Monday, 21 October 2019

Walsall Printings of "High Value" Machin Sheets

As previously reported, the stamps traditionally known as 'high values' have been printed by ISP/Walsall for the first time and are about to be distributed by Royal Mail to collectors who have non-visible changes on their standing orders. 

These stamps are rarely available at Post Office branches but are available from some Royal Mail Delivery/Enquiry Offices and from Royal Mail's website - there is still a demand from outside philately.  At the time we were told of these (before Stampex) the £2 was out of stock and stock of another value was very low at Tallents House.

We have seen the earlier printings of these values in kiloware on plastic-wrapped packets but we don't actually know who uses them and why they don't use other means of payment for their postage, such as PPI or meter franking.  It's certainly not the philatelic trade in which there are plenty of other stamps available.

Unfortunately due to the excessive number of special stamp issues this year it has taken a month since Autumn Stampex for supplies to be sent to collectors and non-attending dealers, and already there is another new stamp (1st Signed For) to add to their automatic distrubutions.  However, as the delay has been Royal Mail's it will still be possible for collectors to ask the London Special Handstamp Centre for first day covers postmarked 11 September.  A Stampex (but not first day) special handstamp was available (ref 14953). 

The £2 and £3 values were printed on 22 July and the £5 on 23 July.  Numbers in our Checklist are 3200.9, 3300.9 and 3500.9.  As shown below, the colours are a good match with the original (or 2013) De La Rue printings (top row).

2019 Walsall printings of Machin High Value stamps compared with original De La Rue printings.

£2 definitive stamp 2019 Walsall printing cylinder block£3 definitive stamp 2019 Walsall printing cylinder block£5 definitive stamp 2019 Walsall printing cylinder block

£2 definitive stamp 2019 Walsall printing full sheet
£3 definitive stamp 2019 Walsall printing full sheet
£5 definitive stamp 2019 Walsall printing full sheet

I know some people are interested in the orientation of the backing paper.  On the £2 the Large is above the Small both Upright; on the other two values the Large Upright is above the Small Inverted.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

And another new Machin definitive - not entirely unexpected!

Barely a week after I suggested that the latest version of our Checklist might be the last for this year, a reprint of the 1st class Signed For stamp - heralded but not printed in 2018 - has appeared.

This new printing on 17/09/2019 was by ISP Walsall, of course, so in due course it will be automatically distributed by Royal Mail Tallents House as a non-visible change for those who have these on standing order.  I am waiting for an answer from Tallents House as to just when that will be: I very much doubt that it will be on 24 October with the High Values.

This stamp will be listed in our Checklist as 2991.9.

On the subject of premium-service stamps, I have added a table showing their selling prices/worth to this NVI post.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Christmas is coming early in some Post Office branches.

My fellow-blogger White Knight has seen the FDC producers' websites where this year's Christmas stamps are already on show (from 8 October), although I can't tell you about them until the issue date.

As usual there will be eight stamps, an unnecessary gummed miniature sheet and an even more unnecessary Generic Smilers sheet - unnecessary when you remember the original reason for producing these*.  You can see the low-resolution images here, and also on the websites here and here §.

Early release
But as these images are already out there for you to look at I see no problem in passing on these pictures of stamps purchased, I assume, in Hampshire posted at the Southampton/Portsmouth/IOW mail centre.   They aren't very clear pictures, and the postmark wasn't very good to start with, so I have digitally adjusted the close-up to show the date of 17 October!  Only these six stamps were on sale - the 2nd & 1st class, and Large stamps, and the £1.35 and £1.55.

* Generic Smilers Sheets were originally produced for collectors as an almost face-value substitute for the personalised Smilers Sheets, which cost much more.  The stamps were not the same as those in counter sheets or booklets, being printed by litho rather than gravure.  Some albums have spaces for these stamps although they are not separately catalogued by Stanley Gibbons.

But now that Smilers Sheets are no longer available these are purely a money spinner, and one which costs £18.40 for a basic set costing £10, leaving seven each of the 2nd and 1st class stamps to use for postage. 

§  You will also see, on the home page of that site, a commemorative cover related to today's happenings in the UK Parliament.  It's to be hoped that not too many have been printed, for the sake of the business, as things have turned out.  Whilst commemorative and political covers have long been collected within our hobby and by social historians and ephemera/memorabilia collectors, the ones produced for events that didn't happen - like the coronation of King Edward VIII - rarely turn out to be valuable.

Friday, 11 October 2019

More Post and Go News from the Postal Museum

Another Press Release.

The Postal Museum announces the opening of its second Post & Go machine

LONDON, 11 October 2019 - The Postal Museum is set to open its new additional Post & Go machine in the Mail Rail exhibition on Tuesday 29 October. The machine will vend two designs – The Post Office Underground Railway and 1st class Machin, both with a new overprint “Mail Rail” on all values.

