Thursday, 20 April 2017

Big Batch of New Machin Printings Brings Surprises

We mentioned last week a number of new printings of Machin definitive counter sheets - but there are actually more new stamps than we realised from the first report.  And there are some values printed on old paper stocks, and others on the second type of Security Backing Paper, which we refer to as SBP2.

But first a recap.   As we reported on 6 February the March issue of Stamp Magazine reported that a 9 December 2016 printing of the 1st class counter sheet stamp is not only on backing paper with a security print (the first time for a counter sheet), but that it is the new type. 

This isn't a very good picture because it is a scan of a magazine print: you can't see the security code but the article by Don Staddon stated that it was M16L, which is logical for a December 2016 printing. 

And this is where things start to get interesting.  The first counter sheet stamp to appear with M17L code was the 2nd class, printed on 04/01/17, and this was on plain paper.  The M16L SBP2 1st class stamp had still not been on sale when the new tariff stamps were issued on 21 March: these were also on plain paper printed in the period 19-24/01/17 (other dates in January may exist, but it now seems unlikely).  Around the same time new M17L printings of the 10p, 1st Large Signed For, and Special Delivery 100g were printed (27/01, 26/01 and 01/02/17 respectively).  All these were also on plain backing paper.

The first deep scarlet* M17L 1st class and 1st Large were printed on 27/02 and 01/03/17 respectively, followed by the 2nd Large, and a reprint of the M17L 2nd class on 13/03 and 22/03/17 respectively.  All are on SBP2, the 2nd class for the first time.  Between the two 1st class values, and the two 2nd class values, the new tariff stamps were reprinted on SBP2 in the period 03/03-10/03/17. 
* see note at foot of blog about why these are not considered 'new'.

Obviously the original printing of the new tariff stamps was for initial distribution to Post Offices, collectors, and businesses and these, along with the 10p, Signed For, and Special Delivery stamps were printed on the last of the plain paper - of course there may also be other values also printed in this period which are yet to appear, so we may not have seen the last of the plain paper printings.  But the 2nd class M17L on plain paper is likely to be scarcer than the new tariff stamps which were obviously treated as new issues for collectors by Royal Mail.

The stamps with new year codes will be mentioned in the Stanley Gibbons Concise Catalogue.  What we don't know at this stage, of course, is how Gibbons will treat stamps printed on SBP2 when the same stamp has already been listed on plain paper.  In our own Checklist these will be given 'a' numbers.  In numbering the new stamps we realised that we made some errors in allocating numbers last year when the deep scarlet stamps were issued, and so some 8 numbers have been changed for the next edition (Version 1.5.6)

This year's new stamps listing in full: 29 so far (includes some with M16L codes)

2911.7        2nd class counter sheet plain paper printed 04/01/17
2911a.7      2nd class counter sheet on SBP2 printed 22/03/17

2911B.6a   2nd class business sheet M16L on SBP2 printed 15/12/16

2913.7       2nd Large counter sheet M17L on SBP2 printed 13/03/17

(2914a.6     1st class deep scarlet M16L on SBP2 printed 09/12/06 - not yet seen)
2914a.7      1st class deep scarlet M17L on SBP2 printed 27/02/17
2914aB.6a  1st class deep scarlet business sheet M16L on SBP2 printed 14/12/16

2916a.7      1st Large deep scarlet M17L on SBP2 printed 01/03/17

2931.6a      2nd class retail booklet M16L on SBP2 packing date 13/12/16

2936a.6a     1st class retail booklet of 12 M16L on SBP2 packing date 12/12/16
2936aS.6a   1st class retail booklet of 6 M16L on SBP2 packing dates 4,5, 13/01/17
2936aC.7    1st class mixed retail booklet M17L on SBP1 packing date 30/11/16

2985.7         1st Large Signed For M17L plain paper printed 26/01/17
2992.7         Special Delivery 100g M17L plain paper printed 01/02/1

3010.7         10p dull orange M17L on plain paper printed 27/01/17

3117            £1.17 vermillion plain paper printed 20/01/17
3117a          £1.17 vermillion SBP2 printed 03/03/17
3140            £1.40 grey-green plain paper printed 19/01/17
3140a          £1.40 grey-green  SBP2 printed 07/03/17
3157            £1.57 olive-green plain paper printed 20/01/17
3157a          £1.57 olive-green SBP2 printed 07/03/17
3227            £2.27 ochre plain paper printed 23/01/17
3227a          £2.27 ochre SBP2 printed 10/03/17
3255            £2.55 deep red-brown plain paper printed 24/01/17
3255a          £2.55 deep red-brown SBP2 printed 08/03/17

