Monday, 6 December 2021

Charity mailings use 2021 Christmas stamps.

As we reported in previous years, the Christmas stamps are generally made available for bulk mailers to use on their fundraising efforts, whether they be charities or mail-order companies.

My thanks to JF for supplying this scan from a mailing from the PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals) latest appeal, which uses the 2nd class stamp.

Direct mail from the PDSA using the 2021 Christmas 'digital stamp', license C9 10017.

If anybody has any others used this winter, or variants on the Machin definitive, please send them in for publication.  Thanks.




Friday, 3 December 2021

December Slogan Postmarks and other postal news.

December's slogan postmarks already started in November with the early appearance of the Shop Early slogan.  We didn't expect more but see below for a surprise late use.

All slogan postmarks will be shown here for December; please check for latest updates before spending your time scanning, but if you have something new or another format, then please do send it in for publication.  And look out for anything from machines brought out of reserve instead of from an ink-jet machine!

From 12 November. Royal Mail started the 'Post Early' campaign two weeks earlier than last year, but repeating the same slogan. 

Shop Early,
Send Early this

Used at Croydon Mail Centre 1-12-2021, thanks to for RW for this one.

Shop Early, Send Early slogan Croydon Mail Centre 01-12-2021

Update: PC has sent an example of the other layout from Tyneside NE/SR Mail Centre also on 01/12/2021

Shop Early, Send Early slogan Tyneside Mail Centre 01-12-2021


GBCC on the Stampboards forum reports this late use of October's Breast Cancer Awareness slogan used in SE Wales on 01/12/2021,

Late use of Breast Cancer Awareness slogan at SE Wales on 01/12/2021


MG points out that this reversion includes the 7 lines instead of 3, and the Royal Mail logo at the left. I expect that it will soon be corrected so if you have another date, please let us know.

Although I don't normally show anything other than Royal Mail slogans, I thought this one from Jersey that RW sent recently was worthwhile - for the postmark and the cover.   Happy Christmas Bouan Noué from Jersey Post.

Jersey Post Happy Christmas slogan 01.12.21 with Norimont Tower Post & Go stamp.

'UNIVERSALS' usage. 4 December 2021. My thanks to JN for sending this example of Peterborough SCM10 dated 2021 on this year's 2nd class stamp, thus qualifying as the first example of a 'Universal' postmark pressed into service this year.

Peterborough SCM10 'Universal' type postmark used 2021, reported 4 December.

Remember, all postmarks appearing in December will be added to this post, so check here before you spend time scanning and emailing.  I'll try to add new ones as quickly as possible.

And get ready for the back-up use of Universals during the Christmas posting season!



Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Rock into 2022 with the first issue of the year,
Music Giants VI - The Rolling Stones - 20 January 2022

Subscribers to Royal Mail's Philatelic Bulletin will see that, ahead of any announcement about the programme for next year, 'Forthcoming Issues' includes basic information about the first issue in January.

2010 Album Covers 1st class
stamp, showing Let it Bleed.

The Music Giants VI, The Rolling Stones, issue consists of:

Set of 8 - 4 x 1st class, 4 x £1.70 and Miniature sheet - 2 x 1st class, 2 x £1.70

First day covers for the above, and Stamp Cards and Presentation Pack.

There is also a Prestige Stamp Book which contains, one can conclude, the same set of stamps and miniature sheet, and the usual definitive pane which contains two each of 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, making a total of £3.60, more than recent PSB Machin panes.  

As they are issued so early in the year, I expect these will be coded M21L MPIL.  If so, the 10p will be a repeat of Music Giants V and Industrial Revolutions, the 20p will be a repeat of Industrial Revolutions and DC Comics and the 50p will be a repeat of Music Giants V.  The £1 value has not appeared since the Waterloo PSB in 2015 (SG DY14).

The good news is that with these prices now committed there will be no change to the £1.70 postage rate for  Europe to 100g and Worldwide 20g airmail letters.  Whether there will be any changes to other rates remains to be seen.  Under London Stock Exchange rules material changes to the business have to be announced a month before they take effect.  So rates won't be changing on 1 January like they did this year.

The bad news for those who must have everything (and I accept that there are some important variants in the stamps in this list) is that the usual clutter of special editions and framed prints/stamps also accompanies the stamps.

Limited Edition PSB, Press Sheet, 2 x Collector's Sheets (Hyde Park/On Tour), Fan Sheets, Medal Covers, Silver Stamp Ingots, Gold stamp set, Souvenir Folder, Framed products.

I reckon there must be a thousand quid of cost there.  I was going to write 'a thousand quids-worth', but that is a matter of opinion.

