Monday, 18 January 2021

Cartor moves Wales 1st class to level 4, but otherwise no change.

The 1st class Wales country definitive has been reprinted again.

Readers will recall that (in common with all the other low value country definitives) the Wales stamp was reprinted in 2017 with a new font.  On this occasion the plate numbers were reset to C1.

But on 30/01/2019 plate C3 was used - and it followed from the previous C2 in having the old (original) font.  Now we have a further printing from plate C4 on 10/08/2020 - again in the original font!

1st class Wales country definitive printed 10/08/2020 from a new set of C4 plates, but still with the original font, rather than the revised font introduced in 2017.

The reprint has a slightly darker dragon than on the previous (C3) printing (shown here on the right). Otherwise there is little difference.


What, one wonders was the point of creating stamps in the new font?  Needless to say none of the other low value country definitives, from Wales, England, Northern Ireland or Scotland, has been reprinted since the introduction of the new font.  Or if they have, they haven't appeared yet in Tallents House stocks.

As you can see, this one is from four grid positions on a primary plate, so there are no others printed at the same time, as was the case with C3.

So to summarise:

C1 - 10 & 11/07/2012
C1 - 07/04/15
C2 - 17/01/2016
C1 - 26/12/2017   new font
C3 - 30/01/2019
C4 - 10/08/2020

Cylinder and date blocks of C3 and C4 can be obtained on request (normally 6 and 8 respectively, but blocks of 10 are available).  Please email your request - do not leave the comment here.


Friday, 15 January 2021

Local Covid update - order posting delayed

We all knew that it was going to get worse before it got better.  With the national rules of 'essential journeys only', authorities here in Norfolk are now saying we need to be tighter.

Norfolk’s overall rate of infections was 491 per 100,000 people for the week ending January 6 – up from 417 the week before.  Hotspots include Dereham North where rising rates of 986.8 per 100,000 people were recorded.

For this reason we will try to find an alternative post office to send out orders, whilst still trying to get everything cancelled at the counter.  This is a bit of an imposition on small businesses, whereas at the Crown Post Office in Dereham the staff are quite happy to do it.

So no posting this week due to bad weather yesterday.  

Further updates in due course.


Thursday, 14 January 2021

United Kingdom: A Celebration - 26 January 2021 - a discussion.

From Royal Mail:

United Kingdom: A Celebration

In celebration of the United Kingdom’s greatest strengths & accomplishments, we explore just some of
the ways in which Britain leads the way. From sporting achievement to technological innovation, and
creative excellence to our strong sense of community spirit, the UK excels in a host of different ways.

 


The four stamps are captioned:
1st class  - Great Sport, Great Creativity;
£1.70 - Great Community; Great Industry and Innovation.

Design: background image – illustration of Union flag by hat-trick design; 

1st class - Great Sport stampwheelchair athlete composite image © David Madison/Getty Images and © Image Source/Getty Images; cricket ball © Bootzilla/Getty Images; playing football © Sumetee Theesungnern/EyeEm/Getty Images; racing car © CAIA Image/Science Photo Library; 

£1.70 - Great Community stampVirgin London Marathon 2011 © Oli Scarff/Getty Images; hands making heart shape © martin-dm/Getty Images; nurse reassuring patient © Science Photo Library; rainbow illustration by Daisy James © Royal Mail Group Limited 2021; 

£1.70 - Great Industry and Innovation stamp3D illustration rendering of binary code © MR.Cole _Photographer/Getty Images; carbon fibre material © DaveAlan/Getty Images; 3D illustration of DNA molecules © Design Cells/Getty Images; London skyline composite image © Gary Yeowell/Getty Images and © Davy Larkins/EyeEm/Getty Images; 

1st class - Great Creativity stampmicrophone stand silhouette © ilbusca/Getty Images; office building glass façade © Musketeer/Getty Images; book pages, photograph by Joe Howat © Royal Mail Group Limited 2021; TV studio composite image © AskinTulayOver/Getty Images and © rasslava /Getty Images

Technical details

The stamps are printed by ISP in lithography with all-over phosphor.  The stamps are 60 x 30 mm in a sheet which is 192 x 74 mm.   

 

First Day Cover and Presentation Pack

United Kingdom: A Celebration - first day cover.

United Kingdom: A Celebration - presentation pack.

From Royal Mail's website

Great Sport | Reflecting a proud and passionate sporting heritage

Great Creativity | Highlighting the United Kingdom’s talent in the arts, music, film and TV production, architecture and literature

Great Community | Celebrating a long-held sense of community spirit

Great Industry and Innovation | A tribute to the UK’s accomplishments in science and technology


Discuss!  But remember comments are moderated.  The most pertinent will be reprinted here.

Single stamps alone are less inspiring than the sheet:

Comments received:

- Why?

