Wednesday, 20 October 2021

DC Comics bundle review by a superfan

It is unsurprising that Royal Mail send 'review' copies of their products to a variety of people, especially those who might be seen as 'influencers' on social media who may lead to increase sales.

They sent a box of Batman goodies to Neil A Cole of the Superman Super Site

Here's his review, or 'unboxing' (runs just over 17 minutes, no ads).

It's interesting to see the perspective of the person who apparently knows nothing about special stamp issues, save that they could be used to post letters.

It's good publicity from Royal Mail, although they might have done better had they provided information about what their products actually are - the FDC insert shows that you can also get presentation packs, but clearly the reviewer didn't know that they mint stamps are IN a presentation pack, almost overlooking the Justice League miniature sheet as 'another nice piece of artwork'.  

And the Gold-plated medal folder has a first day cover inside, not that the reviewer found that - which is, I suppose, the problem of doing an unboxing review; the video will be edited, but how long do you want to spend between takes actually investigating what is included?

Would Royal Mail have done better to include First*, or a glossy brochure of all the products? Maybe, though I suppose they have already had similar give-aways for other similar stamp issues so you would think that they might know what works best.

*  I don't receive First so I don't know how comprehensive it is.

As at the time of writing, that YouTube video has a whole 10 views - but then the channel only has 90 subscribers.  

Meanwhile on this site the Royal Mail announcement has had 884 views (our post on the stamps has over 1500, but then our readers are looking at the stamps, more than anything else).

Monday, 18 October 2021

October updates

I'll use this post for news snippets and to highlight updates made to earlier posts.



The unofficial news site operated by Royal Mail contractor IAR reports that 

machine A002 at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Dockyard, where HMS Victory is located, will have a ‘Pop Up’ overprint to mark the Battle of Trafalgar.

Overprint on current Union Flag and Machin = Trafalgar Day

The overprint will run from the 21st to 31st October.

 The Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog (see links below right) reports that:

Guernsey Post’s Post and Go kiosk GG02 located at Envoy House in St Peter Port will dispense strips of the Guernsey Flag stamps with an additional inscription to commemorate the Centenary of the Royal British Legion from 11 to 13 November 2021. 

The inscription will read, “RBL 100/1921-2021’ along with a Poppy icon.

The day of issue coincides with Armistice Day.

Special Stamps

The Rugby Union post has been updated with news of pre-release.

Postal Systems

News about trials of a new layout for ink-jet postmarks has been added to the month's slogan postmarks post.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

150th anniversary of Rugby Union - set of 8 - 19 October 2021

Royal Mail will issue a set of 8 stamps depicting action from ruby union international games to mark the 150th anniversary of the Rugby Football Union, and the first international match when an England team responded to a challenge from five of Scotland's club captains.

According to Royal Mail's publicity for the set:

The popularity of the ‘rugby’ style of football, and the corresponding need for universal laws, saw 21 English clubs meet in London on 26 January 1871 to form the Rugby Football Union. The first set of laws was approved later that year, and not long after England met Scotland’s challenge in the first rugby international.

Rugby continues to evolve today and is becoming an ever more inclusive sport. At the last count, rugby union is being played in 124 countries by some 10 million players, approaching three million of whom are female, and broadcasts of domestic and international fixtures are watched by millions.

The stamps

Set of 8 mint stamps featuring iconic moments in key rugby union matches over the past 60 years for
all four home nations and covering both the men’s and women’s game. The striking stamp designs
feature selective colourisation set against a monochrome background.

Set of 8 stamps issued 19 October 2021 to mark the 150th Anniversary of the Rugby Football Union. (C) Royal Mail.

The details:

2nd Class Women’s Rugby World Cup Final, 2014.  After defeat in three successive finals, England win the World Cup. Tries from Emily Scarratt (pictured, with ball) and Danielle Waterman secure victory.