No pictures appear in the Bulletin. I understand that we will see these in the first week of January.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Security Machins on Cover - does anybody collect in a specialised way?

Like many collectors I put covers aside 'for later'.  One area that I thought would be good to make a collection of was the Machin definitives with the different security codes indicating source and year. 

As you probably know, some sources are encountered a lot more frequently than others.  The most common stamps found on social and business correspondence are from booklets of 12 and business sheets respectively.

From personal experience and a few reports, the least likely 2nd and 1st class stamps to be found on social correspondence are actually from counter sheets, with most people buying their stamps at supermarkets, newsagents and other outlets.


Inland special delivery solo use.
Displaying your collection
97p to Ukraine returned to sender.
In the case of airmail values and premium services as shown here, displaying the item in a collection is easy. The purpose is obvious and, maybe by the inclusion of a photograph, the year code can be demonstrated, this isn't as straightforward for 1st & 2nd class stamps.


Numbers of variants
At the time of writing there is a huge number of 2nd class blue: 13 counter sheet, 13 MTIL, 13 MBIL, at least 6 MRIL, and even more 1st class because of two types of books of 6.  And that's without any specialist variations.  Even the stamps look 'all the same; on a page in the stockbook.

To display these to members at the local club in any meaningful way would mean also including enlargements showing the iridescent printing of the year code and/or source code.  This would involve a lot of work (45 for the 2nd class) and, I think it's fair to say, while such a display might meet with surprise (as do similar displays of a year's special issue 1st class stamps) I don't think it will be very interesting.

So I have decided that, apart from my own specimens of 'one of each stamp' and any other covers showing usage, which will not be focussing on actually which of the 45 stamps it might be, I am going to abandon my accumulation.

Your chance!
Before I consign the many covers, sorted by year and source and unsorted, to kiloware I am giving readers who would like to fill gaps in their own collections the chance to do so from what I have.  I'm not going to list them - the Checklist can also be used to mark off which you have on cover if you are so inclined.  

So if anybody wants to fill a gap let me know what you need and as I work through several boxes I will set aside covers to fill those gaps.  All will be 'collectable', that is they will have dates as clear as I can get and be clean, though addresses may be handwritten.  The only charge for this will be for postage - anything else you wish to pay will be appreciated.  Any overseas collectors who have airmail-stamped GB covers - we may be able to arrange exchange and no money need change hands!

Please contact me by email.  I'll acknowledge each request and spreadsheet the requirements, which will be served in order of receipt.  It's very much a 'first come first served' opportunity.  

And it won't be a quick turn round: emptying boxes and packets will take time, probably well into the spring of 2022.  But I will do my best to provide gap-fillers if I have them.  

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Look before you Break - a sorry tale of a Prestige Book error

Over the years we have been able to report - thanks to the generosity of our readers - very many errors in the make-up of Prestige Stamp Books, including these:

Harry Potter PSB duplicate pane

Star Trek duplicated non-stamp page.

Another duplicated non-stamp page.

Duplicate non-stamp page.

Missing definitive pane.

Today a comment was made on an earlier post:

I've broken up a copy of the xxxxxxx PSB to find the miniature sheet page missing. Has this been reported by anyone else?

As I have already deconstructed the booklet and it is 18 months past its first day of issue I have presumed no chance of a replacement form the Royal Mail, just wanted to make others aware there are errors out there.

I doubt the writer will ever do this again, without checking and double-checking, preferably as soon as he possibly can after he receives the book.  

And the lesson to everybody else is to do the same thing, not only to PSBs but everything else you receive from Royal Mail, from the Post Office, or even from dealers - we do occasionally overlook things!  

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Horizon Trial: Authorities open their archives, with a few reservations; and more convictions quashed.

I wrote last week about the first "truly open session" of the Post Office Horizon IT Enquiry, and the fact that Sir Wyn Williams had asked all relevant authorities to waive legal professional privilege.

A week later we learn from Nick Wallis that Post Office Ltd, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, UK Government Investment, and Fujitsu Ltd.  All have agreed, with the Post Office raising the most reservations on situations still under way in the courts.  You can read all the responses on the Inquiry Website here.

Sir Wyn has now issued the following statement after receiving the responses:

“The responses of BEIS, UKGI and FUJITSU speak for themselves. The response of POL, on any view, goes a very long way towards meeting the request I made of them. It is clear to me that in respect of many of the most crucial lines of investigation for the Inquiry POL has waived legal professional privilege.”

“if, in the future, it becomes necessary to re-visit the issue of legal professional privilege on account of emerging evidence or for any other proper reason I will do so at an appropriate time and, if necessary, invite further submissions both in writing and orally.” 


