Tuesday 21 September 2010

It's going to be a Cracking Christmas, Gromit!

We can now reveal the worst kept secret, the subject of this year's Christmas stamps!  (Readers of Royal Mail's Philatelic Bulletin may already know the subject, but here are the pictures)

The seven stamps are self-adhesive as usual, with the 1st & 2nd also being available in booklets of 12.

The miniature sheet is conventionally gummed, and also depicts children's favourite, Shaun the Sheep, so good he has his own tv series.

There will also be the usual Smilers Sheet, this time featuring Wallace’s Stamp-O-Matic machine.  To see this, visit our website.

Extract from our webpage to answer Ian's comment:
Royal Mail worked closely with creator Nick Park and the team at Aardman Animations in the genesis of the designs. The approach to the stamps was similar to how Aardman create a film.  First Nick Park drew scenes and visual jokes involving the characters, refi ning the designs to work in miniature. After many such roughs a core of scenes was agreed upon.  When he and Royal Mail were satisfi ed they would reproduce in a very small format, Nick Park created coloured versions of the illustrations which were reduced to stamp size.

Then the Aardman model-makers were brought in to make the illustrations come to life, with Nick Park overseeing production. Each stamp was created like a scene from a film, with models, props and background sets especially constructed. For example, in the 2nd Class stamp design, the lights in the background of the lamp (and on the Christmas tree in the Large 2nd Class design) are real light sources, and the envelope being posted on the 1st Class stamp features a Wallace and Gromit 1st Class stamp.

The scenes were then photographed and Royal Mail formatted the images into stamp designs. 

So what do you think of these? A big seller for Royal Mail, for sure, I would say! Let us know using the Comment link below.

Monday 20 September 2010

Horizon Label - RPR: Returned Postal Packet (recorded)

Buying individual Horizon labels on eBay isn't something that I ever thought I would do, but I found this RPR label at a low price, so here it is, with a value of 74p for the Recorded Signed For fee.

For a full list of the Horizon Service indicators, see this post.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Birds Faststamps: errors and stories

Reports are coming in of various problems and errors on the Birds Faststamps. 

1. Anybody who decided to wait for the Stampex crowds to die down and try Tudor Street (ex Ludgate Circus) instead on the morning of Friday 17th, would have found a well-known dealer installed with several assistants preparing first day covers with machine-vended stamps.  This was a clever move as this is an unmanned kiosk so there was nobody in attendance to control any monopolising of the machine.  But when the first roll was exhausted (1500 labels dispensed in batches of 99!) a phone call to the PO was necessary to get the new roll installed.  Apparently only 1 of 4 machines had the birds, the others had the Machin labels.

2.  At Cambridge (as at Norwich) only one machine had the birds stamps, but the postmaster put another roll in the second machine when requested, so that the collector concerned could obtain the bird stamps with both machine codes.  Full marks also to Cambridge who had machine-vended sets at the counter to save customers queueing.

3.  The bird stamps were installed in both machines at the City of London (Eastcheap) PO but only one had been converted to the new font.  Alert collectors were able to obtain both versions, those with the old font displaying overlapping details on the bottom row.  Note also that the 10gr Worldwide stamp is totally missing the 10gr (see the Robin stamp).

4.  According to an eBay listing, the first few labels dispensed by machine #1 at Liverpool had a wide gap in the data in the bottom row, resulting in the session number and stamp number overlapping the bird image.  Apparently this only lasted for a short time before the machine was adjusted.   Short phosphor bands, starting 3mm down from the top, are also reported from Liverpool machine #1.

5. Addition: another eBay listing shows one of apparently only 10 strips with a different font error, also from the Liverpool machine, on the Machin head Faststamps the day before the birds were sold. 

Everything is correct except the Up to 10g part of the Service Indicator on the Worldwide 10 stamp.

The  receipt demonstrates that the strip was generated as shown, all from the same session.  The error must have arisen because the W10 stamp is produced from the 'Post an Item' menu, rather than the 'Buy Stamps' menu. 

Have you bought the new Faststamps locally?  Have you found any errors??
Let us know your experience through the comments button, below.  If you have pictures to share, email us - ian[at]norphil.co.uk

Saturday 18 September 2010

Bird Faststamps: comparison of machine and bureau printings

Although the machines' font was changed to match that on the factory-printed Bureau supplies, they are still quite distinguishable, both in the service indicator overprint, and in the Royal Mail background print, although the birds are quite closely matched.