2nd Class Five Nations Championship, 1970.  A victory marking the start of a glorious era in Welsh rugby for a side featuring greats like JPR Williams (pictured), Gareth Edwards and Mervyn Davies.

1st Class Women’s Six Nations Championship, 2015.  Needing to win to secure the title, a rampant Ireland – with lock Sophie Spence (pictured) to the fore – ran in 11 tries to become champions.

1st Class Five Nations Championship, 1984.  Scrum-half Roy Laidlaw (pictured, with ball) scored two tries as Scotland became outright winners of the Five Nations Championship for the first time since 1938.

£1.70 Women’s Home Nations Championship, 1998.  Led by Kim Littlejohn (pictwured, far left), Scotland complete a five-year journey from novices to best team in Europe with a win that boosted the sport’s status in the country.

£1.70 Five Nations Championship, 1994.   Ireland upset the odds to win at Twickenham for the first time in 12 years – a brilliant try by Simon Geoghegan (pictured) inspiring a generation of great players.

£2.55 Women’s Six Nations Championship, 2009.  Non Evans kicks the winning penalty in the final minute as Wales, captained by Melissa Berry (pictured), beat England for the first time and win the Triple Crown.

£2.55 Rugby World Cup Final, 2003.  Jason Robinson’s try and five successful kicks from Jonny Wilkinson (pictured), see England become the first northern hemisphere country to win the World Cup.

Technical Details

The 37 x 35 mm stamps, designed by True North, are printed by International Security Printers in litho with ordinary gum in se-tenant horizontal pairs.  

Acknowledgements:  Stamp designs produced under licence with kind permission of The Rugby Football Union, Scottish Rugby Union Limited, The Welsh Rugby Union Limited and The Irish Rugby Football Union. England Rugby and the England Rugby rose are official trade marks of The Rugby Football Union and are subject to extensive trade mark registrations. The Scottish Rugby and stylised thistle logo are registered trade marks of Scottish Rugby Union Limited and used by Royal Mail Group Limited under licence from Scottish Rugby Union Limited. The Welsh Rugby Union logo is an official trade mark of The Welsh Rugby Union Limited and is subject to extensive trade mark registrations worldwide. The shamrock rugby ball is an official trade mark of The Irish Rugby Football Union and is subject to extensive trade mark registrations.

Images: England v Canada – Women’s Rugby World Cup Final, 2014 © Jordan Mansfield/Stringer/Getty Images Sport;
England v Wales – Five Nations Championship, 1970 © S&G/S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport/PA Images;
Scotland v Ireland – Women’s Six Nations Championship, 2015 © INPHO/Dan Sheridan;
Ireland v Scotland – Five Nations Championship, 1984 © Independent News and Media/Contributor/Hulton/Getty Images;
Scotland v England – Women’s Home Nations Championship, 1998 © 1998 Marc Aspland/The Times of London/News Licensing;
England v Ireland – Five Nations Rugby Championship, 1994 © Colorsport/Colin Elsey;
Wales v England – Women’s Six Nations Championship, 2009 © Stu Forster /Staff/Getty Images Sport;
Australia v England – Rugby World Cup Final, 2003 © Phil Walter/Staff/Getty Images Sport Classic.

Additional Products

Presentation Pack, First Day Cover, Stamp Cards.   Stamps may be bought in pairs (multiples of 5).

Framed prints of the 2nd class JPR Williams stamp, or the £3.55 Jonny Wilkinson stamp (also available signed). 

As usual we are not stocking these products which can be obtained on the Royal Mail website.

Comment.  Although there have been many previous rugby stamps from Royal Mail it is a popular subject and at least in this case is commemorating historical events on a sensible anniversary.

UPDATE 18 October.

CP reports that a local post office was happy to sell these on 12 October, and stated that the cards (always available a week before the stamps) were available on 5th.  Sadly the one that he posted arrived without a legible date.  I checked with my nearest office which has special stamps, the Crown PO in Dereham and of course they said, not until 19th.  The office I more regularly use for posting doesn't take special stamps any more.

