Friday, 10 July 2020

Parcel Prices to the USA increased by >40% from 1 July 2020

Royal Mail forecast these new rates a while back but I had been under the impression that they would only be applying to business account customers.  I was wrong, but the good news is that only parcel prices have increased.

The new rates leaflet pdf can be downloaded from the Royal Mail website here.

The new Zone 3 applies to only the United States of America (inc Alaska) and previous rates were the same as Zone 1, so you can easily see how much of an increase has taken place.  Note that ALL letter and Large Letter rates remain the unchanged, so this only affects items over (any of) 353 mm x 250 mm x 25 mm.

Basic Airmail
Screen Shot 2020-07-10 at 11.28.20.png
International Tracked and Signed
Screen Shot 2020-07-10 at 11.28.42.png
International Tracked
Screen Shot 2020-07-10 at 11.29.26.png
These changes will not affect our prices to US customers, although if an order is larger than the Large Letter sizes it might be split to two Large Letters.  But something for our US readers to be aware of when buying from dealers, auctions and philatelic bureaux - as other postal authorities are likely to make similar changes.

It's also relevant for postal history collectors of course.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Latest Gibbons Concise catalogue - new corprate style, but no number changes!

The 2020 edition of the Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise Catalogue was published on 30 June and I have found time to have a quick look at it.

The most obvious change is the cover, which has now been brought into Gibbons' new 'corporate branding style' matching all new catalogues.  The preface mentions that this happens to make it very similar to the earliest editions which had just one stamp on the cover, but I think it is unfortunate.

Like the front cover the spine is dark blue, with the title in bold white near the top in a font which is like Times New Roman, rather than the sans-serif font used in previous years.  The previous style look modern: the new style looks 'traditional' and dated to me.  I suppose if you have a library of Gibbons catalogues or you keep several years' catalogues they will look good on the shelf, but I prefer the colourful pictorial front cover with a recent commemorative making it easy to see from a distance that this is the latest version.

But the meat is inside, of course.  One of the most important points, especially for the Machin security stamps, is that there are no number changes.  The Postage Rate tables, previously only for 1st class, 2nd class, Large and 'E' stamps, have been expanded to show the Recorded Signed For and Special Delivery stamps, and the rates applicable to Post and Go Faststamps with their various and oft-changing weight steps for airmail.  This is important for postal historians, calculating whether covers bearing these stamps after the step changes are prepaid at the correct rate - a 40g stamp issued in 2010 (costing £1.46) is now valid for 100g and is worth £2.42 in postage.  I'm pleased to have played my part in persuading the editors to include this information.

With over 500 pages I haven't looked all through and made comparisons with previous editions. The preface indicates that, as usual, prices have been 'carefully checked and updated where necessary to ensure that they represent an accurate picture of the current market for British stamps in very find condition'.

I've looked at the U stamps and note the following mostly from John Deering's supplementary tables.

- U2923 the 10p M17L counter sheet is up from 70p to £4

- U2939 the £1.28 has changes both ways: the 2013 version drops from £6 to £5 and the 2014 up from £5.50 to £12.50

- U3031 the scarce 2nd Large 2010 business sheet stays at £24, but

- U3032 the similarly hard to find 2nd Large 2010 booklet stamp is up from £21 to £27.  This and the 1st class stamp were readily available (once discovered) at the London 2010 exhibition.  The 1st class stays at £8 in the new catalogue.

- U3745, the Long to Reign stamp on Security Backing paper from booklets (REIGS) stays at £35.

Another thing I noticed was the 2nd class Scotland stamp with the new font, S159/a. In a Stamp Monthly catalogue supplement the stamp from the James Bond PSB was given a new sub-number. This stamp was listed with a grey head whereas the original sheet stamp listing described the head as silver.  In fact there is no metallic silver ink and both are shades of CMYK grey.  The new catalogue now describes S159 as silver-grey and the S159a PSB stamp as dull-grey.

I think this is unfortunate. The shades of grey are undoubtedly different, but many country definitives exist in a wide range of shades, notably the 1st class England.  If this new stamp is worth a sub-number, then some of the others must be.

(It's been pointed out to me that the 1st class stamp from the Visions of the Universe PSB is listed as EN53a and described as Venetian Red, compared with the sheet stamp which is Indian Red.)

Apart from these there are many ups and downs in prices, especially in the case of used stamps many of which are no longer the same as the mint.  It is fair to say that it is still possible to buy many of the more common stamps at prices lower than those shown, but as always the premium hard-to-find variants are probably being sold at around full catalogue value or more.

