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!

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.

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.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Postal Museum Post and Go News

A new first for the Postal Museum - Post and Go stamps not available from the machines, and apparently not available at face value.  Two new additional inscriptions, or 'overprints' as they are referred to, one of which will be available from the machine, but the other will only be available in the limited edition packs available from the museum shop or website.  (But see updates in blue.)

From a press release

The Postal Museum marks the opening of their new exhibition, The Great Train Robbery: Crime and The Post, with Post & Go stamps

LONDON, 27 September 2019 – The Postal Museum has announced today that a special overprint will appear on the Mail Coach design of the Royal Mail Post & Go stamps in celebration of their new temporary exhibition The Great Train Robbery: Crime and The Post.

The Mail Coach stamps of all values will feature a special overprint “Crime & the Post” and will be available from its Post & Go machine from 11 October 2019. This will replace the present “NPM 50” overprint which will stop on 10 October, as will that overprint on the 1st class Machin commemorative design which will revert to the standard Machin design.

In addition to these Post & Go stamps, a limited-edition pack containing a strip of the Mail by Train designs, all 1st class value, with the overprint “Great Train Robbery” will go on sale.

This strip, available only in the pack and not obtainable from the Post & Go machine, can be purchased in the museum shop or be pre-ordered online from 4 October.

The Post & Go machine is available at The Postal Museum during normal opening hours.
Please see for more information.

UPDATE late 10 October
Thank you to all those who have sent blog comments in my absence this afternoon, these are now shown below.  In addition thanks to MC who sent on two messages from the Museum, of which extracts are shown below.
We will be selling a limited-edition presentation pack which will have ‘Mail by Train’ stamps in, but these stamps will not be available to buy from the post and go machine due to a limited stock being available. The overprint on the machine will be on the ‘Mail Coach’ design instead and this will only be available from the machine in The Postal Museum. Both of the sets of stamps will have the overprint ‘New Exhibit 2019’.


We understand that the expected overprint was ‘The Great Train Robbery’ but the overprint was changed at the request of Royal Mail.


The presentation pack is now available to order online and will be also be for sale in The Postal Museum shop. The Mail Coach Design will be available from the Post and Go machine from 11 October.
Thank you for your order. This will be sent out tomorrow.

Regarding the first day cover, the decision was taken to only produce a presentation pack on this particular run as the stock is so limited.

I really don't know how they manage it.  I can only assume that the Museum could see nothing wrong in the Great Train Robbery inscription, but clearly somebody in Royal Mail did.  Given that anything on a Royal Mail stamp has to be approved by them, it's surprising that the Museum has found itself in this embarrassing position.  Hopefully they will learn for the future.

UPDATE 11 October 
I didn't notice in the above (it was late, last night!) but it is pointed out in one of the comments, that it is not just the Great Train Robbery to which Royal Mail objected, but the Crime and the Post caption as well.  So both sets of stamps will have the same bland caption: I was tempted to write 'meaningless' but that would be wrong; it's not meaningless it's just pointless and paves the way for similar bland captions in future.

Late Update 11 October - and the last for now as we take a little break.
Thanks to MC for some technical details on the Post and Go stamps available from the Museum today.
a) the PP 'Mail by Rail' strip is (from memory - my on-line order for one has yet to arrive and one I purchased on site I used for a FDC!) all values not just 1st class (as per your original web announcement)

b) the "NPM 50" narrative had not (yet - at the time I left!) been removed from the Machin 1st class. This was spotted by collectors early on and there were varying points in time when the suggestion was that it c/would be corrected 'imminently', then 'later today' and also then 'maybe tomorrow' (and even not at all)! So watch for anyone reporting correction or otherwise (I will likely do a sample check if I get to go to the Rail Mail implementation on the 29th). If it does get corrected at some point, the initial (incorrect?) version will not be that rare since other people using the machine were buying volumes!

c) there were already, by the time I left, two different versions of the Machin 1st strip. To begin with, stock was uncoded but then later changed to an 'MA14' roll.

