Thursday, 22 October 2020

Norvic Machin Security Stamp Cheklist updated.

We can't be sure that everything for 2020 is included in this latest version of our checklist, but - barring accidental omissions - we know is that it is complete up to date.

This includes the Machin definitives issued in the Star Trek prestige stamp book detailed in the post below, and issued on 13 November.  It can be downloaded here, and is also linked on every blog page from the right-hand navigation bar.

As usual I will be grateful for any errors that you can point out.

There are a number of gaps on printing dates or booklet packing dates: if you can fill any of these gaps it would be very useful.

Boldly going beyond the pale: Star Trek, 13 November 2020

Once upon a time the General Post Office and then Royal Mail tried very hard not to have any stamp issues after the Christmas stamps, reasoning that they would be busy enough with mails and other stamp orders without adding to the workload, especially for a subject with wide popularity.

No more it seems, because on 13 November they will issue another bumper bundle of products inspired by the world of popular entertainment, this time for TV and film series, Star Trek

Text below from Royal Mail is in blue.  It seems part of the justification is that so many of the principal actors are British.

Reason and inspiration
2020 coincides with the debut of the latest series of Star Trek – airing on TV in January. The long awaited, brand-new instalment is based around Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart), formerly the Captain of the Next Generation series.

Star Trek is the TV/film/licensing franchise based on the long-running space opera. It has so far produced more than 700 TV episodes across seven distinct series and 13 movies as well as books, comics and games (including among the earliest computer games). Screened globally, it has been a cult phenomenon for decades and the idea of the programmes and catch phrases are in common use. It is one of the highest grossing media franchises of all time. Its generally optimistic view of the future (a united Federation of planets that peacefully explores the universe) marked it out from other sci-fi series and movies.

The new series airs in January, so 2020 does NOT coincide with this but issuing the stamps in November allows many to be bought and given as Christmas presents.

Of major interest to readers of this blog will be the Machin definitive stamps included in the Prestige Stamp Book, so I am illustrating them first.

The pane consists of 3 each 2nd class and 50p stamps, and a pair of 2p stamps, which produces two sets and some useful left-overs.

Star Trek prestige stamp book definitive pane (Pane 4)

I'm not sure we've had 2p & 50p stamps in such close proximity before, and the first thing I noticed was how similar they are.

The 2p is pretty much the same as previously 

2p MPIL from Visions of the Universe, James Bond and Star Trek.

but the 50p is a greener shade of grey than previously, to my eyes.

50p MPIL from End of World War II and Star Trek

The biggest difference, however, comes with the 2nd class blue.  It does look like an ordinary 2nd class blue in the pane picture, but when we place it alongside its predecessors, the difference in intensity of the colour is marked.

2nd class MPIL from James Bond and Star Trek 

The current counter sheet stamps are approximately the same colour as the James Bond stamp above, but comparing the latest (Star Trek) stamp to the original 2009 De La Rue counter sheet stamp, we can see how the blue has been watered down over ten years.

2nd class compared with counter sheets 2009-20 (Star Trek in the centre)


The 2p and 2nd class stamps will have new mentions in Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise catalogue because they are the first to be issued with a M20L year code.  It would not surprise me if, even if it is actually the same colour (ie ink-mix) the 2nd class had a new sub-number as a shade difference.  The 50p may be too close to warrant a sub-number, and is not 'new' as the World War II stamp is also coded M20L.

More details about the PSB and panes can be found below the miniature sheet and retail book paragraphs below. 


12 stamps depicting the captain from each of the 6 principle TV series plus additional crew members. Each of the stamps in the set of 12 are all illustrated by talented (23-year-old) artist, Freya Betts, the portraits feature the iconic characters alongside reflective details in the background of their respective shows. 

