leigh writes to report that at least some of the Post and Go machines at Royal Navy Museums are dispensing stamps with a changed logo.

The Royal Navy Logo has been reduced in size from about 10.5 mm dia. to about 7.3mm – see below

"To date I have only found this on A002, A006 and A007 – The NMRN, HMS Trincomalee and Museum of Naval Firepower."

The logo on the inscription for HMS Queen Elizabeth at RMRN was smaller than that used for the Battle of Jutland commemoration.

Stuart's Post and Go Checklist can be downloaded here.

As usual, we are only reporting these but will not be stocking them.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Machin and Shop Update

We must apologise that nothing has been added to our shop since re-opening last week.  

We have not yet received supplies of the 2nd Large booklet and business sheet definitive stamps. 

We expect to have these by the middle of next week (around 13th), which will be the day before Stampex after which we will also have a few Stampex Post and Go sets.  There may be other finds at Stampex: this is unlikely, but who knows?

Monday, 4 September 2017

Star Wars revisited for October's surprise stamp issue

As readers of Britain's Sun newspaper will already know:


Star Wars stamps will be released next month featuring classic characters from C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca to Maz Kanata — ahead of the release of The Last Jedi in December

Royal Mail account holders were told not to write about this stamp issue, especially on social media, until Royal Mail had made the official announcement, but as the stamps are on their website and the artist Malcolm Tween and others have already spread the word on twitter, I feel no need to hold back giving you the news that there is to be yet another Star Wars stamp issue on 12 October.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think this is a good move for the stamp collecting hobby in this country (although a lot of money will flow into Royal Mail Stamps & Collectibles which will be useful for them) but a lot of people commenting seem to have short memories, suggesting that this is not a British enterprise.  I suggest you have a look at the paragraphs on our 2015 webpage about the earlier issue to jog your memories.
The new stamps feature a mixture of old and new characters - Prog, Chewbacca, Maz Kanata, C3PO, R2D2, BB8, K-250 and Supreme Leader Snoke.
STAR WARS:THE LAST JEDI, is blasting its way onto cinema screens from 14 December 2017. To celebrate, we’re proud to announce eight new STAR WARS stamps, limited-edition collectibles and gifts, packed with friendly (and not so friendly) characters.
Available to pre-order on the Royal Mail website some products are aimed squarely at Star Wars fans, some are for normal postal use (8x 1st class shown above), while some are aimed at the philatelic community.

As well as the usual framed and bemedalled paraphernalia there is a prestige stamp book* (and a limited edition ditto) issued on 14 December when the next new film is released, and two retail stamp books issued in October.  Whilst the latter should not bring any new definitives, only four self-adhesive versions of what will probably be a gummed set of 8), the PSB will contain 4 x 1st class, 2 x 2nd class and 2 x £1.05 £1.40 Machin definitives which should be coded M17L MPIL.  This will give us three new stamps in the pane of 8.

(* From Royal Mail's shop site: "The 26-page Prestige Stamp Book includes all eight Special Stamps from the 2017 issue, four from the original 2015 issue and a unique stamp pane.", the last-mentioned being the definitive pane.)

There doesn't appear to be a new Smiler sheet this year, although the sales pages of Royal Mail's website show a mix of new and 2015 stamps and may require closer examination.
Thanks to Anonymous for his closer examination of the website!  He has found the two new generic sheets. The Droids Aliens and Creatures generic sheet of 10 with attached labels has the 8 new stamps, and two extras and is priced at £7.00 (face value £6.50).

The Ultimate Collectors Sheet (which must mean that it is the last of these?) shows all 20 stamps and is priced at the £13.00 face value.  This one could be gummed, whilst the one above would most likely be self-adhesive.  Time will tell.  The stamps from this one are also available on an A4 first day cover at £17.50, the like of which we have not seen since the Classic Album Covers sheet.  

Other countries
... have already announced some stamps, including Portugal, which has two each at €0,50 €0,80 and €0,85 and a miniature sheet with 3 x €0.50 sold at face value (allthough a souvenir colder costs more).

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Not many more Machins to come this year?

