Tuesday 31 August 2010

Further Update: Faststamps take flight at Stampex, in September!

Update 2 on Pictorial Faststamps - (see initial report here)

Royal Mail have confirmed that the set of 6 1st class Bird Faststamps supplied to Bureau customers will be a 'sheetlet', ie they will be on one undivided sheet of backing paper (see above) in two rows of three stamps, the same format as the official first day cover.

The sheetlet will consist of 6 x 1st class stamps as shown, whereas the machines will dispense 5 different values.  It will be interesting to see how these are catalogued!

This is in contrast to the original Machin head Faststamps pack issued from the Bureau in March 2009, months after the launch at Bristol (October 2008).

Originally Royal Mail had said that the Faststamp* was a Post Office product and not a philatelic product, so would not be issued from the Bureau.  When it was pointed out to them that the original Frama labels issued in 1984 (right) were the subject of special distribution from the Bureau, with a specially designed FDC and FD postmarks at each of the trial sites, Royal Mail had a rethink, hence the appearance of the Machin Faststamps pack.

(* Incidentally, Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd use the term Post & Go Stamp, although 'Faststamp' had been adopted by collectors and dealers long before, and that name is used in Stanley Gibbons' catalogues.)

The arrangement of the stamps on the rolls in the Post & Go machines would produce this sort of arrangement on each vertical strip if the normal 5 different values was chosen.  You will note that the vertical 'se-tenant' pairings are different to those on the sheetlet

Monday 23 August 2010

Golden Machin Horizon labels lose their teeth.

A new version of the Golden Machin Horizon label is reported in use today (23 August) at Old Street PO in London.
Updated image:

The new label now received - appears to have the same security cuts, but is without die-cut 'perforations'.  The 'ROYAL MAIL' security overlay seems to be the same, suggesting that De La Rue have used the same printing plates and simply changed the cutter from 'perforations' to straight line with rounded corners.

There have been many reports of post office counters experiencing difficulties in feeding the sheet (of two labels) into the printer to use the second label, due to the 'teeth' left behind on the matrix being lifted when the first label is removed after printing.

Those of us who were at London 2010 noticed that actually peeling the first 'stamp' from the backing paper was not as easy as removing the white labels.

I understand that the covers produced especially to mark the first day (numbering only about 60) all had the Old Street cds applied to the label.  Mail from other customers was probably processed normally without the datestamp.

I'm told that these new labels will be used in Chesterfield PO later this week, and will be distributed to all POs during September.  Some, of course, are still using white labels.  I don't know if the 'perforated' labels will be withdrawn or used to exhaustion, but if current experience is anything to go by, we can expect to find some 'half-sheets' discarded at PO counters.

Re FDCs:  Will past customers and others interested who have not already done so please contact me as soon as possible if you are interested in the latest First Day Cover.  Those who have already made contact - I'll write again soon!

And if anybody has 23 August mail from Old Street I would be interested in having examples, or at least pictures.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Horizon Label Service indicators - explanation

I've been asked to explain the various codes used on the Horizon labels, our own web page describing these having fallen far behind, sadly.  Updates added in blue following publication of a list on the Stampboards forum.

I've no idea of the full range of codes originally used when the system started in 2002.

There was 2ND and 1ST for 2nd class and 1st class inland mail, and P for inland Parcels.
SD was used for Special Delivery, but Recorded Delivery passes as 2nd & 1st as it has no priority treatment.    A for Airmail, and S for Surface were other commonly found usage, though as these went on international mail there are not many to be found here.

From 2003 the indicators went to lower case and as the normal designations didn't comply with Welsh language designation, so for bilingual labels we have different ones for Welsh offices: 2nd 2il 1st 1af. 

AX is used for the Airsure service, but no special indicator is used for International Signed For, even though both are used as substitutes for the obsolete Registered service.   

There are many service indicators that are rarely seen by the public, for reasons which will become obivous.  The indicators had to change when Pricing in Proportion (PIP) came into effect in 2006, to take account of Large Letters and Packets, though even some of these have changed over time, 1LL, 2LL and BLL being changed to 1LG, 2LG, BLG.  This current list may not be exhaustive, but includes the more common ones.  The 'B' indicators in the first three categories, are for British Forces mail, which is 1st class but is carried under PIP rules:

1st - only for Articles for the Blind as no labels are produced for items under 100gr and any other mail over 100gr is a Large Letter.

