Friday 26 February 2010

Post Office Philatelic Sales in London

Occasionally we receive emails from overseas collectors who are visiting London, and who would like to buy their collectable stamps and other philatelic products from the Post Office at face value.

The old 'Philatelic Counters' are long gone, of course, being replaced by Post Shops - which sold a lot more non-Post Office products (greetings cards, souvenirs) than just stamps. There are two POs remaining in central London which cater for collectors.

Trafalgar Square PO has recently been reorganised following the installation of Post and Go machines and a 'take-a-ticket' queueing system. The system allows for speedy processing of customers for different products (special delivery especially is a fast-tracked system). But there is nothing on the menu for philatelic products, and their dedicated Post Shop counter (previously at the east entrance) has gone.

So this is the system.
- The philatelic products are on counter position C.
- There is no need to take a ticket.
- If the person at 'C' is serving, wait near the counter until the customer has gone, and then approach the counter for your philatelic products.

Trafalgar Square PO is at 24/28 William IV Street, London, WC2N 4DL - it is open 0830-1830 Monday - Friday (Tuesday opening 0915), and 0900-1730 on Saturday.

The other office is The City of London PO at 12 Eastcheap, London, EC3M 1AJ

This office is open Monday - Friday, 0900-1800. Not open on Saturday.
They aim to carry most stamps of the last 12 months in stock, and if they are not in stock will try to get them and then to telephone the customer. So if you are visiting and are in London for a week or so, then they should be able to get anything on the stock list.

According to Royal Mail's list the only other Greater London PO with philatelic services is at Croydon.

Update on Security Stamp oddities.

Sources within Royal Mail have confirmed that the 1st class gold security-cut stamps with no security overlay are a genuine product. Exact details are awaited but we understand that the combination occurred when there was a need for 1st class coils* business sheets ahead of the release of the security stamps in February 2009 and the printers used the security die-cut template on stamps with no ROYAL MAIL security print layer. (* Corrected - sorry!)

On the other hand the stamps with 4 security slits have been denounced as a total forgery. The first to be seen were De La Rue, but then Walsall stamps appeared. All these were used. However the real confirmation came when 40gr Airmail stamps appeared with 4 security slits (we haven't seen them!) as these have never been issued with any security features!

Great Britain 2010 Programme Update

Royal Mail have firmed up their stamp issue programme for 2010 and announced some additional products connected with the London 2010 Festival of Stamps. These notes are in approximate chronological order and are necessarily brief.

First up is another Souvenir Sheet in the Classic Album Covers range. The new sheet is in the same format and the same size as the last, but contains 10 Pink Floyd stamps, and some artwork and text specific to the band and Dave Gilmour. This will also carry a premium price (to be confirmed) and will be issued on Saturday, 6 March (yes, one week tomorrow).

30 March - examples of the 20gr Europe stamp that we were shown were not the same colour as the 60p Machin, but more a dark blue-green colour. The issued stamp may not be the same as the essay we were shown.

London 2010 Festival of Stamps 8 May
- Prestige Stamp Book: the Machin pane will be self-adhesive with security features. My scribbled note shows 4 x 1st, 4 x 2nd and 2 x 50p stamps but that makes 10, so I have an error there. The security code on these will show a P for Prestige - position to be confirmed. (Not ROYAL PAIL, surely?)

- There will be an Exhibition Souvenir Sheet echoing the Jeffrey Matthews sheet from StampShow 2000. The new sheet will contain all the valued non-security stamps currently available in three rows, ie
1p,  2p,  5p,  9p
10p,  20p,  60p,  67p
88p, 97p, £1.46, London2010 Logo.

A strange combination (total value £5.05) omitting the 50p & £1, and 1st & 2nd class stamps.

- To mark the 10th Anniversary of Smilers Stamps there will be a Generic Sheet containing the four new Smilers Stamps issued in February. At the Show four Smilers Sheets were available for personalisation, with the show Logo in the margin.

- An Exhibition Generic Sheet will be available, as issued for overseas Exhibitions since Hong Kong in 2004.

- 6th May Accession Miniature Sheet was overprinted and on sale for the Exhibition Period only.

- A Postal Union Congress Souvenir Pack will also be available. Details here.

18 May - Commemorative Sheet Halley's Comet (Centenary of first appearance which was photographed).

15 June - House of Stuart confirmed (Monarchs known, MS: Wm Harvey, Battle of Naseby, John Vanburgh, John Milton)
15 June - Retail booklet, Mammals, 2 plus 4 x Machin gold.

8 July - Commemorative Sheet British Grand Prix

27 July - Olympics/paralympicsset of 10 & Commemorative sheet.
27 July - Olympics Retail booklet 3, 2 plus 4 Machin gold.