As Nick Wallis has written in his new blog,

If the Post Office, government and Fujitsu really are going to turn over every substantive document to the inquiry, it will make for an interesting read.

For a start, we’ll get to see the Altman Review, written in October 2013 by Brian Altman QC - the same Brian Altman QC who acted for the Post Office in the Court of Appeal between November 2020 and April 2021.

Although we don’t yet know what the Altman Review says, it was such an important document that shortly after receiving it, the Post Office stopped prosecuting people, but also continued to deny any miscarriages of justice had taken place. It’ll be interesting to see the legal gymnastics going on there.

Although the Altman review is highlighted - it might be a conflict of interest? - there will be much more to be revealed to the Inquiry than was revealed or discovered at the Group Litigation case, and that caused a huge amount of new information to be disclosed.


More convictions quashed.

At Southwark Crown Court six more people wrongly convicted of financial crimes caused by the Horizon system have had their convictions overturned today.  The six overturned convictions included one person wrongly prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and five by the Post Office.

This takes the number of overturned convictions in the Post Office Horizon scandal to 65, with potentially many more to come.

UPDATE 23 November, from Nick Wallis:

Seven more Subpostmaster convictions have been quashed at the Court of Appeal, bringing the total number to 72. This represents just under a tenth of the 738 people convicted using Horizon evidence between 2000 and 2015 when the Post Office stopped prosecuting people.

Meanwhile Nick Wallis's book has been published today - with many saying that with this development, a second book is inevitable!

Monday, 15 November 2021

Special Delivery Guaranteed & Royal Mail Signed For Stamps - a definitive statement from Royal Mail

Back in July we reported that Post Offices would not be selling the Special Delivery and Royal Mail Signed For stamps after 31 October 2021 and that all four* of the special purpose non-value indicator stamps are being phased out. 

Despite asking Royal Mail then, and frequently since, just what the story was behind this we had the first official statement only today.  Previously we had been told on social media or at branches that POs would not sell them because Royal Mail had stopped printing them, or vice versa.  The statement reads:

"Royal Mail has withdrawn from sale Special Delivery Guaranteed and Royal Mail Signed For Stamps from The Post Office and Royal Mail Direct Channels. This decision has been taken as a result of continued decline in usage and demand, for the stamps, over a number of years. The services will of course continue to be available using labels printed at point of purchase. The sale of these stamps from Post Office and ceased on 31st October 2021 but will remain available via philatelic channels until 31st January 2022 at which point they will be fully withdrawn."


The predecessor of the RMSF stamp, the Recorded Signed For, was issued on 17 November 2009, being replaced on 27 March 2013 by stamps with the new branding.  

The Special Delivery stamps were issued on 26 October 2010.

Recorded Signed For 1st class and 1st Large stamps issued 2009.

Royal Mail Signed For stamps issued 2013


The only good thing about this is that collectors with a limited budget who would otherwise like to have every stamp with every year code, will save £19.44 by there not being reprints this year.

Update.  For those people who have difficulty navigating Royal Mail's very difficult shop, the make-up values and airmail values can be found here (this is sorted into lowest first).

UPDATE 30 November: On the MBPC website a member has commented: “Regarding RM’s September stocklist, I checked with RM but the stock number has already been deleted from the system. The operator had just received a message to that effect."

This suggests that these stamps may only be available to dealers, which is misleading (and bad practice). 

UPDATE 3 December: reporting this to my Royal Mail contacts I have been advised that 

"The products are not available Online, as this is a general channel not exclusively a philatelic channel. Our Philatelic channels are Regular Order, Mail Order (telephone/post via Doxford) and Trade. The data set up team have checked, and confirmed, that the part codes are still available for ordering via our philatelic channels."

Stock codes for ordering are 

1st class Signed For DLR - DS 155; 1st class Signed for Walsall - DS 155WL;
1st Large Signed For DLR - DS 185; 1st Large Signed For Walsall - DS 185WL

Further update: as I was publishing this I had an email from a reader who "tried to use one of these stamps on an item today and was told by the counter staff that these are no linger valid."

I have told him otherwise,  and will contact POL.

Friday, 12 November 2021

The Definitive History of the Horizon Scandal, Trials and so on.

I've written at length here and elsewhere about the 'greatest miscarriage of justice' in modern times. Most of this has been reporting the progress and results of the Civil Litigation instigated by the Sub-Postmasters against Post Office Ltd., the follow up from that, the Court of Appeal hearings and what this means for Post Office, Governments, the legal system, and lawyers and auditors in general.