 Bureau printing (002010) above Norwich machine (019136) printing

Friday 17 September 2010

Birds have arrived in Norwich!

As publicised in our local newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press, the pictorial bird Faststamps were duly nesting in the Post & Go machine at Norwich's central post office in Castle Mall this morning.

There were no queues mid-morning and I was able to buy most of what I wanted, only giving way a few times to casual customers who wanted just one set.

The machines were originally made to dispense a maximum of 5 labels in a strip, as shown below, which is an actual strip.  As there are 5 different values many people collected the Machin head in strips of 5, but of course this format leaves us one bird short!  You will note that the new font setting results in the 5th stamp on the strip having the branch and session number line dropping into the perforations.

The receipt is shown slightly reduced; it is in fact the same width as the labels. 

Only one of the two machines in Norwich has the new stamps.  I was told this was to give customers a choice as business customers may not want the bird pictorials.    Given the convenience of these machines, I would think they would be pleased just not to join the queueing system for the counter - although it works much better than the old system did!

First Day covers and sets of Birds 1 Faststamps are now available for purchase from our online shop. This link will also show other bird products.

Incidentally, we have a selection of bird books, and many others, in our new bookshop:

Thursday 9 September 2010

Further Update: Real Bird Faststamps

Update 3 on Pictorial Faststamps - (see initial report here)

Just in case any eagle-eyed collectors think that they have struck gold....

This is the picture shown in Update 2, and which is included in Royal Mail's sales magazine, Collections.

And this is a scan of the actual sheetlet and the actual pack.  I suspect that the official Bureau FDCs will have the stamps arranged in the same sequence.

We've been told that Royal Mail have a 'gallery' of images to use in publicity, and that they release these to the trade and their own agencies as necessary.  OK, if time and deadlines are pressing, then I can understand why they might use artists mock-ups until the actual final designs have been agreed, and until the actual stamps are printed. 

It would be much more helpful to everybody if they used images of the actual articles when they get them?  (And there's no need to check what is on the Royal Mail stamps website, because they aren't mentioned.)   These labels must have been printed before Collections was put together for printing?  It sort of reminds you of Spanish hotels in 1970s brochures - what they show is an artist's impression!

Non-perforated Golden Horizons going national?

My postmaster told me this afternoon that instructions had been issued for the withdrawal - at least temporarily - of the 'perforated' Machin Horizon labels in favour of those trialled at Old Street (and more recently at Chesterfield). 

I've no official word on this yet, and it may be that Post Office Ltd are seeking a solution to the counters printer problem that resulted in the new type of label.  But it may be that some offices will never use the perforated ones, and that some service indicators on these will be - to say the least - unusual.

Please let me know if your office starts using the unperforated labels, and if you have any examples of any of the labels to spare we will be interested.  (We know you can't collect everything, even the stuff you get for free!)

Changes to Faststamps font ahead of birds issue

The PostagelabelsUK blog reports today that Post & Go machines are being modified in preparation for the issue on 17 September of the Bird Pictorial Faststamps. 

On the examples shown, the font is quite different, the uppercase on Up to 100g has changed to lower case up, and the g in both Large and g(rammes) has changed to the traditional style shown in our normal type-face (g) from the Arial style g.  Whether or not you can see this here may depend on your browser settings - click on this link to see examples.

As promised, we are now able to show you the first images of the labels with the new font:

The mint stamp - Ludgate Circus kiosk - machine 4 (branch code 242007)

First day of use on normal envelope (Ludgate kiosk 4, with Mount Pleasant machine postmark.)

First Day Cover with Old Street label (branch code 028003)
We don't have any of these for sale, but hope to have some from the Norwich machine before the rolls of Birds stamps are installed.

Monday 6 September 2010

National Arboretum (Rememberance) Commemorative Sheet out 28 October 2010

Royal Mail has announced a further addition to the Commemorative Sheet programme this year.

The National Arboretum is the national centre for Remembrance and at its heart is the Armed Forces Memorial. This, and many of the commemorative sculptures at the Arboretum are featured on the sheet and the accompanying folder. Royal Mail will be making a donation to the National Memorial Arboretum for each one sold.

Royal Mail Stock Code will be AV012, and the price £13.50.

What do you think of Commemorative Sheets - do you buy them?  Good for stamp collectors, or just good collectables for Royal Mail?   Use the comments button - comments can be anonymous.