Sunday, 20 September 2020

Machins 2020 - 2nd Large booklet now in circulation

My thanks to DL for reporting and sending the picture of the latest booklet stamp for 2020 to be in circulation.  This was on sale at a Royal Mail sorting office, and others are reported to have appeared on eBay.

This is the penultimate booklet, with the booklet of 6 x 1st class still to appear.  The stamp will be 2933.20 in the Norvic checklist, and Stanley Gibbons U3032.

Counter sheets

I can also now show the 1p & 5p from counter sheets.  Thanks to RP.

UPDATE 23 September
Two more new M20L counter sheet stamps have been issued, the 1st Royal Mail Signed For (RMSF) printed on 14/05/20 and 100g Special Delivery (printed on 15/05/20).

Also reprinted are the 1st Large RMSF and Special Delivery 500g both on 15/05/20.  This is surprising as, although they weren't printed in 2019 there was a February printing of both this year, which suggests that those were emergency short-run printings to satisfy immediate stock needs while Walsall were printing the new tariff definitives.    

Pictures to follow when the stamps are received.

Another Post and Go Change - Zones 1 & 3

As reported by various readers and added to the earlier 'availability' blog, Museum machines which were not in use on 1 September are now being brought into use.

Both the Shakespeare Visitor Centre at Stratford-upon-Avon and the GWR STeam Museum in Swindon restarted on 17 September, with Shakespeare using Machin MA14 and Flowers MA17.  

We can now show pictures of these thanks to  As you will see, the inscription for these (A009 & A010 respectively) IAR machines' Zone 1 and 3 stamp is the same as on the stamps printed from Post Office Self-Service Kiosks (SSKs)., ie Zone 1-3.

However, it is now reported - and verified on eBay - that these machines have already changed to show the more accurate Zone 1 & 3  (Thanks to Chris for sending this image.)

Aside from corrected errors (and this isn't one), the original may be the Post and Go Faststamp with the shortest availability.  Anybody who found out about the reopening of the Museums and arranged to get the stamps has a Post & Go rarity!
UPDATE: the screen display from the Royal Navy Museum machine A002, thanks to Chris.

Comments about these only here, all other comments and changes on the original post please.

Friday, 18 September 2020

London's Virtual Autumn Stampex 1-3 October 2020


It's about this time of the year that collectors would normally be preparing their bags and sandwiches ahead of getting up early to make the trek to London for Autumn Stampex.  This year, of course, it's not going to happen.  

Instead, the Philatelic Traders' Society is organising a Virtual Stampex, online, which will be 'open' 24 hours a day from 08:00 on 1st October, to 07:59 on 4th October.  To take part you need to register, via this webpage.

Over 100 PTS Members and affiliated philatelic organisations and societies available live for you to chat to, in the Booth Hall to buy, sell, learn, chat about stamps.    

Visit the SPINK Auditorium to watch live and recorded webinars including Q&A sessions.

The 2020 Stampex Court of Honour will celebrate some of the leading collections in the world.

[Edit - my thanks to Isobel at PTS for pointing out (very nicely) that I had totally overlooked the navigation bar at the top of the Stampex International page.]

Booth holders* can be found here:

Stampex Talks here:

Stamps in the Attic information is here:

Overview on other activity regarding stampex can be found here. This gets updated as and when people tell us what is happening. 

*In addition to those listed I understand that Royal Mail will be taking part, although when I asked RM earlier this week there was no information on what that participation would involve or offer.

While we don't know what Royal Mail will be offering  we do know (thanks to the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog - to whom thanks for the pictures) that the avaricious postal authorities of Guernsey and Jersey are determined not to miss out on some Post and Go income, with specially inscribed stamps printed back on the islands.

These will be in strips of six as usual but I didn't want to allocate them too much space!

Other matters permitting I shall be dipping in from time to time - I think it will be interesting, and I hope others will also.  

The PTS is to be commended for organising the event even if provision of information is a bit slow.

No Stampex: New Royal Mail September 2020 Stocklist Available Online

Earlier this week we received the autumn Stock List from Royal Mail Stamps & Collectibles (now far more collectibles than stamps).  At the time it hadn't been added to their website, but I am pleased to say that it is now there, so if you previously picked up a copy at Stampex, you can now read it online here.

If you still collect new stamps and haven't been able to get them from your post office during the current situation you will need to be aware of last day of sale dates.  For the 'Stamp Souvenirs' these are very short dates, but these are unaddressed FDCs in effect, so you probably got something at the time.