Star Trek set of 12 stamps on First Day Cover (click to enlarge)

Top Row Captains
1st Class - Captain James T Kirk Played by William Shatner in The Original Series
1st Class - Captain Jean-Luc Picard Played by British actor Patrick Stewart in The Next Generation
1st Class - Captain Benjamin Sisko Played by Avery Brooks in Deep Space Nine)
1st Class - Captain Kathryn Janeway Played by Kate Mulgrew in Voyager
1st Class - Captain Jonathan Archer Played by Scott Bakula in Enterprise
1st Class - Captain Gabriel Lorca Played by British actor Jason Isaacs in Discovery

Bottom Row Crew
1st Class – Spock Played by Leonard Nimoy in The Original Series
1st Class - Deanna Troi Played by British actress Marina Siritis in The Next Generation
1st Class - Julian Bashir Played by British actor Alexander Siddig in Deep Space Nine
1st Class - Malcolm Reed Played by British actor Dominic Keating in Enterprise
1st Class - Michael Burnham Played by Sonequa Martin-Greene in Discovery
1st Class - Ash Tyler/Voq Played by British actor Shazad Latif in Discovery

Minisheet Details
Star Trek at the Movies – 6 stamps make up the special miniature sheet featuring characters, all played by British actors, from across the Star Trek Movies franchise. Note: These stamps are photographs and are not illustrations by Freya Betts.

Star Trek miniature sheet (shown without barcode)

1st Class - Montgomery Scott (Scotty) played by British actor Simon Pegg in the new Movie Series
1st Class - Praetor Shinzon played by British actor Tom Hardy in Next Gen Movie: Nemesis
1st Class - Tolian Soran played by British actor Malcolm McDowell in Original Movie Series: ‘Generations’
1st Class - Klingon Chancellor Gorkon Valorum played by British actor David Warner in Original Movie Series
1st Class - Carol Marcus played by British actress Alice Eve in the new Movie Series
1st Class - Krall played by British actor Idris Elba in the new Movie Series

Technical details

The 35mm square sheet stamps were printed by ISP/Cartor in lithography with ordinary gum in two sheets of 60 each in two panes of 6 x 5.  No perforation gauge is given.   The stamps were designed by Interabang.   A Press Sheet features 24 miniature sheets (3 columns x 8 rows) in a limited edition of 500.

The 146 x 74mm miniature sheet is printed by ISP/Cartor in litho and (contrary to information provided by Royal Mail) is self-adhesive.  The Montgomery Scott and Shinzon stamps are 60 x 21mm (perf 14.5) and the remainder are 27 x 37mm (perf 14).

TM & © 2020 CBS Studios Inc. © 2020 Paramount Pictures Corp. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved. Tom Hardy in Star Trek Nemesis photo  © AF Archive/Alamy Stock Photo. Alice Eve as Dr Carol Marcus in Star Trek Into Darkness photo © CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images. Stamp designs © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2020, All rights reserved.

Retail Stamp Book - Captains
The retail stamp book includes four first class definitive stamps as well as two special stamps featuring Captain Kirk and Captain Picard.   As with all retail stamp books it is printed in gravure by ISP Walsall and the stamps are self-adhesive unlike the individual stamps from the sheet.  The Machin 1st class definitives are coded MCIL M20L.

Star Trek Self-Adhesive Retail Booklet.

Prestige Stamp Book
The 24-page booklet starts in 1966, with an introduction on Star Trek’s legendary creator, Gene Roddenberry and his vision. The narrative then transports us through the decades, exploring how Roddenberry’s groundbreaking and original ideas led to the ever-popular franchise that we know today. We travel through the Star Trek timeline, with images from key episodes and brief synopses on every Star Trek TV series and movie, including the latest 2020 show, Picard.

Also included in the booklet are all 12 Star Trek stamps, plus the Star Trek Movies miniature sheet, along with a definitive pane of stamps (illustrated at the top of this blog), unique to this issue.

Star Wars prestige stamp book front cover and panes 1-3

Other products

First Day Covers (2), Presentation Pack, stamp cards.

Collectors Sheet of 10 (same vertical A4 format as for Star Wars but containing three each of Kirk & Picard and one each of the remaining captains) each stamp having a film/tv still alongside showing the character.  Self-adhesive - so there will be space in some pre-printed albums.

Limited Edition PSB with silver-foil front cover, limited to 1966 copies.  The stamps are the same as in the regular PSB.