- Doesn't really look all that celebratory!

- Totally unnecessary issue. 

- It’s nice and an interesting design but for what anniversary?

- Well, that's a surprise, I expected six 1st class stamps: the four country stamps, the Union Jack stamp and a Machin head. 

- this does feel like government sponsored propaganda. Another one for the do not buy list.


 



January postmark news.

This post will record any new slogan postmarks used during January, and any other postmarks of interest that I find or that any readers send.

At the time of writing (14 January) there have been no new slogans but the default slogan for Royal Mail's corporate charity for the past few years.  Of course with most young people now required to do home learning with limited IT or internet resources, there has been much written about the effects on the mental health of young people.

So we start with one from Croydon Mail Centre dated 07-01-2021

Royal Mail
supporting youth
mental health with
ACTION FOR CHILDREN


Update: my thanks to RW for the latest Covid-related slogan from Gatwick Mail Centre 14/01/2021.  This is a variation on the one used last April.

Stay home.
Protect the NHS.
Save lives.





UNIVERSAL UPDATE 22 January

My thanks to JG for providing this quite late Universal usage from Cornwall Mail Centre on 19 January 2021.  Normally used at Christmas, it may now being used to allow postal workers to be distanced from each other.

Universal machine postmark with wavy lines, used 19 January 2021.





Publicity for new stamp issues

As we are all only too aware, publicity by Royal Mail for new stamp issues is very limited these days. Yes, they sometimes make a big splash in the press - the National Parks issue was well-received in 10 regional newspapers and some nationals - but generally unless there is some problem, the press is quiet, and new stamps rarely get a mention on broadcast media in any programme.

In the course of looking through my boxes this week I found that it wasn't always so.  I had forgotten that not so long ago Royal Mail advertised new stamp issues with postmark slogans.  Here are three from 2007/08:

The impression on these old machines is not very good - they could certainly do better now even if some results suggest otherwise.  But these advertise the 5 June 40th Anniversary of the 'Queen's head' stamp (Sheffield 05.06.07), the 15 April Insects illustrated with a butterfly (Sheffield 22/04/08) and the 17 July Air Display stamps (Sheffield 10/07/08). 

There have been other relevant slogans since then, but they don't all mention the related stamps. The last one I can recall without a lot of research was for the British Bees in 2015.  Slogans for the 1d Black and Battle of Britain in the same year did not mention the stamps, instead just marking the anniversary although they were in use on the day the stamps were issued.

As with all marketing there is no way of knowing how successful such a slogan would be in attracting buyers, but as the production of the slogans is a relatively cheap process (no metal die to be made) one wonders why Royal Mail don't use this method of publicity more often.

UPDATE 22 January
JG reminds me that there have been some more recent stamp publicty slogans, such as this one used at Swindon on 25-02-2015 for the Inventive Britain DNA stamp, appropriately used here on the DNA stamp.





This will be the space for all new postmark slogans in January and any other postmark news.  Please send your examples for inclusion.



Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Star Trek Prestige Stamp Book error - extra page

Sadly this error does not affect the stamp panes but one of the narrative panes.  Nonetheless it is a while since we had a PSB error so it is good to be able to report that the printing and assembly process is still not perfect, and anything could happen.

My thanks to B of Livingstone, for providing these details and pictures in the middle of last month.  I'm sorry I couldn't get this post published until now.

B writes: "the odd thing is that pages 3 'The Genesis of Star Trek' and 4 'The Original Series' have been repeated i.e. there are two copies of these pages before the first pane of stamps. I'm not sure however if there is anything else missing as a consequence because I don't have another booklet to examine for comparison purposes."

The only copy of the PSB I had had already been passed on by the time this was reported, so I'll rely on my readers to tell us if anything is missing.  The pictures show the error well:



Pages 2 and 3

Pages 4 and 3

Page 4 and stamp pane

Please examine your copies and let us know if there is a narrative pane missing!   

And of course if you find any other errors we will be pleased to report them here.



Royal Mail's real 2021 Stamp Programme, provisional.

I'm glad so many people here and elsewhere enjoyed Paul Taylor's spoof programme of new stamp issues for 2021.  As will be apparent as the year goes on he might have been closer than he thought - fiction being stranger than reality.

There will, of course, be additions to this programme. 

The Queen celebrates her 95th birthday, while her husband, HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was born on 10 June 1921 and his centenary would seem to warrant some commemoration.  [Corrected: the platinum anniversary is 2022.]

Changes in red arise from the receipt of the Postmark Bulletin today.


