Saturday, 8 December 2018

Last orders for 2018

Christmas holiday update.

We will post one more batch of orders before Christmas and that will probably be on Friday 14th December.  Unless we are specifically asked to, there will be no international mailings in this batch, and certainly none to Canada (they know why!)

Our office will then be closed from 21 December to 2/3 January 2019.  Blog comments may be passed through in this period but emails are unlikely to be answered.  The shop will remain open and orders will be acknowledged automatically by the system.  Obviously in January it will take a while to catch up but we will update you and despatch orders as soon as possible, subject to getting any new Machin printings stock online.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Harry Potter PSB error - an upright pane!

In the early years of this blog there were a number of errors in Prestige Stamp Books, notably inverted panes and the occasional overturned pane, and the famous missing gold on one pane of the Victoria Cross book.  (search for 'errors' to find these.  But we have a new one as this year comes to a close.

As I indicated here, the Harry Potter prestige book can be started from either end, half the pages inverted in relation to the others, presenting two stories.  The two miniature sheet panes are facing each other, which is another problem for the printers assembling the sheets.  In this picture the back cover is on the left behind the pane with three stamps.

Pane 5 (with three stamps) is inverted so the wrong edge is bound in and Pane 4 (two stamps) is the correct way up. (Starting from the back, these are the 1st and 2nd panes.)

Members of the Modern British Philatelic Circle will find this in their next auction.

Update 7 December :  As JG writes,"It seems that ISP have had more problems than usual in assembling the Harry Potter PSBs."   Well, I suppose the make-up makes it more difficult.  Because the individual pages are from sheets, it's not like printing a magazine or newspaper that starts from both ends.  In that case the pages are set onto the plate that way before printing starts (usually on the web). JG's example has pane 3 missing - not torn out, just never put in.  A good variety even if it did cost more than the value of the stamps it includes.
(We are still waiting for a picture of the example with double cover (see comments).

UPDATE 11 December:  A second correspondent (thanks KC) has sent a picture of his PSB which also has two back covers - not easy to photograph, but quite clear in this picture.


For earlier PSB page errors, see here.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018


Today we are announcing a major change to our business. 

This further change will give me more time to spend on my own collection, and finding a way to dispose of the decades of accumulated stamps and postal history without buying any more!  It will also give us more time together, on holiday, which is as it should be in the eighth decade of your life!

One consequence of this, which I have alluded to in some email exchanges, is that we will not stock Machin definitives after the M18L stamps, ie none of the M19L codes or later.  To clarify, if there is a PSB in early 2019 containing M18L stamps, we will supply this but not any later ones.

I am sorry that this will come as a disappointment to our existing customers, some whom we have been supplying for some years, and quiet a few who have only recently joined us..

The blog will continue to provide news of Machins, slogan postmarks, and other British news.  It will also be used to tell you about additions to our e-commerce shop (of which more below).   The Machin Checklist will continue, using information from many people as at present. 

There are several reasons for this, mainly personal.  For those who don't already know, I turned 70 in April this year. In itself, that isn't a problem, as I am blessed with good health, and a good wife (Val) who keeps me properly and healthily fed. We know from our World Tour in late 2016 that the world can manage without us, and the business has continued as if that never happened.  Meanwhile John takes on all the technical stresses of the business.

We have boxes and boxes of ‘stuff’ here that we don't want to leave for John to sort out in 20 or 30 years time (see, I'm optimistic). There are stockbooks of older Machins, some Wildings and many commemoratives, and first day covers; many foreign & commonwealth stamps;  boxes of postcards mostly for their postal history side, and boxes of postal history from around the world. The sooner we can get these on our shop or eBay, or dispose of them through other outlets like, the better it will be – and I will find all manner of things I had forgotten about!

I don’t know what I will get to first. I will probably start by listing older Machins, regionals, pre-security booklets, etc, but I also have several hundred postal history covers already scanned, so some of those will be listed early on.

There is also a practical difficulty.  As you know Royal Mail Tallents House do not routinely supply definitive stamps with new year codes, nor singles from booklets or business sheets. They departed from that in 2018 by supplying the counter sheet stamps from the new printer.

But aside from that stock provided by Royal Mail most of the new stamps we sell have come from one or two local people who scour the post offices and retail outlets, and are often the first to discover new stamps. Now that more Crown and directly managed Post Office branches are changing to franchises in WHSmith and other retail chains employing their own staff and using self-service kiosks, the volume of new stamps ordered by those branches for sale to customers will decrease, making the hunt more difficult.