3702aP.6     1st class deep scarlet MPIL M16L issued 15/02/17 Windsor Castle PSB
4002P.6       2p deep green MPIL M16L issued 15/02/17 Windsor Castle PSB

4010P.6       10p dull orange MPIL M16L MPIL M16L issued 15/02/17 Windsor Castle PSB ±
4105P.6       £1.05 sage-green MPIL M16L issued 15/02/17 Windsor Castle PSB ±

4500            £5 deep blue Accession Anniversary

± These two values were previously issued in the Beatrix Potter PSB; some slight shade difference can be seen on some stamps.

The new stamps
M17L printings
2nd class Machin sheet stamp M17L with security printed backing paper.2nd Large Machin sheet stamp M17L with security printed backing paper.

100g Special Delivery Machin sheet stamp M17L with plain backing paper.




1st class M16L Business Sheet with SBP2:

1st class MSIL M16L Booklet with SBP2

All these will be added to our webshop to be available from the middle of next week.  Due to the number of stamps to be added it will take a while to prepare all the pictures and write-ups for the shop.

I have confirmed that even though the 1st and 1st large stamps in counter sheets are obviously new and obviously different to the lighter colour issued earlier, Royal Mail do not intend to make them available as a new stamp or distribute them to standing order customers, something which I find quite incredible.  I think it demonstrates that what used to be a good Philatelic Bureau has lost the plot, taken its eye off the ball, and any number of other cliches that you might use - but this, the erratic information on Post and Go and in the Philatelic Bulletin, the very variable service reported by collectors about its new England-based call-centre, and the hiatus in production of the Postmark Bulletin means it no longer provides an adequate service to collectors.  

Time for another kick in the pants: Tallents House is not just there to sell collectables to music fans!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Unannounced Mail by Rail Post and Go Printing at Postal Museum

Stuart Leigh (compiler of the Post and Go catalogue) has reported a new unannounced printing of the Post Office Underground Railway Mail By Rail stamp on a solo-design roll now being sold at The Postal Museum!

According to eBay seller 25mal the new roll was added to machine A001 on 3 April 2017 replacing the set of 6 Mail by Rail stamps.  This image is taken from the current eBay listing (click on link in previous line).

I find it quite incredible that something aimed only at collectors has been (a) printed, and (b) installed with no information from the three possible sources.  The Postal Museum has been silent on the subject, the Royal Mail Post and Go News webpage has not been updated with this information, and the IAR webpage for kiosk A001 shows Hibernating Animals as the last installation!

Collectors needing this new stamp for their collections should be able to get them for a few weeks and with 5 different stamps possible from this machine, it may well be in long-term use after the Museum opens in July, and concurrently with the Machin Anniversary stamps issued on 5 June.  More details if any of the organisations involved responds to our request for informaiton.

We are hoping to have some of these for sale in the near future, including single 1st class stamps for those who are content with just one example.

(Meanwhile the IAR website reports that machine M005 was installed at Queen Elizabeth Delivery Office, Windsor, on 5 April 2017, another change not mentioned on the Royal Mail webpage.)

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Guernsey Post relents on Cruise Ships Post and Go

We reported earlier that Guernsey Post would be providing their Lighthouse Post and Go stamps from the Smith Street PO with additional inscriptions for each cruise ship visit during the summer.

They decided, with some logical thought, that their standing order customers would not want between 55 and 75 additional sets of Post and Go stamps, and said, therefore, that they would not be available through the philatelic service but only in person.  Needless to say, some collectors decided that they would like to fill their stockbooks - and Guernsey Post's coffers - and complained.

Guernsey Post have now sent a letter to subscribers, an extract of which is shown below.
The first underprint on the Lighthouse stamps on the 21 st April will also be provided as a standing order item to customers.

Due to the number of ships visiting we recognised that it would be unreasonable to expect our customers to purchase every underprint which is why we initially stated they
would not be available from the bureau.