14-Jan-2021 

 

National Parks (set of 10 x 1st class + retail booklet)


26-Jan-2021 

Embargo 15 January

United Kingdom – A Celebration


16-Feb-2021

Embargo 2 February

Only Fools and Horses (TV programme - 40th anniversary) 

Set of Stamps 4x 1st & 4x £1.70, MS of 2 each 1st & 2x £1.70. Retail Stamp Book £5.10 and a Prestige Stamp Book (Definitive Pane 3x 20p, 2x 2nd & 3x 1st). Also a Collector's Sheet.

16-Mar-2021

Embargo 2 March

Legend of King Arthur (no particular anniversary)

15-Apr-2021


Classic Science Fiction

04-May-2021


 

Wars of the Roses (1455-1487, 550 years, approx)

28-May-2021

Music Giants V - Paul McCartney

June

TBC - not mentioned in Postmark Bulletin

01-July-2021

Dennis and Gnasher (Comic Strip) 


22nd July  


Wild Coasts

12th August


Industrial Revolutions

2nd September

British Army Vehicles


17th September

TBC

19th October


Rugby Union

2nd November

Christmas 2021  

40 years since the best Christmas stamp!




Saturday, 2 January 2021

Happy New Post and Go Year - first day, first error!

As intimated at the beginning of last month, the change in postage rates which took effect yesterday means a steep rise in the cost of a Post and Go collectors strip.   

Thanks to one of our regular contributors I can show the new stamps on the Machin definitive stamp, and also on the 2nd class Winter Greenery thanks to Harrow PO which had the wrong roll in the first class position. (Purchased today)


This change increases the total cost from the previous £11.64 to £13.84 with the reappearance of a Worldwide 100g letter stamp, and the appearance for the first time of the Europe (£3.25) and Worldwide (all zones - £4.20) Large Letter 100g stamps.
 
Thanks to RW for this picture of the real 1st class Winter Greenery strip on the correct stock:
 
1st class Winter Greenery P&G strip with 1 January 2021 rates



Thursday, 31 December 2020

New Self-Service machines cominng to Post Offices sometime.

There are often reports of Post and Go (P&G) or Self-Service Kiosks (SSK) in Post Office branches being out of order and we know that these are second generation, the NCR machines taking over from Wincor-Nixdorf from 2014 onwards.

Earlier this year Post Office Ltd started the process for replacing those NCR machines.  A paper was published in the summer with details of the requirement and what the new machines would be required to do - which is more than they do now.  This is a 12-page document (plus more pages explaining the Crown Commercial Service Spark framework system).  Here are a few:





From this you will see that the system will still be required (of course) to link to the "Horizon back end". In some ways it would make sense for Fujitsu to be involved - at least then there would be no blaming the other contractor when things went wrong.  But given Futjitsu's record on the previous problems with Horizon it would seem to be unlikely that they would be involved even if they offered the best price.

Meanwhile Better Retailing suggests that there could be SSKs in non-Post Office stores.

The ‘family’ of devices would include ‘full service kiosks’ providing a wide range of basic post office services and other devices focused on areas such as parcel drop-off and returns.

The advert read: “All devices must have the potential to increase revenue by reducing queues, transaction times & cost to serve and to enhance the customer experience by improving access to particular products.”

While it said many of these would be made available to PO and its retailers on a purchase or lease basis, the document also included plans to deploy the devices “in new stand-alone non-PO locations”.  [My emphasis]

Although the article also says 

When asked to comment, PO said it has since abandoned the plans. A spokesperson told betterRetailing: “The ‘self-service devices’ notice was an early market engagement exercise that started in 2019, then stopped and was not taken any further."

the fact that they considered it means that the option is always there to be considered.


Implications for collectors

When new machines are introduced I think it is most likely that there will be off-site trials, followed by live installations in a few test areas so that the public can do the 'test to destruction' and find the bugs that the contractor has not thought of.  This will be folllowed by a more general roll-out.

It is inconceivable that the overprinting on the new stamps produced from these machines will be identical to existing NCR or RM machines, so we will have a repeat of the situation when NCR were replacing Wincor.  The saving grace for those with limited budgets, or the sad thing for those who like a great deal of variety, is that there will be few different stamp designs available.  

The only stamps which should be available (barring any unexpected new issues) would be Machin 1st & 2nd, Union Flag, and - at the appropriate time - Robin and winter (probably Winter Greenery).  If the people who have managed to create multiple varieties from the last set of changes (using old stock which should not exist) haven't used all that on the September changes, then they might be expected to use it up on tomorrow's changes and thus have nothing left to feed the new machines.

Certainly I would hope that nobody would try to suggest that, for instance, Birds, Farm Animals, and British flowers would be legally available from the new machines.



Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Spot the difference? How many things wrong with these (barely 1st class) forgeries?

Early forgeries of Machin definitives were poor.  Of the more recent ones, many have tell-tale signs

Early 24p postal forgery
like poor perforations or a very poor printing, but generally the most recent Machin forgeries have been getting better and better.