People who have more time than I do at present will doubtless have their own views and spot changes and not only in pricing. I look forward to your findings and will add them here when time is available.

The £1 machin gold foil stamp, listed twice (as acknowledged in the Preface), but the pane has different prices on pages 289 and 358, £16 and £13.50 respectively.

2019 STAMPEX opt on Normandy/D-Day m/s (MS4236) is not mentioned unlike the previous 
overprints, e.g The 2019 Classic stamps MS 416, where it's mentioned as a footnote after the listing.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Startling error found on Queen PSB Machin pane

Over the years we have reported many errors in Prestige Stamp Books, from duplicated pages, duplicate covers, missing panes, inverted panes, etc.  Not since buying the 1980 Wedgwood PSB with central broad phosphor on one pane, can I recall finding anything myself.

So this error on the one complete booklet I purchased from the Bureau was a very pleasant surprise.

I was looking at the iridescent printing to make sure that the M20L MPIL coding was all there (no missing P!), when I noticed that it was substantially shifted to the right.

It was when I took the photo that I realised that the rouletted perforation provided to separate the pane from the selvedge (for FDC production) is also shifted to the right.  The displacement of both perforation and iridescent ink is around 11mm and results in the perforation cutting through the Queen's nose and touching the chin on the 1p stamp.

The other inks and the regular perforations are in the right place, making this quite remarkable.

I mentioned this to some other dealers, but no other examples have been reported to me yet.

I'm open to offers for this as it is not something I am interested in keeping and it belongs with a Machin specialist, I think, or any collector of the bizarre!

Palace of Westminster (30 July); Sherlock (18 August)

The July issue of Royal Mail's Philatelic Bulletin has provided first details of the 30 July issue for the Palace of Westminster, and the 18 August issue entitled 'Sherlock' for which the embargo date is 4 August 2020.

So for the benefit of those who don't have the Bulletin here are the published details. 

30 July - Palace of Westminster

3 x 1st class, 3 x £1.68 in two horizontal se-tenant strips of 3.
Miniature sheet of 2 x 1st class and 2 x £1.63.
Presentation Pack, 2 x FDC, Postcards (11), Press sheet, framed products.

Comment: This follows the pattern of earlier Royal Palace issues, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Hampton Court Palace, except that there is no retail booklet this time.

UPDATE 10 July
Images of these stamps are now available to view on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion website having been published by one of the cover producers.

18 August - Sherlock

We can't yet reveal whether this refers to the television programme of the same name, or is simply a generic name for once again marking the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but I'll leave you to guess!

Set of 6 - 2 x 1st class, 2 x £1.42, 2 x £1.68 in three vertical se-tenant pairs;
Miniature sheet of 4 stamps, 2 x 1st class, 2 x £1.68.
Presentation Pack, 2 x FDC, Postcards (11), Press sheet,
Retail booklet, Collector's Sheet,
Framed products, Medal Covers.

Like many of the 'entertainment-linked' issues, this one would seem to have many products aimed outside the philatelic community - but in so doing there may be versions of stamps which are different to the regular ones.  Time will tell: at least there is no prestige stamp book!

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

More new Machin counter sheets, booklets

My thanks to reporters who are watching online auctions, particularly Trelantis.

These have been spotted recently, or have been announced by RM through trade channels:

New Machins in July

2p now available eBay item 313131996916 - print date 06/05/2020

10p announced by Royal Mail with print date of 14/05/2020

20p green now available eBay item 313133080811 - print date 14/05/2020

Thanks to RP for the pictures 


2nd Large announced by Royal Mail with a print date of 12/05/2020

2nd class booklet found in various places.  No cylinders seen so far (see above).

That’s all for today!

July 2020 slogan postmarks

With my limited resources, that is, the iPad, I can start July with a report from Royal Mail about a new NHS postmark. 
Our latest postmark, which will be applied to stamped mail from tomorrow through to Saturday, thanks the incredible NHS on their 72nd anniversary.
Thank you, from all of us.
 I can only show the library image supplied:

Thanks to RW for this picture of the actual postmark from Manchester Mail Centre, dated 01/07/2020
Say thank you
to our NHS
72nd anniversary
Sunday 5 July 2020

The annual Dog Awareness Week campaign has kicked off with a new Royal Mail slogan and logo.  We received this example from Norwich Mail Centre 06-07-2020 (2nd class local, received the next day).  
Royal Mail: "2,445 dog attacks have taken place on postmen and women across the UK in the last year. Although the total number of attacks dipped slightly by 2% year on year, there are around 47 attacks taking place each week across the UK, with some leading to a permanent and disabling injury."
Week 2020 

Sunday, 28 June 2020

We are having to take an extended break

Greetings readers,

As we have mentioned earlier we were planning, before this pandemic business kicked off, to relocate and the time has now come. This means

- all our stock is packed and inaccessible

- nothing can be posted to customers for at least two weeks

- we have no telephone or television, so no news

- our only internet connection is via phone, which is 4G very occasionally, 3G more often, but only outside and very infrequently inside.

