Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Received after last acceptance?

The purpose of the postal mark shown below would seem to be self-evident: the item was received at the Post Office branch after the last post for the day, and therefore any delivery guarantee would not apply as if it was received on the day of posting.

This would be especially appropriate for Special Delivery mail which is guaranteed (in most parts of the country) to be delivered by 9am or 1pm the next day.  Nowadays the receipt given at the Post Office counter indicates whether or not the item was posted 'After last acceptance time', as this example from Dereham shows.

Normally the large letter would be cancelled at the counter with the counter datestamp, but in this case all the stamps have been cancelled with an unusual mark, and there is no indication of the place of posting.  The sender lives in West Yorkshire, but occasionally posts from Lancashire or Derbyshire, so we are no close to knowing where this was applied.

Could it have been applied at a Royal Mail Enquiry Office?  Seems unlikely as they would surely be accepting mail until the despatch to the Mail Centre. 

So, the owner and I are throwing it open to blog readers to explain it.  I'll also be putting it on the Stampboards forum, and will in due course send it to the British Postmark Society (unless one of the section editors wants to pick it up from here - be my guest!, but let me know.)

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Next round of Walsall-printed Machin counter sheets due on 12 September.

Royal Mail have confirmed that the September round of Walsall-printed counter sheets will be issued on 12 September, the first day of Autumn Stampex and ideal for getting first day covers. 

But will you include the 2p on this 'first day of philatelic availability'?  Or any of the others that might have been found in Post Office branches by then.  I suppose it is worth having one as a record, as long as it is stored with a note indicating its unusual nature and details of when the stamps actually appeared.

Royal Mail product codes are predicatbly

1p - DS018WL
2p - DS022WL
5p - DS055WL
2nd Large - DS421WLS

Also issued on that day will be Royal Mail's 'Mail by Bike' Post and Go set.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Machin stocks running down at Tallents House

As regular readers will know, Royal Mail occasionally send a list of the printing dates of  available counter sheets.  Sometimes this is how we know of a new year's printing, and otherwise it provides new date blocks for those who like to collect them.  While information about new stock is useful, what this also shows is what stock is not available.

That's not to say that you might not get other printings when you order single definitive stamps from Tallents House, just that whole sheets are no longer held by the philatelic department, although they may be supplied via the Royal Mail business shop.  The two sets of stock are kept quite separate, which is why the 2018 2p is available from the business side but not from philatelic.

A list received today has some interesting revelations. The only year's printings (I'm not going to list all the dates) for these stamps are:

1p   -  2016, 2017
2p   -  2015
5p   -  2016, 2017
10p -  2017, 2018
20p -  2016, 2017, 2018
50p -  2012 (yes, there are no 2017*)
£1   -  2015, 2016, 2018
£2   -  2009, 2013

*We still have this in our shop, with a few date and cylinder blocks.
The shortage of lower values may be attributed to the lack of a 9p which necessitates using 5p +2x2p to raise 2nd class to first, who knows.

2nd class   - 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
1st class    - 2016, 2017, 2018
2nd Large - 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
1st Large  - 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

So if anybody collects date blocks or date margin singles of these values (and the special service stamps) we can supply these years and in some cases multiple dates within years.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Captain Cook's Voyages stamp issue 16 August 2018

Once again I am able to refer you to the website of Buckingham covers for your first sight of a new stamp issue that Royal Mail won't allow me to show* here.

As you can see from the page showing the Buckingham FDCs, the issue consists of a set of 6 stamps and a miniature sheet of 4.  The set consists of se-tenant pairs of 2nd class, 1st class and £1.45 (the basic rate to Australasia) stamps, and the miniature sheet has a pair of 1st class and a pair of £1.45.

One first class stamp shows the familiar picture of James Cook, with an unidentified ship in the background.  Also shown are Sir Joseph Banks (2nd class), naturalist and botanist, and Sydney Parkinson (£1.45), artist, who drew the picture of the Blue-black grassquit (bird) as well as the self-portrait.   The other stamps in the set show the Chief Mourner of Tahiti (2nd), the transit of Venus (1st), and portrait of a Maori Chief.

The miniature sheet shows a chart of Cook's discoveries, canoes on Raiatea, a Maori clifftop fort on an arched rock, and repairs to the Endeavour in Australia.

The stamps will be issued on 16 August to mark the 250th anniversary of Cook's three-year expedition.  By including talented artists and scientists Cook's voyage provided never-before-seen information about the lands on the other side of the world.

Cook last appeared on a British stamp in the Travellers' Tale Millennium series in February 1999.