10 August - Commemorative Sheet - London Eye

19 August - Stage Musicals, set & MS (details to follow - think modern)
                  - Great British Railways, monochrome set of 6

15 September - Retail booklet: British Design Classics (Spitfire)
15 September - Generic Smiler (Spitfire)

16 September - Medical Breakthroughs (originally scheduled for February 2011)

17 September - Bird Pictorial Faststamps

12 October - Children's Literature. Despite the designated first day site association with AA Milne Royal Mail are not yet in a position to confirm that this is Milne, Winnie the Pooh or to say how many authors, how many books, or how many characters will be featured.
We now know that this is a set of 6 and a MS, all Winnie-the-Pooh

12 October - Olympics Retail booklet 4, 2 plus 4 Machin gold.

October - Lest We Forget se-tenant strip of 3 to be reissued from existing stock, no new printing.
28 October - National Arboretum Remembrance Commemorative Sheet.

2 November - Christmas, secular, Wallace & Gromit. Range and size as 2009, ie definitive and large definitive size, 7 stamps, MS & Smilers.

Great Britain 2011 Programme (updated)

Royal Mail have provided their outline programme for 2011 as follows:

11 January - Classic Children's Television: Gerry Anderson set, MS + retail booklet

24 January - Pictorial Faststamps - Birds 2

1 February - Classic Railway Locomotives miniature sheet

24 February - West End Stage Musicals - set & MS expected (postponed from autumn 2010)
24 February - Retail Booklet: Medical Breakthroughs Beta-Blockers, British Heart Foundation

8 March - Magical Heroes of Fiction
8 March - Low value self-adhesive definitives: 1,2,5,10,20p

22 March - World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund)
22 March - New retail booklets, 1st Large, 2nd Large

29 March - new Machins and Country Stamps on tariff change

12 April - Royal Shakespeare Company 50th Anniversary set & MS

21 April - Royal Wedding MS

5 May - William Morris & Co 150th Anniversary, incl PSB

19 May - Pictorial Faststamps - Birds 3

14 June - Rev Wm Awdry Birth Centenary (Thomas the Tank Engine author), set MS & booklet
14 June - Prince Philip 90th Birthday Commemorative Sheet

27 July - Olympics/Paralympics III, booklet 5, commemorative sheet and composite sheet

28 July - Philanippon, Japan, Exhibition Generic Smilers Sheet.

23 August - Crown Jewels
23 August - Classic Locomotives of England retail booklet

9 September - World's First Scheduled Airmail, Windsor

14 September - Arnold Machin Birth Centenary miniature sheet

15 September - Kings + Queens, House of Hannover (Stampex issue)
15 September - Olympics/Paralympics retail booklet 6
15 September - 350th Anniv of the Postmark - Generic Smilers Sheet

16 September - Pictorial Faststamps - Birds4

13 October - A-Z of the United Kingdom (A-L 12 stamps)

25 October - retail booklets with FSC Logo - 6 x 1st, 12 x 1st, 12 x 2nd, 4 x 1st Large, 4 x 2nd Large

8 November - Christmas (religious) [400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible]

This programme list will be added to and amended from time to time: there will be Smilers sheets, retail booklets and commemorative sheets.  Let us know your views, now and as the extended programme unfolds, using the Comment facility.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Special handstamps with the aaah! factor

The postmark designers have come up with some good ones for the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home issue. Here are just a few, click here for the rest of the stamps, and all of the postmarks so far.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Abandoned orders - unsatisfied customers and puzzled sellers!

If you use an online system to order stamps and you don't receive a response from the website, how does it make you feel? Probably you go somewhere else to get your stamps, and who could blame you! But do you check all your incoming emails?

Many email systems, especially web-based ones like gmail and hotmail, operate sophisticated spam filters and dump alleged spam messages into a special spam folder - it may have a different name on different systems but that's what it means. But these systems are not infallible, and sometimes good mail gets treated as spam.

I check our gmail spam folder now and then and almost always find at least one message which is a 'good' one and needs a reply or action. Soemtimes somebody wants to buy, sometimes they are chasing an order. Do you check yours?

Our e-commerce site sends an automated 'thank you' response to every order. And because we have not yet automated payments system we also send a second email detailing payment options. Yet for some of these we don't receive a follow-up, neither a payment nor an enquiry. For some I will create a PayPal request, and often that is paid, with the customer confirming that they did not receive any emails. Of course if they register on our site with the wrong email address, then they will never see anything from us - including their stamps!

I understand why we don't hear from them again - they think we are ignoring them - but this is far from being the case!

Then there are the letter-writers. This week we received a letter from Nova Scotia, Canada, seeking stamps, a presentation pack, FDC and stamp cards. The customer includes her full credit card number, expiry date and security code, together with her name and address - and notes our address and email address on her request. But no contact details apart from the address! If I had an email address I would write; I don't have all the stamps - certainly not at the new issue prices she quotes. It will cost a minimum of 90p postage to answer this: what would you do?