Original Series and Movies Medal Covers in various grades of metal.  Limited edition 10,000 of each design, and only 1,000 of the Silver Proof version in each design.

Various Framed products and other souvenirs aimed at fans.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Postal Museum re-opening: Post & Go arrangements

From the Postal Museum an email from the museum via MB:

Both Post and Go machines will be located in The Postal Museum foyer and will be available to use without a ticket to the museum. There will be no entry to the Mail Rail building without a ticket, but the machine usually at Mail Rail has been placed in the TPM building. It will be one in one out for use of the machines and doors open at 10.30am.

Guests will be asked to sanitise hands before they use the machine and to scan the NHS test and trace QR code located by the machine. If they do not have the app, they may be asked to leave contact details depending on the time spent within the museum.

Please note the 29th of October is the first day the museum is open to the public and we will be very busy. We advise arriving as early, the machine will be accessible from 10:30am when the building opens to the public.

So far I can find nothing on the Museum website about the machine relocation or the new exhibition 'overprint' (inscription).  

Friday, 9 October 2020

Last Machin but not least , the 1st class book of 6 has appeared.

The last of the expected new printings of definitive booklets - the 1s class book of six with MSIL M20L coding has now appeared.

My thanks to Chris who has sent a copy for publication.

"First sighting of the missing £4.56 Booklet M20L MSIL in the Watford area."

Also found elsewhere now 'in a large supermarket' (for those who aren't avoiding them).  Packaging date confirmed as 10/06/2020.

Monday, 5 October 2020

Bogus Post and Go for Virtual Stampex

Our attention has been drawn to an eBay listing showing what is described as a Cinderella (ie non-postal stamp) using a Union Flag Post & Go stamp as its base, produced for (Autumn) Virtual Stampex.

The legend 'Autumn 2020 Virtual Stampex 1st - 3rd October' has been badly printed on a genuine blank Post and Go label which should not have been available to collectors or dealers - although we all know that they have been quite freely available in some places.  The seller is offering them at £3.50 each, and strips of 6 were offered at £8.75 or best offer.  (Listing.)

I'm sure Royal Mail and the PTS will look at this, the first for using labels with their name and the Queen's head on, and the second for use of the Virtual Stampex name.

The creation of Exhibition Souvenirs is nothing new: Rushstamps have done it for decades, overprinting PSBs and 'Boots' labels, but these were always items which they had bought at the proper price.

But this is different - it would be the same as overprinting a blank Horizon label.  Whilst the eBay description is correct, it IS a Cinderella (ie not a genuine legitimately issued postage stamp) the base label should not have been available to be used in this way.

Given the diminishing number of collectors still buying genuine Post and Go stamps I am surprised that this happened at all.  The seller must have some dedicated customers, which makes me wonder why he didn't just contact them direct, instead of exposing his deeds on eBay.


UPDATE 6 October

As GONJ points out in the comments, we have reported a forgery here previously  but that was a fish of a different colour - it was a postal forgery actually purporting to be a genuine 30g stamp, which passed through the post.

Why Comments are moderated, and sometimes delayed.

Good morning. I'm starting this week with an explanation of why comments to our blogs are moderated (ie delayed for approval) and may take anything from minutes to hours to appear.

Moderation has two advantages.  Firstly, it means we get an email for every comment, which in turn means that we read and know what readers are writing.  This is important because it is sometimes so significant that it requires a change to the blog post, which is usually done on the same day.

Secondly, and primarily, it prevents spam messages.  Although these are often very specific and mention Bitcoin, or being friendly with ladies from Ukraine or Thailand, sometimes the message is more generic but contains a link that other readers may click on, and be upset by what they are then led to.  

As editor I very rarely followup on these although I will occasionally look at the profile of the person commenting.  If they are from a specific company with an online presence, especially if they are repeated, I will spent a little time contacting the company and ask if they know what is being done in their name. Sometimes a company answers an email offering to improve the company's presence on the web by a targetted campaign or through Search Engine Optimisation. The latter improves their own website, the former attempts to get other websites to link back to the target.  The quick way to do this is just to spam a load of blogs and and then the company can be told that the website has a lot of inbound links. It's not only spam, it's a scam!

