Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Forgeries masquerading as 'used for research' stamps in online auction offers.

I have frequently reported on Machin definitive stamps which appeared to be, or definitely were, forgeries.  And at the end of November I reproduced the press release from the Charity Commission suggesting that charities should not be selling kiloware because it could enable people to mine the sacks for uncancelled stamps which could be resold for reuse.

If you've looked at GB stamps on eBay you have probably seen the occasional (or many!) offers for used but uncancelled stamps which are being sold - either "for philatelic research and not reuse" or without that caveat, or affixed to supplies of envelopes for reuse.  And there was the prosecution of a couple for laundering stamps and reselling them for reuse.

Recently I was shown a selection of forgeries available online.

But there are others who don't go to that trouble as shown in the pictures here.   This sheetlet of 25 1st class country definitives (including, bizarrely, the Welsh flag stamp) look reasonable, but why are they on the same sheet of glossy backing paper?  Because they are self-adhesive!

Of course the only time they were issued as self-adhesive was in Smilers/Generic sheets - but not with that font.  All - except the centre column - have the denomination in the new 2018 font.

Once they are affixed to an envelope, or package, would anybody notice that they were not quite right?  Probably not.  They are apparently printed in larger sheets because the right-hand edge has the impression of die-cut perforations: it seems that the stamps were printed at least 11 stamps wide, and one column was removed before being cut into sheetlets of 25.

Of course if you wanted to send parcels a higher denomination would be useful:

On the right, the original £5 from 1977.  On the left, the 2017 Accession commemoration with a paler head, and iridescent printing.  In the centre, a self-adhesive version with the original type of head, but also with iridescent printing.  In the picture below the 2017 and self-adhesive stamps are reversed - and you can certainly see the iridescent printing, or however it is created.

If it is smaller packets, not needing a £5 stamp, then how about some more country definitives, the £1 or £1.05 - and they'll do for letters to Europe as well.

In all cases the stamps on paper are unused self-adhesive forgeries, the others are genuine with ordinary gum.   Notice the very poor colour matching, and the reversed-out value on the Scotland stamps, instead of it being in silver.

What's very odd is the England stamps.  Can the genuine colour be so hard to reproduce?  Or have the forgers been given some Royal Mail publicity images to colour match.  Those are the stamps which really stand out as being 'wrong'.  These are just two of the colour error pictures that Royal Mail sent out or published in their Philatelic Bulletin.

2nd class stamps have also been forged - again, self-adhesive, with new font denominations.

Earlier I showed some Christmas forgeries, including this one which was too small.

And there are others - these have entirely the wrong (die-cut) perforation, compare the genuine (on the left) in the lower picture:

There are so many questions.

Would a user of stamps recognise any of these as being forgeries?  Probably not.

Would Royal Mail Revenue Protection (RP) recognise any of them - aside from the fact that there are no phosphor bands - or even imitation ones?   On non-machineable packets they would probably not be flagged up to RP anyway.

When I was first shown these I asked the question that brought the answer that is the title of this post.  Why on earth would forgers produce such a wide range of stamps?  Different values yet, but why all the different stamps?  It could only be so that they could be sold as previously used.   As it states in the eBay description:

Royal Mail really do have a problem, and not just with laundering of pre-used stamps!

Walsall phosphor and fluorescence variations, continued.

I've reported at length (most recently here) on the phosphor and fluorescence variations on counter sheets printed by ISP Walsall, and similar variations on booklets have also been noted, some going back many years.

It comes as no surprise that the same sort of variations occur on Walsall-printed business sheet stamps.  These are much more difficult to find because they require the purchase of whole sheets (of 100 small stamps or 50 large letter): if the stamps turn out to be the same then that expenditure - by collector or dealer - is wasted as few people have an outlet for that many spare stamps.

I've recently been shown examples of the small stamp sheets from 2018 and can now show variations between two printings of each value.

2nd class - printed 14/03/18 and 23/04/18.  Phosphor is blue, but on the later date the iridescent ink has yellow fluorescence.

1st class - printed 01/03/18 and 17/04/18.  As above, the phosphor is blue, and the iridescent ink has yellow fluorescence.