Other snippets:

a) I see from a quick look on the blog that someone is reporting the Pack as being sold out on-line, but there was still quite a supply near the check-out when I left (maybe people could contact the TPM direct and check?)

b) talking to a staff member, Royal Mail approved the intended wording some weeks ago (doubtless before the TPM Press release) but only changed their minds yesterday morning [ie the day before the issue] ! I am speechless !
c) the same member of staff was of the view that the only other overprint/change this year (ignoring the new Rail Mail) would likely be for 'Christmas' stamps, eg a reissue of an earlier release?

Meanwhile... a second machine is coming to the Museum!

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Royal Mail Variable Sales Period Policy

Readers and contributors have commented on certain products being now unavailable from Royal Mail, even though they were issued earlier this year.  This includes the Leonardo Da Vinci and Queen Victoria Prestige Stamp Books.

I thought it might be a good time to remind readers of Royal Mail's new variable sales period policy introduced in 2017.   

Historically special stamps were kept on sale at Post offices for 12 months from the date of issue, and at the Bureau for a further 12 months.  Definitives were generally kept on sale for 12 months after their replacement by new tariff stamps.  At the turn of the century Royal Mail started issuing series of stamps - the Royal Houses, the World War I and the Classic Locomotives being three.  In these cases all stamps were kept on sale until 12 months after the last set issued, as long as stocks lasted.

In 2017, "in an attempt to reduce waste and meet environmental responsibilities by printing fewer (for a shorter sales period) and running down stock so that there is less waste on the last day of sale" the policy was changed so that stamps of selected subjects - for which traditionally most of the sales occurred early in their 'life' - would only be on sale for six months, or might sell out earlier.

The first issue to have a planned short life was the 2017 Songbirds, Watermills and Windmills, Landmark Buildings, Classic Toys and Ladybird Books, in other words mostly the thematic - some would say less 'necessary' - issues.  Royal subjects and Christmas would continue for 12 months; blockbusters would stay available while stocks lasted, although these have now been limited as shown below.

New Stocklist at Stampex
Although Royal Mail's new Autumn Stocklist has some errors, the information it contains shows that there are some fixed dates, and some marked 'While Stocks Last'.

World War I (2014-2018) - off sale 11 November 2019

RAF Centenary (20.3.18) - off sale 31  December 2019

Harry Potter (16.10.18) - off sale 31 December 2021

D-Day miniature sheet (6.6.29) - off sale 6 June 2020

Elton John (3.9.19) - off sale 3 September 2022

The following will remain on sale while stocks last:

Lest We Forget Poppies strip of 3 (2008) and 1st class definitive-size (2012)
All Star Wars issues 2015, 2017
Music Giants - Pink Floyd 2016, David Bowie 2017
Game of Thrones 2018
Prince Charles 70th Birthday MS

From 2019:
Leonardo Da Vinci, Marvel, Birds of Prey, British Engineering, Queen Victoria, Curious Customs, Forests and Royal Navy Ships.
Although note stated, it seems likely to me that some of the 2019 issues will not remain on sale into next year.

Other products
Presentation packs and stamp cards will generally be sold for the same period, if still available.

Post and Go stamps - the only stamps still in stock are the 2012 Union Flag, the Game of Thrones
pair, and Mail by Sea.

Retail booklets - RAF Centenary pair, until 31 December 2019, and World War I until 11 November 2019.  Harry Potter until 16 October 2019, and D-Day until 6 June 2020.

Prestige Books - First World War 2014-2018, until 11 November 2019; Harry Potter until 31 December 2021.

If you continue to collect modern British stamps, it makes sense to buy them as soon as possible after they are issued - or wait very many years for them to be available on the second-hand market. While some may be available for less than face eventually, the key items - such as Machins from prestige book panes - are best bought early on.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Royal Mail's recommended posting dates for the festive season

OK, I'll stop dodging the issue, it's the recommended posting dates for Christmas, surface and airmail.

Royal Mail have now published their leaflet, available in all Post Offices, which show arrangements for Christmas.  The earliest of these is
  • All non-European destinations 'International Economy' (ie surface) except South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, USA, and Canada  - Saturday 5 October.

For very young people whose parents can't find an app, or who are encouraging their offspring to write, there are details of where to send a letter to Santa:

Anybody see anything slightly wrong with this?