- it will take at least 3 weeks to get broadband connected, we’re told

- our telephone number remains the same, and messages can be left. They will be picked up 2-3 times a week. The mobile number is on our home page but only for emergencies please.

- incoming mail is collected from the main offices in Dereham which is only open from 7-9 am!

We will be back to normal ASAP but meanwhile we have a lot of unpacking to do!

The blog will be updated if there is anything important to tell you.

Meanwhile it will be very quiet.

The office is slowly beginning to look like the office in that the desk and computer are in place, but most else is still boxed.  

We have internet but no phone, so I am now able to resume posting here without resorting to the iPad, scanning new material, and using RM publicity photos as necessary.  Emails are received but unless the answer is easy, they will only get acknowledged until I have access to reference material.

More updates will be in new posts.   Thanks for your patience.

Ian, John & Val

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Music Giants IV: Queen mega-pack issued 9 July 2020

Royal Mail make their fourth foray into the British music industry with a massive package celebrating the band Queen, "one of the UK’s greatest music legends on the 50th anniversary of its formation".

As usual the stamp issue consists of a set of stamps, a miniature sheet, a prestige stamp book, a retail booklet, first day covers, stamp cards, press sheet, collector sheet and numerous products framed and otherwise aimed squarely at fans of the group.

The band's lead singer, Freddie Mercury, previously appeared on a 19p stamp in the 1999 Entertainers' Tale set in the Millennium Series (pictured left).

Queen formed in 1970 (though John Deacon didn’t join until 1971) and signed their first recording contract for EMI in 1973, releasing their first album, Queen, the same year. In 1974 they released Queen II and made their first UK headlining tour. They also went on their first US tour the same year and released Sheer Heart Attack in November which was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

The following year the band released A Night At The Opera which was their first platinum album, and which included the single, Bohemian Rhapsody. The latter remained number one in the UK charts for nine weeks and became one of the most popular singles of all time.

As usual the stamp set features album covers, and the miniature sheet shows scenes from live performances.  Unusually this MS also includes a definitive-sized 1st class stamp, which would be ideal for the retail booklet, but it isn't included!

Set of 8 stamps

1st class - Queen II – 1974: Building on its predecessor, Queen II was an assured album that upped the theatrics – and the expectations for the future.
Sheer Heart Attack – 1974: That all-important breakthrough, Sheer Heart Attack refined the band’s earlier sound into something more directly calibrated for the charts.
A Night at the Opera – 1975: The moment where it all came together: ambition, vision and the public’s desire for more.
News of the World – 1977:  The punk movement may have grabbed the headlines, but ‘We Are the Champions’ ensured Queen’s place at rock’s top table.

£1.63 - The Game – 1980:  Using synths for the very first time, The Game kept up with the changing trends of a new decade.
Greatest Hits – 1981: Featuring the band’s biggest hits since its first chart appearance in 1974 including Seven Seas of Rhye, Another One Bites the Dust, Killer Queen and We Will Rock You.
The Works – 1984:  As its title suggests, The Works had it all: modern rock with a pop sensibility, as exemplified in ‘Radio GaGa’.
Innuendo – 1991: The final Queen album released during Freddie Mercury’s lifetime, Innuendo closed with the poignant ballad, ‘The Show Must Go On’.

Minisheet of 5 stamps


1st Class:  Freddie Mercury, Magic Tour, Wembley Stadium 1986; Roger Taylor, Hyde Park 1976;
1st Definitive Queen, 1974;
£1.63:  John Deacon, A Night at the Opera Tour, Hammersmith Odeon 1975; Brian May, Magic Tour, Népstadion, Budapest 1986.

Technical Details
The stamps and miniature sheet are printed by International Security Printers in litho, with PVA gum.
The sheet stamps, designed by Royal Mail Group based on an original design by Studio Dempsey, are 38 x 31 mm in two sheets of 48, se-tenant strips of 4, perforation 14 x 14.
The stamps in the 192 x 74 mm miniature sheet are 35 mm square with perforations 14.5 x 14.5 except for the central stamp which is 20 x 24 mm, and perf 15 x 14 as are most definitives. Design is by Royal Mail Group Ltd and Baxter & Bailey.

