Tuesday 8 September 2009

Saving the ½p !

As most people in Britain know, the ½p coin was demonetized on 31 December 1984, but stamps of that value and any others which had ½p in the denomination, such as the 4½p, 19½p, 20½p could continue to be used in combination to make up whole penny postage rates.

Earlier this year we were told by Royal Mail that the ½p element no longer counted at all on stamps:

• All postage stamps issued after decimalisation in 1971, except for the half pence stamp, are still valid and must be accepted.
• All half pence values shown on other stamps must be discounted when calculating the postage paid.
For example: A thirteen and a half pence stamp has 13p of valid postage. Two thirteen and a half pence stamps have 26p of valid postage.

I have been told about Revenue Protection surcharging letters as underpaid because the senders had counted 4½p + 20½p as 25p.

This came as a great surprise to me, because abut 2 years ago I bought a couple of sheets of the 1974 Charity stamp, with a face value of 4½p + 1½p, and I had been using them in multiples on most of my mailings to the Royal Mail Special Handstamp Centres! 6 x 4½p = 27p, 8 x 4½p = 36p, the 2nd class and 1st class rates until April of this year! I had no indication that any of these, to Royal Mail or to customers, had been surcharged and I suspect that none were.

However, in a reversal of this policy that nobody seems to have known about, I have heard from two Royal Mail sources as follows:

Royal Mail have reviewed and changed their acceptance policy on post decimalisation half pence value postage stamps.
From Thursday 27 August 2009 if any half pence value stamps are used together on an item, then the total value will apply. However if used singly (or in an odd number when multiple stamps are used) the value must be rounded down.

For example: A thirteen and a half pence stamp has 13p of valid postage, two thirteen and a half pence stamps have 27p of valid postage, three thirteen and a half pence stamps have 40p of valid postage and four thirteen and a half pence stamps have 54p of valid postage.

Following the withdrawal of the 1/2p coin from legal tender in 1984, Royal Mail had a policy of honouring all stamps tendered which still bear the 1/2p value as long as the total postage affixed was in whole pence. Recently, this policy was reviewed as the amount of such stamps in circulation had dropped to a negligible level after 25 years and after consulting the relevant parts of the business, such as Revenue Protection and RM Philatelic, it was agreed that we would continue to accept stamps with a 1/2p value as long as the total amount attached was a whole penny value, otherwise they would be rounded down to the nearest whole penny value.

That's all clear then. Another thing these two statements demonstrate are two different styles of presentation. One is much more 'plain English' than the other, don't you think?

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