Thursday, 4 March 2021

Coloured postboxes for World Book Day 2021.

The last time Royal Mail decorated their postboxes with a new colour was for the Christmas ones in December.  Now they have unveiled five special postboxes across the UK, honouring British authors and illustrators who have been doing wonderful work using literature to help keep children entertained during lockdown.

Each postbox is digitally activated, containing a QR code linking through to the free services offered by the author it celebrates, for example a YouTube channel offering free online readings

Pictures of a Belfast double-aperture postbox were posted on Twitter by @DJJarlath.

The Belfast box honours Northern Irish writer Sam McBratney, author of Guess How Much I Love You, who sadly passed away last year. The book has been read online by numerous celebrities and high-profile organisations during lockdown and will remain an iconic part of British literature for generations to come. Royal Mail hopes that the beautiful cream postbox in Sam’s birthplace of Belfast is a fitting tribute to his legacy.

Other boxes are located in Oban, Scotland, Shepherd’s Bush in London, Sheffield, and Cardiff, honouring the following authors:

Cressida Cowell, Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate and author-illustrator of How To Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once. As Children’s Laureate, Cressida has filmed hundreds of videos of readings, creative challenges and masterclasses for children in lockdown – all available on her YouTube channels CressidaCowellOfficial, the BookTrust HomeTime website, and Cressida Cowell’s Creativity Camp.

Her postbox, lavishly decorated with Hiccup and Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon, and with gold trim, is located in Oban, Scotland, where ferries to the west coast islands are caught. Cressida spent her childhood summers on an uninhabited island off the coast of Oban, and its beautiful backdrop was the inspiration for the How To Train Your Dragon series of books – now a hugely-popular film and TV franchise. The postbox also features a photo of Cressida writing on that island as a nine-year-old. 

THANKYOU TO @RoyalMail who have teamed up with ⁦@WorldBookDayUK to create specially designed postboxes celebrating books and #readingmagic! Mine is in Oban, Scotland, near the incredibly beautiful place that inspired How to Train Your Dragon. @CressidaCowell on Twitter

Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, Waterstone’s Children’s Book Of The Year winners 2020. Nathan and Dapo’s “utterly joyful” book about a science-mad young black girl trying to distract her brother from his phone actively looks to challenge perceptions around race and gender. In addition to writing one of the most popular recently released children’s books, Nathan and Dapo have been keeping thousands of children entertained with their lively and entertaining digital events, including their Puffin Storytime event which has been viewed over 25,000 times. The bright yellow postbox is in Shepherd’s Bush in London, where Bryon was born.

Happy World Book Day! Totally honoured and flattered to have our own Royal Mail Postbox dedicated to LOOK UP! - @NathanBryon on Twitter

Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks. The striking yellow parcel postbox gives a beautifully designed nod to Lydia and Julia’s work, in particular their recent ‘What The Ladybird Heard’ series of books. Stories from this iconic author and illustrator duo include ‘Sharing A Shell’ and ‘Princess Mirror-Belle’, among many others. Julia has been working on the second series of ‘Julia Donaldson and Friends’ during lockdown, which offers free weekly broadcasts of stories, songs and poems, accessible through The Gruffalo Facebook Page. 

Lydia has also been running her popular ‘How To Draw’ films on her website, which allow children to create many of her characters, as well as animals and vehicles. This postbox is located in Sheffield, where Lydia Monks lives.

"There is a special What the Ladybird Heard postbox in Sheffield!" - @LydiaMonks on Twitter

Eloise Williams, Children’s Laureate Wales 2019-21 – a project run by Literature Wales. From setting weekly writing challenges for children to providing workshop resources for schools, Eloise has had a busy lockdown! Her postbox is in striking regal navy with gold trim, inspired by her much-loved novel Gaslight, and is situated in Cardiff, where she spent much of her childhood.  The picture is captioned with a tweet by Eloise Williams.