The original kiosk in The Postal Museum will remain operational as usual.

A first day cover will also be available to purchase in the museum shop or online

The Post & Go machines are available at The Postal Museum during normal opening hours. Please see

Further enquiries reveal that there will be a first day cover but no presentation pack 'at this stage' there having been three in three months.  There may be one produced before Christmas.  Also, it has not been decided at this stage whether the first day cover will have one 1st class stamp or a set of all values.  Another press release will be produced before the issue date.

From the philatelic point of view it is assumed that the Underground Railway stamps will be digitally printed.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Centenary of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund - Fundraising cover by BFBS

Media Release 03 October 2019

Centenary of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund

2019 sees the centenary of The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund (RAFBF). It is the Royal Air Force's leading welfare charity, providing financial, practical and emotional support to serving and former members of the RAF – regardless of rank – as well as their partners and dependents.

Lord Trenchard founded the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund in 1919, one year after the formation of the Royal Air Force. It was originally known as the Royal Air Force Memorial Fund as one of their charitable objects was to raise a memorial to airmen who died in the First World War. The Royal Air Force Memorial was completed in 1923 and the charity's name changed to the Benevolent Fund in June 1933.

BFPS, in collaboration with the RAFBF, has produced a commemorative cover to mark this historic occasion to be issued on the 23rd October 2019.

The image on the cover represents the cross section of people that the RAFBF supports. A unique special handstamp numbered BFPS 3224, with the Centenary logo silhouetted in the centre, will be used to cancel the 1st class stamp "Hurricane MK 1".

Three versions will be issued:
  • standard unsigned version costing £7.50.
  • ‘flown’ version – flown on a mission in 'Tiger' Puma HC2 Aircraft No XW224 by 230 Squadron, RAF Benson, costing £10.
  • numbered limited edition signed by Air Vice-Marshall The Honourable David Murray CVO OBE, Controller of the RAFBF, costing £15.
Profits will be donated to the RAFBF.

These covers will have an A4 information insert and will be presented in a protective cellophane
sleeve making a superb memento of the Fund’s centenary.

These covers can be ordered from the BFPS online shop ( or by post by sending a cheque (payable to ‘BFPS CIC’) to BFPS, The Old Post Office, Links Place, Elie, LEVEN, KY9 1AX.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Always look carefully before you bin it!

I was recently asked to dispose of somebody's incoming papers securely - shredding, burning etc.  Not a problem, and something most of us do.  Included were some of the original envelopes, so of course I did look closely at the stamps.

This one was a nice surprise, and I had to double check in our own Checklist to find out whether it was 'new' or previously recorded - there are so many Machins now that I can't remember which ones we've had (ie most of the counter sheets, business sheets and booklets) and which we haven't (eg the coils). 

It's ordinary commercial mail, until you look closely.  The address is actually not written as it appears (even more so when you can see all of it), but ink-jet printed.  And this is the 1st class stamp.

And of course we have had the vermillion M13L MRIL coil stamp before.  It was first found by us on mail from the Equiniti Share Administration Service (who handle, amongst other things employee, holdings in Royal Mail shares). 

Although not philatelic, that one was closely linked to Royal Mail, so it was nice to find this one from a totally different source.   This is believed to have been posted on behalf of Magdalen College School in Oxford, although we don't know whether a direct mail house was involved (seems likely), or whether they bought the stamps direct from Royal Mail.

Unusually, although produced in coils of 10,000, this was available to collectors and others from Royal Mail from 31 July 2014.  This and the 2nd class were printed by ISP Walsall with numbers on the back of every fifth stamp.

So remember - look before you clip or tear the stamps to dump into kiloware.  The first one sold on eBay raised £51, and these first class coil stamps will always be scarce on commercial cover.  And if you have any other examples that you would like to share, please send them to me at the email address above (right).

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Big Fuss Over No Big Deal - It's the Gruffalo on 10 October..

This year's worst kept stamp secret is now officially revealed to be a bumper package of stamps and other material marking the 20th - yes, just the twentieth - anniversary of the first publication of Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo, a children's picture book.

My headline is one reader's reaction, but it echos the thoughts of many, including fellow-blogger White Knight who wrote on his Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog, "A pleasant if inconsequential issue."

Technical Details
The stamps and miniature sheet are designed by Rose Design, with illustrations by Axel Sheffler.

Stamps are 50 x 30 mm in se-tenant strips of 3, 60 stamps per sheet.  The MS is 115 x 89 mm, with stamps 35 mm square.  All are printed by ISP in lithography with PVA gum.