However after receiving feedback from numerous collectors we are now willing to take orders for the cruise ship underprints. However we would like to stress that these will not be a standing order item and orders will need to be placed for them separately. Please use the form enclosed or contact our customers services team at your earliest convenience on +44(0)1481 716486 or email
Please note that due to the large amount of administration required for these orders the
dispatch of all cruise ship underprints will be in September after our cruise ship offering has ended. Also each strip will incur a 50p administration fee in line with our current GG02 products.
So, they listened, and they acted.  And I hope that people who really want to have a complete collection will be pleased with these arrangements.    A collectors strip will cost £3.70 + 50p admin up until 1 st May 2017.   From 2nd May 2017 due to an increase in postal rates each strip will be £4.06 + 50p.  So a complete set will cost approaching £300.   One of the options offered is to have stamps for the first visit only for each ship.

Beware the slippery slope, though.  Will you buy next year's, and those from Gibraltar as well?

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Why do they do that? It's Safety First!

Ever wondered why some of your letters from us come adorned with margins from old prestige book panes, like this?

It's not just to make them colourful - sometimes we use black and white pictures!   I bought two boxes of these DL envelopes some time ago, thinking they would be ideal for the job, especially sending Post and Go strips, or blocks of definitives.

The very first one was delivered with the invoice inside, but no stamps, and an opened end.  I've seen these sent by other people and they were all delivered without mishap, but the 'easy-opening' system on ours proved too much for the machinery at the mail centres, and the end burst.  This is what it looks like under the add-on:

So, I couldn't risk any more mishaps, and due to selling single stamps from the panes I always have plenty of gummed paper left over, so there you have it.  It might be Beatrix Potter, football, Churchill,  James Bond, etc.  Or ti might just be adhesive tape.  You never know what you'll get.  Puzzle no more, and have a good weekend!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Royal Mail Postmark Bulletin Update

As readers who are interested will know, the Postmark Bulletin is supposed to be moving from
twice a month to monthly in April.

We had thought that the absence of a new edition since 10 March was part of this but apparently not.  The Bulletin is not produced in-house but is externally sourced: not just the hard copy but the pdf as well.  Problems with the contractor have delayed the 24 March and 7 April editions.  I am told that these have been resolved and that the editions should appear 'soon'.

It is unfortunate that despite having a webpage for Bulletins, Royal Mail can't be bothered to keep customers up to date with a message there about the delay.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Finlandia Post and Go News: Correction to Philatelic Bulletin

The following correction has just been issued by Royal Mail in an email to dealers:
CORRECTION: POST and GO / BRITISH PHILATELIC BULLETIN / FINLANDIA 2017: Please note that an article on the Finlandia 2017 Exhibition on page 233 of the April edition of the British Philatelic Bulletin stated that the Royal Mail Post and Go machines would be present at the show.
This is INCORRECT. Royal Mail Post and Go Machines will NOT be present at the Finlandia 2017 exhibition and so no exhibition overprints will be available by mail order. 

April 2017 Slogan Postmarks

Although the late use of the Valentines Day postmark might have made it into the April  listings, the first one we have is 'Happy Easter'.

It's an odd phrase, given the background to the religious story, but so few people actually practice their religion these days that secular considerations of eggs, rabbits and cards seem to have taken over - I couldn't even find a religious postcard for my previous greeting (see below).

Thanks to MG for sending this from Glasgow MC.  I understand that the other machines have the slogan in three lines.

I wonder if Royal Mail will take up the suggestion to have a slogan for National Stamp Day/Week? One can only hope!

The Valentines Day postmark does make it into the April list as Southampton were still using it on 3rd, 4th and 5th April!  Thanks to RS for sending these pictures:

But then they switched to Easter - I wonder what will come when that campaign finishes?

It looks as if North West Midlands is taking a leaf from Southampton's calendar as this arrived this morning - Happy Easter, used 19 April

Edinburgh Mail Centre was also using Happy Easter on 18 April but the copy I have is on a Post and Go stamp (one not from a collector!)  and so doesn't really scan well.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Easter Holiday mailing and office opening

As the Easter holiday is nearly upon us and there isn't much other news, I'm taking this opportunity to detail when we expect to be mailing orders and when we will be otherwise occupied.