August 2017 bows out with news that yet another new stamp has been found this week, the 2nd class Large business sheet, printed 04/03/17.

This will be illustrated and all the recent new stamps will be added to our webshop next week when we have supplies.

The arrival of these means that there are only four more stamps which may appear with the 2017 code:
the Special Delivery 500g;
the 2p, 10p, and 1st class Large Signed For on SBP2 instead of plain paper;
plus any that may appear in as yet unannounced prestige stamp books this year and early next year.
UPDATE from comment: I should, of course, recognised that the 50p, £1 and any other higher values could be reprinted.

It could be a fairly quiet autumn!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

September Slogans: New Queensferry Crossing marked by postmark

According to Scotland's Sunday Herald Royal Mail is marking the opening of the new Queensferry Crossing across the Forth of Firth with a nationwide slogan postmark.
The postmark - which says "Official Opening of the Queensferry Crossing Summer 2017" will appear on millions of items of stamped mail across the country over the next few days.
The £1.35 billion bridge, which opens to traffic on August 30, was officially handed from the contractors to the Scottish Government on Monday night.
All mail posted across the UK between August 30 and September 6 will be stamped with the special postmark.
Which makes it the last slogan for August and the first for September.

I've seen no announcement from Royal Mail: given that the official opening is today, 30th August, we may find that the postmark is applied to all mail delivered "between August 30 and September 6".  I'm writing this before the post is delivered, but hope to show images later.

Fifty-three years ago the opening of the Forth Road Bridge was marked by a special stamp designed by Andrew Restall.  If Royal Mail had chosen to mark the opening of this new bridge with a stamp it would undoubtedly have been arty photographic (like that for the Humber Bridge), now that multi-colour printing is the norm, and printers no longer need to produce a plate for each colour used.

Blood Service slogan
The first example of a new slogan for the NHS Blood and Transplant service has appeared from Nottingham Mail Centre, and this (like Bristol reported earlier) has the date separators changed to oblique strokes - 05/09/17.

The full text shows the NHS logo reversed out at top right:

Blood and Transplant 
Sign up as
an organ donor

Thanks to JC for these two further slogans in this campaign.  The Plymouth & Cornwall MC version has the date in the traditional form (08.09.17), while the one from Warrington MC is totally different, reading

Royal Mail
Supports Organ
Donation Week

New date format update
Meanwhile TC of Bristol has sent a selection of local mail which shows that Bristol MC's machine 1 was using the new oblique-stroke date format at least as early as 10 May with the Mental Health Awareness Week slogan, right through to July, while machine 7 continued with the traditional date format.  (Click on image for larger view.)

As if confirming my July suggestion, TC's covering envelope was cancelled at Exeter MC with the Mental Health Awareness slogan dated 04-09-2017

The same slogan has been seen from both Peterborough and Norwich mail centres but with smaller text and 9 wavy lines rather than 11.

RIP Cassini
Royal Mail marked the Grand Finale of the Cassini Mission to Saturn with a special slogan postmark on 14 September.  The best example I have is from KC who sent this one from the Jubilee Mail Centre.  I also have examples from Glasgow and Edinburgh MCs on the same day, but none in the other format.  It reads

Cassini's Grand Finale
Mission to Explore Saturn
Twenty Years of Science

UPDATE 19 September
Know your numbers!
After the blood donation campaign, we now have Blood Pressure Testing Week - it's all health, isn't it?  Thanks to Robert for this one which comes from Mount Pleasant MC on 18 September, and reads:

Know Your Numbers! Week
(18-24 September 2018) - 
the UK's biggest free
blood pressure testing event

Oddly, I didn't see anything about this in Boots the Chemist yesterday, but looking at the website I can see why!  Once again, Norfolk is a desert, with the nearest testing station being 41m/66km away in Glemsford, Suffolk, though the one closest by time (maybe) is Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, but only from 10 am - 3.30 pm.   Doesn't seem much chance of catching people of working age with these times.

Another clearer example just received from a customer from my mailing yesterday, Norwich MC slogan (with Dereham CDS):

Friday, 25 August 2017

List of Current Post Office Philatelic Counters

The August edition of Royal Mail's Philatelic Bulletin includes a list of what are described as Philatelic Post Office Counters.  Already we have had one correction, so this cannot be regarded as completely accurate.