So, if your initials are JH and you have a PO Box in New Glasgow NS - send me an email, and you'll be certain to get a reply.

Friday 12 February 2010

Another report of MRIL coil stamp on junk mail.

We've been told of another mailshot stamped with a coil 2nd class MRIL stamp. This one came from the Sunday Times Wine Club so all those members of the club should check their mailshots. (The first was from the MIND charity in December.)

Never was 'junk' mail so inaptly named - almost makes it worth filling in lots of coupons just to see what comes in the mail.

Friday 5 February 2010

Festival of Stamps London 2010 - A retro bonanza of good stamp design

Royal Mail has announced a number of stamp issues in connection with the London 2010 Festival of Stamps.

The first miniature sheet will be on 6 May - the 170th anniversary of the issue of the Penny Black, and the Centenary of the Accession of King George V. The sheet contains two stamps:
- a 1st class orange bearing the Machin head of Queen Elizabeth II and the profile head of George V as used on stamps from 1912.
- the second stamp is a £1 in brown showing both Downey and profile heads used on British stamps of his reign.

To the left of the stamps is the design of St George slaying the dragon, from the 1929 Postal Union Congress £1 stamp. As far as we know the sheet will be sold for face value - £1.42. It is printed by Cartor Security Print in litho.

The 1st class stamp will also be issued in conventional (counter) sheets and will - one imagines - replace the 1st class gold and country stamps for a short period. (No indication at this stage whether this will also be litho, and publicity images do not have elliptical perforations.)

The second miniature sheet will be issued on Saturday 8 May, the opening day of the London 2010 Exhibition at the Business Design Centre in Islington.

This sheet has four stamps depicting stamps from the reign of King George V.
2 x 1st class depict the 1924 British Empire Exhibition set, and
2 x £1 depict the 10/- blue and £1 green Seahorse definitives.

The sheet is printed by Joh Enschede in lithography and intaglio.

A prestige stamp book will issued on the same day, the cover design is taken from the 1935 Silver Jubilee booklet design:

This will contain one pane containing the two Seahorse stamps, one pane of 4 Empire Exhibition stamps, and one or more panes of Machin definitives, details in due course. The book is produced by Cartor, with intaglio panes printed by Enschede.

A third stamp issue will appear during the London 2010 Festival on 13 May, consisting of a set of 8, a miniature sheet and a further prestige stamp book.

Entitled 'Britain Alone' the issue recalls the dark days of World War 2 including the evacuation of British forces from France at Dunkirk followed by the Battle of Britain. Indeed 'Britain Alone' is the title of at least two books on the period.

The preliminary designs for the stamps are:
1st class - Churchill and Troops; Land Girls
56p Home Guard; Evacuees
62p Air Raid Wardens; Women in factories
90p Royal Broadcast by the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret; Fire Service.

The miniature sheet recalls the Evacuation from Dunkirk, including a quotation from Winston Churchill, with 1st class, 56p, 81p & 90p stamps showing the evacuation by the flotilla of little ships.

The Prestige book will contain the Dunkirk miniature sheet, two panes each with 4 Britain Alone stamps, and a pane of mixed Machin definitives, details to be announced.

The set, miniature sheet and PSB will all be printed by Cartor in litho.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Security Machins - PART missing security print layer!

In September 2009 we reported on the appearance on internet auction site eBay of the security version of the 1st class gold Machin stamps with no security 'overprint'.

The pair, postmarked Devon & Exeter, were found in kiloware and aroused suspicions from expert collectors and dealers, but none could find a way to remove a properly printed security overprint without damaging the stamp. No copies were found mint, but before long further copies were found not only with no security print but with 4 security slits! These were postmarked Plymouth Devon. The 2nd class with four slits was reported in December. All these came from kiloware, but there have been reports of the 2nd class being found mint - we've not had photos of these supplied yet.

Now a new development from California, reported in influential American weekly philatelic magazine Linn's Stamp News. Reader Michael Ward of California received a Christmas card from a friend - in Exeter - bearing 2 x 2nd class security Machins partially missing the security print layer.

[Image ©2010 Linn’s Stamp News (, used with permission.]

The stamp on the left has the security layer only at the extreme lower left of the stamp; the other stamp has only a stripe at the left of the stamp - giving all the appearance of being where the phosphor band would be on a 1st class stamp.

Collectors here who saw the report questioned the use of inland 2nd class definitive stamps - 2 x 30p is insufficient for even a 10gr card, so there must have been more stamps. Maybe there were three which make 90p, exactly the 20gr rate? Maybe the card was contained in a packet (the stamps seem to be on heavy manilla rather than ordinary envelope stock) with a selection of other stamps.

The stamps reported earlier were found on kiloware consigned to Singapore. It's interesting that with all the Machin collectors sorting through competition entry envelopes and kiloware that none of these have yet been reported as found in the UK. Watch this space for more reports, and if you find any, wherever you are, our readers will be interested!