1L/2L/BL - 1st/2nd class Letter -  restricted to Recorded Signed For (small) letters

1LG/2LG/BLG - 1st/2nd class Large Letter (no longer applied to items under 100gr)
1PK/2PK/BPK - 1st/2nd class Packet

SD - Special Delivery 9am and 1pm services
SP - Standard Parcel
PE - International Economy Parcel
PS - Standard International Parcel
BF - BFPO Parcels 

A / SU - Airmail, Surface mail to all countries
AAX - Airsure service (limited to about 30 countries)

FP - Fully Paid Reposted Underpaid Airmail (items returned to sender for additional payment).
MOR - Mail Order Return (one that is unlikely to be sent to a private house!)
RPR - Packet Post Return (Limited to Value of Recorded Signed For)
FF - I've not seen one of these, but I assume that it may be for Forces Free, sent to British Forces 'in theatre' in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Confirmed as Forces Freepost.

Friday 20 August 2010

Colored shapes on GB Machin stamps

Collectors are often puzzled by odd markings on Great Britain stamps, and the question is quite often asked by email or on philatelic forums.   Sometimes it is postmarks, other times odd marks such as these:

These pale blue or white opaque phosphorised dots are part of the address coding to enable mechanised sorting of the mail. Previously they were transparent, and later they were replaced with red or red-orange bar-codes.

This has been discussed on the Stampboards forum - come along and join in the debate and show your examples on stamps or covers!

Thursday 19 August 2010

Smilers for Kids - limited success?

When Royal Mail launched the Smilers For Kids range in 2008 dealers and collectors alike were - it's not an overstatement to say - aghast.   Our protests at the production of new stamps packaged for retail sales but significantly over face were heard, but the collectors editions were not the same as those in the retail pack, so 'completists' felt obliged to buy both types.

We knew from the packaging that the option was there to have multiple sets of these, and so it was no surprise when a further set was produced in 2009.

Thankfully the heavy 2010 programme was not further weighed down by a third set this year. 

Royal Mail have now announced that all these will be taken off sale at the end of the year - 29.12.10.   This applies to the retail packs and the generic sheets of 20, stock codes SK001-SK008 and SK011-SK018.

Sunday 15 August 2010

King George V PSB Types - what's the distribution pattern?

I've received some more King George V Prestige Stamp Books from Tallents House, and found that a sealed pack of 10 contains a mix of types A & B self-adhesive panes.

What experience have other collectors/dealers had?

Thursday 12 August 2010

Machin MA10 - 2nd class (small) Business Sheet appears

It's been a couple of week since we had anything really new on MA10 year codes, and now the 2nd class (letter) on Business Sheets has appeared, with a printing date of 05/03/10.

Thanks to Richard P for the image - this will be added to our stock list as soon as we have actual stock.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Wales 1st class missing yellow update.

In an earlier post I raised the question of the missing yellow on the 1st class Wales definitive.

I've now had an official explanation as to why black has replaced yellow, confirming that yellow is unlikely to be used again.

"The first example shown refers to a printing which took place at the De La Rue Byfleet site ( formerly House of Questa). In this print a ‘greenish-yellow’ (Gibbons colour reference) was used. When the stamp came for reprinting, De La Rue had relocated stamp printing to the Dunstable site. During the proofing it was felt that the image was too yellow and consequently the colour was replaced with a black. The standard print then became blue-green, silver and two blacks.

"In terms of numbers we tend to do one print per year of these stamps. Can’t give you the figures for that period."

So, far from being an error as has been suggested elsewhere, the change was deliberate and all future printings will have two black cylinders and no yellow.

Update:  .... until, that is, the stamps were printed by Cartor who reintroduced the yellow plate.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Inverted PSB pane from Submarines & Astronomy books

It's nearly 9 years since the "Unseen and Unheard" prestige stamp book was issued (October 2001) but there are still discoveries to be made.

I'm sure this isn't a new discovery - in fact I believe the person who provided the photo told me that he had had one before - but this is the first time I've been able to show a picture of the Scotland definitive pane 4 inverted:

The (upright) interleaf page can clearly be seen on the left, and the stamp pane, although perforated properly, is miscut and another row of perforations runs through the white line at the top of the image.  This one was discovered recently in a dealer's stock.

Walsall had more trouble with the 2002 Across the Universe PSB, and somebody sent me this image at the time:

Add caption
This is also inverted and miscut - the reverse shows this well, with two rows of rouletting clearly visible on the 'fly' (unstitched) end of the pane: