Thursday, 6 May 2021

Music Giants V: Paul McCartney - another bumper pack to be issued 28 May 2021

This will undoubtedly be another set that some like, some don't, and others would if it only had fewer stamps and/or other products.  As a singer and songwriter Paul McCartney has great talent: whether he still has all the talents or not is a matter of debate.  Live televised performances over the last few years suggest that his voice is not as good as it was, especially compared to others of his age and older.

According to Royal Mail:

Sir Paul McCartney is an icon of 20th century popular music and recognised by Guinness World Records as ‘The most successful songwriter of all time’ having written or co-written 188 charted records in the UK, of which 91 reached the top 10 and 33 to number one and having been awarded more than 60 gold discs.

In the USA he has composed 32 number-one singles and is a 21-time Grammy winner.

Over the course of nearly six decades, he has sold more records than any other artist.

2021 is the 50th anniversary of the formation of solo album RAM and the formation of the band Wings which achieved huge success as among the biggest selling acts of the 70s with 27 US top 40 hits (beating Elton John’s 25) and five consecutive no 1 albums. The 1977 Wings single, Mull of Kintyre, remains the UK’s biggest selling non-charity single.  

Half a century after The Beatles’ split, McCartney remains a vital figure at the centre of rock and pop, an artist whose legacy is immense but whose work continues to generate attention and acclaim.

In celebration of the UK’s most successful songwriter and greatest music legends, Royal Mail is releasing a new set of 8 stamps featuring some of the albums which spanned Paul McCartney’s career and a Miniature Sheet which reflects his passion for studio recording.

As is usual in this series, the issue consists of a set of 8 stamps (4 x 1st class and 4 x £1.70), a miniature sheet, a retail booklet, a prestige stamp book (PSB), and a 'smilers' type Collectors Sheet.  That's in addition to the first day covers (3), presentation pack, press sheet (of 16 MS) and stamp cards.

Then for the real fans, there are the medal covers (2), limited edition PSB, and two 'Fan sheets' in the same LP format as previously. 

The stamps

Set of 8 stamps featuring Paul McCartney Album Covers (Music Giants V 28 May 2021)

1st class: 
McCartney, RAM, Venus and Mars, McCartney II
£1.70: Tug of War, Flaming Pie, Egypt Station, McCartney III

Paul McCartney in the Studio miniature sheet of 4 stamps

Royal Mail's description of these suggests that they are studio photos taken during the production of certain albums, namely: 1st class McCartney, RAM; £1.70 McCartney II, Flaming Pie.  No details of the background image have been provided.

Technical details

The 38 x 31mm gummed stamps are printed in litho in sheets of 48 by International Security Printers (ISP).  On the 115 x 89mm gummed miniature sheet the 35mm square stamps are also printed by ISP in litho.  Images © MPL Communications Inc/Ltd 2021.  The stamps and miniature sheet were designed by Royal Mail and Baxter & Bailey.

Other products

Retail booklet:  containing self-adhesive versions of the McCartney and McCartney II stamps, along with 4 x 1st class Machin definitives (coded M21L MCIL) the booklet is gravure printed by ISP.

Music Giants V: Paul McCartney retail stamp booklet.

Prestige Stamp Book:
as usual this issue includes a PSB which contains all the sheet stamps, the miniature sheet with a different background, and a pane of Machin definitives.

Cover of Music Giants V: Paul McCartney prestige stamp book.

The stamps on the definitive pane are 2 each of 2p, 10p, 50p and an old-looking 1st class.  

Scan of actual definitive pane, McCartney PSB.

It's difficult to get the colours right on the scan: the red is darker, a good match for current 1st class stamps.  The 10p is dull, similar to the Leonardo 10p.  All the stamps are coded M21L MPIL.

There is also a £49.99 special edition limited to 1970 copies, in recognition of the release of McCartney in 1970 (51 years ago).  

Collector Sheet

McCartney Album Covers Collector Sheet

This is an A4 sheet containing 10 x of the Special Stamps from the set, with his first two albums; McCartney and RAM 1st Class stamps repeated. Set against a dramatic shot of Paul performing on the Freshen Up tour in 2019.  Price £13.00  (The stamps shown as £1.55 are actually £1.70 - Royal Mail should have updated the images before sending them to us.)
Print process; lithography printed on gummed paper, as are the ordinary sheet stamps.

Fan sheets
The usual assortment of additional stamp products including a numbered RAM sheet and McCartney (runs of 5,000) each containing just four of the relevant stamps (£7.50 each) and an Album Cover Collection sheet containing all 8 stamps, for £10.90 (also a numbered run of 5,000). The stamps shown as £1.55 are actually £1.70 - Royal Mail should have updated the images before sending them to us.

McCartney III Fan Sheet

Ram Fan Sheet

Album Cover Collection Fan Sheet

Other philatelic products

First day covers (3), presentation pack, stamp cards (14), press sheet of 16 miniature sheets (edition of only 200).

Other products

Albums medal cover; 'In the Studio' medal cover; stamp pack (set of 8), miniature sheet pack; Souvenir Folder containing 8 enlargements of the stamps also including the stamps and miniature sheet fixed to the card within the folder.  Framed products or similar but mounted only for personal framing.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

May 2021 slogan and other interesting postmarks

April continued the mass of slogans that we had in March, starting with the continuation of an old one and a day 1 mistake!  This is the only place where May slogans will be shown, so check back to the beginning of the month before taking time to scan and report.  Also, the Action for Children slogan is the default, should there be any days without new slogans.

The slogan urging electors to Post Early to Vote Early for the 6th May elections was not intended to be used in Northern Ireland as there were no elections there.  Instead the slogan used nationally from (we think) 26 April until 3 May marking the Centenary of Northern Ireland was intended to be used until the end of May at Belfast Mail Centre (Northern Ireland's only MC).

Thanks to JE we can show a clean example of the Voting slogan from Manchester Mail Centre on 01/05/2021.

Post Early to Vote Early slogan, 1 May use in Manchester Mail Centre.

However, the Vote Early slogan was used at Belfast Mail Centre on 1 May - to the surprise of locals who wanted a copy of the Beyond 100 slogan!  Doubtless this will be corrected and we will see the correct slogan soon.

Thanks to JP for this picture of the Belfast slogan:

Post Early Vote Early slogan mistakenly used at Belfast Mail Centre 01/05/2021

UPDATE: A new Covid-19 slogan was introduced yesterday 04/05/2021, thanks to JE for the one from Lancashire & South Lakes, to MM for the Jubilee Mail Centre version, and to KD who first reported it but had an example so poor that he didn't scan it.  


Every Covid-19 Vaccination Gives Us Hope - three line version from Jubilee Mail Centre and 4-line version from Lancashire and South Lakes 04/05/2021

As usual, this is the place for you to record slogan and other interesting postmarks for other collectors and for long-term recording by the British Postmark Society.

I'll try to record everything but if I don't fit yours in it's probably because I didn't have time when I first received your image and then forgot about it as it moved down the email list.  Give me a nudge!

Surprise unscheduled stamp issue in June 2021 - or not.

UPDATE same day - I've been told officially that this message in the Postmark Bulletin is an error.  It's a pity communications are so difficult within Royal Mail.

There has been speculation among collectors and dealers since Royal Mail made their stamp programme for 2021 public that there was a gaping hole in June that would almost certainly be filled.  The only question was how expensive the plug would be.

This was what they first sent to dealers in October last year:

A later version, and the official list showed Music Giants V on 28 May and Dennis and Gnasher on 1 July, so actually quite close and we foolishly thought that maybe there would be a June break.

But this note has appeared in the May Postmark Bulletin, which can't be about Dennis as the postmarks for that will almost certainly be published near the end of June (or in the same June edition).

UPDATE same day - I've been told officially that this is an error; the Bulletin will be published on the last Friday in May, as usual.  

It's a pity comms are so difficult within Royal Mail.

So the Bulletin will be published about 2 weeks late, on 10 June, (or not) meaning a stamp issue on that date or within a week afterwards.

Dealers have been told nothing yet - and by nothing I mean, we haven't even been told about this delay.  I didn't read it in the Bulletin, it took a customer to point it out, as it doesn't actually get any special highlighting - it is just included with two other Special Announcements which have been published for the last few months.

