Sunday 29 March 2009

Walsall Booklets with security features 31 March 2009

I have received my first supplies of the new Walsall booklets containing Machin definitives with security features. Some have cylinder numbers, some don't so I'll only be able to report what I have. The phosphor bands seem to be more or less accurately aligned on all booklets.

6 x 1st
- cylinders W5 W2(P) W1 (overlay) - Postcode advert inside front cover
12 x 1st - no cylinder received
12 x 2nd - no cylinder received
4 x 1st Large - cylinders W1 W1(P) W1(o) - blank inside front cover
4 x 2nd Large - no cylinders received - blank inside front cover

As reported before, the 1st class letter stamp was first issued on 10 March in the Design Classics retail book (with the red cover). Used examples may be distinguished from the current book in two ways.

The new booklets have flat-topped perforations; the Design Classics booklet has rounded tops to perforations.

As previously mentioned on the Walsall printings the security cut is actually 4 cuts, compared with De La Rue's two cuts. On the latest (31 March) booklets the gap at the apex of the curve is wider than on the Design Classics (10 March) booklets.
Correction: The current (31 March) booklets have a wide gap on the 1st & 2nd books of 12, and a narrow gap on the 1st book of 6 and the Large Letter books.

Of course we don't know at this stage whether these distinguishing features will be consistent, but at least it gives us something to look for on used stamps.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

New Security Business Sheet printing dates

The Business Sheet definitives with security features, the issue of which was delayed from 17 February to an official 'first day of availability' date of 31 March have now been delivered to us.

Printing dates and serial numbers are as follows:

2nd class letter - 14/01/09 - lowest 0555748 highest 0555751

1st class letter - 12/12/08 - 0376826 -27

2nd class Large - 18/01/09 - 0035579 - 98

1st class Large - 19/01/09 - 0148758 - 784

Unlike previous issues the printer is not identified on the top panel (Walsall Security Print was previously printed below the barcode). The security slit indicates that these were printed by De La Rue, which clears up the final uncertainty over these.

All the LARGE sheets, 1st & 2nd, have the phosphor slightly inset from the right, some with most of the teeth clear of phosphor.

Friday 20 March 2009

31 March Cylinder Blocks - of 6, and not self-adhesive!

Despite apparent evidence to the contrary we can confirm that the Machin definitive and country definitive stamps are printed in sheets of 200 on conventionally-gummed paper, and have cylinder numbers adjacent to row 18 as they always have been.

For speed and space I have only scanned one of each - apart from the position of the 'blob' in the grid (can two squares be a grid?) - all the sheets are the same, the number of cylinders being the same as in previous years.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Rates change re-using old colours

I now have the Machin definitives which will be issued at the end of the month. The colours of the actual stamps are in some cases quite different to the publicity pictures, and bear comparison with previous issues. Only for the 22p can I find no direct match, it seems to be a slightly darker shade of the colour used for the 68p (and several other earlier values!).

Friday 13 March 2009

Design Classics retail booklet update

My factory-sealed packet of 50 booklets contained none with cylinder numbers, so I assumed that there were none on these booklets. However, a friend received two from the Philatelic Bureau, and both had cylinder numbers (W1 repeated) below the routemaster stamp. Distribution seems, therefore, to be haphazard!

Retail books of 1st class gold Machins

Originally scheduled for issue on 17 February, the booklets and business sheets were delayed, and Royal Mail philatelic announced that the "official first day of availability" would be 31 March, the same as the stamps for the new postage rates.

This overlooked the fact that the Design Classics retail book issued on 10 March would also have security features on the definitives, thus making that date the first day of issue of Walsall printings, of the 1st class at least.

It is now apparent that the 1st class books of 6 were available in some retail outlets as early as 9 March, as we have had two reports. There are no reports of the 2nd class or either Large stamp being available in booklets yet.

Northern Ireland Castles brings a third self-adhesive 1st class

This is getting complicated.

Collectors will know that the Glorious Northern Ireland Smilers Sheet contained the first self-adhesive 1st class country stamp. The perforations (die cuts) were 'ordinary' and the phosphor bands fuzzy at the edges.

The Glorious United Kingdom Smilers Sheet, containing 1st class stamps from all four countries had elliptical perforations (syncopated, in US) and the phosphor bands were sharp-edged.