If you are only interested in new stamps and philatelic news, so be it.  If you are not interested in the means of getting those products to the public, and the operational and management failings behind the retail chain of PO branches originally part of Royal Mail and then split off to be in Post Office Ltd, well that's fine too.  

But if you also wonder why you can't find post offices where you used to, and why post office branches close but nobody wants to take on the onerous and dangerous task of running a branch, then the Horizon problems are certainly part of the answer.  


I haven't written much recently, although there has been more progress, not least in the form of The Post Office Horizon IT Enquiry, conducted by retired high court judge Sir Wyn Williams.   If you've been receiving Nick Wallis's emails on this you will be up to date.  

Earlier this week the Enquiry held what Sir Wyn described as the first "truly open session" of the inquiry. The hearing was attended by representatives of the Government, the Post Office, Fujitsu, the Metropolitan Police, Paula Vennells (former POL CEO), the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, the Communications Workers Union, as well as legal representatives of very many Subpostmasters.

The recording of the hearing is now available here.  

The day started with a recognition from Sir Wyn that the issue of legal professional privilege was extremely important and needed to be addressed.  Legal professional privilege protects all communications between a professional legal adviser (a solicitor, barrister or attorney) and his or her clients from being disclosed without the permission of the client. The privilege is that of the client and not that of the lawyer. 

Immediately after the session was concluded, Sir Wyn wrote to the Post Office, government and Fujitsu demanding they provide him with full access to hitherto secret documents in their possession. [Within a week, and if not, why not.]  He wants "a waiver of privilege in respect [of] legally privileged material" held by the three groups "dated from the date of the first pilot of the Horizon IT System to the Prime Minister’s announcement to hold an inquiry on 26 February 2020."

Clearly he had hear enough from the Sub-postmasters, the Unions, Professor Richard Moorhead, a leading legal ethicist who raised the matter of Paula Vennels lying to parliament in 2015, and Paul Marshall, the barrister who was key in getting the Court of Appeal to rule that the prosecutions were “an affront to justice”.

Prof Moorhead concluded by saying:

"Considering the Horizon saga without considering the lawyering would be a bit like considering Watergate without considering the White House Tapes. Telling, perhaps vital information will be missing. The abuses of power. The injustice… who did it and why will not be properly understood. Sir, to discharge the inquiry’s remit you must do the equivalent of listening to those tapes."

Paul Marshall raised several issues - the need for full disclosure of privileged material (of course), the "aggressive delay" the Post Office has deployed, stopping his former clients from receiving timely justice, and the curious possible case of a conflict of interest with regard to Brian Altman QC, who both wrote the secret Altman Review back in 2013 and represented the Post Office during the Court of Appeal hearing in 2020 and 2021.

Further hearings will be held next year.

And if all this leaves you puzzled and confused about just what went on an when, and who was involved and maybe ought to be held accountable, then freelance journalist Nick Wallis, whose reports have formed the basis of much of what many people have written so far, has written 'the book'.  

In his latest report Nick writes:

I have written a book called The Great Post Office Scandal, which will be in shops on 18 November 2021. If you would like to buy a pre-sale copy, please click here. This is what people are saying about it:

Editor of Private Eye and broadcaster, Ian Hislop: “An extraordinary journalistic exposé of a huge miscarriage of justice.”

BBC News anchor, Mishal Husain: “The definitive account of the scandal.”

Journalist, broadcaster, musician and vicar, Rev Richard Coles: “A tale brilliantly told. I urge you to read it.”

Journalist, broadcaster, and peer Baroness Joan Bakewell: “Nick’s narrative has the power of a great thriller.”

10% of the book's revenue will go into a fund help Subpostmasters who need help


Although the story is far from over, this is the story of how innocent people fought back to clear their names against a background of institutional arrogance and obfuscation, a fight dragged out by the Post Office’s refusal to accept responsibility for its failings. Nick exposes the secrecy and mistrust at the heart of the story, and the impact that had on the victims.  

You can pre-order the book from the publishers or from your local book store.

  • 544  250; pages approx.
  • Prices:
    • Hardback: £25 + £4 p&p
    • Digital (pdf + epub): £8.99
    • Hardback + digital bundle: £30 + p&p 
  • ISBN 978-1-9163023-8-9


Thursday, 11 November 2021

New Machin - reprint of underused 2nd class datamatrix business sheet

When the innovative 2nd class business sheet stamp with datamatrix code was issued on 23 March Nick Landon, Chief Commercial Officer at Royal Mail, said: 

'This initiative will see Royal Mail become one of the first postal authorities in the world to add unique barcodes to stamps. By doing this, we are looking to transform the humble stamp so that we can offer our customers even more convenient, new services in the future.

