Monday, 17 June 2019

When the ink runs out, you get a different type of impression.

Long-term readers will recall the introduction in 2015 of this new wavy line self-inking handstamp which was supposed to eliminate or reduce pen-cancels.

As with counter date stamps the unit contains an ink-pad which, over time, requires re-inking, or replacing.  If you can't get any ink, what then... ?  You give up and reach for the pen!

Or, as with this example, you bang it onto an ordinary ink pad, as used for the packet handstamps, which produces a new variant of the wavy lines:

I have seen one other like this, which I can't now find.  Either somebody asked on a forum over the weekend, or it was an email which I have lost.  Either way, my apologies and I hope you are reading here, as this explains your question.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Postbox, Postmark, mark Centenary of First Transatlantic Flight,

Royal Mail press release:

Royal Mail is launching a commemorative postbox, special postmark and online gallery to mark the centenary of the first transatlantic airmail flight.

The commemorative postbox is being unveiled on Harlington High Street, close to Heathrow Airport, the home of Royal Mail’s Worldwide Distribution Centre. The postmark is appearing on stamped mail from June 14 to June 15, while the online gallery marking the event can be found here.

Pictures from ITV news website (which may be from Royal Mail):

Picture from Royal Mail:

On 14 June 1919, pioneering aviators Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten-Brown completed the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic, carrying with them hundreds of letters in a mail bag, the first transatlantic mail. The mailbag also contained a letter written by Alcock to his sister Elsie prior to the flight.

The aviators took off from Newfoundland, the nearest point — in transatlantic terms — to the British Isles, at around 1.45pm. They flew a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber.  The flight to Ireland was beset with challenges including mechanical failures, heavy snow and blinding fog. The flyers wore electrically heated clothing, overalls, fur gloves and fur-lined helmets, but the battery failed soon into the journey.

The team crash landed near Clifden in County Galway at 8:40 a.m. on 15 June 1919, after around sixteen hours' flying time. The average speed during the Atlantic crossing was around 120 miles per hour.  When incredulous locals were unable to believe that the pair had flown across the Atlantic in less than a day, Alcock handed them the sealed bag of mail as proof, all of it stamped in St John’s, Newfoundland the day before. News of their success quickly spread.

Back in 1913, the Daily Mail, offered a prize for £10,000 - £1 million in today’s money - to “the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland to any point in Great Britain or Ireland in 72 continuous hours”. The prize was put up by Lord Northcliffe, the aviation-loving owner of the Daily Mail.

Alcock and Brown were feted as heroes on completion of their flight receiving the £10,000 reward from the Daily Mail, 2,000 guineas (£2,100) from the Ardath Tobacco Company and £1,000 from Lawrence Phillips for being the first British subjects to fly the Atlantic Ocean.  The then Secretary of State for Air, Winston Churchill, presented the men with the Daily Mail prize for the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by aeroplane. In his speech, Churchill hailed these exemplars of ‘the audacity, the courage, the physical qualities of the old heroic bygone times’.

The two aviators were a week later awarded the honour of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE)  by King George V at Windsor Castle.

Sadly John Alcock was killed during December 1919, whilst performing at the Paris Air show. Scottish born Brown was later employed by Metropolitan-Vickers, and by 1923 he was appointed as chief representative in the Swansea area.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Next stamp issue, Curious Customs - 9 July 2019

Royal Mail's next special stamp issue is the Curious Customs set of eight, on 9 July 2019.  My understanding is that no details of these should be made available until later this month but they are already showing on at least one first day cover producer's website.

You can see the cover here.

The set consists of se-tenant pairs of 2nd class, 1st class and two airmail rate (£1.55 and £1.65).  Designs include Halloween, Cheese Rolling, Bog Snorkeling, and Up Helly Aa.  Locations include Brighton, Lerwick, Padstow, and Abbots Bromley.

More details later when we are permitted, which at present appears to be 2 July.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Blog images missing - we're bringing them back, slowly

A few years ago we alerted readers to a problem with the photo-hosting website Photobucket (PB), which had suddenly decided to start charging over £300 pa for a service which had previously been free.  