Saturday, 2 October 2021

October 2021 postmark slogans

This is the place for all new slogans for October, and any other interesting postal markings that I find or which are reported.

The month got off to a good start, in September for delivery on 1 October, with the Breast Cancer Awareness Month slogan

Once again RW was the first to send an image (below).  This example is from Nottingham dated 30/09/2021.

Breast Cancer
1-31 October
        + CHECK

Breast Cancer Awareness Month postmark slogan, Nottingham, 30/09/2021

The other format comes from KD, a true October slogan from Glasgow dated 01-10-2021.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month postmark slogan, Nottingham, 30/09/2021

UPDATE 18 October.  My thanks to KD, RL & JE for recent reports on postmark slogans. I'm sorry that domestic matters have limited my time for adding the news here.

The first is a variation on the above Breast Cancer slogan, "trialled in one Intergrated Mail Processor machine in Bristol Mail Centre.  The whole imprint has been moved 20mm to the left, and the wavy lines at right reduced from 7 to 3.  The Royal Mail cruciform logo is intentionally omitted.  This layout is intended to accommodate barcoded stamps, similar to the trial 2nd class Machin issued in March, to avoid the wavy lines obcuring the barcode."

Breast Cancer Awareness Month postmark slogan, Bristol, 06/10/2021 in new trial layout.

This is especially interesting as nobody has reported any use of said 2nd class Datamatrix Machin on other than philatelic mail.  Please report any other sightings of this 3-line layout!
UPDATE 19 October: PA has sent another image this time with the 2nd class Datamatrix stamp showing how, if the stamp is applied 'normally' the barcode will be clear.

Together for our Planet postmark slogan, Bristol, 18/10/2021 in new trial layout, on 2nd class Datamatrix stamp.

This layout has no space for the Royal Mail logo as there are only four elements to the impression. All have been shifted to the left, with a blank in the right-most position.

A new slogan marks Anti-Slavery Day which is today, 18 October. Here are examples from Preston (Lancashire and South Lakes) and the other (iLSM) layout from Dorset & SW Hants both on 14 October.

Anti-Slavery Day
18th October

Stamping out Modern Slavery slogan Dorset & S.W. Hants 14-10-2021

Stamping out Modern Slavery slogan Lancashire and South Lakes 14-10-2021

Later: KD reports receipt of a barely legible late* use at Nottingham aroound 14 October of the Together for our Planet slogan used in September. (Usage date is based on the invoice inside!)

Together for our Planet SME Climate Hub - Nottingham late use in mid-October 2021
* It seems that this is not a late use but a reuse as they are appearing in several places.  (See also the Bristol trial layout above).


Other slogans for October and any interesting postmarks, postal labels old or new will be shown here.

Before reporting 'new' slogans please check here in case we have already shown it.


Thursday, 30 September 2021

Value of older stamps for postage purposes.

With so much going on I was remiss not updating these tables very much earlier in the year, so I am taking the opportunity now, in readiness for a further update possibly at the beginning of 2022.

The tables are included primarily to explain the stamps used on cover, because they show that, for example, a stamp originally issued as a Europe 20g stamp is now valid for 100g and has a current value of £1.70.  So a letter to Europe much heavier than 20g can now use that stamp - up to 100g.  

Likewise,  Worldwide 40g and 60g stamps are now worth £2.55 and can be used anywhere in the world up to 100g.

‡ I've now added the E stamp, issued from January 1999-2004, which is the equivalent of the Europe 20g rate.  This was 30p when issued and the cost but also the franking value increased periodically:

October 1999 (34p), April 2000 (36p), July 2011 (37p), May 2003 (38p), April 2004 (40p), April 2005 (42p), April 2006 (44p), April 2007 (48p), April 2009 - as below.