The latest spam comment doesn;t fit into these categories, but I thought I'd show it anyway.

This is the email we get from Blogger:

This is the 'Billy Hunter' Blogger profile (220 people have looked at this since February):

And this is a screenshot of one of the blogs that 'Billy Hunter' runs:

Readers of this blog probably aren't interested in that, which is nothing but a very long list of search links from google sites across the globe.

And those are the reasons why comments are moderated. 

Have a good week!

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Mini-PPI Machin on Scotts of Stow Mailshot

Most people are used to seeing the Machin stamp (and others) printed on direct mail campaigns - junk mail as it is often called.  Indeed I have had a report already that Smyths Toys have sent out their Christmas catalogue using the “Alice in Wonderland” PPI. (Thanks DF)

The latest mailshot from homewares company Scotts of Stow has so many tantalising offers on the envelope, and such a small flap, that they have shrunk the Machin definitive stamp to a new small size.

Here's the whole envelope (almost C5 in size):

And here's an enlargement of the stamp alongside a 2nd class adhesive.  Normally the PPI printed stamp is the same size as a regular adhesive - indeed that's what Royal Mail's terms of service require.  


So along with the 12 Half Price Offers, this junk mail provides a half-sized Machin for the collector!

UPDATE 6 October 

My thanks to JG for sending this picture of THREE different sized PPI-printed impressions!

He writes:

I have recently received an even smaller version of the 2nd class digital stamp on a circular from Charles Tyrwhitt. The image shows a correctly-sized stamp on a circular from Gift Discoveries (a sister company to Scotts of Stow, sharing the same postal address Cotswold House, 1 Crompton Road, Groundswell SN25 5AW) on the left, the version from Scotts of Stow in the middle, and the version from Charles Tyrwhitt on the right

The latter version is missing the C9 licence number, but it should almost certainly be C9 10002 (i.e. whistl, who handle their other mail with digital stamps). The scan is a single image of the three overlapping covers/postcard.

Friday, 2 October 2020

Major Developments in the Post Office Horizon Trial - most appeals will be uncontested; Scotland involved more than thought.

It's been a while since I wrote about the Horizon Trials, the group litigation in which 550 former Postmasters took Post Office Ltd to court over what they saw as false prosecutions and persecutions to recover alleged cash shortfalls which were in the main simply computer accounting problems.

The trials ended in mediation last December after which the judge produced his damning verdict on Post Office and Fujitsu, the system suppliers.

Apart from a few later developments as POL attempts to 'put things right' for any postmasters not involved in that litigation but who may have had to pay back 'missing' money, and attempts by postmasters and politicians alike to get the government (as the total owner and funder of POL) to actually take responsibility for the scandal, there hasn't been much to write about - until this week.

By coincidence today is International Wrongful Conviction Day!

Criminal Convictions Review Commission

We already knew that the CCRC was in the process of reviewing some of the cases but held back from making a decision pending the finalisation of the trials.  When they were suddenly curtailed by the mediation, CCRC announced that there were 47 cases under consideration for referral to the Court of Appeal.  Post Office Ltd had said that they were looking closely at the background to these cases to determine their (POL's) stance - ie, whether they would challenge the appeals.

Today they announced that will not be contesting 44 of the 47 convictions referred back to the Court of Appeal and Crown Courts by the Criminal Cases Review Commission in March and June of this year.

That means that 44 convicted Subpostmasters are on significant step further along the road to having their convictions formally quashed. Included are Jo Hamilton - convicted in 2008 on a false accounting plea rather than fighting a theft charge which would result in a custodial sentence - and Seema Misra who was taken to jail on her son's birthday while pregnant in 2010, having already had the case hanging over her for five years. 

After years of relative silence the mainstream media are now covering this in detail. Not only was it 'above the fold' on the BBC UK news webpage, it was there on the base news webpage which includes all world news. It also featured on the BBC TV news report at 6 pm (and probably all day).   Doubtless the rest of the media will also cover it, having let a few journalists and organs - Private Eye, Computer Weekly, and Nick Wallis - take on the fight for the last 20 years.

