Monday, 15 July 2019


Royal Mail promise miniature sheets for England Cricket Teams.

Royal Mail will mark the World Cup success of the England Cricket team by issuing a miniature sheet of four stamps.

The sheet will feature images from the team’s campaign which ended in a gripping finish yesterday.

In a more surprising move a second sheet will be issued - somewhat belatedly we might think - to mark the Women’s team’s similar success in 2017.

The designs will of course be subject to royal approval and will be made available as soon as possible.

The sheets will be issued on the 22nd of August.
Further to this, the Royal Mail has also announced the rollout of 15 special edition postboxes located close to each of the grounds used during the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
These special edition postboxes will be easy to spot – as they will be painted white and will feature stylized images of a gold cricket bat, ball and stumps, along with being adorned with a permanent gold plaque.
The selected postboxes will be decorated in this fashion during the next three months, with the plaque inscription detailing England’s now historic position as the joint holder of both ICC Cricket World Cup titles.

As usual we will not be stocking these, collectors can register their interest on the Royal Mail website.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Next stamp issue: Forests, 13 August 2019

The next stamp issue depicts six of Britain's forests.  We have received the first supplies of the stamps today, so we might expect the FDCs to be shown on the usual websites quiet soon.

However, although the issue date is less than a month away, the embargo date has yet to be advised.  I expect now that the Curious Customs are out of the way the media office are trying to work out when to take their summer holidays and still be available for the publicity for the launch of these stamps.

Meanwhile here's the website for the Forestry Commission the government department responsible for many of the United Kingdom's forests.

More details about the stamps and other products when we are permitted to provide them.

According to the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog, which also has the pictures,

The issue commemorates the Centenary of the Forestry Commission and is an attractive and colourful issue with various regions of The United Kingdom being pleasingly represented on the stamps. The featured forests are:- The National Arboretum at Westonbirt in the Cotswolds, Sherwood Forest in the East Midlands, Kielder Forest in the north of England, Glen Affric in Scotland, Coed y Brenin in Wales and Glenariff Forest in Northern Ireland.

Out of office

We will be away all next week, 14 - 23 July, including a trip to the York Stamp and Coin Fair on Saturday 20th.

As usual the webshop will be open while we are away, and orders will be processed as soon as possible on our return.

Emails may be answered, and blog comments moderated, depending on the level of internet access we have.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

July Postmark Slogans

This post will record all postmark slogans used during July 2019, and some other news about postmarks.   As has been the custom for some years, July kicks off with Royal Mail's campaign to raise awareness of the problems that dogs might cause for their postmen and women.

Thanks to JG for sending this example from South East Wales mail centre on 06/07/2019I'll have the other layout later this week.  Alternative three-line layout from Peterborough on 08-07-2019 is now shown below, along with an Australian slogan on the same subject from the South Western Letter Facility on 21.06.19

8 - 14 July 2019


Secure your dog for safe delivery

Previous campaigns were reported here: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014.

As usual, other slogans used in July will be added here as reported.

Universal machines
I've also received another example of a non-ink-jet postmark, the Universal from Lerwick used on 6 July 2019.  The date and time are clear, but are raised above the outer ring, so the place cannot be read!

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Machin news - still dribbling out.

Another new Machin retail booklet has been found in a retail outlet.

This is the 1st class Large book of 4, with cylinders W3/W2 on SBP2u backing paper. The pack date is 23/04/19.


In our Checklist this will be listed as RB6.9 with the stamps being listed as 2937a.9. 

As noted in the comments below, the 2nd and 1st class stamps from books of 12 have now appeared on eBay.  I had heard of these but there are no supplies locally yet.  One source suggested that they may be at a well-known supermarket. 
The numbers for these will be 2931.9 and 2936a.9 respectively.

Padstow 'Obby 'Oss comes out to play early in Sheffield

My thanks to RS for sending this picture of an early release of one of the Curious Customs 2nd class stamps.

The Padstow Obby Oss made it's appearance in Sheffield at least as early as 24 June on ordinary non-philatelic mail.

This is the first we've had reported since the Raspberry Pi.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Just print some stamps, we don't care what they look like!

