Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Blog access fixed, Website update, New stamps, and more postal forgeries.

Hope everybody had a good Easter break.  I've had trouble again with the software used to upload files to the website.  Every time Apple releases a new version of the Mac operating system the transfer software fails and a new version has to be created.  There is often a few days' delay while this is done. 

You have probably noticed (or maybe not) increasing use of secure websites even for information-only pages.  This is partly because Google and other search engines are giving priority to sites which have secure (https://) access over those which only have http://.  For our main website this matters little, apart from dumping us way down search engine results compared with where we used to be when we were allowed (by Royal Mail) to publish news rather than acknowledge their new stamp issues.

I recently changed the set-up for the blog (which is powered by Google) which meant that some bookmarks did not work, and there was no feed to our website.  That's now been fixed with a new version of the feed link, so if you are on our home page you can see if there is anything new here.

Update: I've been told that the new feed has links only on the individual entries not on the blog title, meaning that to see other posts you have to click on 'next' or 'older posts'. While I work out how to change this, there is a workaround.  Once you get to any blog post, if you click on the blog title "Norvic Philatelics Blog" at the head of the page, it will then refresh to show a page-full of blog, starting with the most recent post.

Website update
And if you go there, you will see that there are now new pages showing good resolution images of the Reintroduced Species stamps out next week on 17 April, and the 10 x 1st class stamps showing adult and juvenile Owls to be issued on 11 May.

It would have been better if those had been issued in March, but of course with the Centenary of the RAF celebrated on 1 April, the stamps had to be issued around then - so why not on March 28th, perhaps, with the new rates so that they would at least see some postal use after people were made aware of the anniversary.  They could have been advertised during the tv programmes!

Forged stamps
Roughly once a week I get emailed by either recipients of surcharged mail, or people who have bought stamps on eBay to use, and are suspicious.  Most of the recent enquiries I have been able to identify positively from the images sent.  The latest batch of 1st class Large business sheet stamps has two glaring errors: no source or date code, and a bar-code in red instead of blue.

Many modern forgeries are difficult to pick up from photos and almost impossible from scans.  But all red stamps must have dates from 2012 or later.  If no year code, then they smell - and not of rats, but if powerful chemicals used in the printing process.  The picture alongside was taken from an eBay listing, so I could even see that it was 'wrong' without buying it!

Royal Mail know who is selling these, but I suspect they want to trace the supply route back at least part way to its source.  Whatever happens, the consumer ends up paying, either with a surcharge or with higher postage rates than there needs to be.

A reminder that Gibbons are changing almost all the U-numbers for security Machins in the next edition of their Concise catalogue.  The next edition of our checklist will show the new numbers alongside the old; I'm just working out how we can do that without turning the pages to landscape!  Meanwhile any dealers who would like to know the new numbers please contact me asap, because...

As I mentioned at the end of March, our shop is now closed temporarily giving time for some packing and a short break.  (Yes much shorter than the long one!)  There may be some new Machin definitives while we are away; but we know that the 2nd class books of 12 with February 2018 packing dates still contain M17L stamps, so there is no sight yet of any M18L other than those we know about already.  We'll be back after the Mayday holiday, but may have access to allow comments through while we are away.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Post Office makes overpricing refund easy - at last!

After several weeks and much prompting I have now had a reply from Post Office Ltd about the over-charging of the Country Definitive Presentation Pack (see here).
I can confirm that any customers that have been incorrectly charged for the Philatelic pack, can receive a refund of the difference in branch; they will just need to show their receipt.
So to those who were overcharged, and haven't destroyed their counter receipt, you now have the opportunity to get that 15p back!

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Post and Go at Scottish Congress

As previously announced there will be no Royal Mail P&G presence at the Scottish Philatelic Congress in Perth this year (20-21 April).

However, the offshore islands and Gibraltar have been persuaded to attend and IAR reports that they will each be dispensing two types of stamps.

Congress organisers have confirmed that there will be no facility for orders by post this year.
With Royal Mail having postponed attending events and having looked at previous years it was felt there was not a significant demand for Jersey stamps.
Collectors who are interested in obtaining these stamps are advised to contact the relevant postal authorities who may be selling them via their bureaux.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Customer order update

Because of the work involved on last week's new stamps we were not able to get all orders out as quickly as we would have hoped.