UPDATE 10 October: I am reminded that there is also a generic sheet which utilises the four square stamps from the miniature sheet.  Royal Mail didn't send us a decent picture of this so I have copied the one from their website.  Also, they didn't tell us that it was self-adhesive (thanks Chris), therefore although the stamps will not be catalogued separately by Stanley Gibbons they probably will be other catalogue publishers and there may be spaces in some of the pre-printed albums that I know some people can still afford.  There are two sets of four stamps and a couple spare.

Printed in litho A4 sheet as usual, and almost certainly by ISP Cartor, although Royal Mail were silent on this as well.  The labels bear 'familiar phrases from the story'.

The Gruffalo word mark and logo are trademarks of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and used under licence. Licensed by Magic Light Pictures Ltd.

Sponsored postmarks
This explains why there are no sponsored postmarks for use on first day covers which show the characters or even the name of the subject.  I don't know what licensing fee Magic Light would be asking from Cover Producers: all I know is that this has been a problem for so long that they have found ingenious, or just bland, ways round the problem rather than spending their own time and money in discussions with rights holders.

When you are dealing with the likes of Warner Brothers, and the like.  Even a month before the date of issue Royal Mail were still in discussions over licensing more of their own postmarks!   This is the selection available as alternatives to Royal Mail's two Gruffalo offerings:

There is also the last one which RM will use for their coin cover, but which is also available for collectors to use on their FDCs. 

The illustrations are, of course, by Axel Scheffler recently much interviewed on radio and TV about his work, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary.  He was commissioned to produce Royal Mail's 2012 Christmas stamps.  (Click on any image if you wish to see larger versions.)

These reinforce Scheffler's statement that he cannot draw faces (including the Gruffalo) head on, only from the side.

All products - including those aimed at non-collectors - are available on Royal Mail's website.

Possibly the last Machin Security Checklist for 2019 is now available.

With the production of new High Values which were available at Stampex, we have updated the Checklist and version 2.1.7 is now on Dropbox.


Remember, there will only be a new version when we mention it in a new post, and it can only be found from this link on the right-hand side of the blog, down the page a bit.  If this link doesn't work - and I have found that it doesn't always work for me - use the link embedded in the most recent announcement (use the search box at the top left for either of Checklist, Dropbox, etc)

As always, if you have any problems getting this, or if you find any errors, do please let us know.  This new version not only had all the latest stamps but also adds some Large Letter booklets that were missing from previous editions for some years!

October 2019 slogan and other postmarks

This post will record Slogan Postmarks and other postmark news for October 2019.  It will be updated frequently so please look here when you get a new one: we may already have had a report, and that will save you scanning and emailing yours.

The first slogan for October is a carry over from September. The National Poetry Day slogan sent by JE.  From Manchester Mail Centre on 28/09/2019 this is believed to be running until 2 October so I'll repeat it in a new post for October.

National Poetry
Day 2019
3rd October
UPDATE 1 October
Thanks to RW for the other layout, from Gatwick Mail Centre on 27-09-2019

UPDATE 5 October
On the Gruffalo new issue thread some have bemoaned the fact that the (far more deserving) 50th Anniversary of Monty Python's Flying Circus has not been marked by stamps - well it has been marked by a postmark slogan.  Thanks to JE and MB for sending examples.  Here we have a poor example from the iLSM at Edinburgh Mail Centre and a much better example from the IMP at Preston (Lancashire and South Lakes) both dated 3 October 2019

50 Years of
Monty Python's
Flying Circus

Update 11 October:
We've seen examples of two new slogans, one on Stampboards and the other sent by RW.
The RIBA-Stirling Prize 2019 has been awarded to Goldsmith Street, Norwich. Awarded annually to 'the UK's best new building' this year it is for mass housing development for Norwich City Council. This one is from Medway Mail Centre probably on 8 October as it was on Stampboards on 9th, but I hope to have one from Norwich soon.
Goldsmith Street
Winner of the RIBA
Stirling Prize 2019

[Update]  And, as promised, one from Norwich Mail Centre dated 09-10-2019


It doesn't look as if Goldsmith Street will get much more than its five minutes of fame with the slogan, as RW has sent a scan of another one with Norwich connections, marking the 60th anniversary of the introduction of the Postcode.  This very clear example is from Croydon Mail Centre dated 10 October.
The Postcode
is 60!

Thanks to KC for supplying the Postcode slogan in the other layout, this time from South East Anglia Mail Centre, also on 10/10/2019.

Update 19 October: Yet another October slogan, this time for the renamed Booker Prize for fiction.  As some book critics have written, this year it is all about the judges' inability to stick to the rules, an inability which must have caught Royal Mail on the hop as they picked two joint winners, thus requiring Royal Mail to fit two names into their five-line slogan, as shown below. (And if mail centres could only maintain their equipment we might be able to read the slogans every time!)  Thanks to IB for this example from Greenford/Windsor Mail centre 16/10/2019.