Airmail Rates Table

Europe 20g / E‡
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
April 2020

E20/ W10
Europe 100g
World 20g
World 100g
Europe Large 100g
World Large 100g
Sept 2020
no NVI
no NVI
1 Jan 2021

* With effect from 1 September 2020 a combined Euro 100g/World 20g Post & Go stamp was issued, priced at £1.70.
§ On the same date the World 100g stamp was replaced by two stamps: World 100g Zone 1-3 is sold for £2.50, and World 100g Zone 3 is £2.55.
On 1 January 2021 the pricing for all world zones was standardised, although that for large letters over 100g varied.   The Post and Go range was then consolidated to include airmail Large Letter stamps.

Inland premium services

Note that some of the rates were in effect before the stamps were issued, and some new stamps were issued at old rates before tariff increases.
Stamps Issued* or Rates Effective
1st Signed For 100g
1st Large Signed For 100g
100g Special Delivery
500g Special Delivery
17 November 2009 *
6 April 2010
26 October 2010 *

20 April 2011
30 April 2012
2 April 2013 §
31 March 2014
30 March 2015
29 March 2016

27 March 2017

26 March 2018
25 March 2019
23 March 2020
1 January 2021

* Royal Mail Signed For stamps were issued 27 March 2013, replacing Recorded Signed For, but were sold at old rates until 2 April.

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.

Report from Stampex Day 1

My correspondent on the ground (DF of Enfield) sent the following report (edited):

As I expected a very quiet start.  I arrived about 10 minutes before time of opening at 10am and no massive queue to get in.  Pre-Covid checks carried out by security who did the checking outside and stuck a “Red Dot” on you.  By the time doors opened I would estimate the queue was less than half of what it would normally have been.  The main entrance was devoid of the stamp lists and catalogues which are normally there and there was spot checking of bags.  Perhaps about 1 in 5.

Once into the main hall you were greeted with the check in process which was quick and efficient. I presented my printed eMailed ticket and they crossed me off the list, gave be a wrist band so I could come and go as I wished and gave me a programme.  I went straight to the Royal Mail stand. No queue at all and only one person being served in front of me.  Thus I was second.  Plenty of staff and no customers at all.   I was in the hall about 2 hours in total having a look around and was very open, plenty of spaced seating at tables and less trade stands.  The upstairs gallery areas I think were slightly less and not many people sorting through their wants.  For the whole of the time I was in the hall there was never more than 1 or 2 people actually waiting to be served by the Royal Mail counter staff.

So what was available from Royal Mail? 

There were no counter sheets at all available except for 1st class (2020) and 1st Large (2020); Booklets were standard 6 x1st (key lock design) of 2019. (One sealed pack which I was shown the date on the cellophane wrapper). The following four booklets were in open packs: 12 x 2nd (2021); 12 x 1st (2021); 4 x 2nd large (2020); 4 x 1st large (2019).  

The Mixed 6 x 1st booklets were fully stocked but were pre-packed singularly each in the standard black ‘carrier’ and were all available back for a year of issues

They had an A4 sheet clearly displayed that gave details of the arrangements (basically what you have already put on the blog) and on the back of the notices there is a printed list of available cylinder blocks.  They also had a form that you could fill in and order products from the list, pay and have them sent to you post free.  However, there was no guarantee you would get specific sheet, cylinder or dates.  As an example I enquired about the £1 sheets with 2021 but if I ordered a full sheet they would not guarantee which date I would get.

As in previous years they had no Business sheets except you could purchase and get on the stand a full sheet of the 2nd Barcoded.

All in all not a waste of time for me (although there were moans I heard about paying £10 to get nothing) as it was the only opportunity I had of trying to get a few missing oddments as I really wanted. 

Many thanks for that DF.

If anybody else wants to report on the remainder of the days, please do.

Monday, 27 September 2021

Heroes of the Pandemic - 8 x 1st class - Spring 2022

In April, Royal Mail announced a competition to design set of special stamps entitled Heroes of the Pandemic, marking the important role played by key and frontline workers  through the coronavirus pandemic, with a competition for UK schoolchildren aged 4-14.