Orders up to 4099 were sent last Friday; orders from 4100 on, received today, will be posted tomorrow afternoon.

Update: orders to 4109 were posted Tuesday 27th March.

Further update: when telling people that their orders would be posted on Friday, I had forgotten about the holiday.  Orders 4110-12 were posted this afternoon.  No more orders will be posted until Tuesday 3rd or Wednesday 4th April.

To our customers and readers outside the UK, and in Scotland, please note that Post Offices are closed and there are no mail deliveries here on Friday 30 March or Monday 2 April.  Our webshop will remain open during this period, and some new stock may be added.  

The shop will then be closed from Sunday 8th until the end of April and 
we will not always have email contact during that period.

Thank you for your patience.

Mind the gap! Tariff FDCs stamps quite different to sheet stamps

It has been well known for many years that the definitive stamps applied to Royal Mail standing order FDCs are produced in mutli-value side-ways delivered coils, usually with a different direction of print (DOP), to those sold in sheets.  This has been of interest mainly to extreme specialists who can see and therefore monitor and collect DOP differences.

I don't usually obtain those FDCs but lacking time, and needing to add the £2.25 M18L stamp to some, I ordered from Royal Mail unused FDCs with stamps affixed: one of the benefits of dealer registration means that we can do this and then have any postmark applied.

Looking at the returned covers today, I noticed that the gaps in the U-shaped security slits on the £2.25 were smaller than on the other four values. I quickly checked my new sheet stamps, and found that the four new values on from the coil printing on the FDC have gaps which are quite enormous compared with anything else we have seen, and totally different to those sold in sheets:

Needless to say these are not available mint on backing paper and are only available unused* on Royal Mail FDCs which have not been postmarked.

UPDATE 5 April: Royal Mail have confirmed that the stamps on the FDC were printed by ISP (so Walsall as they are gravure, one assumes).   Some had thought that they were printed by DLR or even Enschede.

They won't, of course, have separate numbers in the mainstream catalogues although Deegam may record the distinction.  I'll record this as a note in our Checklist.

* Anybody who is interested in having one of these should contact me by email only as soon as possible.  Thank you. 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Twenty Years Ago......

... these lighthouse stamps were issued.

They, and the associated aerogrammes, were the subject of our first webpages which have now been resurrected and can be seen for the first time in many years, after they were lost in a disastrous migration to a new host.

We started with argonet.co.uk as our ISP.  The internet was only accessed via dial-up modem, free websites abounded and we started on Geocities, later bought by Yahoo.  Geocities didn't want commercial activity, so we moved to Xoom.com, later bought by nbci.com

Around this time we decided to have our own domain name and host the website independently, and norvic-philatelics.co.uk was born.  Unfortunately the downside of such a long address soon became apparent with people writing to norvic_philatelics.com, norvic_philatelics.co.uk and so on.  When they used these addresses for PayPal payments we never received them!  So we added the extra domain www.norphil.co.uk with all pages accessed from both URLs.

The other, personal collection, wing of the first website displayed results of research into the contemporary postal history of the countries of the former Soviet Union, which had become 15 new countries.  We started with Belarus, with an even more primitive webpage:

Because of the very slow speed of internet access it was necessary to make pictures quite small.  For the technically-savvy, the 'alt' code on these images included size-limiters on the images, and an indication of the file-size.
<img style="width: 110px; height: 90px;" src="bel_images/belminmp.gif"
 alt="map 1k">
This was because many readers took advantage of the option to display pages without images (for faster loading), and the text "map 1k" would be shown, giving readers an idea of how long the page with images would take to load!  Nowadays with fibre-internet and mobile 4G access, it is almost impossible to imagine that world.  Think how lucky we are!

Many thanks to our customers, suppliers, blog readers & others who have contributed to our success, and a personal thanks to my partners, Val & John, for their patience!

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Confusion at Post Office Branches over new tariff

Post Offices will know what the new postage rates will be next week, but some are apparently refusing or reluctant to sell the new stamps today.

A reminder that all the new stamps are on sale from today -

- the Machin £1.25, £1.45, £1.55 and £2.65 - and also the £2.25 which is a reissue.