A batch of orders was posted today instead of tomorrow.  More will be posted Thursday 13th, and then the next mailing will be either Tuesday 18th or Wednesday 19th.  Next mailings are likely to be Friday 21st or Monday 24th, and then Wednesday 26th.

Office closure
The office will be closed Friday 14th - Monday 17th, and Friday 21st - Wednesday 26th, although we may answer some emails during these periods.

Don't forget, if the weather turns sour, you can immerse yourself in your stamps!  This card and a couple of others are available on our webshop.

Friday, 7 April 2017

New Machin printings reported

News of further new M17L counter sheet printings has reached us, details have been added to the previous 'new printings' post made a couple of days ago.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Songbirds take flight, and first sight of 50th Anniversary Machin Commemorations

The subjects of the set of 10 x 1st class stamps featuring songbirds have now been revealed by Royal Mail, and I'm sure there will be some surprises as some of these birds are not noted for a melodious song!

Issued on 4 May 2017 in two strips of 5 (in separate sheets) the stamps are designed by Osborne Ross with illustrations by Federico Gemma.

On the top row: Great Tit, Wren, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, and Skylark
Row 2: Blackcap, Song Thrush, Nightingale, Cuckoo, Yellowhammer.

More on our website later.

Of more interest to many collectors will be Royal Mail's commemoration of the 50rh Anniversary of the introduction of the Machin Definitives.  The issue consists of two miniature sheets, a prestige stamp book, retail booklet, plus what are described as 'bespoke sheets' (a new one on me!), medal cover, and press sheets.

At this stage we can show only pictures of the two miniature sheets.  The first contains six new 1st class stamps with a light buff (or mushroom?) background.  Each one has the standard Machin portrait on the right and a variety of preliminary designs on the left.  Entitled 'The Machin Definitive - 50 Years of a Design Icon' the individual stamps show:
  • January 1966: One of the many preliminary sketches by Arnold Machin based on
    the Penny Black
  • February 1966: Preparatory work by Machin using a photograph of his coin mould
  • April / May 1966: One of many essays with the ‘Coinage’ head surrounded by
    country symbols
  • October 1966: Essay of the Coinage head cropped and simplified, with only the
  • August 1966: Photograph by John Hedgecoe with The Queen wearing the Diadem
  • October 1966: Essay of the first plaster cast of the ‘Diadem’ head, without corsage.

The other sheet, captioned 'The Machin Definitive Golden Anniversary Celebration' has the same neutral-coloured background, and contains seven stamps.  These are:
  • 1971  5p violet
  • 1990  20p Penny Black anniversary double-head
  • 1993  1st class self-adhesive in landscape format
  • 2000  1st class Millennium definitive
  • 2006  1st class gold Pricing in Proportion
  • 2013  1st class Royal Mail red
  • new   £1 gold, apparently embossed.

The 1967 4d stamp is also shown in the heading, but this is not perforated and not a usable stamp.  We await more details on which of these has any security features, although we would expect the 2013 red stamp to have, otherwise it would not accurately reflect the stamp that was issued.

No details of the PSB have been released but it would be reasonable to expect two panes to have the stamps from the Icon MS, and the other panes to have at least some other Machins, though not necessarily the same as on the Golden MS.  I doubt that Royal Mail would miss the opportunity to include the embossed £1 gold in it, though. (See update at the foot of the post.)

The Anniversary Post and Go stamps are striking, and it will be interesting to see if they replace the existing 1st class design to provide some variety in the post.  Look out for them at The Postal Museum and at Autumn Stampex with additional inscriptions.

Based on a picture of the presentation pack that we have seen, the colours reflect the original 1967 ½d orange, 1d olive, 3d purple, 4d dark brown, 7p emerald, and 10d buff.  The background lines include reference to the anniversary, rather than the traditional Royal Mail pattern.

UPDATE 10 APRIL.  Comment from machinmaniac reveals more about the prestige stamp book:

Thank heavens for first day cover producers. Hopefully, they allow us to speak the unspeakable, as their web pages are freely available to the public and may (I hope) be commented on.

There seems to be a pane with the 7 different current values up to and including the £1 plus an extra 2nd class stamp. Eight different machins in one pane! Curiously, the £1 is in the wrong colour for a current stamp. It has reverted to ruby, which was replaced by brown in Sept 2012. Time will tell whether this is deliberate or an error. The 50p (still available from Royal Mail, if not from the Post Office) appears in the correct current grey colour.