City of London - 12 Eastcheap, LONDON EC3M 1AJ

Trafalgar Square - 24-28 William IV St, LONDON WC3N 4DL

House of Commons - LONDON SW1A 0AA

The Galleries - Castle Gallery, BRISTOL BS1 3XX

CAMBRIDGE - 57-58 St Andrews Street CB2 3BZ

CHESTER ?    2 St John Street, Chester, CH1 1AA      §

COLCHESTER - 68-70 North Hill, CO1 1PX

CROYDON - 10 High Street CR9 1HT

EXETER - 28 Bedford Street EX1 1GJ

GRIMSBY - 67-71 Victoria Street DN31 1AA

HARROGATE - 11 Cambridge Road, HG1 1AA

PORTSMOUTH - Slindon Street PO1 1AB

SOUTHAMPTON - St John's Centre, Hedge End SO30 4QU (see comment)

STROUD - 16-17 Russell Street GL5 3AA

TROWBRIDGE - Temporary Unit, Lovemead Carpark, Duke Street, BA14 8EA
1a Roundstone Street, Trowbridge, BA14 8DA

YORK - 22 Lendal YO1 8DA

§ the postcode quoted in the Bulletin was for Chester HO, so it may be that Chester should be in the list.

Given the reports we have received about Trafalgar Square, I wonder whether we can trust this?  I'm sure some of the provincial offices now offer a much better service than that reportedly offered by what was once the flagship office in the heart of London's stamp district.  These comments were made on my post about country definitives:
- Earlier in the year I visited the Philatelic Counter at Trafalgar Square Post Office seeking a particular definitive. I was told that they had been instructed to issue 'labels' instead of definitive, and that once stocks had been used, they would not be restocked. They would in future only hold limited stock of new definitive issues. I was advised to contact Stamps and Collectibles who would supply the particular stamp.
- The "Collectors" counter at Trafalgar Square, London currently have all the regional issues - BUT - when I asked for some Welsh stamps I was told that they would not be re-stocking once current stock exhausted. I have to question the function of a "Collectors Counter" if it is not for selling items to collectors.
There must be some readers of this blog in some of the other areas: what is your experience of the stock and services of these offices? 

Stampex Stamp issues announced: Mail by Air, Ladybird Books.

We are now able to show the two stamp sets which will be issued during Autumn Stampex which this year runs from Wednesday 13 - Saturday 16 September at London's Business Design Centre in Upper Street Islington.  Both issues are now shown in detail on our website.

The latest Post and Go set is Mail by Air, which consists of the familiar set of 6 designs depicting key stages in the carriage of mail by air, from the first UK Aerial Post from Hendon to Windsor in 1911, through to the use of aircraft in the Datapost livery in the 1980s.

I particularly like the Imperial Airways HP42 flying over the pyramids of Egypt and the Short flying boat. 

The stamps will be issued on 13 September and the write-up for them is on this webpage.

UPDATE 13 September: My thanks to those who have written about the year coding on these which DP didn't notice and neither did I, on the stamps pictured below!  The year code is no longer M17L but R17YAL.

UPDATE 11 September: DP reports that the new stamps were installed in Richmond, Surrey last week - but when he went back for more they had been replaced.

The second set will be issued on 14 September and depicts Ladybird Books.  I don't know why: there is no apparent anniversary and Royal Mail have not really justified it.  (Read more on our webpage here.)  The good news for users and collectors is that there are two 2nd class stamps in this set, just over a year after the last 2nd class special issues for Landscape Gardens.  The good news for those on a tight budget is that there is no prestige stamp book, which there often is with the Stampex issue.

All the stamps are in the same style: here is the 2nd class pair:

Whilst I do like many of the modern thematic issues - which usually offer opportunities to create maximum cards however difficult that might be in some cases - I do wish more stamps were issued with at least a passing acknowledgement of a specific anniversary or occasion.