- the country definitives of £1.25 and £1.45 and, if they have them (which I think they should), the redrawn 2nd and 1st class.

Telephone number for PO Customer Services is 0345 611 2970

What might also be useful is Royal Mail Tallents House 03457 641 641 or 0131 316 7483

Several readers have mentioned that the Country Presentation Pack has been sold at Post Offices for 15p more than it should have been, £16.30 instead of £16.15.

Despite my suggestion that customers could get a refund by returning with their receipts to the issuing branch, P O Ltd have insisted that you must fill in a webform here.   Defies belief really.

UPDATE 5 April
After several weeks and much prompting I have now had a reply from Post Office Ltd about the over-charging of the Country Definitive Presentation Pack.
I can confirm that any customers that have been incorrectly charged for the Philatelic pack, can receive a refund of the difference in branch; they will just need to show their receipt.
So to those who were overcharged, and haven't destroyed their counter receipt, you now have the opportunity to get that 15p back!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Gibbons reworking U-Machins for next Concise catalogue.

Tucked away in the Catalogue Supplement in the April edition of Gibbons Stamp Monthly is news to bring a groan from all who collect or deal in modern definitives.

"Game of Thrones premium booklet.
The Machin pane and booklet will be listed in a later
Catalogue Supplement, because the machin (sic) set
is to be re-numbered for Great Britain Concise 2018
The next edition of the catalogue is expected in April/May.

Two reminders for customers

Confusion with security backing paper.

A reminder to customers and other collectors that security backing paper (type 2) on counter sheets varies widely as to its depth and appearance.  On some single stamps the SBP2 is very difficult to see leading to the belief that this is plain paper.  Here are examples of the 2p and 10p which show possibly the greatest contrast.

And these are both 2914a.7, the 1st class counter sheet M17L on SBP2.  Yes, they are from two different printings, both by De La Rue.  As it happens they are also the two different types of SBP2 but we must remind customers that we do not stock these variations, nor list them in our checklist.

Customer reminder
If you believe that we have sent the wrong stamp, please contact us first, just as you would if you were buying on eBay (this is in our T&Cs).   If we are wrong, and it is a low value stamp, we will probably send you the right stamp (if available) with your next order, without you having the expense of returning the one you didn't want.

On the other hand, as with the 10p shown above, we may explain that we have actually sent the right stamp, you just can't see very easily that it is the right one!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Royal Mail Unadopted Christmas Stamp found used

Every week we get questions asking about details of stamps or for assistance in identifying stamps which may or may not be real stamps.  Long-term readers will recall the postal use of Olympic Gold Medal trial printings, and the parrots back in 2012/13.

Once upon a time I could remember the date of issue of most GB special stamps - at least up to the 1980s.  Nowadays I'm lucky if I can remember which year some issues were, let alone what time of the year, but I recognise most of them as being genuine - after all, I have written about them here and on the website, and stocked most of them.

Today I was sent a real stumper.  Obviously a Christmas 2nd class stamp, and obviously postally used, this one didn't ring any bells, and the writer hadn't been able to find it by searching the description on Google.


But Google also has a 'reverse image search'.  Most web browsers now allow you to type your search terms in the 'web address bar' at the top, rather than going to your favourite search engine, but if you go to https://images.google.com/ you get this search box:

and if you click on the black camera icon you can either enter the URL of an image, or upload one from your computer.  Doing this I found the website of the designer, Gaia Bordicchia.  They were produced for the 2014 issue but not used.   

I don't yet have permission to show all four designs, but you can see them here.  This is the Christmas pudding one shown as on the website:

So the question is, who produced the stamp?  My deduction is that it is certainly not a print from the website, because the perforations on the used one are torn, not die-cut, and if you were cutting out a picture printed from the web, it would be straight-edged either including or excluding the printed perforations.  So it must have been taken from a perforated sheet (or miniature sheet?).  Did Royal Mail produce some as trials - gummed trials are cheaper than self-adhesive?  How many of the four were printed, how many different designs, and how many were used? 

If anybody else has seen these, I would be interested to hear about them.  Meanwhile the investigation continues!

The comments below refer to Philatelic Bulletin giveaways, but these were not commissioned for potential use as actual stamps.