Margaret Atwood &
Bernardine Evaristo
Winners of the 2019
Booker Prize

Operational Slogan - Meter date correction.
Once upon a time it wasn't necessary to show where a 'date correction' for meter mail was applied, although they usually did if it was a Universal machine-applied mark.

Now when meters don't indicate the place of posting, neither do the corrections!

The attached was on a letter posted near Shrewsbury, so this might have been applied at Chester, or maybe at Shrewsbury depending on where the meter pouch was opened.


If you have any new slogans or any other interesting new postmarks, please send them by email for recording here.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Postage value of old NVI stamps - updated.

If you think you've seen this before, it is an updated version of a September 2018 post.  The same question has been asked of Royal Mail again recently. See end of post.

It is over five years since we first had to consider the change in letter weight steps and the question of stamps pre-printed with obsolete weights.  A reader asked the question on the latest Revenue Protection post last month [2018], and so I'll give this important subject it's own entry on the blog.

The question was:
There is another issue, as touched on, in that what postage rate do some of the perfectly legal NVIs and earlier Post & Go stamps now pay. A number of the original rates no longer exist.
I assume an "E" value will probably still pay the Europe rate of up 20g. Where is this set out, either for the public or the Royal Mail staff?
We have Overseas booklet stamps showing Worldwide postcard rate? Originally apparently 43p. What does that pay for today? Ditto Europe up to 40g - no longer a published postage rate. Worldwide up to 40g & 60g likewise both as booklet stamps and/or Post & Go values. Europe up to 60g and so on.
Does anyone know whether the answer set out anywhere or where the contact point is to enquire?
The answer is buried deep in a blogpost of April 2014, so I'll repeat and expand on it here.
UPDATE 10 April 2014
Regarding the future value of obsolete Post and Go stamps Royal Mail have advised:

Existing P&G stamps for WW 10g and WW40g and other previously issued NVI’s for which there is no current postage value e.g. WW Postcard, will continue to be valid for the next applicable weight step up from its stated value i.e. WW 10g stamp will be valid at the WW 20g value and the WW 40g stamp will be valid at the new WW 60g value.
Although they were asked specifically about Post and Go stamps, the reply covers the self-adhesive booklet stamps, including the airmail postcard rate stamp, which is the same rate as the Europe 20g/World 10g. The following year the 60g step was replaced by the 100g step and the same principle applied.  In other words, the stamps showing 40g are now valid for 100g.  The 10g and 20g stamps are still valid for the weights shown, as before.

Users of Stanley Gibbons' Great Britain Concise catalogue will know that the introduction includes some tables of postage rates.  One which is missing is this table which, apart from indicating the original selling price of some of the stamps, explains why certain definitive stamps were issued and, in the case of the £2.25, re-issued after being replaced.

Europe 20g
World 10g
World 20g
World 40g
April 2009
April 2010
April 2011
April 2012
April 2013

E20/ W10
Europe 60g
World 20g
World 60g
April 2014

E20/ W10
Europe 100g
World 20g
World 100g
April 2015
April 2016
April 2017
April 2018
April 2019

I hope readers find this useful.  It is probably worth reminding everybody that these are also all valid at the rates shown for inland postage, just as the 2nd, 1st, Large, Signed For, and Special Delivery stamps are all valid for services other than those shown and on inland and international mail.

Update 19 October.
I've compiled this table which I believe to be correct.  Note that some of the rates were in effect before the stamps were issued, and some new stamps were issued at old rates before tariff increases. (If you see this before I adjust the columns, apologies - copy and paste never works first time for tables!)

Stamps Issued* or Rates Effective
1st Signed For 100g
1st Large Signed For 100g
100g Special Delivery
500g Special Delivery
17 November 2009 *
6 April 2010
26 October 2010 *

20 April 2011
30 April 2012
2 April 2013 §
31 March 2014
30 March 2015
29 March 2016

27 March 2017

26 March 2018
25 March 2019

* Royal Mail Signed For stamps were issued 27 March 2013, replacing Recorded Signed For, but were sold at old rates until 2 April.

The latest reply from Royal Mail, forwarded by Rushstamps, stated:
I have been advised the NVI stamps which have the E on can be used for both inland and Europe postings and the value of the stamp would be the current cost of an International Standard to Europe, which at this time would be £1.35.  NVI stamps do not have an expiry date and are valid at the current rate of postage, as long as they are unused stamps.
I believe the issue is that the Post Office Counter staff were not aware of this and is why they were refusing to accept these stamps.