I am THRILLED to have a Royal Mail postbox in Cardiff! Thank you @RoyalMail & @WorldBookDayUK. It celebrates #Gaslight which is set in Cardiff & the work I've been doing with @LitWales as @Laureate_Wales. It is a thing of absolute beauty & I am totally honoured.

(All details provided in Royal Mail Press Release. Pictures from other sources)

We also have a World Book Day postmark slogan again this year.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Forthcoming stamp issues - Legend of King Arthur (16 March) & Classic Science Fiction (15 April)

The March edition of the Royal Mail Philatelic Bulletin has basic details of these two forthcoming stamp issues about which we can tell you nothing more - possibly not until the date of issue, or just before that if they put all the pictures (including the actual stamps alone) on their website.

The Legend of King Arthur 

Athurian Legends stamp
This consists of 5 x 1st class and 5 x £1.70 stamps, so it seems that these will be printed in se-tenant strips of 5 across the sheet, much as sets of 10 x 1st class are.  The total face value is £12.75 and the stamps will be available in a presentation pack and on first day cover. There will also be the usual postcards.  

These should appear soon on the websites of cover producers.

Classic Science Fiction

The Time Machine stamp

This issue consists of pairs of 1st class, £1.70 and £2.55 stamps - with the usual additions of a presentation pack first day cover, and postcards.  

Some research reveals that this is the 75th anniversary of the death of the author H G Wells, and the 70th anniversary of the publication of John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids", so it seems likely that one of Wells' books will feature on one stamp and Wyndham's will appear on another. 

We don't know when we will be able to write more about these, nor when they will appear on cover producers' websites.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Anonymous letter - interesting, but not really welcome.

I've just found an envelope and letter which arrived in the middle of last month.  I meant to scan it for the February postmarks subject but then read the letter.

The anonymous sender thought we might be interested, 

"that I have been posting a few letters with 1p stamps on just to test the Royal Mail system, all these letters were delivered within 24 hours of posting.

"It seems many forgery stamps (sic) are around, why is it that Royal Mail seems unable to monitor what goes through the post in spite of all the security measures on current stamps.

"What is the point of having any security if it isn't checked." (sic)


Another 1p stamp was attached to the letter!

What our correspondent fails to appreciate is that Royal Mail have a lot more to worry about at present than a few pennies on these experiments.  

With numerous local sorting offices and most mail centres affected by Covid-19-related absences over the last 12 months, and with your delivery postman working multiple rounds and extra hours during (including Sunday) to get letters and online-ordered parcels delivered, the effort involved in sticking a surcharge sticker on this, writing a 'something to pay' card, and then dealing with me when I go to look at it to find out whether it is worth paying for, is all extra work that they would rather not have to do.  

The manpower cost of all the above - and processing the payment - is worth more than the £1.50 that Royal Mail would charge.

As you can imagine I would have been mightily cheesed-off if a charge had been raised - it's bad enough when an innocent mistake is made and I actually want what is in the letter.

So whoever you are, you have proved your point - please desist and let the hardworking post-men and -women get on with delivering real post.

March slogans and other interesting postmarks

Yesterday it felt very much as if we were nearly in spring, a glorious weekend, but today the sun has not yet broken through, so it remained cold for my trip to the post office.

No March slogans yet of course but February ended with the Action for Children default, so I thought I would show it here as the first, to mention that this is used when there are no other campaigns by Royal Mail.  This example from Cornwall Mail Centre:

Action for Children, mental health charity, slogan postmark.

UPDATE 4 MARCH: As anticipated in today's post about coloured postboxes, we do have a slogan for World Book Day (see below).  KD doesn't know where it was posted, nor the date but I suspect it was earlier this week.  Let's hope we can get some more!

Other postmarks

This would have been a slogan from the Bristol (BA, BS, GL, TA) Mail Centre but I suppose ink-jet just doesn't work on plastic mailing envelopes!  Even the Bradford Road self-inking-datestamp (SID) doesn't look as if it would take much to rub off!