There are many other dealers selling new Machins as they appear, on a combination of their own websites, eBay, at fairs or simply by mail order on their lists.  I don’t intend to make any recommendations although I am compiling a list of other dealers.  There doesn’t appear to be any website using the same platform as we do, so layouts, provision of images, etc, will be different to what you are used to.  But some of you are already using several dealers.  I will be interested to know of other dealers that you can recommend, especially outside the UK as this may assist our customers in, especially, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

I will supply details of other dealers on request only with comments and contact details.  This will follow as soon as possible.

If any other dealer reading this wants to ‘pitch’ for business with our existing customers I will include their submission within those details, making it clear that it is their pitch rather than my comments.

Ian, Val & John Billings

Better SSK screens in time for Christmas

The One Post Office website reports changes to screens on self-service kiosks in Post Office branches are now being rolled out. 
Customers and Christmas Makers will see some changes when they use the Self Service Kiosks this festive peak.
Many of the screens have been updated with a simpler, more user-friendly and visual layout to make them easier for customers to use and to find the transaction they need.
Post Office Broadband & Phone bill payments have also been added.
We’re introducing these improvements thanks to feedback from branch colleagues and last year’s Christmas Makers.
The changes are rolling out to all branches with SSKs between today (Tuesday 27 November) and Thursday this week.
Some of the key changes include:
  • Customers will be able to just scan a bill to pay it without having to select the ‘pay a bill’ button. The great news is this will also include Post Office Broadband & Phone bill payments
  • On the ‘select destination’ screen, the UK, Jersey and Guernsey are displayed first followed by the most popular seven international destinations so it’s easier for customers to find the destination for their item, and the search button is bigger too
  • On the screen that asks what type of item it is, the different item descriptions will have an image showing the size and weight limits. If the customer has put an item on the scales, it will only show the options for that weight
  • Non-tracked returns label images are shown on the prepaid items screen
  • On the ‘Buy stamps’ screen, stamp options are grouped by destination, and again it’s weight-sensitive so if the customer has put an item on the scales it will only show the relevant options
  • We have removed the 1st and 2nd class pick buttons from the start screen
  • There is now a cash payment button on the payment screen as well as the debit and credit card options.
UPDATE: Thanks to CN for this picture of the 'Stamp Purchase' screen.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

December slogan postmarks

The first December postmark actually starts in November as already reported, with the Post Early for Christmas slogan.

This was seen for the first time from Sheffield Mail Centre (and another indistinct) 29 November 2018.  (Thank you to JW who has sent an even less distinct example from Southampton dated 28 November.)

Remember to
Post Early
this Christmas!
So that's a start.  Another example of the first layout would be useful, and later there will be specific slogans for 1st & 2nd class inland posting dates.

Update 6 December: JG has sent a much better example of the first type of slogan, from Swindon:

And thanks to DF & RW we have two examples of the reversed slogan applied to square envelopes when the stamp is identified as being in the 'wrong' corner, one from Cumbria and the other from Plymouth.

UPDATE 8 DECEMBER:  Thanks to BM and JG for the latest batch of slogans which includes one for the NHS 'Staywell' campaign.   Glasgow 05-12-2018, Southampton with logo 07/12/2018, Edinburgh 05-12-2018, Birmingham with logo reversed 06/12/2018.
Stay well
this Winter!
Find out more at

Meanwhile Gatwick MC is still using Movember for it's reversed slogan on 06/12/2018. 

UPDATE 12 December
And here's a lovely square card envelope from Gatwick Mail Centre: cancelled on 8 December with the ordinary position of the Movember slogan (no logo) which missed the stamp - this should have been reversed so as to hit the stamp;  but it was delayed and processed again on 9 December with the Staywell slogan!

Remember also that there are still some Universal machines in use, or pressed into use, which may have old slogans.  We would be interested to show all of these as well. and they will be useful for the British Postmark Society records.

UPDATE 7 December: Surprisingly, the first Universal impression this year comes direct to us from Jubilee Mail Centre (I can just make out the JUB on the right of the datestamp), used on 5 December.

UPDATE 2.  This has to be the most bizarre piece every shown in the postmark threads.  The postmark on the left is about as good as mine from Jubilee, and is from Lerwick - you can see the CK.  This was posted on 1 December, a nice clear date.  It then got reprocessed in Edinburgh, again with a CFC1 Universal-type postmark!  And one on which they hadn't changed the date slugs since 30 VII 2017!!  Thanks to JG for this one.

Beat that!!