With such a wide age range the standard will vary, of course, but even from the younger students some very good designs have been revealed today.  Designs by 120 children have made it to the regional finals and will now be considered to determine which will be the final 8 issued as stamps.

You can read more about the competition and the judges, in the full announcement with links to all 120 designs here.

Inevitably the majority of the 600,000+ entries submitted focus on NHS workers who were crucial and closer to the 'front line' than any.  Captain Sir Tom Moore also features in many extremely good designs. Even incorporating many different key workers has not proved impossible - I think I saw one with eight different groups represented. 

But the scientists looking for vaccines, the transport workers, postal workers, are also represented, along with 'Helpful Neighbours', foodbank volunteers, and police.   Here is a selection of ones that I liked.

Covid Vaccine Scientists, Maddie Bomsey (13)

The NHS, Connie Stuart (14)

Kind neighbours, Milo Morgan (10)

'NHS, Sir Tom, and a Teacher, Alexis Maranon (12)

'Separated Families', Julia Bebbington (9)

'Those who discovered and administered the vaccine', Megan Barbour (13)

NHS Workers, Jessica Roberts (14)

Delivery Drivers, Harry Lipson (8)

Vaccine Scientist, Calleigh Tan (11)

'My hero is my teacher in year 5, Mrs Jones', Grave Miller (10)

NHS Staff, Desandi haputhanthrige (13)


I particularly liked this one which conveys the level of sheer exhaustion that many nursing staff reached.

and I had to chuckle at these - very worthy, but unexpected.

Immy Cairns decided her mum (a farmer) should be on a stamp - and why not as a representative of the nation's farmers?

The Government's Chief Medical Officer is unlikely to be portrayed on the finished product, but Rhoana Stentiford produced this clever design of Chris Whitty, and I'm sure he would be very flattered.

Similarly the specific AstraZeneca vaccine probably won't get a mention, but it's clever of Amber Yasin (11) to include Sarah Gilbert in the mix.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Royal Mail at Autumn Stampex 2021

Stampex starts later this week and as far as I know the announcement below has only appeared in the Postmark Bulletin.  A reader has suggested that I should report it here for the benefit of those other readers who may be going and who don't get the Bulletin.

Return of Stampex
Stampex returns on 29th September 2021, for the first time since Autumn Stampex 2019, and we are looking forward to seeing as many of our regular Stampex customers as possible.

Whilst there are still some challenges caused by Covid, some aspects of our service will be a little bit different for this show:

• There will be Stampex Postmarks, one for each day of the show, and these are published on page 5 of this edition of the Postmark Bulletin. However, we are unable to provide handstamping on site. Instead all items posted at the show will be forwarded to the Special Handstamp Centre for processing and sent to the customers’ address after the show.

There will be no Trade area for this show, thereby providing a larger area for our team to work and socially distance.

• We are planning to bring as broad a range of products as possible, these will be focused predominantly on single products and individual sets i.e. Stamp Books, Prestige Stamp Books, Packs, Generic / Collector Sheets, Sets, Minisheets, Annual Products etc. 

This means we will not be able to offer the full range of bespoke tearing that customers may have been used to at Stampex. This is to reduce the handling, by many members of the team, and also to reduce queueing and serving time on the stand. 

We hope to be able to reintroduce the wide range of bespoke tearing and formats across the full range of Machin Definitve, Country Definitves and Special Stamp Sheets at future shows.

• To avoid excessive queuing around the stand we will provide an order form, available on the Royal Mail stand and at the Stampex Welcome Desk, for customers to order any items from the Royal Mail stand for collection later that day

Customers will also be able to pay for orders on the stand, with free delivery to their home address, for our most popular formats and for any items in our latest Royal Mail Stock List available at the show.

We look forward to seeing our regular customers at Stampex once again

[My emphasis in all cases.]