Postcrossers will bemoan the absence of a postcard stamp but if they use really small writing they will be able to get these two stamps and a 5p stamp to make up the postcard rate of £1.17!

Postal Museum Commemorative Sheet 13 September 2017

We've mentioned the Postal Museum Commemorative Sheet which was originally scheduled to be issued in firstly in March and then in April this year, but was delayed because of the delayed opening of the Museum.  The sheet's issue date of 13 September 2017 was rescheduled to coincide with Autumn Stampex, but meanwhile the Museum opened in July!

We can now show the design of this long-awaited sheet (click on the image to see a larger version).
Containing 10 labels attached to a mix of 1d black (4), 2d blue (3), and 1d red (3) self-adhesive 1st class stamps, the price is £15.95, and the Royal Mail product code is AV046.

The images on the labels seem to be not in any logical (eg chronological) order, but this is the information provided.

Column 1:
Mail coaches were introduced in 1784 to speed up the movement of mail. The coach in The Postal Museum’s collection takes pride of place in the new exhibition space.

The Postal Museum holds thousands of examples of posters and original artwork for both posters and stamps. Many were designed by the leading artists of their day.

Rowland Hill was an educational reformer, and to help improve literacy he campaigned for reform of the postal service. His efforts led to the introduction of the Penny Black in 1840.

With the coming of the railways, the postal service started using trains to move and sort the mail. This railway van was designed to collect mail without stopping.

From 1933, the General Post Office had its own film unit, which made many ground breaking films, including the highly original A Colour Box (1935), directed by Len Lye.

Column 2:
A more affordable postal service meant a rise in social mail, including this first commercially available Christmas card, designed in 1843

In 1927, an underground driverless railway opened in London to connect sorting offices with railway stations. A section of it is open to the public as part of The Postal Museum.

During the Second World War, the need for lines of communication to remain open was vital. The new exhibition tells the story of some of the individuals who helped to make this happen.

Expansion of the postal service in the mid-19th century changed how people used the post. Letter boxes in a variety of shapes and colours began appearing on British streets.

The new Postal Museum presents a mix of stories, includes hands-on exhibits and displays of original objects.

We assume that the sheet was printed by ISP-Cartor: it's a limited edition of 7500.  We won't be stocking this but can obtain it for customers if required.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Autumn Stampex Post and Go

We have some information about the Post and Go stamps available at Autumn Stampex, which is at the Business Design Centre, Islington, London N1, from 13-16 September 2017.

Royal Mail Bureau Machine B001

Now available to pre-order, the following stamps:

Mail by Air - available as 6 x 1st class, Collectors Strip of 6 values, or Collectors set of 36 (6 values of each design).

Machin Anniversary, with additional inscription Autumn Stampex 2017 - available only as 6 x 1st.

Remembrance Poppy with additonal inscription WWI Battle of Passchendaele - available as 6 x 1st class, or Collectors Strip of 6 values.

We also have unofficial information about the kiosks at Stampex
The Mail by Air stamps will be available from machines A012, A103 and A104.
The Machin stamps will be available from A012 and A013.
The Poppy stamps will be available from machine A014.

Unofficial information concerning other Post and Go stamps

September 13th will be the first day of issue of Jersey Post's new Post and Go design, Fruits and Berries, which will be dispensed from kiosk JE01. 
The machine will also dispense the Jersey Flag stamp with an additional inscription: HRH Prince Philip 65 Years of Service.

The Fruits stamps will also be available from Jersey's Broad Street JE01 machine, and both Fruits and Flag with Prince Philip inscription will be available from the Bureau B002 machine.

Available at Stampex from Guernsey Post's GG01 machine will be the Guernsey Flag stamp with a HRH Prince Philip 65 Years of Service inscription. 
Reel 2 will contain the Lighthouse stamps.  The stamps will be available after Stampex from the B machine at their Bureau by visiting www.guernseystamps.com or contacting philatelic customer services on +44 (0) 1481 716486.

As usual we will obtain stamps to order.  Customers requiring the Royal Mail output from machine B001 must let us know by midday Wednesday 30 August.

A very limited number of 1st class stamps will be obtained for stock for those who only want single stamps.