These will be listed in the next edition of our Machin Checklist, but we will not be able to supply them.  For the record, the ones we have already supplied are of the first type, with blue phosphor only.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Back from the frozen north

I am pleased to say that after a relaxing week we are back in the warmth of the office, and looking once again at our stamps.   

We have been able to add pictures of the Machin definitives from the Leonardo Da Vinci prestige stamp book, which are coded M18L and which, therefore, we will be supplying together with any other Walsall variants which are printed with the M18L year code.

Thank you for the orders placed through our shop in our absence; these are now prepared for posting later this week, together with orders arising from emails this week.

In the next few months more stamps and covers in these categories will be added to our shop:

- Machin regional and country stamps;
- Prestige stamp book panes;
- pre-2009, especially gummed Machin definitives;
- GB postal history, especially used registered envelopes with village postmarks and labels;

More new categories will be added in due course.

Communications - a reminder. 
We do not send marketing or informational emails; this blog and social media are the only avenue for finding out about new Great Britain stamps, updates to our Machin Checklist, and additions to what we have to sell through our web shop.

Postal Museum Post and Go News

From a Press Release

Post & Go overprints to mark 50th anniversary of The Queen opening the National Postal Museum available at The Postal Museum
LONDON, 16 January 2019 – The Postal Museum has announced today that Royal Mail Post & Go overprints marking the 50th anniversary of The Queen opening the National Postal Museum, forerunner of The Postal Museum, will be available from its Post & Go machine from 13 February 2019.

Two designs will be overprinted to commemorate the first National Postal Museum being opened by The Queen at London’s King Edward Building on 19 February 1969. The Machin commemorative 1st class in six colours, replacing the standard Machin 1st class, and the Mail Coach in all values. Both designs include an additional inscription

The Postal Museum
NPM 50 

and will run until further notice.

A Presentation Pack containing a collector’s strip of the Machin commemorative design (all 1st class) and a collector’s strip of the Mail Coach (all values) as well as a First Day Cover with 1 x Machin commemorative 1st class, and 1 x Mail Coach 1st class will be available to purchase from The Postal Museum’s shop and on-line from the beginning of February.

The Post & Go machine is available at The Postal Museum during normal opening hours.

Please see for more information.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

More catch-up news from 2018

As I said in the review of the year, the last couple of months of the year were unseasonably busy due to the multiple variations in sheet stamps which ISP/Walsall managed to contrive.  It's almost as if it was deliberate but it certainly doesn't seem to have been a deliberate Royal Mail policy.

So I'm now adding a few more news-bits from emails sent during that period, showing items which may be of interest.

Firstly, at the beginning of November DP sent these pictures of the Post and Go 2nd class values printed on 1st class Machin stock, and the early (29 October) release of 2nd class Winter Greenery at Ilford.

WHSmith run offices seem to have problems in obtaining 2nd class labels. Ilford and Romford seem to have at some point used every part roll they had in the 2nd class printers of their SSKs, so it wasn’t surprising to find the 2nd class Winter Greenery (CL18S) being used early on 29 October.

One SSK at Worcester had the 1st class Machin stock in the 2nd class printer.

In December MC found the Mount Pleasant DO and sent pictures of the screen options on their Post and Go machine - I don't think we've shown this before although that machine has been there for a while and other preceded it in other locations.

The machine had three options : Make a payment, 1st Class stamps and 2nd Class stamps.  The second picture shows the data string on the DO machine above one from a Post Office NCR machine.


We understand that the Post and Go machine M011 at Ministry of Defence Abbey Wood, Bristol (first mentioned here) was removed some months ago, probably in the summer of 2018.  

There is no confirmation on the IAR website, which still shows the picture of its original location.   My informant, who works on the site, thinks that the machine has been removed from the site and is unaware of any relocation within the vast complex of offices.  (Picture from Google maps.)


DO in London sent this picture of a nice phosphor shift he found on a 1st class MTIL M14L stamp.  Shifts are not unusual, but this is nice one to have in a collection.