* Part of the reason is so that they can do their own publicity of the stamp issue and events surrounding it, and they don't want big splashes on social media such as Twitter, which is exactly where I picked up Buckingham's news.  Comments not really necessary, but Royal Mail do read, so go ahead!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Postmark News: Midlands Handstamp Centre to close

Not announced in the 29 June Postmark Bulletin from Royal Mail is the news that the Midland Special Handstamp Centre will be closing on 23 July.

The work of Birmingham will be transferred to the Northern SHC at Tallents House, Edinburgh which already handles Scotland, Northern Ireland, and North of England.


Collectors and dealers who plan to use the Hampton Court Road postmark (14590) on their new stamps might be advised to send their covers direct to Edinburgh at the usual address.

Meanwhile, thanks to Roger and his team for their service over the years.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Why 2nd class Large stamps in Post Offices are so old

Anybody who has tried to find 2nd class Large stamps in almost any post office will find that the booklets are probably from late 2016 when the cover was changes, the business sheets are probably from 2014 or earlier, and the counter sheets are 2014 or earlier if they have any at all.

An example is shown above to remind you of the stamp!  And shown below is why you see so few used.  Sellers on eBay, Amazon, Etsy etc, often use Royal Mail's widely advertised Click and Drop service.  Although primarily intended for parcels, the system can be used on ordinary and large letters: this was used to send postcards of Hampton Court, but I have had them used for many other eBay sales. 

Although the price is the same, the labels can be printed directly from the computer when preparing the goods for posting.  No transcription errors for the addressee; the sender's details are included automatically.  The only thing that has to be right is the weight and postal service, and in many cases these are part of the details entered on the selling platform.  The system also prints the bar-code which Royal Mail are trying to get all parcel senders to use (as on the Horizon system).  The details revealed by a QR-reader include the destination address and the postcode of the sender, as well as the weight and price, and a unique code.  The sender can also receive delivery conformation if the item is scanned on delivery.

What's shown is a good example of modern postage, but you won't collect as many of them as you do covers with stamps on!

Monday, 2 July 2018

Security Machin Checklist update - version 2.0.6

Now that we have received our weighty copy of Stanley Gibbons new Great Britain Concise 2018
catalogue we have made some more minor corrections to our Checklist and uploaded version 2.0.6, which can be downloaded from here.

As Gibbons have decided that the gummed stamps in the RAF prestige stamp book are missing the 'P' in the MPIL code, they have given these new sub-numbers irrespective of their year code.  I believe that all the errors previously mentioned have been corrected, but as usual will be grateful for any further corrections that readers find necessary.  Please email to the address at the head of this page.

July slogan postmarks

June was a bumper month for slogans, and one campaign runs over the end of the month.  So this month we start with a re-run of the first two Art Fund_ Museum of the Year slogans.  We still only have one example of each, so examples of the version from the other machines will be welcome.

27 June: The Art Fund - the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund - has a contest to find The Museum of the Year.  There are five finalists including the Postal Museum. MB has sent a copy of the latest slogan postmark which notes Brooklands Museum as one of the finalists - which suggests that there will be a slogan for each of the finalists.  But this series is likely to be interrupted by one tomorrow for Armed Forces Day which is this Saturday, 30 June.

The Brooklands slogan is from Edinburgh, and dated 27 June 2016. Thanks to MG we can at last show the other layout, from Lancashire & South Lakes (Preston) 27/06/18

             Art Fund_ 
             Museum of
                 the Year 2018
Brooklands Museum

 * the underscore after 'Art Fund_' is deliberate and part of their operating name.

28 June:  the second museum of the year candidate to get a slogan is Ferens Art Gallery, this example from North West Midlands 28 June 2018.  And we also now have the Edinburgh version.

2 July:  the third candidate is the Glasgow Women's Library, used here in Edinburgh on 30 June 2018.  I've been told that the Glasgow slogan was not used in the other format, but that Armed Forces Day continued instead.  This must either be a mistake or unnecessary!

3 July: the fourth candidate is the Tate St Ives, used here in Peterborough MC on 2 July.  Also the alternative version from Lancashire and South Lakes.



4 July:  the final candidate is The Postal Museum, this one from North West Midlands on 3 July.

As The Postal Museum was outdone by Tate St Ives, there was no (self-)congratulatory slogan for them winning the big prize.

9 July:  It seems that there is a bigger problem with dogs and postmen in the Wolverhampton area as they are running with a second Dog Awareness Week, judging by this slogan used on Saturday 7 July (while other MCs have returned to the default 'Action for Children' slogan).  Thanks to MB for this used at the North West Midlands Mail Centre:

11 July 2018 The winner of this year's Man Brooker Prize is Michael Ondaatje, for The English Patient.  Slogans of both types have been received at Norvic Towers, but we will be interested to see any oddities with this slogan.
Glasgow 09-07-18, North & West Yorkshire 10/07/2018, and a glitched logo from Gatwick on the same date.