Customers requiring Jersey and Guernsey from the Stampex kiosks stamps must let us know by 5 September.

After Smartstamp, Royal Mail is ending Online Postage

Nearly two years ago, Royal Mail announced the end of the much-loved Smartstamp system, citing alternatives then available.

In the latest move to rationalise the methods by which non-stamp postage can be purchased, Royal Mail are now proposing the end of 'Online Postage' a system which ran in parallel with (and was very similar to) Smartstamp, from 23 March 2018.

An email sent to subscribers Royal Mail explain that Click and Drop will still be available, and their website announcement states:
After 10 years we’re replacing our platform with a new and improved service Click and Drop: our one-stop postage and labels solution ideal for consumers and small businesses.
(The preferred format for 'Click and Drop' is an ampersand rather than 'and' but this Google blogger platform will not display the ampersand.)

A disadvantage with Click and Drop was that - originally - the items had to be posted over a branch counter so that the account could be debited, whereas Smartstamp and Online Postage letters could be simply dropped into a postbox anywhere anytime.   However, the latest version allows for prepayment by PayPal and posting at a branch or postbox.  Of course people selling online should be getting a certificate of posting anyway, which requires the items to be presented at a Post Office counter.

Interestingly the help pages say that the Click and Drop label must be printed using Adobe Reader.  There is no mention of the Labels To Go facility mentioned here in Feburary of this year, although the Labels to Go pages say that it can be used for Click and Drop or Online Postage!

(For the benefit of the doubters, this is how the ampersand displays in all posts I have made when doing copy and paste of Post &amp ; Go from Royal Mail's press releases.)

New style 'Account Postage' postage paid indicator

The latest batch of invoices received from Royal Mail has a new Postage Paid indicator at the top right corner.

Instead of the reversed out '1' and Royal Mail Postage Paid Edinburgh 170, this has a bar-code with Account Postage GB AC0453514002 - and an outlined '1'.  Alongside is the 'Delivered by Royal Mail' box.

Of course it would be good if they went back to using stamps but we can't expect that from the highly automated administrative system they have, but for those who are interested in these things, this marks another development in the way that payment of postage is indicated.

As each envelope only contains one invoice we have a lot of these so if anybody wants one, send a c5 stamped addressed envelope to us and we'll send you one.  With c5 it will have to be folded; if you want it unfolded then a larger envelope with a stiffener and large letter postage will be necessary.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Machin news - 2nd Large booklet and SG catalogue numbers.

The latest new Machin definitive to appear is the 2nd Large booklet printed by ISP/Walsall, for which we hope to have stocks soon.   This is Norvic 2933.7, from booklet RA4.7.  

Thanks to RP for the images. 

1st class M17L business sheet printed 22/02/17 (Norvic 2914B.7)

Stanley Gibbons catalogue numbers

The latest issue of Gibbons Stamp Monthly includes basic catalogue listing for the Machin Anniversary definitives, excluding those in the miniature sheet.  The only stamps to get a new listing are:

SG 2133 - 20p double-head from PSB (the original 2133 was for the 1st class which becomes 2133a)
SG U3003 - 1st bright scarlet MPIL M17L (gravure) *
SG U3007 - £1 magenta MPIL M17L (gravure)

SG U3966 - £1 gold embossed from PSB (which SG records as having clearer embossing than the same stamp on the MS).

The stamps from panes 1 and 2 of the PSB (the 'Design Icon MS' stamps) are numbered 3958-63.

* Although listed as 'bright scarlet' this stamp is actually the original vermillion (red) colour.  When this is corrected the number should remain unchanged. 
The bright scarlet stamp but in litho was in the Windsor Castle PSB and is numbered SG U3016b.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

What purpose do country definitives serve?

Country definitives were introduced as Regional Definitives in 1958 to appease the Welsh, Irish
and especially the Scots, who thought they should have their own stamps rather than national symbols on UK definitives and the occasional 'special stamp' issue with one stamp for each country.  This is quite well written up on Wikipedia where there are also many external references, for example to the BPMA or Postal Museum.  Their 50th anniversary was marked with the miniature sheet and a prestige stamp book in 2008.