New Issue: Leonardo da Vinci stamps and PSB on February 13th 2019

As readers of Royal Mail's Philatelic Bulletin will know, the second stamp issue this year will feature the work of Leonardo da Vinci.  To many this will be a puzzling subject for 12 x 1st class stamps and a prestige stamp book.

2019 marks the 500th anniversary of his death and what many people will not know is that one of the largest collections of his work is owned by Her Majesty the Queen.   According to The Guardian
Arguably the greatest collection of Leonardo da Vinci drawings in the world, owned by the Queen and normally kept away from public view at Windsor Castle, is to have its biggest public display.
The Royal Collection has announced details of a Leonardo event in 2019 to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.
There will be 12 simultaneous exhibitions of 12 drawings in cities across the UK in February. The following May, more than 200 drawings will go on display at Buckingham Palace, the biggest show for more than 60 years. In November 2019, 80 drawings will go on display at Holyroodhouse, the largest number shown in Scotland.
The 12 UK venues are in Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton, and Sunderland.
The work shown on the stamps obviously forms part of this Royal Collection and Royal Mail have collaborated with the trustees of the Royal Collection Trust to choose 12 stamps, matching the 12 venues.

The prestige stamp book will contain three panes of four da Vinci stamps and a pane of definitives consisting of 2 x 5p, 4 x 10p and 2 x £1.55 so making two sets for Machin collectors.  If these are coded M18L we will be stocking them, if they are M19L we will not.

UPDATE 20 January.
In my absence last week, the PSB arrived and I can confirm that the 5p 10p and £1.55 stamps are year-coded M18L.  This means that we will be stocking them.  They will be listed as 4155p.8 for the set of three.  The stamps will be listed in our Checklist as 4005P.8a, 4010P.8 and 4155p.8.


Full details and more images will be published in due course, ahead of Spring Stampex, with which this issue coincides.  Meanwhile if you really can't wait to see the stamp pictures they are shown, taken from a first day cover producer's website, on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog.

Monday, 7 January 2019

RPSL anniversary marked with miniature sheet on 15 January 2019

This stamp issue is a celebration of Royal Mail’s stamp history, and of organised philately, coinciding with two significant anniversaries: 150 years of the Royal Philatelic Society and 50 years since HM The Queen opened The Postal Museum. The long history of organized philately in the UK is honoured with the Miniature sheet featuring six classic stamps with one key stamp design from each monarch’s reign since the invention of the penny post under Queen Victoria’s reign.

The stamps chosen for this miniature sheet (3 x 1st class and 3 x £1.55 airmail) will not, like the music icons, be everyone's choice but that is what has been chosen.

Queen Victoria £1 Green (1891) - 73 x 30mm
Edward VII 2d - Tyrian Plum (1910) - 31 x 30 mm
George V ‘Seahorse’ – 2/6 brown (1913) - 52 x 30 mm
Edward VIII definitive (1936) – 1½d - 33 x 30 mm
George VI Penny Black centenary (1940) ½ d green - 42 x 30mm
QEII Coronation 2½d red (1953) - 52 x 30 mm

(All dimensions rounded up.)

Royal Mail notes that:
The Royal Philatelic Society is the oldest such society in the world. It was formed in April 1869. The future King George V became its patron in 1896, and later granted permission to the use the Royal Arms. It promotes the study of philately through regular meetings, exhibitions, prizes, and publishing articles, maintaining a library and collection of stamps and publishing a journal (The London Philatelist). It has a display at Stampex. 

Her Majesty the Queen officially opened the National Postal Museum in London which houses the award winning Reginald Phillips collection of stamps and the rare Tyrian Plum stamp. Quantities of this stamp were sent to post offices. However following the death of Edward VII on 6 May 1910, it was decided not to issue the new stamp and almost all the stock was destroyed. Only a few examples survive, making this stamp one of the great rarities of philately.
The sheet should be available from approximately 7,000 post office branches throughout the UK, and from Royal Mail's Tallents House bureau.

According to our information, as well as a presentation pack and first day cover, stamp cards and a press sheet will be produced,  as well as a limited edition sheet at Spring Stampex with an additional inscription.  This will only be available from the show.

