Friday 29 April 2011

Security Machins - how do you organise them?

In the beginning there were the sheet stamps with security features, and all was simple:

2nd & 1st class, 2nd & 1st class Large, 50p & £1, together with the higher values, were issued on 17 February 2009.

Retail booklets and Business Sheets were issued in March 2009.  Of course we knew from the outset that the overlay included the words ROYAL MAIL.  It was only in April 2009 that we dealers and collectors found out that the stamps were coded to identify their source, with B for Business Sheets, T for booklets of 12, S for booklets of 6, and C for mixed booklets of 6, with F for booklets of 4 large letter stamps.

But in April 2010 Alec Withell reported the MA10 code in the London 2010 advert booklet, and the process has continued from there.

So how to keep these in the album?
I asked myself this question as I have been sorting the 2011 versions, arranging them on a stock-card to make sure that we have all the variations for all the standing order customers.  What we are distributing early next month consists of the last two 2010 2nd class Large, the 2010 Recorded Signed For, all the 2011 NVIs so far available (14), plus the litho-printed stamps from the Wm Morris PSB.

Maybe it is best to keep them as year sets, based on the code rather than on the date of issue or discovery?   Many do not have a specific date of issue, although some do, and the last two 2nd Large MA10 stamps have been discovered well into 2011.

For those who follow the catalogue there is no easy answer because the many variations are not shown in the basic (Concise) catalogue.  And, for example, because the MPIL 50p from 2010 is gravure and the 50p from 2011 is litho it is likely that their catalogue numbers will be distant.  Better then, maybe, to keep them together by 'value', with a page for the 2nd class small, another page for the 1st class small, and so on. 

What do you do?  I suspect many collectors will keep these as a work-in-progress collection on stock pages.  Because I thought it would be easier I have allocated a page to each stamp (not value), and arranged them by year - but if there is an order, for example, for all the business sheet stamps then the 2nd class from 2009 (2911) is often followed by the next two, 2911.0 and 2911.1 - which involves much back and forth in the stockbook to pick an order! 

Let everybody know if you have found another solution - please leave a comment here.

Monday 25 April 2011

Security Machins - Recorded Signed For 2010 pictures

As mentioned here, the Recorded Signed For 2010 versions are now circulating - we will have them in stock after the holiday weekends, ie early May.  Thanks, Richard, for the pictures:

Thursday 21 April 2011

Wedding Mail-shot uses MRIL 1st class

When is junk mail not junk mail? When it uses a special stamp that is hard to get!  So if you get one of these from Royal Mail, urging you to buy into their Royal Wedding collection, don't just bin it.

Although it doesn't show in this scan, this is the self-adhesive 2009 1st class from coils of 10,000.  Many direct mail houses used 2nd class stamps on their mail-shots and I've never received a 1st class before, so thank you, Royal Mail!

This is where you can see the code:

And if you get one and don't want it, I'm sure I have customers in the UK and abroad who would welcome it in their collections - please write!  (  And if you are a collector who has not had one of these - especially our friends outside the UK - please let me know if you would like one.  1st come; 1st served!

Security Machins - 1st Large Business Sheet 2011, Recorded 2010

Thanks to Richard P we can now confirm the existence of the 1st class Large Business Sheet for 2011, with MA11 in the usual place above the ge and MBIL at lower right:

Two more 2010 coded stamps have been reported with the Recorded Signed For Letter and Large Letter stamps being printed on 11/03/10 and 12/03/10 respectively.  Once again, pictures will be provided as soon as we have them, and we will also announced when we have them in stock. Pictures here.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Old stamps now appearing in post offices.

As you know, the low value Machin definitives were issued on 8 March this year, but they will not appear in post office branches until stocks of gummed stamps are exhausted.  And when will this be?

A recent delivery of the 1p stamp to a local post office was of 11 year old stamps!  Yes, these were printed in January and June 2000.  It's not a misprint, because the dot-matrix printing spans the half-way position of the sheet - specialist collectors will recall that after complaints that dot-blocks from post offices were always creased, Royal Mail arranged for the printing date and sheet number to be moved to the lower half of the sheet.  Keep your eyes open for other old stock appearing; for 1st & 2nd class Country stamps that could even mean different varieties, as well as unreported printing dates.

My latest post from Northern Ireland was stamped with a 2nd class 2009 security stamp from a book of 12 (code MTIL).  Now it could be that the sender had kept the stamps for a while, or it could mean that some parts of the UK have still not taken delivery of 2010 versions!  Keep watch on the incoming mail as well as Post Office stocks.

Let us know what you find - leave a comment.

This should be the last post for a week, unless No 2 reporter finds anything, as I'm moving from the far East (Norfolk) to the far West (Tywyn area).  Comments will not be moderated until my return.

Friday 8 April 2011

Machins from Wm Morris PSB: a mix, but colours right

We now have images of the actual Machin definitives from the Wm Morris prestige stamp book.

Unlike the stamps in the publicity image (shown below), the colours are a reasonable match to the originals.

The 5p & 10p are without the security overprint, but the 50p shows the M11L and MPIL year and source codes.

There are 8 tabs attaching the stamps to the matrix - as on the second version of the King George V London Festival of Stamps psb (8 May 2010), and the security slits are type 2a 2.

New Machin - or not? Unconfirmed MA11 1st Large Business.

1st class Large '11' from business sheets with an 03.11.10 printing date have been reported.