Friday, 30 November 2018

Charities warned against selling kiloware; may be aiding postal fraud

The United Kingdon's Charity Commission has warned charities of the dangers of selling kiloware in this stark warning on it's media website.
News story - 30 November 2018
Alert for charities - fundraising and postal stamp fraud

This alert provides information and advice to charity trustees, employees and volunteers about stamp fraud and the risks associated with it.

Stamp fraud involves the preparation, distribution and sale of previously used stamps for reuse. Usually these stamps are sold online, at a lower price than the standard postal service rate.

Anyone knowingly collecting, preparing, distributing, reusing or selling used stamps to avoid paying full postal fees may be committing a form of fraud.

How it can impact charities

A number of charities collect used stamps as a means of fundraising.

Although we do not believe that charities are knowingly profiting from the collection and sale of used stamps, some are inadvertently enabling this form of fraud by selling packages of used stamps, commonly referred to as ‘kiloware’.

The majority of these stamps are then prepared and fraudulently re-sold as if they were valid postage. The money being made by criminal gangs from this type of fraud is significant, and can be used to fund further and wider scale criminal activity.

Fundraisers may believe they are selling stamps to collectors but this is rarely the case as these stamps have little collectable value.

Charities should avoid engaging in this activity unless they are certain that the stamps collected and sold are genuinely being bought by collectors, and are not being used for fraudulent purposes.

Warning signs to look out for

Signs that a potential buyer of used stamps may not be a genuine collector include:

Requests to bulk buy
Be wary of requests from individuals to purchase UK or GB ‘kiloware’ from you in bulk. Genuine collectors tend to have their own sources of used stamps and often trade with each other – it is unlikely that they would specifically call on charities to provide loose stamps.

Requests for certain types of stamps

There is no reason for any genuine dealer to request previously used, uncancelled stamps, ‘Non Value Indicator’ stamps (do not display a price), or Christmas stamps in bulk. An uncancelled stamp is one which has been through the postal system, but hasn’t been marked as used. It is often incorrectly referred to as unfranked.

Offering to deal stamps on your behalf
Some stamp collectors may genuinely request foreign or specialist stamps but charities should consider a company or person offering to deal stamps on their behalf as a potential red flag.

All of the above examples put your organisation at risk of being unwittingly involved in a form of fraud that is potentially funding wider scale criminal activity.

How to protect your charity from stamp fraud
Decline requests from individuals or groups who wish to purchase used GB stamps from you directly - either through direct contact or via your online marketplace. Additionally, let Royal Mail know if you suspect that a request may not be from a genuine dealer.

If you are satisfied that your stamps are destined for collectors, check the type of stamps you are collecting. Foreign stamps are less likely to be fraudulently sold in the UK.

Consider checking that your charity name is not being used in ‘kiloware’ advertising without your permission.

If you buy stamps for your charity’s own use then buy them from the Post Office or any other reputable seller. Stamps are typically not sold at a discounted price.

How to report fraud

To report suspected stamp fraud, and for more information on the subject, please visit the Royal Mail website.

If your charity becomes a victim of insider fraud, or any other type of fraud, report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040, or by visiting the Action Fraud website.

Charities affected by fraud should also report it to the Charity Commission as a serious incident, using the dedicated email address

Serious incident reporting helps us to assess the volume and impact of incidents within charities, and to understand the risks facing the sector as a whole. Where appropriate, we can also provide timely advice and guidance.
How many misleading or downright false statements can you see there?   I count 7 or 8.

Whilst it is true that a great many people have benefitted from buying kiloware and removing the uncancelled stamps for reuse this was never the original intention and it would not happen at all if postal authorities cancelled the stamps as they were used!

Thursday, 29 November 2018

New updated version of Machin checklist now available

We are pleased to say that a new revised and - as far as we know - fully updated version of our Machin Security Stamps Checklist is now available.

This includes all the stamps newly available on 4 December, and all the variants of Walsall counter sheet printings that we know about.  We're sorry that there has been no updated since September despite quite a number of new stamps appearing.

The latest version is no longer hosted on our own server: with the coming of GDPR we have no reason to capture the email address of all the people who have requested the list.  This edition, version 2.0.15, is hosted on Dropbox here.

You may see various versions of Dropbox depending on whether you are using desktop, laptop, or mobile devices.   If you already have a Dropbox account you may be asked to log in: this is probably because cookies on your computer recognise your previous visits.  You should still be able to see and save the file without logging in.