From 1999-2001 the old-style regionals were replaced by a set of four 'Country Definitives', for 2nd class, 1st class, and the European and basic worldwide letter rates.

Initially issued with all-over colour, they were re-issued with white borders in October 2003. The designs have remained basically the same since then, although the values of the two airmail rate stamps have increased alongside the Machin definitives.  Various values have also appeared in miniature sheets and prestige stamp books, presenting an interesting collecting area.

But are they used - or even available - now?  The answer, it seems, is not very much.  Mike writes about his experience in Scotland.
In a post office in Deeside I was told they had NONE.   In another branch near Dundee didn’t know what I was talking about. Even when I mentioned the thistle and the tartan they were mystified, until they opened their stockbook and I showed them the £1.17 and the £1.40. They had no 1st or 2nd.
Last week the Western Mail carried a letter of which this is an extract:
I am writing to express profound dissatisfaction with the inability to buy or use the main Welsh definitive stamps, 1st and 2nd class, the green 1st class one with the dragon and the 2nd class brown one showing a wilting leek.
For some time now I have been unable to buy regularly these stamps, even at my local crown post office in Bridgend.
When my recent stock had run out, I visited the post office a couple of weeks ago only to be told they had none (and the assistant checked all the counter books) but that they were “on order.” Earlier this week, I went in - still not delivered, should be in a week on Friday (August 4). This is not only not good enough but at best seems a sign of inefficiency or, at worst, an attempt to rob Wales of its distinctive stamps on the grounds of “lack of use”.
Earlier this year, I was told by a post office assistant that the reason they had none was the customers preferred the peel-off UK ones. Even if this is true, the question arises: why are the Welsh stamps not available as peel-off stamps?
A follow-up letter reported on a reply from Royal Mail
I am told that for “cost and efficiency reasons”, the definitive stamps of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are still gummed stamps rather than self-adhesive. The quoted phrase is not in itself convincing, of course – merely an unsupported assertion.
The spokesman also said that all Welsh post offices, big and small, are at liberty to order the Welsh 1st- and 2nd-class stamps as they wish.
I have replied to Royal Mail that I am still dissatisfied, not least because someone somewhere in England might eventually assert, “Oh, there is so little demand for the Welsh definitive stamps, we’ll discontinue them”. The reality is that the Welsh stamps are perhaps less popular by virtue of being still gummed rather than the self-adhesive.  And the Welsh versions are so damned difficult to buy, most people are probably unaware they exist.
The writer has been on this campaign for at least a couple of years, but it does seem that this is not uncommon.  When I asked a Northern Ireland customer to send his cheque using a (maybe not as inspiring as the others) NI country definitive a few years ago he had to visit several branches to find one.  And with the vast number of 1st and 2nd class stamps sold in booklets (or 10 x 1st special issues) it's little wonder that many branches in England don't have the England lion definitives either.

I'll be happy to report some positive news - that you are regularly able to buy the country definitives (of any value) at your local Post Office branch.  Do let us know what you find and where.  We'll keep the reporter and branch anonymous!

Late Start to August for Slogan Postmarks: Paradise Lost

After the Mental Health Awareness slogan at the end of July there was nothing reported before our holiday break, and we came back to an unannounced commemoration of John Milton's Paradise Lost.  Unannounced because there have been no Royal Mail press releases added to their media website since 3 August!

I've been sent one image from Edinburgh Mail Centre with an illegible date, but fortunately both types have arrived here.  We have Warrington Mail Centre dated 14-08-2017 and South East Anglia Mail Centre dated 16.08.17 (note the word 'of' is on line 2 at Warrington and line 3 at SE Anglia).  Peterborough dated 15-08-2017 is also reported and I suppose this slogan was in use for mail delivered last week (ie posted 11-17 August) - I'll try to get confirmation.