Ink-jet postmark on plastic mailing envelope.

But can anybody guess where this postmark is from - and would your suggestion have been any different if I hadn't told you that the Bristol Mail Centre was also involved?  

This - semi-anonymous postmarks - happens more and more as branches are closed and relocated as the three shown here demonstrate.  "Where's the Post Office?", "In the High Street."   This branch actually has three SIDs and is quite a large branch - but where is it? (Any guesses on this one - I do know the answer.)

UPDATE 4 MARCH.  As I said, I knew that this was from Bangor Co Down, Northern Ireland, but some doubt was cast by the fact that the post office is in Main Street not High Street - but there is one in High Street, Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales.  Fortunately PA has written to explain:

Your High Street SIDs are from Bangor, NI, but not from the chief office which is in Main Street. They are from High Street, Bangor which was a MAIN from 29.11.14 until 06.08.16

Incidentally the Crown office in Belfast is known as Belfast City.

So there we have it!

As usual, this is the place for you to record slogan and other interesting postmarks for other collectors and for long-term recording by the British Postmark Society.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

News update - or lack of it.

Greetings readers!

I'm sorry for the recent silence but the only news of late is the addition of a new slogan postmark almost every day, it seems.  We're up to six in February - you can see them all here if you haven't seen them on letters.  I think I've had two, and not very good examples at that.


After our recent snow last weekend was, for us in the east, almost balmy, and we were able to enjoy working in the garden instead of the office on Saturday and Sunday, although the muscles were aching a bit by the end of it all as they are unused to digging etc.  And all around us were signs of spring as snowdrops and other flowers broke through and flocks of songbirds flitted between our feeders and the buzzard wheeled and called at a great height.

I've been adding new stock to the e-commerce site (or shop) over the last week, and sorting other material for sale there or elsewhere. 

Latest additions to the shop include Fools & Horses PSB stamps and the 2nd Large 2020 business sheet, National Parks and a few other Maximum Cards, and some Australian modern postal history.  Next additions will be a range of used and mint Machin forgeries. 

News to come concerns a new retail booklet and the King Arthur set, but I won't be able to tell much about these until they are issued.  All I can say for now is what was published on the back page of February's Philatelic Bulletin - The Legend of King Arthur set to be issued on 16 March consists of 5 x 1st class and 5 x £1.70 stamps, and the associated presentation pack, first day cover and stamp cards.

Finally, if anybody is interested in Machins or any modern issues on non-philatelic covers, please let me know and I will sort some out.  In fact, if you have any area of collecting, British, Commonwealth, Foreign or thematic, that you think I might be able to help with send an email (no long wants lists at this stage) and I'll see what I can find.

Friday, 12 February 2021

Weather alert - delay to posting orders

Due to continued bad conditions - currently -3.3º C at 9.30 am - no orders will be posted today.  The Post office we use is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Monday promises to have better weather. 

Customers will be notified when orders have been posted, as usual.

UPDATE: I got out yesterday!  Orders were posted to shop and other customers.  Next trip out may be on Friday :-)

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

New postage rates bring wider opportunities to use 1st class forgeries.

With little news on new stamps these days, it seems that every day something new comes to us in the way of forgeries.

Today an email arrived from a customer in Ontario, Canada, who had a letter from the Chester area, which was delivered in just three days!  That in itself is worth remarking on.   Here's the letter:

Letter from Chester to Ontario delivered in 3 days, postage rate £1.70.


The very white of the head points to a likely forgery, even allowing for scanning variations, but the close-up shows this to be a well-known and widespread forgery, with reversed lettering:

Forged 1st class stamp with alternate lines of 'iridescent' printing mirrored.

Somebody remarked earlier in a comment that the new 1st class rate was very useful for airmail rates.  This enables the users of these to easily and totally pay for many of their overseas sendings using only 1st class forgeries.