2nd class definitive with datamatrix code from business sheet 2021.


The sheets in this trial have only been supplied through Royal Mail's website and that of Viking DirectSo far we have had no reports of any being used commercially other than by stamp dealers and collectors, so quite how this trial is going for Royal Mail is anybody's guess.

Nonetheless we have a report that a recent purchase from Viking has the year code M21L rather than the original M20L.  We don't have a picture confirming that yet, but

Apologies for the earlier error - these never were printed with M20L code.  I must be getting old, losing track of what happened earlier this year.   The original ones were printed in 2010, this is probably the first of the new year.

This may not be the only reprint, and I'll be interested to report a list of dates; the interpreted datamatrix code shows a printing date of 040121:

QR-code reader interpretation of M21L 2nd class business sheet suggesting printing date of 04/01/21. 

And if anybody can show one of ANY of these stamps, old or new, on commerical usage cover, we will be delighted to show it!  Evidence of date and user is required.

UPDATE 15 November.  Our original supplies were dated 231120; LP has now reported 211120 which is surprising as I don't think anybody else has reported a pre-23rd date.  Image awaited.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

November postmark slogans - and other interesting postmarks.

In November the slogan postmark scene starts of with the climate change continuation from October, as COP26 is still running in Glasgow.  But as expected the Remembrance Day slogan follows quickly.

All slogan postmarks will be shown here for November; please check for latest updates before spending your time scanning, but if you have something new or another format, then please do send it in for publication.

Recognising the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, otherwise known as COP26, Royal Mail introduced a new slogan in October which continued into November.  The example shown is from Nottingham Mail Centre on 01/11/2021.

UK 2021


UN Climate Change Conference slogan used atNottingham 01/11/2021


UPDATE 9 November.  As predicted Royal Mail have produced a slogan for the annual observance of Armistice Day.  I don't know whether there will also be one for Remembrance Sunday.  Examples here from Northern Ireland Mail Centre 08/11/2021 and Jubilee Mail Centre 08-11-2021. Thanks to KD for the NI, and one of our correspondents from NW London.

Lest We Forget.
Armistice Day

11 November 2021

UPDATE 12 November. Silly of me to think that Royal Mail might keep the Lest We Forget slogan running until post is delivered before Remembrance Day.  But they have decided to start the 'Post Early' campaign two weeks earlier than last year, but repeating the same slogan.

Shop Early,
Send Early this

Thanks to Trevor for sending this example from Exeter Mail Centre dated 10-11-2021.

Shop Early, Send Early this Christmas slogan, Exeter Mail Centre 10-11-2021.

UPDATE 15 November.
MM sends this example in the other layout from Nottingham Mail Centre 12/11/2021

Shop Early, Send Early this Christmas slogan, Nottingham Mail Centre 12/11/2021.

UPDATE 27 November:   JG has sent a third version of this slogan which ought to be the same as Exeter above but has the text arranged on three lines.  This is from Medway MC on 23-11-2021

Shop Early, Send Early slogan on three lines, Medway MC 23-11-2021


The Unusual.

AB has sent this picture of an unusual and irregular anonymous 'postmark' on a piece of Condition 9 Access mail (aka bulk mail).  Similar to test pieces used by engineering, this one identifies the machine as ILSM 1 and the use on 25-10-2021.  

ILSM1 'test' type impression on live bulk mail.

We last covered one of these in May 2018 and remarked on the similarity to Engineering Test Pieces.

UPDATE November 15:   PA tells us that 

"There are actually two somewhat similar versions used by the iLSMs. I think this is the preflight image for checking that the tag/route codes and postmark are printing clearly (not that they bother much about the latter!). The other version is a default image when no instruction image has been given.

"    When a fresh tray of mail is placed on the sorter an instruction is given (via a barcode) as to what type of mail has been added – In this case it should have been told ‘C9 mail’ and then it would know that no cancellation was to be applied - clearly the wrong instruction was given."
AB sent further pictures, of the red barcode applied for mail routing.  PA used his contacts to provide this information:

it is confirmed as ‘Peterborough iLSM1’ (tag 410, day 25, time 29, item 00126). The Z confirms the time quoted is GMT, hence the time is 29th half hour GMT. 
Tag codes are always in GMT, whereas the time normally printed is BST when relevant.

Remember, all postmarks appearing in November will be added to this post, so check here before you spend time scanning and emailing.  I'll try to add new ones as quickly as possible.

And get ready for the back-up use of Universals during the Christmas posting season!