350 years since
the publication of
John Milton's
Paradise Lost

John Milton was featured on this miniature sheet issued for the House of Stuart in 2010, recording the publication of Paradise Lost in 1667:

Edinburgh Festival
This really ought to precede the Milton slogan but that would mean rewriting everything!  Thanks to Trevor for sending this example from the Brisol Mail Centre, which reads:

August 2017:
70th anniversary
of Edinburgh's

An additional interest for this example is that the date is not shown in the familiar forms which is either 14-08-2017 or 14.08.17.  This has oblique strokes between the elements of the date 08/08/17: if this format has been used before I can't remember it.
It would be good to see other examples of this slogan, and any other postmark with the new-style date.

This blogpost will be used to record any other slogans used in August.

Post and Go News: Postal Museum, Guernsey, Jersey, and others

Press Release:

Change of Overprint and New Post and Go Stamps at The Postal Museum

LONDON, 16 August 2017 – The Postal Museum has announced today that its ‘Official Opening’ inscription will end on all designs on Tuesday 12 September. It will be replaced with the words ‘The Postal Museum’ (without the organisation’s envelope logo) across all designs the following day, Wednesday 13 September.

Coinciding with the first day of Stampex, there will also be changes to the designs available from The Postal Museum’s A0001 machine. Royal Mail Heritage: Mail by Air (six designs – first class only) will replace the Union Flag (all values), which will no longer be available.

The following stamps will be on sale from Wednesday 13 September:

  • Royal Mail Heritage: Mail by Air (six designs – first class only)
  • Machin 50 Commemoratives (six designs - 1st class only)
  • Machin (2nd Class only)
  • Underground Railway (all values)
  • Mail Coach (all values)

Inscription Errors for Guernsey Visiting Liners

GM from Jersey writes:

The uptake on the current visiting cruise ship issues from Guernsey has not been great. My agent over there has picked up errors in the spelling of the ships names, most recently Sliver Spirit  instead of Silver Spirit, which was spotted and corrected on the day.  [See below §]

He also writes about various errors on Jersey Post and Go stamps, including

    combinations of blank and correct printings
    Battle of Hastings underprint with sword but no descriptive lettering.
    half printed underprint lettering due to slipping within the roll of  stamps
    error, underprint RAFA on endangered species issues.

Is Post and Go worthwhile for Jersey?  Apparently only if collectors buy the stamps, as GM also reports:

JE02  is very little used except by me. For example I have experienced the session numbers increase by only 1 or 2 over a period of 10 days!

For more on the dubious output of Jersey's Philatelic Bureau and that of the Isle of Man, take a look at the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion Blog.

§ I've had a response from the Head of Philatelic at Guernsey Post in response to the comments.
a. The error of Sliver for Silver is the only error that has been reported and was corrected on the same day.
b. "the uptake among the audience for which the products were primarily intended - cruise ship passengers -  were healthy and we are delighted to have supported the Visit Guernsey initiative by offering Post & Go products to passengers"
I'm happy to publish this response from Guernsey.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy

Kiosk A002 in Portsmouth will have the following inscriptions starting Saturday 19 August and ending 18 September to celebrate the arrival of the HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth.

Union Flag
Royal Navy
QEII Carrier 2017

Royal Navy
Queen Elizabeth II Carrier 2017

These stamps can only be obtained from the Museum.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Chris for sending these images:

As noted by the anonymous contributor, the inscription on these is incorrect as the carrier is actually HMS Queen Elizabeth - don't be surprised if there are changes here!

UPDATE 25 August
We have now been told that the inscriptions have changed to correct this error: I'm trying to find out when it changed.  But it was not changed until 1020 on 29 August!

Thanks to Chris H we can now show the stamps with the corrected inscription and receipt:

As before, we will not be stocking these Post and Go stamps.  An announcement about Autumn Stampex will be made shortly.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Before we go, one more Machin business sheet

Before we venture west to the highlands (well, the Welsh Marches) we had the local club's Summer Fair.  Nowadays I don't look for many stamps, but I do look for modern British postal history, which I write up on the other blog here.

This is the best find for many years, an insured parcel to South Africa franked at £3.35.  Read the postal history blog to find out whether this was right, and why.

I was also told of another find in a local post office, the 1st class business sheet with M17L coding.  Printed on 22/02/2017 this is on SBP2 of course, and will be added to our webshop for purchase on our return.