It's beginning to look that way, with Royal Mail seemingly not exercising any quality control over what their print contractors are doing. When I worked for a security print organisation we had our own people in contractors' premises, at least when printing started and finished, to check that what they were producing matched what we asked for and what we thought they should be printing.

Of course one could argue that it doesn't really matter as long as the stamps are fit for purpose, ie they will do the job that is required.  We've had prestige book make-up errors with duplicated or otherwise wrong pages (see blog posts - as they write in Private Eye - passim, ad nauseum).

We've had the long elliptical perforation hole at the top instead of nearer the foot of the pane.

We've had an entirely wrong colour, again in a PSB, where - arguably - it matters far less than elsewhere because those stamps rarely get used for postage. And the change to the colour of the 1st class 'red' wasn't consistent in PSBs either.  The 2p & 50p stamps in the Marvel PSB are so different from earlier ones that they may have full catalogue listing!

We've had phantom or missing cylinder numbers on counter sheets.

So what do you make of this?  

Since the printing of country definitives was moved from De La Rue to Cartor in 2012, there have been several reprints.

The original printing of the Wales 1st class was on 10 & 11/07/12  (released January 2013) using Cylinders C1.   What we believe to be the second printing was on 07/04/15 and these cylinders were also C1, but this was during the period when cylinders were not always renumbered as they should be.  The black was clearly a new cylinder as the printing date was part of the cylinder.

Cylinders C2 were used on 17/01/16.   And the next printing, on 26/12/17 was from a new set of C1 cylinders with the font revised to that used for the airmail values and the Machin definitives. 

A recent list from Royal Mail showed a printing from Cylinders C3.  This wasn't regarded as odd: it would be quite possible for Cylinders C2 to be produced but not used because they were - for some reason - not of the right quality.

It was only when a customer asked if he had had a C2 block, that I found the C2 that he had had, and realised that C3 is the same font.  So what gives?  Royal Mail asked Cartor to print some more 1st class stamps for Wales - and they used the previous master images and made a new cylinder.

Maybe Royal Mail didn't feel the need to specify "use the latest design" - I'm not sure that I would have.  Why would you?  Why would a printer NOT use the latest design?


Many people don't collect cylinder blocks and date blocks, and to be fair there isn't much to choose between the stamps printed by C1, C2 & C3 in the old font - minor shade differences excepted.

But if anybody wants date blocks or cylinder blocks - or even singles - of the latest printing I will make them available on our webshop shortly, although there will be a delay in supplying while I obtain more stocks from Royal Mail.  They will be listed here.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Pair charged with forging 3.6 million 1st class stamps: trial ongoing

According to London's Metro,
An Italian father and son have denied forging 3.6 million first class stamps worth more than £2.2m.
The penalty for each of their 13 combined fraud accusations carries the potential for an unlimited fine or six months in prison.  The father is also accused of laundering more than £1.3m in criminal property, according to court documents.
See the story and look out for more on the Metro website..

UPDATE 24 June: Also now reported in the Daily Mail, where the magistrate is reported to have said:

'Because you are pleading not guilty the matter is going to trial.
'You are both released on unconditional bail, but if you do not arrive you a warrant will be issued.'

Definitely a case where surrender of passports wouldn't be amiss, irrespective of nationality, I would have thought, but I'm not a legal expert.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

New version of our Checklist reflects Gibbons' Concise 2019 changes

 Stanley Gibbons' venture into producing a hardback version of their Great Britain Concise catalogue was short-lived, with the 2019 version just received reverting to soft-back.  Gibbons cites customer feedback as "too heavy and unwieldy" - this change to what must be a cheaper format (certainly to ship) is accompanied by an £8 increase in cover price after 2018's steep reduction, which we never did understand at the time!

For collectors of pre-Elizabethan stamps all the colour images have been replaced by new improved scans, and better illustrations have also been added to illustrate some QE2 varieties.  A major improvement, and one which have called for for a number of years, is the showing of pictures of re-used designs for the listings where they have been reused.  This is particularly useful with the listings of Smilers greetings booklet stamps, especially the 2008 booklet.