Album covers © 2020 Queen Productions Limited, under license from Bravado International Group.
All rights reserved. Photography of vinyl records by Geoff Dann.

Freddie Mercury, Wembley Stadium 1986, photograph © Denis O’Regan/Getty Images;
Roger Taylor, Hyde Park 1976, photograph © 2020 Queen Productions Limited, under license from Bravado International Group. All rights reserved;
Queen, Primrose Hill, London 1974, photograph by Johnny Dewe Mathews © 2020, Queen Productions Limited, under license from Bravado International Group. All rights reserved;
John Deacon, Hammersmith Odeon 1975, photograph © Steve Emberton, Camera Press London;
Brian May, Népstadion, Budapest 1986, photograph © Denis O’Regan/Getty Images.

Retail booklet
The self-adhesive retail booklet contains 4 x 1st class Machin definitives which should be coded M20L MCIL, and self-adhesive versions of the Queen II and A Night at the Opera stamps.


Prestige Stamp Book

This is of most interest to Machin collectors, who will be disappointed by the lack of variety, as the definitive pane contains 4 x 1p Machin definitives and 4 x Queen definitive-sized stamps. The coding is, predictably, MPIL M20L - no missing letters.  But watch this space for a surprising variety when I am able to add it.




The price of the PSB is £19.10. 

The front cover features the band’s crest as designed by Freddie Mercury before the release of their debut album. The crest illustrates the zodiac signs of the four band members as well as a phoenix on the top to represent immortality.  It contains a profile of each member and a feature on the other albums released by the band as well as their iconic videos.  It also touches on Queen’s legacy after the death of Freddie Mercury and the band’s enduring popularity.

Products available
Set of 8 - miniature sheet - presentation pack - first day covers (set, miniature sheet and PSB pane) -
stamp cards - press sheet of 15 MS.

Queen Album Cover Collector Sheet
A self-adhesive A4 sheet containing the album covers set of 10, printed in litho, with attached labels. Product code AT117, price £13.15.

Queen Live Collector Sheet
A self-adhesive A4 sheet containing 10 x copies of the definitive-size stamp from the miniature sheet, printed in litho, with attached labels. Product code AT118, price £8.80.

Fan Sheets featuring Album Art (gummed stamps) 
a. Album cover collection - limited to 5,000 - product code S1014 - £10.20
b. A Night At the Opera - limited to 5,000 - product code S1013 - £7.50

Other products
Coin covers (Uncirculated, silver proof and gold proof) with the miniature sheet.
Souvenir packs containing various stamps.
Framed:  sets, enlargements of the stamps, Covers collectors sheet.

As before, we have stopped stocking these products as they will be readily available from Royal Mail's website.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Blog Comments - apologies!

As regular readers will know, comments on this blog are moderated; that is, to ensure that as little spam and unwelcome messages are posted, I vet them all.  It's a simple proces - the system sends me an email for every comment, and I can mark it as 'Publish / Spam / Delete.  And I can do that from mobile devices as well as desktop.

At least that's how it is supposed to work.  I have just discovered 18 comments awaiting moderation, 17 of which have now been published.  Normally when I publish, I get another email copy of the comment which tells me that it is published.  This is useful because I can then go to the comment and reply, if a reply is called for.

I am getting NO emails for either instance.  So although I have published 17, soem of which deserve a reply, I shall have to use a different avenue to find out which ones I have just had comments on, so as to reply.  I'll do that tomorrow or Tuesday if I can.

2. As you will have seen if you have emailed, we are relocating.  My office is currently echoing the keyboard as there are far fewer boxes on the shelves, and very little on the desk.

From the end of this week for at least a week we will have no internet or telephone connection while we have new lines installed.  Calls to the 0845 number will still trigger an answering machine so please leave a message if urgent; if not email and I will answer as soon as possible.

Thank you for your patience and for the good wishes already received.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

New 2020 Machin Definitives and other new printings

We have been told about the first new Machin counter sheet reprints (aside from the new tariff stamps) for 2020.  There are also some new Country Definitive printings.

Pictures will be provided when we have the stamps, but for now we can tell you that these dates have been reported for the new Machins

- 2nd class  05/05/20  (Norvic 2911.20)
- 1st class   04/05/20  (Norvic 2914a.20)
- 1st Large  07/05/20  (Norvic 2916a.20)

The third printing of the European 20g and worldwide postcard rate £1.42 stamp was made on 11/05/20, after the January original and March top-up printings.

Country Definitives
The Wales and Scotland 2nd class values were reprinted on 16/04/20.  We await supplies to find out if there is another grid layout or shade difference.

All these printings are by Walsall (Machin) or Cartor (Country) stamps.