Friday, 30 April 2021

No new tariff, no new Machin definitive counter sheets.

As postage rates in general, especially international ones, were raised at the beginning of the year, there was no general review at the end of March as there usually is.  Hence there were no new tariff printings in mid-January for initial supplies, and no top-up printings later on in March have appeared as they sometimes do.

Many readers will be aware that Royal Mail provides dealers with a list of current stock of counter sheets, and refreshes it when new stock is received.  There has been no such list since the end of January this year.

Whilst the initial printings of the 1st & 2nd (and Large) stamps didn't appear until June last year, in some years most have appeared somewhere (either in Edinburgh or Post Offices) by April/May, and in some years other values have appeared as early as March.  

Apparently many Post Offices have large stocks of some stamps - and generally if you buy a supply of stamps from a PO you will be offered a booklet or business sheet depending on quantity needed.  It seems fewer people are buying online so less is posted with stamps, and non-prepaid-returns are also fewer as people can go into shops to buy their clothes rather than buying a selection online and returning all bar one!

But look out on your mail, and in your post office.  If you have a friendly sub-postmaster ask him if he expects to order any new stock of counter sheets and to let you know when it arrived.  You may have the kudos of reporting the first 2021 counter sheet printing!

Thursday, 29 April 2021

New version of the Norvic Security Machin Checklist now available and up to date - version 2.3.5

The latest version of our much-consulted Checklist includes all this year's stamps with relevant Norvic and Stanley Gibbons catalogue numbers and as much information as we have about printing dates etc.

The checklist (version 2.3.5) can be downloaded here.


If I looked at this with fresh eyes I would say that it has certain disorganised elements.  For instance, the main section of notes is somewhere near the middle, starting on page 25 of 57.  Certainly it would benefit from some reorganisation and some illustrations: but there is little time for that.

My main area of concern at present is the Reverse Cross-reference, which enables users who start with SG numbers to work out what our numbers are and therefore how to find particular stamps.  This is actually larger than it needs to be, I think, and I have asked on page 39 for feedback on this.   

As Gibbons' catalogue does not distinguish between years (on stamps with a year code) nor even between printers - something that even Royal Mail regard as different - there seems little point in having 10 or more lines for the 2nd class counter stamp: Gibbons' number is U2995, ours is 2911 with .0 to .20 so far for different years, one extra entry for SBP, and one for Walsall's phosphor colour variants.  

But the collector having found that SG U2995 is Norvic 2911.- can easily find all the other years in the table on page 5, and so on.  This will save about 8 pages, reduce the file size and download speed, and the printing for those who do.

I propose to change with the next major edition unless I get a European Super League-type backlash from the fans!

Friday, 23 April 2021

Recent additions to our online shop.

I'll be posting brief notes about additional items for sale added to our website roughly once a week, as I know that not everybody has time to look everywhere.

The most recent additions have been:

GB: Folded Booklets - back in time to the machine-vended 50p £1 etc booklets.  Not many of any of these, and some have already been snapped up.

Independent Africa postal history - these aren't mainstream but some people are starting to look at post-independent French and British Africa.  Some of these stamps aren't listed in principal catalogues simply because some stamps have never been seen. Some here from Ghana, Benin, Senegal and Malagasy Republic, with more to come.

Benin surcharges 1994.

GB Security Machin 2nd class coils used - although these have been generally available mint their availability used has in many cases been confined to direct mail shots within the UK.  Thus they are only seen by overseas collectors in kiloware, and that is not as plentiful as it was (nor as cheap!).  Here are a few of the 2009, 2012 & 2015 versions.

GB 2nd class Datamatrix barcode - now available mint and used on the first day.

GB odds and ends Machin and other - including a used pair of 26p rosine Type II.  Also the Milennium Fire & Light set with altered (and unaltered) date of issue in the sheet margin.

Postmasters' convictions to be overturned today by Court of Appeal

News as it happens, full report later on the Horizon Trial 'Post Office Scandal

- "biggest miscarriage of justice in history"


Live streaming on BBC News

And if you are permitted to watch live tv




I'm sorry I haven't had time to write more: I've been busy, but so has Nick Wallis and while he has supposed to be finishing his book at a hideaway in Devon, he has still been blogging. You can see all his posts on  Just a few headlines from there:

23 April: Judgment Day - picture gallery 

26 April: Vennells' career ends in ignominy

28 April: Page and Marshall in the clear - these are the appellants lawyers who POL suggested had committed contempt by releasing the Clarke Advice to the Met Police and a journalist.