Knowledgeable people who are normally at the forefront with new finds are treating this as unconfirmed until there is evidence in the form of an image.  The date would be right for a 2011/MA11 version but so far all the reports can be tracked back to one printed mention, which could be an error.

If anybody who has this 1st Large Letter Business Sheet can confirm with an image, please write so that we can get the finding confirmed and image displayed.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Who's Smiling Now? Business Smilers take a dive.

On his Smilers-Info website, Graham Howard writes about all new Royal Mail Generic Smilers sheets, and also about all the Business Customised Sheets generated mostly by major first day & commemorative cover producers, and the 'jump-on-the-bandwagon' Commemorative Sheets produced by Royal Mail for over 3x face value. 

I've predicted that this bubble would burst, that with the ever increasing number of 'posters' containing stamps churned out at prices from £25-£50 each collectors would say "enough is enough" and that's the way things seem to be going.  Many Royal Mail sheets can be bought on eBay for less than original selling price - sometimes for less than (current) face value.  And while certain popular short-supply sheets have always been expensive and always will be, many Business Customised Sheets produced to cash in on the collector whim are now on the market at less than the original selling price.

As Graham writes in his latest update:

There was a time, not so long ago, when we looked forward to receiving the next 10-15 business sheets that had already been announced. Not so now! As the deficit bites so our disposable spending reduces and I think this may in part be impacting the choices that collectors are making. Not only are there less sheets these days (not a bad thing) but they are announced days, not weeks, before their appearance. I think all sheet producers, including us, are taking a more cautious approach with future issues, Ridgewood for one has decided that fewer more significant sheets are the future - we will leave the trains, boats and planes to the other producers.

Business Customised Sheets were originally intended by Royal Mail to be created for businesses to customise their mail.  They even promoted the use of customised coils, though none have ever been produced as far as we know. The first were produced for Eagle Coaches of Bristol in small numbers and under 10 are thought to be in collectors' hands.  The next batch appeared for major football clubs, and the England Rugby squad, and soon stamp dealers realised that they could make money by producing 'collectibles' with images of Elvis, steam locomotives, Dr Who, and royalty - in which the stamp element was purely incidental.  Some were produced with different perforations or by different printers, which was why they were initially of interest to collectors. But they were never going to be listed in stamp catalogues.

The stamp dealers, in conjunction with Royal Mail, were producing - in effect - glossy colourful posters, which happened to have 10 or 20 1st class stamps in them.  Purely money-making, not even philatelic. Then Royal Mail took to selling some of these private productions through their Philatelic Bureau adding some sort of legitimacy to them, with the inevitable next step being that Royal Mail produced similar sheets under their own name at a much lower selling price but still over 3x face.

What was potentially a good idea for business advertising is probably the worst thing that has happened to British stamps in recent years.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

More Security Machins for 2011

We now have images of the latest Machin definitives to be found

2nd class Large from Counter Sheets and  1st class from retail books of 12

The story so far, and approximate dates of issue/discovery (links to earlier reports):

11 January - 1st class from mixed booklets (Thunderbirds) - M11L - MCIL
- - January - 1st class from Business Sheets - M11L - MBIL
- - January - 2nd class from Business Sheets - M11L - MBIL
- - January - 2nd class from Counter Sheets - M11L - MAIL
- - February - 2nd class Large Counter Sheet - MA10 - MAIL
- - February - 1st class from Counter Sheets - M11L - MAIL
- - February - 1st class Large Counter Sheet - MA11 - MAIL
22 March - 2nd class Large retail booklet - MA11 - MFIL
22 March - 1st class Large retail booklet - MA11 - MFIL
- - March - 2nd class retail booklet of 12 - M11L - MTIL
- - March - 1st class retail booklet of 6 - M11L - MSIL
- - March - 2nd class Large Business Sheets - MA10 - MBIL
- - April - 2nd class Large Counter Sheet - MA11 - MAIL
- - April - 1st class retail booklet of 12 - M11L - MTIL
- - April - 2nd class Large Business Sheets - MA11 - MBIL
- - March/April - Recorded Signed For pair - MA10 - MAIL

Now, by my reckoning, that only leaves the 1st class Large from Business Sheets to be found - and it's only April!

Valued stamps
The new tariff rate stamps have M11L and MAIL security codes - 68p, 76p, £1.10 & £1.65.  The low value definitives (1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p) have no security overprint.

The William Morris prestige stamp book will have 5p, 10p and 50p self-adhesive Machins, so we expect MA11 or M11L with MPIL source code somewhere.

Friday 1 April 2011

Presentation Pack Alert - 29 March Definitives.

Several people have reported buying presentation packs containing only 4 stamps.  This is what definitive presentation pack No 90 looks like. 

All around the country packs are being sold from Post Offices without the low value stamps issued on 8 March. This is a mistake in make-up by Royal Mail or their suppliers.

The price of the pack £5.10 includes the five low-value stamps worth 38p. If you have bought a pack with only 4 stamps in, go back to the Post Office or phone Post Office Customer Services to complain - (on 08457 22 33 44*. Lines are open from 8.15am - 6.00pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am - 2.00pm Saturday.)

Note that the stamps in the pack have been guillotined (possibly from coils) not torn from sheets.  The backing paper is thus much smaller than on the sheet stamps.  If your pack is missing the 1p - 20p stamps you want the guillotined ones to put in it, not stamps torn from sheets.