Given that - if Stampex went ahead at all - these plans were made some time ago, it seems a pity that the details had not been published in the Philatelic Bulletin and the philatelic press.

The absence of a trade stand means that there are less likely to be any announcements of new finds arising from stock at the event - dealers generally have longer to study stock than casual customers.  

As many collectors know, the trade is provided periodically with a list of new counter sheet printings.  At the time of writing the lists provided so far this year have not included any counter sheets for M21L NVIs although we know that they exist.  So if you do find any at Stampex please tell us as soon as possible so that we can make enquiries through our usual channels.

We know that there will be no Post and Go machines at Stampex; I'm told that Royal Mail Post & Go kiosks won’t be at the political party conferences this year either.


I'm reminded that PTS will follow Covid protocols for the show, and that registration is required not only for day 1 (which costs you £10) but for each day.  

Covid arrangements include

- Proof that the individual has received two vaccinations against COVID, the second of which must have been administered at least two weeks before arrival at the venue OR

- Proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow test within 48 hours of arrival at the venue (reported to the NHS website). We plan to have a number of lateral flow test available on site should anyone require one. This test takes 30 minutes and you will be asked to wait outside of the venue until your test result is presented 

See everything else here.


We've added a report from Day 1 here.

Friday, 24 September 2021

Horizon label surprise - FP used in 2021

The last time I showed a Horizon label with code FP was, I think, ten years ago here.  And in 2010 I explained that these should normally have been A but through selecting the wrong on-screen options the branch can produce an FP label, normally only used when an international item has been returned to sender for additional postage to be added.

This one appeared on the Stampboard forum. Posted on 1 September and arrived in Australia on 22nd.  So perhaps one of our Horizon experts can explain how this would be created in 2021?

GB to Australia 1.9.2021 to Australia with £1.70 postage paid by FP Horizon label.

UPDATE, in response to comments  

Some of the above are known to have been produced at ordinary sub-post offices, including this cover from my collection which I posted in Pembrokeshire to a friend in the USA. (Label shown above.)

Although underpaid mail usually results in a charge to the addressee, international mail is often retuned to sender (if shown on the outside of the envelope) with this label.  Adding the FP label to an item which bears stamps already cancelled shows that the balance of the postage was paid in cash.

Peelable Royal Mail label OE1064 stuck over destination address on item returned to sender for additional postage.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Break(ing) news, mid-September 2021

I apologise that I forgot to include here a message that we would be away from the office for a few days - which meant that an unusually large number of people wrote about the latest postmark slogan (see previous post).

I hope you all received the 'out of office' message from gmail.

Aside from the new slogan postmark not much news has broken in the few days for which we were away.

However I understand from an anonymous source that the Christmas stamps will be the first stamps with barcodes readily available to ordinary users.  If this applies to the stamps in booklets they will be much larger than usual; if it applies to the large letter stamps then the sheets will be much larger than usual!

This is what last years 2nd class might have looked like.

Whether this is just a rumour or a rumour based on fact, only time will tell.

UPDATE 28 September:  two of the Bureau's customers have sent me this message which appears on their latest advice notes regarding a payment due from their accounts in due course.

In this context 'Format' means stamps which are available (or were when the customer set up his standing order) in specific formats such as cylinder blocks, date blocks, traffic light blocks (remember then), gutter pairs.  

So the inference is that the 1st, 2nd, 1st Large and 2nd Large sheet stamps (only) will have datamatrix codes; these and the two airmail stamps (£1.70, £2.55) are in counter sheets and will be available as formats described above.  The 1st & 2nd without datamatrix codes are only available from booklets and will not be available in formats.

UPDATE 5 October

According to the October Philatelic Bulletin under 'new issues', the set consists of 1st, 2nd, 1st Large and 2nd Large, £1.70, £2.55 (six stamps) but there are 9 cards in the set (usually one for each stamp plus one for the miniature sheet).  In addition there will be the usual booklets, miniature sheet and 'Collectors Sheet' aka Smiler sheet.