The sheet was designed by hat-trick design. Copyright Royal Mail Group Ltd 2019, courtesy of The Postal Museum, and printed by International Security Printers in litho.  The sheet is 192 x 74 mm, and the stamp sizes are as shown above.

5 January
Although we couldn't publish the images earlier, US stamp weekly Linn's has the news in its 21 January edition and they can be seen here together with full details about the original stamps, The Royal and the Postal Museum.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

What did you get for Christmas?

One of our correspondents regularly does a census of his incomings at Christmas to identify
what efforts Royal Mail are making to cancel the stamps.

His results:

Total 47 items received.
7 no trace of passing through the mail and therefore uncancelled.
3 stamp not cancelled but trace of it going through the mail (Stamp in correct position but missed by cancellation)
Of the 37 cancelled, one was a postman’s felt tip pen.

10 out of 47 is 21% of the mail uncancelled: only 1 religious Christmas stamp was included.

I forgot to check ours but checked a bundle I was given by somebody else:

Leaving aside a nicely cancelled lighthouse from Norway...
18 had stamps postmarked (by machine)
2 had envelopes postmarked on another side, so missing the stamps.  Neither of these had barcode on the stamps, nor biro
1 had no postmark at all, and had been pen-marked.
So only 2 our of 20 were let through, so not such a loss for Royal Mail.

Eventually most of these envelopes will be recycled as most are not worth keeping for postal history, and so will the cards.  But what do you do with cards and wrapping paper covered in glitter?  Do you know that glitter is plastic and will lie around in landfill for hundreds of years - or in marine mammals and fish until either it kills them, or we eat the fish and start the cycle again?

Biodegradable glitter is now made, including by the company that originally invented glitter in the 30's.   If you care for the planet, please read this article.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Successful prosecution for stamp laundering

At the end of November I reprinted the Charity Commissioners' warning to charities about aiding and abetting postal fraud by selling uncancelled stamps. 

I did this because of the impact any reduction in charity stamp gathering and reselling as kiloware would have on both dealers and collectors in their hunt for, especially, higher value collectable stamps.

It's clear that eBay has a lot of listings for stamps which have passed through the post as they are stuck onto envelopes or waxed paper, and obviously not as sold by post offices.  There are also evident forgeries - notably of the 1st class large business sheet stamps which have no year code, an impossibility for any of the red stamps.

Reuse of the occasional uncancelled stamp is not unusual, but BirminghamLive has reported on the case of a couple in their 50s who were literally laundering used stamps on a massive scale, as reported here.  These two were not just removing uncancelled stamps from paper using white spirit (a well-known trick), they chemically removed the postmarks, used talcum powder to dry the stamps and then sprayed them with hairspray to "make them look better"!

They "established a company called Stampbusters as a vehicle for the illegal enterprise which was registered to their home with both of them named as directors.  The company was registered on Companies House.

"The value of the amount of stamps sold was £443,244 while the defendants profited to the tune of £149,344" over five years.

The defence lawyer said "there was a degree of unsophistication about it and that she had made no attempt to hide what she was doing."

So they - between them - made £30,000 per annum.  It really does seem that the effort involved could have been put to better use and they could have earned a reasonable amount instead.

Now they have at least 12 months of a 2 year sentence in jail to contemplate a more honest occupation, but not one involving any trust.

Friday, 4 January 2019

January slogan postmarks - and late Universals

After the Christmas holiday period, the Mail Centres have reverted to the default Action for Children charity slogan in 2019.

Royal Mail
supporting youth
mental health with

Examples here, both on 2 January, from Peterborough and Chester & N Wales.

UPDATE 23 January.  The first 'new' slogan for 2019 is a continuation of Stay Well this Winter, originally used nationwide in December, and here used on 21 January at Chester Mail Centre.  Also seen from Tynside - good to know they are keeping up in 2019!

Meanwhile on the Stampboards forum, member peterh has shown this one from Swansea & South West Wales from 2 January 2019!  This one has the location inscription inverted.
The last time we had a Swansea Universal reported was in 2014.