Until now, the listing has referred to the design types - Gibbons' illustration numbers - which meant that catalogue users had to keep flipping back and forth.   Last year the designs descriptions were shown on each line, rather than the colour description.  Prior to that (I believe) each line showed 'multicoloured'.  The first three (1842, 1842a and 1842c) referred back 14 pages to 2005; the other three (1932-4) referred back 9 pages to 2006.  The importance of this is that the 2008 stamps have elliptical perforations whilst the others do not, which explains why they get separate listings.  The listing for the three booklets (QA2 - QA4) does not indicate the elliptical perforations, only referring to the 'pane' numbers, which refers you back to the main stamp listings 250+ pages earlier!  This is another omission which could be rectified.

As mentioned at the end of April,  some of the U- numbers for security Machins have been altered: the variants are now all numbered with a,b,c, etc codes to keep them all near the start of the listing.  The panes are now all listed separately from l,m,n etc as they are in pre-security listings.  Some other numbers have changed to accommodate new stamps, but there is a very small gap between U2971, the top (£3.60) value in the counter sheet stamps and the first of the NVIs, U2975 original 2nd class counter sheet.  Airmail rate increases may not produce four higher-valued stamps next year, nor even the following year, but...  And there will be more 'a numbers' with the eight spaces in the U29-- range not necessarily falling in the right place for the new values.   The Preface acknowledges that the editors "woefully underestimated the issuing prowess of Royal Mail" - well it wasn't difficult to forecast that more stamps would be needed when postage rates were increased!

I've noticed one change in the retail booklet numbering where MB8e has changed to MB8d which hadn't been - and wasn't likely to be - used.  I don't see the need for this tidying up which will have collectors asking dealers for a stamp which one or other of them will see as the 'wrong' number.  It could have been covered by a footnote saying that MB8d was not used: there may be others.  The inconsistency of assigning sub-numbers to booklets without the Printer's Imprint, and with the FSC logo, but not for the change in telephone number from 0845 to 0345 has still not been rectified nor explained.

The preface includes a list of additions (aside from new stamps) and a list of Wilding booklet pane number changes, but not a list of changes to the U-number series.  Our new checklist will show original, 2018, and 2019 numbers for the time being.  For space reasons, there may be a time when we have to show only the latest two numbers in the tables!

New stamps

Since I last wrote about new Machins the 1st class business sheet has been found in branches and the £1 counter sheet made available from Tallents House together with the 20p.  But the 1p, 10p and 1st Large Signed For are still not available from Royal Mail and we have no proof that the 1p and 1L SF exist.  If anybody would like to send pictures of those two stamps, we will properly include them in our Checklist.  Details of the new stamps are shown on the June Machin post here.

Another new stamp available from Tallents House is the Wales 1st class from cylinder C3 printed on 30/01/19.  The stamp appears to be bluer than the C2 printing, but is not significant enough for catalogue listing.  If any readers require singles, cylinder blocks of date blocks, please contact me by email - see at top right.

New Checklist
All the latest changes, new stamps and Concise number changes, have been incorporated into the latest - and I know, long-awaited, version of our Machin Checklist.  Download it from the usual Dropbox here or at the link on the right.

Because of some confusion over terminology, especially of colour names, I am thinking of using the Stanley Gibbons colour names in future versions of the Checklist, only modifying them where I think it necessary to distinguish different printings.  I welcome users' views on this.  One thing I won't be doing is using Royal Mail colour names, although these may be added in a separate table.

As always I can't guarantee that there are no mistakes in the new version and I welcome all contributions to make it more accurate.

Monday, 17 June 2019

When the ink runs out, you get a different type of impression.

Long-term readers will recall the introduction in 2015 of this new wavy line self-inking handstamp which was supposed to eliminate or reduce pen-cancels.

As with counter date stamps the unit contains an ink-pad which, over time, requires re-inking, or replacing.  If you can't get any ink, what then... ?  You give up and reach for the pen!

Or, as with this example, you bang it onto an ordinary ink pad, as used for the packet handstamps, which produces a new variant of the wavy lines:

I have seen one other like this, which I can't now find.  Either somebody asked on a forum over the weekend, or it was an email which I have lost.  Either way, my apologies and I hope you are reading here, as this explains your question.

Update:  I've now found the other example, which is peculiar!  It looks as if the user initially used it without pushing down the centre to get the wavy lines, and so just got the frame.  Then used it again with the device pushed down.