30 April: ITV commission 4-part drama series on the Scandal

1 May: the book.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Post and Go error news

There really isn't much new to report, with even the news of removals and openings/insatllations slowing down probably as Post Office Ltd looks towards the next generation of SSKs and Horizon.

DP reminds me of the 'lurch to the left' that was reported by several people over two years ago and reported here.  It was reported as far back as 2015, from Bury St Edmunds, Saltash, Tunbridge Wells and Portsmouth.  It was said to "affect all values in the strip bit you only get one shift per strip of six. If you buy 36 stamps in one transaction, you will end up with a shift for each value" though the accuracy of this was disputed in another comment.

Anyway, DP has sent these examples from Hounslow on the Game of Thrones stamps:

Game of Thrones 1st class Post & Go stamps with different 'left-shift' errors on two strips 19/4/21.

Additionally in the left-hand strip the Euro 100g/World 20g designation has a further error - "World 20g omitted"


Now that Museums are re-opening it might be opportune to check out their machines for software updates or lack of them.  Mike C sent this example from Swindon's SteamGWR showing the previous service indicators issued on 12/04/2021 - and charged at £10.11.  Current worth is actually £10.64 I believe!

Post & Go set sold 12/4/21 using late 2020 service indicators (and value) sold at SteamGWR, Swindon.


UPDATE 30 APRIL   Stuart Leigh reports a different problem at the Shakespeare Gift Shop - a collector strip with the Worldwide (Large 100g) missing part of the caption on the MA13 Machin.   Whoever said that computers were faultless (answer, Post Office Ltd)

Machin head Post and Go strip (MA13) from Shakespeare Gift Shop with 'up to 100g' missing from final (Worldwide) stamp - 12 April 2021.

Latest Direct Mailing PPI examples

We have some more examples of digital stamp postage paid impressions to report, including the rarely seen 1st class Large.

Not all of these are for fund-raising purposes: the 2nd class Machin one from VisionExpress was and individual one reminding me that I should have my eyes tested - probably one of thousands sent to their customers who have kept away during various lockdowns.  (Licence C9 10020)

The other one in the first image is 2020's 2nd class Christmas issue from medicine supplier Healthspan (licence HQ23777).

The other image, supplied by DL, shows a flyer from the Wood Green Animals Charity, and uses the 1st class Large letter stamp, using licence HQ11348.  These are reported very occasionally and if you are adding them to your Machin collection they may be difficult to find.   

1st class Large digital stamp on charity mailing, 2021.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Royal Mail London Special Handstamp Centre 2021

I have mentioned previously the present situation at the London Philatelic Handstamp Centre caused by absences partly due to Covid-19.  

Much of their work is being handled by the Northern SHC at Tallents House Edinburgh, and currently even some of the operational handstamps have been transferred to Edinburgh while London is short-staffed.

Hopefully this situation will improve before too long, but in the meantime we must all be patient while our covers and cards are processed.

Personnel: Many regular users of the Mount Pleasant SHC and visitors to Stampex and Europhilex who have had their items handstamped there, will have met the SHC manager, Mr Pritpal Mann.  

I'm sure many people will be sorry to hear that Mr Mann has joined this year's tranche of managers who have left Royal Mail employment.

As far as I can recall Pritpal was at the SHC from at least 2000 (though I may be wrong) and so has served collectors and dealers alike for around 20 years.  From my point of view, he was invariably courteous and conscientious in all our dealings, whether by telephone or email, and always strove to achieve what the customer wanted.  

When mistakes were made with postcards he tried to source cards locally if they were London (especially Museum) related and was always able to replace covers and stamps. If customer instructions were unclear he would phone rather than guess.  It had to be right.

I'm sure everybody will join me in wishing him well in what I assume is his retirement.  I understand that he will return to the office when conditions allow him to say a proper farewell to his colleagues, so if you wish to send a personal message you can address it to him c/o the London Handstamp Centre usual address.