Most stamp products have long dates or WSL = While Stocks Last, but the following are noteworthy, get them now if you want them:

Royal Navy Ships, Cricket World Cup MSs, go off sale on 31.12.2020 


Also of note, if you didn't notice before, and I may not have mentioned it, is the print quantities for Press Sheets of miniature sheets - 

Marvel - 1000

Star Wars and Queen - 500

The Gruffalo and Palace of Westminster - 300

I think demand for these - like most other products - has dropped since they were first produced.

Page 8 has a number of 'Bundles' - groups of products sold at a discount from the original prices.  These nearly always include some premium products for fans, and it's arguable that this provides some indication of which have been worthwhile and which were spurned by fans.

All Machin and country definitives, including booklets are available indefinitely - or at least while stocks last.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Brilliant Bugs: new stamp issue 1 October 2020. Attractive but unnecessary?

Another new stamp issue comes from Royal Mail on 1 October.  Although we have refrained from writing much until the emargbo date (which was supposed to be the issue date), the stamps now appear on Royal Mail's shop website.

Alert readers will note that I have replaced the Brilliant Bugs images with images of similar stamps by the same illustrator, Richard Lewington. 


This is because, despite the Bugs stamps being visible on Royal Mail's shop, as linked here, I have been told that "but these are only found if searched for and the stamps are shown in the context of the products".   (Type the words royal mail brilliant bugs into your favourite search engine to find them.)

The Bugs are also shown (in poor resolution) on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog, but then the author doesn't have an dealer account with Royal Mail, so he will not be sanctioned in the same way. 
Is there any reason to show future issues at all?
Does anybody really care?

But why?  What's the event?

Of course the short answer is that there isn't one.  As we in the northern hemisphere enter autumn - although the last week has been unseasonably warm even for an Indian Summer in September - the bees, butterflies and other insects are starting to disappear.  Certainly there weren't too many around a couple of weeks ago!   So this is what Royal Mail have to say:

To celebrate the enormous diversity, intrigue and importance of pollinating insects in the UK, Royal Mail is pleased to issue stamps that celebrate pollinators found in the UK and explore the range, beyond bees and butterflies, and include other often overlooked important pollinators like moths, beetles, hoverflies and wasps.

It is estimated that there are more than 5 million insect species on Earth. These ‘brilliant bugs’ contribute to essential natural processes in varied and diverse ways. Some ensure the functioning of ecosystems through decomposition – efficiently recycling dead and decaying matter. Others feed on pest insects and so protect plants, including the crops we rely on for food.

These pollinators are responsible for pollination of vast quantities of food crops for humans and farm animals and the pollination of wild plants including flowers and some trees. (In Europe 4 out of 5 crops and wild flowers rely, at least in part, on insects to pollinate and hence reproduce). Sadly, there is evidence the numbers of insects are declining and we are proud to highlight this important area of conservation through this stamp issue.

Nothing that those of us who keep an eye on climate change and conservation issues are not already aware.

The set consists of three se-tenant pairs including a pair of 1st class, and two pairs at the new airmail rates of £1.45 and £1.70.

Details of actual stamps (corrected: Painted Lady & Marmalade Hoverfly, which designs were switched by RM from the description they provided.)

1st Class Common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum)
This relatively widespread bumblebee feeds on flowers such as large blue pea.

1st Class Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui )
Thistles are a common source of nectar for these migratory butterflies in Britain.

£1.45 Longhorn beetle (Rutpela maculata)
This wasp-mimicking beetle is a common visitor of hawthorn flowers in summer.

£1.45 Elephant hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor)
Honeysuckle is a favoured source of nectar for this striking species. Ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita agg.)

£1.70 Marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)
Often seen in gardens, this is also an important pollinator of crops like oilseed rape.

£1.70 Ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita agg.)
The adult ruby-tailed wasp feeds on nectar from flowers such as angelica.

Technical details

The 37 x 35 mm stamps were designed in-house using illustrations by Richard Lewington (who was involved with previous similar wildlife issues in 2013 and 2015) and printed by International Security Printers in lithography.  Although our briefing notes were a bit short on detail, the FDC insert fills the gaps (so to speak): perforations are 14x14½ and in sheets of 30/60.  (See below for more details.)

Products available

Set of stamps, stamp cards, presentation pack, first day cover, and framed stamp set, also available in an edition of 100 signed by the illustrator.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

International Mis-sorts show the importance of correct addressing

A correspondent in Ukraine has sent examples of three recent covers received from UK eBay sellers that went the wrong way round.  They are a great example of modern postal history and serve to emphasise the importance of correct addressing to ensure proper and timely delivery.