The £1.70 rate for European letters to 100g, Worldwide letters to 20g (and postcards) uses two of them.

The £2.55 rate for Worldwide letters 21-100g uses three of them.  What could be more simple.

Whilst in no way applauding this fraud, it does give overseas collectors the opportunity to acquire some different postal history!

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Another new forgery to help online sellers - Signed For!

We reported only in December about a raft of new forgeries, mainly available on ebay, but bought by the new online sellers who require cheap postage for their low-price sales, or simply to reduce their overheads.

The most common one reported to us was the 1st class Large (as shown further down) - and we had some delivered here on an eBay purchase of GB postal history, though not by a regular stamp dealer.  The seller was somewhat upset to realise that he had been sold a pup.

Now we've had a report of a forged stamp which will be even more useful for those sellers, and that is a new 1st class Royal Mail Signed For.

UPDATE 8 February: What wasn't obvious from the eBay listing is the backing paper, which DP provided details of, together with a UV picture:

This is the same arrangement on the backing paper as the 'iridescent' printing on this stamp:

and the same backing paper here but turned through 90º:

Like the 1st Large, this has only 9 lines of text not 13 and there is no year code (these started in MA13). Although the image above is a photo, and distorted, it appears that the lines of text are curved, rather than straight as they appear below.

So look out for these on your eBay purchases, they are valid on international mail as well, though I suspect the average online seller wouldn't realise that so it is UK readers who will most likely find them.

Please send images to the usual email address of any that are found on incoming letters.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

February Slogan and Other Postmarks

This is the place where we will show all slogan postmarks that we have been told about which are used in February 2021.

The first is a carry-over from January.  National Storytelling week is a promotion by the Society for Storytelling.*

National Storytelling week
Tell Your Story
30th Jan - 6th Feb

Exeter Mail Centre 01-02-2021 doesn't provide a very good impression but it is the best we have in this layout in February:

UPDATE: BM sends a remarkably good example from Swindon Mail Centre on the same date - one could almost imagine it came from the Engineering department that is/(was?) there.

*"Supporting & promoting Storytelling in the UK

Oral storytelling is one of the most ancient artforms, and continues to this day as a vibrant part of culture throughout the world.

We provide a central place to find out about storytelling events, to ask for advice on using storytelling, about Workshops to help you find your individual voice as a new storyteller."

And the other layouts as provided by AH and MM, from Cornwall MC and Tyneside NE/SR MC both on 01/02/2021.

National Storytelling week from various mail centres

Now we might have thought that with Storytelling week lasting until 6 February, there wouldn't be another slogan this week.  However, RW sends another new one in use at Gatwick MC on 02/02/2021, for World Cancer Day on Thursday 4th February.

Cancer Day

4 February 2021

World Cancer Day slogan from Gatwick Mail Centre

UPDATE 6 February:  My thanks to MC for more exmaples of this slogan.  The same machine but with reversed layout from Tyneside NE/SR Mail Centre and the other machine from South Midlands Mail Centre (one not seen here too often), both on the same day.

World Cancer Day slogan from South Midlands and Tyneside Mail Centres

UPDATE 5 February: This month is proving to be busy for new slogans.  The first 'week' one didn;t last the whole week.  Now we have one for a month - how long will it last.  This time it is LGBT+ History Month.  I imagine the history is very interesting, you can read more here.  Our thanks to KC for this one from South East Anglia Mail Centre on 04/02/2021

February is
LGBT+ History

LGBT+ History Month slogan from South East Anglia Mail Centre.

LGBT+ History Month slogan from Jubilee Mail Centre.

UPDATE 10 February:  This really is a busy month.  I suppose that is bound to happen if you try to commemorate 'months', 'weeks' and odd special days.  And of course the greetings card industry wants you to react to this one which could generate more revenue for Royal Mail.  However, I think this could start some memes on social media, given the layout and the invitation to 'tick the box'. 