Scotland IS affected

There were a couple of reasons why I thought there were few cases in Scotland. One is a map that had been compiled showing the locations of all affected post offices that its compiler knew of (which I now can't find).  The other was because journalist Nick Wallis said that POL didn't have the same powers of prosecution in Scotland's (different) legal system.  Whilst that is partly true, this is what Nick wrote earlier this week.


The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has written to 73 former Subpostmasters suggesting they might want to request the SCCRC reviews their criminal convictions.

According to the BBC a letter has gone out to 73 addressees stating:

"We think that it is possible that your case is one [where Horizon evidence was used]. If it is, we would like to make sure that you have the chance to apply to us. The Post Office identified your case as a Scottish prosecution during the relevant period (from 1999) in which they may have been involved."

According to the chap from the SCRCC quoted on the BBC website:

"We're talking about 73 cases which may be affected - not definitely - but we are fairly sure the data is not complete, so it's entirely possible there may be other people involved. The 73 individuals, so far as we know, were people convicted in Scotland. There's a whole range of convictions involved, but in the main they were for fraud and false accounting. Some of them suffered penalties of imprisonment, the majority received community sentences and fines."

This means I have been labouring under two misapprehensions for the last ten years.

a) there weren't very many Subpostmaster prosecutions in Scotland

b) all private prosecutions have to be scrutinised by the Procurator Fiscal (the Scottish equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service).

I thought point a) because I had tried to find some cases in Scotland and couldn't. 

I thought point b) might be the reason for point a) ie because the Post Office knew it would have to get its prosecutions past the Procurator Fiscal it didn't often try. Or it did try and the Procurator Fiscal told the Post Office on various occasions where to stick it.

Turns out both presumptions were wrong. 

a) 73 convictions in Scotland where Horizon evidence may have been used is a lot.

b) the Procurator Fiscal doesn't give the nod to private prosecutions, it takes them on. 

Not knowing this till today is just plain ignorance on my part, but what it means is that all Subpostmaster prosecutions in Scotland (which were referred directly by the Post Office to the SCRCC) were handled by the state - and therefore had some kind of external scrutiny.

I must admit to still being a little confused by the statement from the SCRCC about false accounting as I was led to believe that in Scotland there is no crime called false accounting - it falls under the wider catch-all of fraud. 

Anyway - the fact the SCRCC has taken the step of contacting all 73 people referred to it by the Post Office is interesting. It could be that 72 of those convictions are bang to rights. I still haven't heard from or spoken to any Subpostmaster with a criminal conviction from a Scottish court who is claiming miscarriage of justice. I have been made aware today that one such person definitely exists, but cannot yet bring themselves to go public.

In a way that doesn't matter. What does matter - to paraphrase someone quite close to this story - is that "if the Post Office have sent one innocent person, just one, to prison, they should be crawling towards them on their knees to beg their forgiveness."


Government review or enquiry?

The government has announced retired judge Sir Wyn Williams will chair its review into the Post Office Horizon scandal. The Williams Inquiry is active as of today.  So although the government refuses to bow to pressure from politicians, journalists, and postmasters alike for a judge-led Inquiry (with associated powers), they are now calling this an Inquiry, rather than a review.  But it has not met with any more approval or support - read more here.

Quite a week!

Star Trek - 13 November 2020

The latest media-linked stamp issue, and the one which has had most collectors trying to work out the justification for its inclusion in the British stamp issue programme will be issued on 13 November, with a big PR exercise revealing everything on 22 October. 

Ahead of that, the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog (whose editor obviously receives his Philatelic Bulletin before we do) reports the following details from the back page of the Bulletin.

Star Trek - 12 x 1st class stamps,
miniature sheet of 6 x 1st class.
Retail booklet which includes two of the special stamps.
Prestige Stamp Book including a definitive pane containing 3 x 2nd class, 3 x 50p and 2 x 2p [NOT 20p as originally posted]. 
'Captains' collectors sheet. 
As the writer says, "There are many other equally desirable products which doubtlessly will be impossible for anyone to resist."