These aren't all recent: the first is from 2014, and is properly paid at 97p - the value of the 1st class is 62p.  The address doesn't include the country name but the international abbreviation UA.  This is wrong at any time but in December it's a risky time!

Note there are no instructional marks on this, the stamps were uncancelled in Britain, and have received Buffalo NY ink-jet machine (Bambi) and handstruck postmarks.  (Incidentally these show that US postmarks don't produce good collectable stamps either!)

The second was sent from Tyneside in January 2017 and is 1p overpaid at £1.06.  Again the UA element of the address saw it sent to the USA, where it receives a 'Return to sender' mark with the inscription



The most recent one is from March 2020 just before the pandemic put a stop or delay to so much international post.  This is paid at £1.60 the Europe up to 100g rate, and has been properly cancelled in North & West Yorkshire mail centre.  But again the address lacks the name of the country and it has been sent across the atlantic.  There it again ended up in Buffalo NY and receives a red mis-sort mark, and the manuscript endorsements 'Foreign' and 'Ukraine'.  It's not possible to say whether the 'Ukraine' was added by Royal Mail if it was returned to the UK, or whether it was sent direct to Ukraine when somebody in the USPS worked out where it should be.

NIXIE DESK              


The postcode in Ukraine written on the letters is 14005.  In the USA this is a location about 50 miles from Buffalo which I assume is the main processing centre.

Nixie desk - a 'Nixie' is an undeliverable item, which would have been diverted to a special office for investigation and forwarding or return.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

1 September 2020 rate change; Post and Go availability.

The 1st September rate changes produced new Post and Go stamps as detailed here.  This posted, which will be updated with contributions from readers, will attempt to record which base stamps are available with these new rate stamps.
Update 16th, many thanks to Trevor for scouring eBay - a wide range of strips.  
Update 22nd: I have only included the locations although the comments often say which stamps are in which machine at multi-machine branches.  Check there for more detail, but remember that all this is only valid at the time the information was supplied to me.  It could have changed minutes later!

Machin R20YAL
Knightsbridge (London), Croydon, Horsham,

Machin R19YAL
Richmond (Sy), Old Street, Brixton & Broadway (London), Harrow, Exeter, Ashton Under Lyme, Croydon,  Horsham,

Machin R18YAL
Richmond (Sy), Old Street & (London), Exeter, Exmouth, Broadway, Lower Regent St, Strand, Ecclestone St, Edinburgh Waverley Mall, Croydon, Paignton, Crawley, Stevenage,

Machin R17YAL
Lower Regents St, Kennington Park, Moorgate & Strand (London), Banbury, Crawley, Oakham, St Albans,
Machin MA16
Ashton under Lyme, Banbury, Eastleigh, Brixton (London), Redhill, Crawley, Ilford, Milton Keynes, & unknown eBay

Machin MA15
Albion St Leeds, unknown eBay

Machin MA14
Stevenage (yellow shade)
Machin MA13
unknown, on eBay

Machin undated
Machin 2nd class CL17S
eBay - unknown

Poppy R18YAL  Broadway (London), Exmouth, Milton Keynes
Poppy R17YAL unknown - on eBay
Poppy MA16  unknown - on eBay  

Robin MA12   unknown - on eBay
Robin MA13 - unknown, on eBay
Robin date unknown - Leighton Buzzard

Mail by Bike  Knightsbridge (London), Redhill, Harpenden,

Mail by Air currently on Ebay unknown office link

Mail by Rail currently on Ebay unknown office link

Mail by Sea currently on Ebay unknown office link

Game of Thrones, Chorley (Lancashire), Aylesbury,
Union Flag (undated) - unknown - eBay.
Ladybirds - unknown, eBay

Machin Anniversary currently on Ebay unknown office link , Aberdeen, Paignton, Ilford, Harpenden,
Winter Greenery R19YAL currently on Ebay unknown office link ,  Knightsbridge & Brixton (London)

Hibernating Animals  currently on Ebay unknown office link

Naval Museums and the Fleet Air Arm Museum are open.
The Postal Museum and Shakespeare Centre machines are not in operation.

HMS Trincomalee: Machin MA14 and MA13 - on eBay

GWR Steam Museum Swindon (17 Sept): Machin MA13, Rail by Mail Royal Mail Heritage MA16.
Shakespeare Centre now open (17 Sept): Machin MA14, and Flowers MA17.§

That's a total of 25 plus six from museums - so far.
§ If I recall correctly this is a printing which was made for the centre and not available elsewhere or unoverprinted.