What I overlooked in moving away from PB and hosting elsewhere, was that some images on this blog were hosted there.  Not just mine, but on the slogan postmark posts especially, I have used some other people's images as shown on Stampboards.  Gradually people are deleting their images on PB and/or closing their accounts, so those images are no longer available, leaving us with a placeholder image of a fluffy kitten.  I've started replacing some of these, so bear with us while we complete the process.

That webpage is missing - the dreaded Error 404

Ever clicked on a bookmark and found that the webpage is no longer there?  We all have.  And it can be most frustrating to know that information that we once regarded as crucial, or at least important, is no longer available to us.  There is a way round this.

So if one of our images is missing and you really want to see what it was, or if a whole webpage is missing from one of your favourite sites, you can use the Wayback Machine Web Archive -
Explore more than 362 billion web pages saved over time.

Go to this website and in the search box, enter the URL of the page you want to see.  In the case of our blog, enter the URL of the specific blogpost.  If the Wayback Machine has archived the page*, there will be at least one instance of an earlier example of the page.  You may find that there are many instances and one of them should show the detail you want.

* Not all sites are archived.  Some websites block robots which would otherwise archive the detail there.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

VAT refunds on imports

If your interest extends beyond modern stamps bought direct from Royal Mail or the Post
Office, and if you are in the UK and buy from outside the EU, you may have your package intercepted by Royal Mail and subjected to VAT on import, and Royal Mail's handling charge which is currently £8.

This doesn't only apply to stamps and other philatelic products of course, if you think you will save money by buying your iPhone from China or the USA you might be in for a shock!  But sticking to philatelic items, you may not have to pay as much as you think.

What follows is not tax advice and I cannot be liable for things not turning out as you might hope, but this relates what happened with a recent purchase of QE2 postal history from a dealer in the USA.

I was a little upset that this package was caught for Value Added Tax on import.  Not that it wasn't payable just that it had been caught, because not everything is, even if it's larger than a letter.

I wasn't sure that the VAT had been correctly calculated.  Unusually the US dealer had used a USPS postage form produced at the counter which incorporated a customs declaration - they don't usually use them at all.

The description of the contents was put simply as 'COVER' - I suspect that this was entered by the postal clerk who had asked the sender about the contents.

This of course tells UK Customs nothing; but the declared value of US$50 and postage of $24 was enough for the charge to be raised without examining the contents. I don't know whether they would have charged the same rate if the package had been opened.

VAT was charged at 20%. I looked at the HMRC website and decided that it ought to have been 5%, especially after phoning the VAT help-line. Rather than the usual call-centre type of operative, I had a chat with a chap who appeared to be of mature age, with plenty of experience and happy to chat the options and system through.

Short story long: I applied for a part refund and have received a letter to say that I shall be getting a refund of £9.61 - no, it's not that much, but it was worth the time and effort to establish a principle.

So this is the information at HMRC (my highlighting):

Goods from non-EU countries
If you import goods that you’ve bought from non-EU countries they’re normally charged at the same rate as if they had been supplied in the UK. But if you import works of art, antiques and collectors’ items they’re entitled to a reduced rate of VAT.

Valuation of imported goods
The value for VAT of imported goods is their customs value, determined by the rules in Notice 252, as well as incidental expenses - such as commission, packing, transport and insurance costs incurred up to the goods’ first destination in the UK ....... any Customs Duty or levy payable on importation into the UK any Excise Duty or other charges payable on importation into the UK - except the VAT itself.

Postage stamps and philatelic supplies (VAT Notice 701/8)

5. Philatelic collectors’ items
5.1 VAT liability
Philatelic collector’s items are liable to VAT at the standard rate, but the tax may not always be due on the full value.

5.2 Value for VAT of philatelic supplies treated as collector’s items
[This applies to VAT-registered dealers accounting for sales, so I have omitted it]

5.3 Imported collector’s items
Some items of philatelic interest are eligible for a reduced valuation at importation which gives an effective VAT rate of 5%. This figure is reached by calculating a value for duty using the appropriate duty method, adding any additional costs (see paragraph 3.1 of Imports (VAT Notice 702)) and multiplying the total by 25%. Applying the 20% rate to this value gives an effective VAT rate of 5%.

So the VAT rate itself is not lower, but the value of the goods for the purposes of calculating the VAT is reduced, producing the same result.

Form BOR286 is dowloaded from the Border Force website. This is a pdf which can be completed manually or on the computer. As you also need to send (original) evidence then you will need to print it anyway.