2009 issue
Before then the Christmas bundle will be issued on 3 November with the expected values of 2nd, 2nd Large, 1st, 1st Large, £1.45, £1.70, £2.50 and £2.55, in both self-adhesive sheet stamp and gummed miniature sheet format.  There's also the usual retail booklets of 12 x 1st and 2nd, and a Collectors Sheet - what used to be called Smilers when there was some point in it being issued.  Now, even though there is no Smilers service, Royal Mail continue to issue this expensive sheet 'because collectors expect us to'.


The blog also reports that on 3 November there will be a James Bond - No Time To Die Collectors sheet presumably to coincide with the latest film release, although that isn't until 12 November. And has now been postponed until April 2021. (3 October update)

UPDATE 6 October 

Royal Mail have confirmed the issue of this sheet this year, due to initial distributions already made, but the date will be 21 November for reasons I cannot yet reveal.

UPDATE 20 October

I'm told that the stamps, showing stained glass windows again (previously in 2009 shown above), are now available for pre-order on Royal Mail's website, and you can see them - and all the details of locations, on Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog, here.

I'm sorry I can't show any pictures of these yet.

Museums Post and Go News - the floodgates open

With military and other museums now reopening after the pandemic lockdown Royal Mail have decided to allow some special inscriptions to be added to the stamps sold from their Post and Go machines.  Updates below in red are 14 October.

The Postal Museum

As already announced, the Virtual Stampex 2020 inscription will be added to stamps from 1 October.  Information from Royal Mail says that this will be until 12 October and be on the PO London Railway stamps, rather than the Machin head that he Museum shows.  Clarification has been sought!

UPDATE 6 October: Royal Mail have confirmed that the Machin head was available not the Railway, but continue to insist that it is available until 12 October.  Given that the Museum is closed (reopening on 29th) the point is moot.  You can't get them in person and when the Museum choose to print them, take orders, and send them out would seem to be irrelevant.

Although closure meant that they missed the actual anniversary, the Museum is planning an exhibition on the 150th Anniversary of the introduction of the Postcard.  The inscription Postcards 150 will be on the Mail Coach stamps from 29 October 2020 to 30 September 2021, subject to confirmation of the exhibition dates.  (This will be in addition to the regular The Postal Museum inscription.)

For Christmas, the Museum will use the Winter Greenery stamps with the regular The Postal Museum inscription from 3 November 2020 to 1 January 2021.

Fleet Air Arm Museum, RNAS Yeovilton

The Museum reopened on 14 August, opening Wednesday to Sunday only.  This year 11 November falls on a Wednesday and from then until 30 November their machine will have the Taranto 80 inscription on the Union Flag stamp and Taranto 80 + logo on the Machin head stamp.

Note as with most museums, entry is by advance booking only so anybody planning to attend to get these should contact the museum to find out what arrangements have been made.

Stuart Leigh provided these images of the FAAM Union Flag, which is a new printing with year code MA19 (not RO19YAL) and is digital - believed to be for the first time.

Fleet Air Arm Museum October 2020 Post & Go digitally printed Union Flag stamp with MA19 year code.

Steam GWR Swindon

This museum is open 7 days a week, but as usual it is timed entry and advance booking only.  I can't see anything on their website which mentions it's the 20th anniversary of their opening but that's what the Post and Go machine is telling us!

The additional inscription Celebrates 20 Years will be applied to the Locomotive and Machin head stamps from 12 October to 31 December 2020.

Thanks to Mike C who made the trip to Swindon for the Steam GWR restart.  "I phoned the Museum before setting off given the travel distance and they said they had been very busy first thing and had already had to restock the kiosk."

The Machin is MA13 and the Locomotive is MA16. Note that they only exist with the Zone 1&3 indicator.

Correction:  KH reports "
I have a receipt from the Museum dated 17/9 /20 with both strips having Zone 1-3".

Incidentally none of these apart from the Postal Museum Stampex overprint is mentioned on the IAR website, which is quite out of date in many respects, showing how hard it is to keep a website updated even if you are at the heart of things!