Now the Castles of Northern Ireland Smilers Sheet combines the two, with elliptical perforations and phosphor bands fuzzy at the edges. So that means the specialist has three different self-adhesive 1st class stamps from Northern Ireland and can look forward to the same from the other three countries.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Robert Burns 250th Anniversary - miniature sheet phosphor positioning

Thanks to Alex Goodall for drawing my attention to the phosphor bands on this miniature sheet, which seems to affect most of the sheets seen so far. These very minor variations aren't easy to see on the FDC due to the brilliance of the white envelope, showing through the perforations. My own observations show a movement only to the left, not down as Alex reports:

* General - under x10 magnification and using long wave UV, the phosphor looks cross-hatched.
* A Man's A Man 1st class - RB clearly inset (by 0.5mm?) from perfs compared to normal copy.
* 2nd class Saltire Flag - CB appears to have slipped by <1mm as the phosphor has intruded more onto the 50p Thistle stamp. If you removed this stamp from the M/S it would clearly have a thin phosphor line top middle.
* The 1st class lion & 81p tartan have the LB shifted slightly left. If you look closely at the lions 'thumb' for want of a better description, the normal phophor stops just to right, while, on the shifted phosphor it stops neatly to the left! giving a slightly narrower LB. The effect on the 81p is the gap between two perfs.
* There is also a slightly but clear downward shift of the two bands down the 1st class lion and 81p, with more perf exposed but not quite getting to the stage of a phosphor bar.
* The RB of phosphor down the 1st class and 81p is clearly inset left (by 0.5mm?) giving a bar effect down both.
* The 1st class portrait has such poor phosphor any effect is lost, however, there appears to be a bright fluor effect just to the left of the perfs on the M/S itself.
This is the last Royal Mail special issue produced by Joh Enschede.

Sunday 8 March 2009

Industrial Pioneers issue brings attractive railway postmarks

A set of 8 stamps honouring key figures in Britain during the Industrial Revolution is issued on 10 March 2009.
The stamps show 1st Matthew Boulton – Manufacturing & James Watt – Steam Engineering;
50p Richard Arkwright – Textiles & Josiah Wedgwood – Ceramics;
56p George Stephenson – Railways & Henry Maudslay – Machine Making;
72p James Brindley – Canal Engineering & John McAdam – Road Building.

These are some of the special postmarks in use on that day. More background to the stamps, and more postmarks are on our website.

Postmark showing George Stephenson's 'Rocket'.
Postmark showing George Stephenson's 'Locomotion'.Postmark showing Wedgwood vase.

Friday 6 March 2009

Machins with security features: 1st class booklet easily distinguished!

As predicted the 10 March Design Classics retail booklet (with the Phone box and Routemaster bus stamps) has 4 Machin 1st class gold with security features.

The booklet, shown above, is printed by Walsall Security Print. The printing is different, as you can see from the head - see below (sheet on left, booklet on right).

But comparison with the original sheet stamps also shows that the security slits are quite different - in the booklet there are four, rather than two. The Walsall slits are divided in two at the top and bottom.

These scans show coloured screening within the upright of the figure 1 - this is the security overlay.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Mayday - Sea Rescue stamps win Design Week Award

News Release 4 March 2009

Mayday - Rescue at Sea stamps won in the Print Design category in the Design Week Awards announced last night.

The stamps, designed by Hat-trick, honoured the lifesaving work of the RNLI and Coastguard Agency and were issued in March 2008. The judges praised the stamps: “These stamps are phenomenal and beautiful. The perforation of SOS signal is very clever”. (Of course the image shown above is from the Royal Mail pre-issue publicity and shows conventional perforations instead of the ... --- ... actually on the stamps!)

Royal Mail Design team members Marcus James and Catharine Brandy collected the award at the event ceremony at London's Hilton Hotel on 3 March.

In the same category more stamps received a special commendation – Lest We Forget stamp issued in 2007 commemorated the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.

Julietta Edgar, Head of Special Stamps, Royal Mail said: “We are delighted with the award; despite their tiny size stamps have always played a major role in showcasing the best of our design talent, requiring imagination and attention to detail that in the case of Mayday - Rescue at Sea even made use of the perforations.”

Security Machins - how to remove from paper

The Machin Maniacs blog has described one way to remove these stamps from paper. (You'll remember that the water-soluble layer between stamp and adhesive has now been abolished.) But that blog does advise against lighter fuel due to the carcinogenic properties of the fluid.

I received my first security stamp in the mail yesterday (thanks, Alan) and much as I wanted to keep it as a piece of postal history I have experimented in the interests of philately!

'Sticky Stuff Remover' from Betterware had the stamp off in a jiffy, applied front and back. However the slit area attracted the liquid and it looked as if 'grease' marks might remain. This is a good product and a little goes a long way. I've used it extensively (most recently to remove the adhesive tape that attached a service invoice to my wife's laptop - thanks guys!!)

It smells pleasant enough - of orange - and some say it is basic orange juice. The bottle is marked as a poison, with a warning that lung damage can occur if swallowed. The constituent chemicals are not mentioned on the label - I found this note from the "Wycombe Area MG Owners Club” Newsletter.

The active ingredients (among other things) are ethanolamine and petroleum­ based hydrocarbons.

I dried the stamp overnight, and the 'grease' marks disappeared. My stamp is still sticky, which poses some questions for storage, but at least it means that it can be stuck to other paper and I won't have a mix of manilla, white, red, azure and cream backing papers to my Security Machins. At present I have it stuck to backing paper from some self-adhesive labels. I'll be interested to hear from other experiments.


Later edit.
I was using alcohol-based after-shave to clean something and thought that it might also dissolve the gum on these new stamps. The result was spectacular:

This wasn't just any after-shave, it was M&S After-Shave!