Supporting evidence is:
- Customs charge label stuck to the package
- Customs declaration form completed by the sender
- invoice/receipt - and, it says 'such as eBay page or PayPal receipt'.

To support the claim I also enclosed photocopies of some of the covers, which were shown on the invoice with thumbnail images.

NOTE: the VAT notice says only that SOME items of philatelic interest are eligible for a reduced valuation. I don't think there is a list or guidance as to what is included and what is excluded.

For instance, GB mint decimal stamps may not be due for any tax being valid for postage, but they MAY be treated differently.  So your experience may be different depending on what you are importing.

UPDATE: Another thought. IF - and only if - the sending is of sufficient value to require a customs form and therefore to attract the attention of Royal Mail's interceptors....

Contact the sender before your order is posted, ask them to endorse the Customs form
"Reduced rate per VAT Notice 701/8, Para 5.3".

That should ensure that you don't have to go through hoops to get the refund that I have today received.

Friday, 7 June 2019

D-Day also commemorated with decorated postbox

My thanks to Anonymous for drawing my attention to this report on

Eternally grateful

Special-edition postbox honours those who planned and fought in the D-Day landings

A special-edition postbox has been unveiled to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The unveiling of the postbox in St James's Square, London, was attended by US Ambassador to the UK, Robert Wood Johnson.

The location is sited close to Norfolk House, where Operation Overlord –  the mission to gain a foothold in France and commence the liberation of Europe – was planned under the leadership of Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander Allied Expeditionary Force.

‘On this 75th anniversary, I think it's fantastic that Royal Mail is paying a special tribute to the tremendous courage and devotion of our D-Day heroes,’ said Mr Johnson.

‘We should always remember what so many millions of men and women sacrificed for the free world we have the privilege of living in today.’

The images on the postbox, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London, represent the success of Operation Overlord – depicting amongst others the inland advance and the preparation and planning behind the operation.

David Gold, our director of public affairs and policy, said: ‘The D-Day landings played a pivotal role during World War Two and Norfolk House was where a major part of the planning took place.

‘It is only fitting that their efforts are honoured on one of our iconic postboxes. Royal Mail is also issuing a set of special stamps to mark the anniversary.’

In addition to unveiling the special edition postbox, there is also issuing a special postmark, which will be applied to all stamped mail from 5-9 June and will read: ‘75th anniversary of the D-Day landings 6 June 1944 #dday75.’ Royal Mail will also be sponsoring a children’s essay competition organised by the Spirit of Normandy Trust.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

June slogan postmarks start with D-Day commemoration

Predictably the first slogan postmark used by Royal Mail this month marks the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings - D-Day.

Thanks to MB for sending this copy from North West Midlands mail centre 05/06/2019

75th anniversary
of the
D-Day landings
6 June 1944

UPDATE 11 June.
This week's slogan is back on the health stream, for National Blood Week.  I have an example from Sheffield Mail Centre 10/06/2019, but it isn't good enough to show here.  Hopefully others will have one or two to show.
Royal Mail supports
NHS National
Blood Week
10 - 16 June 2019

Thanks to MB for supplying both versions of this.  Edinburgh Mail Centre 08/06/2019 on 2nd class, and North West Midlands on 10/06/2019.

UPDATE 14 June:
Thanks again to MB for another new slogan from North West Midlands mail centre. This commemorates the centenary of the first transatlantic flight in 1919.  As recorded in Wikipedia British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight in June 1919 an event of which the 50th anniversary was marked by a 5d stamp issued in 1969.

Centenary of
the first
transatlantic flight
14 June 1919

As usual, we'll keep this post open to show all of the month's slogans.  Please save time and check here to make sure we haven't already been sent one that you are thinking of sending.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Philanglia 2019 - East Anglia's premier stamp fair

If you are at a loose end on 22 June and are within easy travelling distance to St Ives in Cambridgeshire I recommend a trip to Philanglia, where 30 dealers will have all-world stamps, postal history, accessories and mixed lots from around the world.

Parking is free at Burgess Hall, and light refreshments and drinks are available.

For the benefit of search engines...

Philanglia 2019, Saturday 22nd June 2019, 
Burgess Hall, Westwood Road, St Ives PE27 6WU

30 dealers - postal history, postcards, accessories, catalogues, first day covers, packs, collections, Commonwealth, Foreign and British stamps.