So thanks to MC for the first example from North & West Yorkshire Mail Centre and a better one from RR from Cornwall Mail Centre both dated 09/02/2021.

I like you.
Do you like me
[ ] Yes [ ] No
14 February 2021

UPDATE 19 February.  Two more examples, one which managed to be delivered without a stamp or any other marking except this slogan from North & West Yorkshire, and the other in the alternative layout from Norwich Mail Centre, both on 12.2.21

UPDATE 17 February:  Thanks to MM for providing a copy of slogan number 5 for February from     South East Anglia Mail Centre 15/02/2021.

I can't help thinking that if they used this only on Monday, then there wasn't much opportunity for people to combine ingredient shopping with their normal shop ready for making the pancakes on Tuesday. Examples were also from Manchester and Bristol Mail Centres. 

Pancake Day
shopping list:
Plain flour, eggs, milk
and your
favourite filling!
16 February 2021

Pancake Day slogan postmark.

UPDATE 22 February:  And yet another new slogan has been reported by several people, thanks to DP, CH, KD & MM who have provided examples from Glasgow Mail Centre (21st), North & West Yorkshire (19th) and S W Wales (18th):

Fashion Week
19-23 February 2021

Update 24 February - this year's Burns Night slogan has been added to the January post, having not been reported to us at the time.

Other postmarks

I'm sure that these older postmarks are not uncommon, but I put them aside years ago.  Both rectangular and framed, one from 1996 reads ROYAL MAIL COVENTRY ???? WARWICKSHIRE but I don't know what is missing.  [Ampersand (&) has been suggested, and is quite possible.)

Rectangular postmark from Coventry 1996.

The other has even more missing, but wherever it's from I don't know the circumstances in which it would be used.  This is from 2000 and reads RECEIVED AT AND DESPATCHED FROM - with the lower line possibly having APC at the end.

Any suggestions?


As usual, this is the place for all slogans used this month and for any other interesting postmarks. So please send them to me by email at the usual address.  Postmark information will be shared with the British Postmark Society and may be used in their Journal.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

HAWID will close on June 30, 2021!

Website announcement

(Berlin-hawid / AIJP / pcp-wm) 

At the end of January 2021, the well-known company HAWID in Berlin informed its customers:

“As you know, the Hawid company is a symbol of philately. We have been supplying you with our philatelic accessories for many decades.

Fewer and fewer people still use philatelic items. The use of electronic media has also contributed to the fact that sales of our products have been falling for several years.

We regret to inform you that due to the lack of economic prospects and the age of the owner Ms. Widmaier (80 years), the company Hawid Hans Widmaier GmbH will be closed on June 30, 2021. We will continue production until June 30th, 2021 and do our best to carry out all orders during this time

We hope you will be able to find a replacement for our products at short notice and thank you in advance for the many years of trusting cooperation.

With best regards,
Hawid Hans Widmaier GmbH "


A success story of more than 75 years, which began in 1945 with an invention by the engineer and HAWID founder, Hans Widmaier, will probably come to an end by the middle of the year. He developed protective films for collectors from the polystyrene material used by SIEMENS at the time to protect submarine cables. These soon became a brand par excellence under the term “HAWID”, more precisely a generic term (like Pampers, Tempo, etc.). Even if individual accessory suppliers later developed their own products of a similar type, HAWID retained a leading position in the market and quite a few suppliers still offer these products today or use them to equip their preprinted albums.


Mounts made of polystyrene are also provided by Prinz and Davo, but if you really prefer Hawid, stock up from your favourite dealer now!



It is reported from Germany that Lindner, Safe, and Lighthouse are also made by HAWID. It seems really odd that the Hawid company will leave collectors in the lurch and not take 'money on the table', as somebody wrote elsewhere.  

I've just found out that there is a local company (Secol) which has been making similar for decades, that most people have never heard of.  Looks like they may need to increase capacity and start recruiting, which will benefit the area!