If you don't have a Dropbox account you can see the pdf file online.  Depending on your operating system and browser settings you may be able to download the file to your computer.  If there is no obvious way to do this, try a right-click, and you should see a pop-up which allows you to 'Save file as'.  Click on this and you should be able to decide where and under what name to save the file.

If you are using a mobile device and already have the Dropbox app installed, then clicking on the link will almost certainly open the app.  How you proceed will depend again on operating system.  On the iOs systems, the familiar 'Export' icon should appear which will allow you to save the file in the Books app, which I find very useful.

NB: If you normally use a bookmark to our site to download the file, please note that this will only take you to the old versions.  The newest editions are ONLY on Dropbox.

If you find that you cannot download the file, please email me and I will send a copy as an email attachment, but I do not expect that there will be many problems.

UPDATE: Due to the omission of one important stamp from the list, a new version of the checklist, 2.0.16 has just been uploaded.  Note this does not have the version number in the file name, and future files will retain the same name to avoid overloading the folder.
Please remember, we usually only include new printings if the stamp is different.  The second printings of this year's new tariff stamps were the same as the first so are not mentioned.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

New definitives now available to order.

The counter sheet definitives and those from the Harry Potter prestige stamp book to be issued next week have now been listed on our shop, together with the latest reprints to be received.  Note that no orders for the new stamps will be posted until next week as they are not issued until 4 December.
UPDATE 29 November: thank you for the 27 orders received so far; the weekend will be taken up with domestic matters, so it is possible that even those that are not waiting for anything may not be posted by Tuesday next.
UPDATE 1 December:   due to the large number of orders received, some items are showing as out of stock.  This is happening faster than I can check whether more can be made available, eg singles from date blocks or booklets.   If there are other stamps that you would like added, please put the details in 'Additional Information' and do NOT pay, especially by PayPal.  If they are available and we can supply them, we will provide you with the total to be paid by your usual means (PayPal, cheque, card, bank transfer.)  Thanks.

These include:
2913.8b  -  2nd class Large - 3rd printing 29/10/18 - dull blue phosphor
3010.8a  -  10p second printing 08/05/18 - blue phosphor and yellow fluorescence
3020.8a  -  20p second printing 08/05/18 - blue phosphor and yellow fluorescence
3101.8a  -  £1 second printing 09/05/18 - blue phosphor and yellow fluorescence

2992.8  -  1st Large Signed For - new stamp.
(Note the 1st Signed For will not be issued until 2019)

Business sheets have also been restocked.

Also listed is an impressive phosphor variety on the second printing of the 2nd class Large.  The phosphor has been dragged across the stamp, as shown in these pictures.  This is listed as 2913.8av and we have only one cylinder block.

Warning - separate Walsall printings with care!

Since the printing of counter sheet stamps switched from De La Rue to ISP Walsall, there has been a marked change in some of the backing paper used, and the effect of the die-cut perforations.

I believe the backing paper used by Walsall may be thinner - certainly than that used five years ago by De La Rue.  The die-cutting may be deeper, or it may be the same.  But the effect is to make separation of the stamps on some sheets quite difficult, as this picture shows:

I bought this sheet of 10p stamps and immediately noticed that one stamp was coming clear of the sheet, because the die-cuts around the perforations had gone right through the backing paper. (I've put a piece of booklet cover through the gap.)

As I couldn't sell the date block with this fault, I started to split the sheet to store in the stockbook and - even though I had double folded the sheet along the rouletting - it separated down the perforations as shown at the right.  I'll use these for postage, as they can't be sold either.

The first sheet I noticed this on was the 100g Special Delivery, which is an expensive sheet to mess up!  Fortunately I was able to use some of the unsaleable stamps on international tracked orders, so those customers had a bonus of a my using a brand new high value stamp on their postage.

So the word is, take care!

Friday, 23 November 2018

First Day Covers 4 December 2018

Following the news below about the postponement of the 1st Signed For definitive Walsall reprint, we are now offering first day covers listed.  Nobody who responded to the previous offering wanted all 8 (or 7) stamps on one cover, so we've changed the offer.

1.  Four Harry Potter PSB definitives on Harry Potter FDC with appropriate HP postmark - £5.00

2.  Three counter sheet stamps, SD100, SD500, and 1st Large Signed For on definitive FDC with Windsor postmark - £23.75

3.  1st Large Signed For ONLY on definitive FDC with Windsor postmark - £4.50

Postage extra; can be combined with orders for mint stamps etc from our shop.

I'll contact the customers who have already ordered by early next week.

If anybody else would like any of these FDCs please email ian[at] by before 28 November.  Thanks.