Also the Mid-Anglia Philatelic Federation competitions and displays. (

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Machin news - June 2019

Due to confusion over what has and has not been seen or found recently I have decided that I will only put details of new stamps on the blog if I have been sent a picture or a link to an online listing which shows a picture.  All eBay sightings must be reported with an item number.  As with the reports of slogan postmarks, there will be one Machin posting per month, and this will be updated during the month.  So please check around the beginning of each month for that month's news.

The latest new stamp to be reported is the 100g Special Delivery printed on 26/03/19:

The latest addition to this year's Machin discoveries is the 2nd Large retail book of  4 which was on eBay but not now available.

What's really interesting is the different 2nd Large stamps that have been reprinted, whilst at Post Office branches 2nd Large stock is often three or four years old.

New Machin checklist

I have been nearly ready to issue a new version of the Norvic Machin Checklist several times when new information has been received.  Then we had news that the Stanley Gibbons Concise catalogue would have some more number changes, so I thought it best to await that, just to confirm what the catalogue editor had done, for my comparison tables.  Unfortunately the original May publication date meant the end of May, and now we are expecting it around 12th June.  So as soon as copies arrive and our list has been updated, a new version will be added to the usual dropbox link.

Meanwhile, we stand ready to receive your reports on more new finds, thank you!

Friday, 24 May 2019

Three new M19L Machin definitives reported.

My thanks to readers who have pointed out listings of three new Machin definitives on a well-known online auction site.

The 1p and 10p counter sheets, and 2nd class business sheet with M19L code have been reported.

Both counter sheets were printed on 19/02/2019.
This suggests that there were several stamps printed in mid-February so we should look out for the other make-up values.   The 10p and 2nd class have been found in Yorkshire.

Update 27 May: Andy P's comment - 
"Last week (22/5/19) I received an order of various definitives from the Philatelic Bureau and the 1st SF/Large they supplied was M19L."    Which is interesting as we dealers haven't heard about that one!

Update 2 June: Although I don't doubt that Andy has reported what he has seen, as we have not any any other evidence of this, nor photographic confirmation from Andy, I've scratched it for the time being.  Others who have ordered reported receiving M17L from Tallents House, and I got M18L.

On the other hand Richard P has sent copies of the 100g Special Delivery with M19L printed on 26 March.  (Pictures below the listing.)

In future I will only put details of new stamps on the blog if I have been sent a picture or a link to an online listing which shows a picture.  All eBay sightings must be reported with an item number.

Full list of M19L stamps so far:

Counter Sheets

2911.9   2nd class  - 25/02/19
2914a.9 1st class  -  25/02/19
2913.9   2nd Large - 25/02/19
2916a.9 1st Large  - 25/02/19

2985.9   100g Special Delivery - 26/03/19

2992.9 - 1st class Large Signed For, date not known.

3001.9 - 1p deep crimson, 19/02/19
3010.9 - 10p dull orange, 19/02/19- reported on both SBP2i and SBP2u
3020.9 - 20p green reprint, first on 19/02/19

3135 - £1.35 orchid mauve
3155.9 -  £1.55 tuquoise-blue, reprint 14/02/9
3160 - £1.60 amber yellow
3230 - £2.30 gooseberry green
3280 - £2.80 spruce green  
3345 - £3.45 dark pine green 
3360 - £3.60 bright orange


2936aC.9 - 1st class MCIL from mixed booklets, Marvel Comics 14.3.1, Birds of Prey 4.4.19 with a further one due for D-Day on 5.6.19

Prestige Stamp Books

4002P.9 - 2p green from Queen Victoria Bicentenary book
4050P.9 - 50p dark slate from Queen Victoria Bicentenary book - although this is a new shade I have not given it an 'a' number, although I expect when it is listed by SG it will not have the same base number as in previous PSBs.

Business Sheets

2911B.9 - 2nd class blue, printed 05/02/19 on SBP2u
2913B.9 - 2nd Large blue, printed 06/02/19, reported to be on both SBP2u and SBP2i but not necessarily with that date.

UPDATE: Images of both 2nd class and 2nd class large business sheets.

100g Special Delivery


There will be no more comments or additions to this post, 
any new sightings/reports will be on a new post.