Trevor notes that "You will note that for some of the unidentified offices there is a close correlation between session numbers and kiosk numbers which may be purely coincidental.

When this was first announced one or two people raised the prospect of 'obsolete stock' suddenly reappearing, not necessarily legitimately.  
Some of the more unusual ones above are from the same sellers who have obscured the FAD code so that nobody can see whether or not they all came from the same post office branch.  If they had, then that would certainly be suspicious: if the Birds or Farm Animals appear I would certainly suspect the involvement of somebody who has a supply of unused rolls.  Not that I am suggesting any malfeasance on the part of these sellers on this occasion as the evidence is not visible.

Please let us know what you find by email or comment, and I will add it to the table above.

Anything unusual we are interested in two strips of single design and maybe full 36 for multi-design.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

New edition of our Machin Security Checklist available now.

With apologies for the delay, I am pleased to say that the latest version of our Machin Security Stamps Checklist is now available as a free pdf download.  This is version 2.2.9

You can read it online or download it by clicking on this link, or on the one in the right-hand column below the Covid-19 notice.

This includes the 1p and 5p counter sheet stamps not yet received.

APOLOGETIC UPDATE: The slow process of updating the Checklist meant that I had produced more than one version, and I then updated an old one instead of the later one.  Thus the omission of several stamps and I am grateful for readers pointing out those omissions.  

The link above has now been corrected to download the new version 2.3.0.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

September slogan postmarks

A third of the way through the month and there are no new slogan postmarks to report so it is timely to mention the default slogan used by Royal Mail when there is nothing else to commemorate or mention.

A number of people have sent examples, and we received this very clear one from Warrington in today's post.

Royal Mail
supporting youth
mental health with

Any new slogans or other interesting postmarks will be reported here, including handstamps.

IP sent this default slogan (in the other format, reversed with the wavy lines at left) from August but with a handstamp from Sheffield Mail Centre showing postcode S9 2XX.  This is in the Brightside district in the Lower Don Valley

UPDATE 23 September
I saw a slogan today for Brest Cancer Awareness Month. Unfortunately it is so poor that I won't waste time scanning it, and I can't even be sure of the exact wording.  BCAM runs for the whole of October.

Thanks to KD for sending the image below, I can now show the wording on this slogan, here on an example from Chester & N Wales dated 22/09/2020.

Breast Cancer
1-31 October

PPI to CDS, the range in modern postal history

After a week away I have collected the post from Dereham and thank you to contributors who have sent us material through the post.  There's a great variety in what we received this week, useful for debate and illustration.

Occasional correspondent Robert M writes from Swindon with a couple of Postage Paid Indicator (PPI) stamp items.  We have seen these before and shown them here over the years.  They were originally trialled back in 2015 and were obviously well received by direct mailers, so have been available to them ever since, with new stamp designs (usually Christmas) added from time to time.


Although the addressee will know what is inside in these cases (promotion for Age UK's Weekly Lottery in the Machin, and for Oak Tree Mobility in the White Rabbit) the perception is that the 'junk' mail is more likely to be opened with a stamp, even if it is printed on, than in an unstamped letter:

Also in today's pick up were these two properly stamped:

Commercial or philatelic?  The 2nd class Machin is a pre-security booklet stamp with straight edge at foot; the Roman Britain stamp was issued earlier this year.  With a CDS that certainly looks philatelic, because few POs will do this unless asked.  That one came from an eBay seller (of stamps).  The Machin is obviously valid but at least 15 years old, and that comes from the secretary of a philatelic society.

Rpbert M described the printed stamped PPIs as "almost fakes, but are they better than no stamps at all?"   I think they are better than no stamps at all, but some people who are making detailed studies of these and unstamped PPIs with all the difference licence numbers and users.  It's certainly cheaper than collecting mint stamps and they are easy to acquire - you just fill in a coupon or respond to a mailshot and these come through your door with monotonous regularity!

So which would you prefer...

... and what have I not included from the types of material that comes through the post?

UPDATE 11 September
John G reminds me that there are other types of PPI, namely the Customer Access Indicia on mail delivered by Royal Mail but handled initially by independent companies such as UK Mail, TNT Post/whistl, Citipost etc.

John also writes:  Experiments by TNT Post showed that pictorial Customer Access Indicia increased the opening of the letter by 15% in the Netherlands and increased a response to the contents by 5% in the UK, compared to letters with non-pictorial markings. This led to the introduction of self-adhesive ‘stamp-like’ indicia on mail shots by TNT Post in the UK in 2008, and subsequently, following pressure from First Post, to ‘stamp-like’ indicia being printed directly on envelopes.