Another two panes seem to be derived from stamps in the "50th anniversary celebration" miniature sheet. But not quite. One contains a small gold 1st, which I don't think is included in the miniature sheet.

Unsurprisingly, the new gold £1 (a commmorative, not a defintive?) gets a pane to itself.

For Sale: Bowie Fan Art, Accession FDC, scarce presentation packs & FDCs

I've been having a bit of a spring clean and have found a few odds and ends of covers etc, which I am going to offer for sale here, rather than add them to our web-shop, at least initially.  Mostly there is only one of each of these, so this will give blog-readers a chance to buy before the other shop users.

Some of these were obtained for customers who changed their minds, in other cases there was a misunderstanding* about what was wanted, and in others I decided to do one more than was ordered 'just in case'.   If you would like to buy any of these, send an email at the usual address (see top right), and leave a comment to say that you have sent the email and about which item.  That way other readers will know that they are reserved.   *I'll wait a week after publication of this blog in case there was a double misunderstanding and the original customer did actually want it, before we close the deal and make arrangements for posting and sending.   These items can be combined with purchases from the shop for one postage charge and one payment, so if you buy from the shop and want to add one or more of these, please do not pay online, but choose the 'pay by cheque' option on the shop and wait for an email about the total cost. 

1.  The David Bowie Fan Sheet - price £29.50-----------sold
2.  £5 Accession Anniversary Machin first day cover - £9.50   --------sold
3.  Europhilex 2015 Penny Black Exhibition Pack - £20    --------sold
4.  Europhilex-issued new Machin Horizon Label FDC - £15
5.  World War I 2016 Presentation Pack error - £75

1. The David Bowie Fan Sheet is one of the products produced by Royal Mail for Bowie Fans rather than for stamp collectors.  The idea is that the stamps in the fan products (such as in previous high-cost prestige stamp books) will be exactly the same as those sold in Post Offices and so you, the collectors, won't need to buy them.   Except of course in this case Royal Mail made a major and silly mistake by producing all the Fan Sheets on cheap gummed paper whilst printing the stamps for postage on self-adhesive paper.

Due to the premium price these will probably not be given a full listing in Stanley Gibbons' catalogues.  But the German catalogues are different: these are different stamps, and stamps printed by a different process normally get a MAIN number in Michel.  And that means that users of Lighthouse, Lindner, SAFE, KaBe albums will find that there is a space therein for these ordinary gummed stamps.   Only 10,000 of these were produced and I believe 2,500 were retained by Royal Mail for their special 'packages'.   But you won't want to break up the sheet for the album!  The sheet square is in a white open-top sleeve, which itself is in a black side-opening sleeve.

This sheet has been sold on eBay for at least £85, but also lower.  Our price is £27.50 plus postage: this is 240mm square so will have to be posted anywhere as a Large Letter.  Packaging will also make it heavier than a packet of stamps, but we will use collectable stamps and have them hand-cancelled at the PO counter.

2.  The £5 blue Accession Anniversary stamp was available in only a few post offices so collectors were unexpectedly unable to create their own first day covers.  We have one copy left, with the Buckingham Palace pictorial postmark at £9.50 plus p and p.

3.  The Europhilex Limited Edition Penny Black Miniature Sheet Pack
This was Royal Mail's first recent foray into postally valid exhibitions souvenirs, intended to encourage attendance at the 2015 show.  Whether or not there were any left to be destroyed at the end of the show, it was in short supply away from London and rapidly climbed in price.  We have one left, priced at just £20.

4. Still on Europhilex, we have one first day cover with the new Machin Horizon label.  This is on the webshop at £19.95 but we are offering it here at £15, subject unsold.

5.  2016 World War I Presentation Pack Error.  Embarrasingly Royal Mail didn't notice that the name of the PO Rifles Victoria Cross winner was wrong in the presentation pack, where he was named Albert Knight instead of Alfred Knight.  Packs with the error reached the lofty heights of £180+ on eBay before settling to more sensible figures, but some dealer price lists still show 'POR', and Packs and Cards list it at £120.

The pack contains the set of 6 and the miniature sheet and set of 6 stamps.  Our price is £75 for the error or £85 for both error and reprint, plus postage and packing.