UPDATE:  Thanks to KC for this transposed version from Chelmsford (South East Anglia) - which still missed the stamp!

16 July 2018: I'm convinced that Wolverhampton's North West Midlands Mail Centre is stuck in a time warp (see Dog Awareness 2 above).  MB has now sent a copy of the Ferens Gallert Art Fund postmark clearly dated 14 July


As usual, all new postmarks for July will be shown here and, don't forget, there are two layouts for most slogans.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Smilers to follow Business Customised Sheets into history?

Following the cessation of the Business Customised Service, this announcement is currently showing on Royal Mail's Smilers Stamps page:
Important Notice: Thank you for your interest in Smilers®. Please note that the Smilers® service is going to be put on hold for an indefinite period after 5pm (GMT) on Thursday, 26th July. Customers will not be able to order personalised Smilers® sheets after this time either via the Royal Mail website or by post. All orders received before then will be fulfilled as normal.

A reader has forwarded a separate correspondence about this which coincides with the launch of Royal Mail's new online shop:
I wanted to let you know that the personalised Smilers ® service is going to be put on hold for an indefinite period after Thursday 26th July as Royal Mail launches its new online shop. Customers will not be able to order personalised Smilers ® sheets when the new web platform goes live until further notice.
In preparation of the migration to the new website, we reviewed the range of products and services we offer on the current website and took the decision not to migrate the personalised Smilers ® service to the new shop when it goes live and to suspend it for the foreseeable future. Whether or not the service will be reintroduced at a later date is still to be decided.
I should add that we will continue to offer Generic Sheets, Exhibition Sheets and Commemorative Sheets.

Given the increasing cost and, more importantly, lack of publicity surrounding the personalisation service in recent years, I suspect the public - who don't send that many stamped social letters anyway - have forgotten about this service, and that most recent productions have come from philatelic societies and so on.  The failure to make each year's Christmas stamps available will have hastened this, because that is one area where there could have been sales. (See also this blogpost from two years ago.)

However, what demonstrates clearly that Royal Mail - at the same time as marketing special stamp-related products outside the hobby - are continuing to target stamp collectors with unnecessary sheets is the continuation of the Generic Sheet.  Remember, these were originally produced in response to collector and trade complaints that personalisation was an expensive way for collectors to buy stamps which were not available from any other source.

Given that Royal Mail have produced Generic Sheets which include stamps not available for the personalisation service, I regard these as just the same as Business Customised Sheets - posters which happen to contain stamps and a quite unnecessary addition to the programme.  The sooner these cease the better, as far as I am concerned, though I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Dad's Army pricing error: another PO/RM foul-up

Once again, miscommunication between Royal Mail Stamps and their retail partner Post Office Ltd has left collectors either confused or overcharged.

As was the case with the New Tariff definitives, these two professional organisations have managed to mess-up the pricing of the Dad's Army Generic Sheet.

Apparently somebody has confused this with other more expensive sheets and decided to retail it at £13.90 instead of the correct price of only £7.50.

According to the person who reported this:
I was purchasing the new Dad’s Army Generic Sheet at the Post Office. What a surprise awaited instead of £7.50 I was told it was £13.90 and I could either take it of leave it. The Post Office told me that was the price set by Royal Mail and that was the price they had to sell it for.

Royal Mail confirmed the price should be £7.50, but the Post Office wouldn’t budge. The cashier was very reluctant to call the manager. When he did appear he had the same outlook, that’s what Royal Mail had priced it at.  Grudgingly he phoned someone in the Post Office, complaining about customers complaining to him about the price. Apparently there is to be a meeting about the debacle. No time frame given.
It isn't rocket science.  Royal Mail have had this £7.50 price in their publicity material and on their website for months.  How can one of the team that communicates with Post Office get this so wrong?

I hope we will get a much quicker resolution than before, and that the PO HQ team will quickly get the Horizon pricing system corrected, and allow customers to get a refund from any post office that sold the sheets.  Last time it was over 2 weeks before they relented.

UPDATED 3 July - message from Post Office Ltd.
We were incorrectly advised initially by Royal Mail which is being looked into. 
If you or anyone else has been overcharged we now have an agreed process. You can send your receipts to: Royal Mail, Stamps and Collectibles Business Enquiries, PO Box 1373, SUNDERLAND, SR5 9PG Please include a note with the receipt stating ‘Dad’s Army stamps overcharge’ and also include your name and address. 
Alternatively you can send an e-mail to with a scan of the receipt. Please can the title of the e-mail be ‘Dad’s Army stamps overcharge’ and can include your name and address details in the text of the e-mail.