But now we seem to be coming out of the other side of the quality peak.

I'm showing two examples in this post, one 1st class booklet and one 1st class Large sheet.

As we know all modern Machin definitives have a semi-transparent ink layer showing the letters ROYAL MAIL in a pattern.  In many cases some of these letters can be different indicating the year or production or sale, and the source (sheet, booklet) of the stamps.  Later, a similar more visible pattern was added to the backing paper of all definitive self-adhesive stamps.  

Here's the latest booklet example to grace our pages.



I mentioned a similar stamp earlier this month, so one sign is obvious if you have read that post. But how many differences can you detect without seeing the actual stamps?  I have 8 - 10 depending on how you want to count!

I'll add more details later.



So what about this 1st class Large?  You may need to click on the image to see the larger version.

For sale on eBay at £24.99 for 50 (v £57.50 face at current rates) they are described as 

... unfranked stamp is one which has been through the postal system but which hasn't been marked as used.

Sold for collecting and philatelic purposes

So what's wrong with that?  The backing paper has a faint security text printed on it, although it's difficult to see.  The stamps also have the semi-transparent security printing.  The listing has a picture of a sheet of 50, but it's not a Business Sheet or a counter sheet, the implication is that the stamps have been removed from envelopes and affixed to some genuine backing paper.  Very neatly.  

There are at least three obvious pointers to these being not quite what they seem.


Again, more later, while this is discussed on twitter and elsewhere. 



Sunday, 27 December 2020

Britain's National Parks 14 January 2021 - Royal Mail Stamps' worst kept secret of the year so far.

As many people - especially Royal Mail's standing order customers - have known for several weeks, the first stamp issue of 2021 provides a gallery of Great Britain's National Parks.   

April 2021 sees the 70th anniversary of the first National Parks being established.  Today there are 15 national parks covering 10% of England, Scotland and Wales. They contain some of our most memorable landscapes, thousands of ancient monuments and almost one-third of our internationally important wildlife sites. 


The stamps: The 10 x 1st class stamps features images from 10 of the UK’s 15 National Parks (although as there are no National Parks in Northern Ireland, it is fair also to refer to these as Great Britain's National Parks).  [Wikipedia: National Parks of the United Kingdom]

Dartmoor (1951), New Forest (2005), Lake District (1951), Loch Lomond and the Trossachs (2002), Snowdonia (1951)

Five x 1st class National Parks stamps issued 14 January 2021 showing Great Staple Tor on Dartmoor, the New Forest, Crummock Water in the Lake District, Milarrochy Bay on Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and Snowdonia national park.

 

North York Moors (1952), South Downs (2010), Peak District (1951), Pembrokeshire Coast (1952), The Broads (1989)

Five x 1st class National Parks stamps issued 14 January 2021 showing Freebrough Hill on the North York Moors; the South Downs; Peak District from the north edge of Kinder Scout; Pembrokeshire Coast; Suffolk's Herringfleet Windmill in The Broads National Park


Retail booklet containing 4 x 1st class Machin definitives and self-adhesive versions of the Peak District and Snowdonia stamps.

The retail booklet ought to have year code M21L - we will confirm when received nearer the date of issue. 

UPDATE 28 December: Thanks to CH for confirming that the Machins are M21L MCIL with this picture.

1st class Machin definitive stamp from National Parks booklet, coded M21L MCIL.


Comment

1. I'm forestalling any comment from locals or knowledgable people elsewhere by pointing out that The Norfolk Broads are not a National Park in law.  Although branded as the Broads National Park by The Broads Authority, it is not a National Park in law.  This is only for marketing purposes.  This has been the subject of much discussion here in the east; you are invited to read Wikipedia which has links to official websites.

2. Attractive as the photographs are, I can't help thinking that they would have shown Britain in an even better light if there had been more sunlight and less gloom.  The New Forest could have been much greener - here's an image from the NF National Park Authority website for example.


Technical details and acknowledgements

The stamps were designed by Studio Mean using photographs as shown below, and were printed by International Security Printers (C) in litho, size 37 x 35 mm. 

Photographs: Dartmoor National Park © Andrew Ray/Getty Images; New Forest National Park © Photokes/Alamy Stock Photo; Lake District National Park © Pablo Fernandez/Alamy Stock Photo; Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park © Richard Burdon/Alamy Stock Photo; Snowdonia National Park © Andrew Ray/500px/Getty Images; North York Moors National Park © Stephen Street/Alamy Stock Photo; South Downs National Park © Peter Cripps/Alamy Stock Photo; Peak District National Park © RA Kearton/Getty Images; Pembrokeshire Coast National Park © Gareth Spiller/EyeEm/Getty Images; Broads National Park © Chris Herring; a special thank-you to National Parks UK.