Sunday 31 July 2011

Pre-printed albums - what spaces are there for 2010?

One of our customers outside the UK has bought the SAFE album supplement for 2010 stamps and has asked for the original (Machin Head) Faststamps with the branch code 002010 as sold at the London Festival of Stamps.  As far as I know these are no different from those sold at Post & Go machines in 30 Post Offices across the country except for the Branch Code.

Can anybody confirm that SAFE are including space for the 002010 Faststamps, but not for all the other branches?!

Thursday 28 July 2011

Posted 21st May: Gold medallists will be honoured on stamps in 2012

Due to a glitch in blogspot this post has been redated as 28 July. I've no idea why this should be!

{Press Release}

• Royal Mail stamps to be issued to mark all Team GB gold medal wins

• Gold medal stamps a first for Royal Mail

• Only 3rd time a host nation has issued individual Olympic gold medal stamps

• Stephen Agar from Royal Mail said: “We’re delighted to announce we will be issuing these very special gold medal stamps. We hope that we will be printing many sets, just as the Nation hopes that it will be celebrating many victories next summer.”

With one year to go to London 2012, Royal Mail has announced that it will issue special gold medal stamps to celebrate Team GB Olympic gold medal wins.

This is the first time that Royal Mail has issued stamps to mark Olympic victories. The stamps will feature both individual and team gold medal wins.

Details of the actual designs themselves are set to be announced later, when Royal Mail will also announce its plans to commemorate the Paralympic Games.

Royal Mail have since confirmed that the medalwinners will be depicted on actual stamps not on Smilers Sheet labels.  It is likely that a stamp will be issued for each medal won. 

Machin 20p gummed cylinder D5 used before self-adhesives

De La Rue printed more of the gummed 20p bright green stamps from a new cylinder before the self-adhesive versions were printed and these are now available in our shop with a printing date of 16/09/10

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Faststamps to get an extra value - 40g worldwide

We have been told that the 5 existing Faststamp values will soon be supplemented by a sixth value, for the 40g World Wide letter rate.

The update to Post and Go software is scheduled to take place in July/August: as always each machine needs to be updated individually so there will be no nationwide first day of issue for this rate.

The new rate label will be similar to this, and I have been assured that Norwich (019136) will NOT be among the early branches to be changed!  Please do not ask for these as they are not yet available.

Later, another software change will see the addition of a ‘collector’ button that will automatically produce a version of each value to make it easier for collectors to obtain the set. The Wincor-Nixdorf machines will still not produce a strip of 6, so the best way to get these will be as a pair of 3.

UPDATE: Latest information is that "40g should get into some branches before Stampex!"which is not helpful - it will mean that some offices will have 5 values when Birds 4 are issued, and some will have 6.  Not much good for getting full sets of 36, or full set FDCs :-(

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Country Definitive printing dates, cylinder numbers, (updated)

Royal Mail have confirmed that the printing dates for the 2011 Country Definitives are on the litho plates.

The printings for both England and Scotland ran over two days because they are still produced in reasonable volumes. Cartor currently has no ink-jetting facilities and so to change the print date required them to make a new plate. Wales and Northern Ireland printing was completed in one day so only one set of plates was used.

Monday 18 July 2011

New Machin security coil - 2010 2nd class self-adhesive

Richard P has kindly sent this image of a 2010 2nd class self-adhesive coil MA10 MRIL on a direct mailshot.

This is a new find and suggests that the 1st class might also be out there.  We have reason to believe, from information supplied by Royal Mail, that the 2011 versions also exist. However, we have no way of knowing whether the part of Royal Mail which supplies these to the mailing houses has yet sold, or even received, any of the 2011 versions - which have been produced for both 1st & 2nd class values.

Let us know if you find any of these - and if you received them on mail then information about the sender and mailing house would be useful!

Thursday 14 July 2011

Definitive printing dates, cylinder numbers, and speculation (updated)

News has reached us from various sources concerning printing dates and cylinder numbers on Machin and country definitives.

Country stamps.
The new printings by Cartor released at the end of March had C1 x 6 cylinder numbers (4 colour process, silver, and phosphor).  The printing dates - not printed by ink-jet but apparently engraved on the cylinder - are:

England - 24/01/11    Ireland - 24/01/11
Scotland - 26/01/11   N Ireland - 27/01/11

Recently the England stamps have been found dated 25/01/11 - with black cylinder C2.  It's the black cylinder that prints the date in the right margin:

The England £1.10 stamp is, of course, printed in two columns alongside 2 columns of 68p stamps, so that value will also exist with the new date and cylinder number.   The Scotland 68p stamp exists dated 27/01/11 with black cylinder C2; once again this indicates that the £1.10 should also exists in this form - the Scotland £1.10 has now been seen.

Machin definitive
Although the low-value self-adhesive stamps were printed in January this year, some printings for the stamps with ordinary gum may not have appeared in post offices yet - and Royal Mail said that stocks of gummed stamps will be exhausted before the self-adhesives are sent to POs.  A late printing of the 20p emerald has appeared - 15/09/10 - with a D5 cylinder number, replacing the D4 printed on 10/03/08.

Will we lose gold in Olympic year Back in 1997 the colour of the 1st class stamp changed to gold in honour of the Queen's Golden Wedding Anniversary.  They reverted back to orange, and then there was the Millennium version, and in 2002 the colour again changed to gold coincident with the Queen's Golden Jubilee - and it has remained gold ever since.

When two or three collectors get together discussing modern developments in stamps, all sorts of speculative thoughts are voiced.  The Diamond Jubilee occurs next year and Royal Mail have already announced the issue of a new definitive in February, replacing the current gold one, but no details have yet been supplied.

It's been suggested that there will be no point in reverting to gold at the end of 2012: so it is more than possible that the Diamond Jubilee 1st class definitive will be the default - in counter sheets, business sheets, retail booklets, prestige stamp books and coils.  It's logical that the Large Letter stamp will also change from gold. 

Anyone want to guess what the change will be? Bright silver for diamonds?  Royal Purple?  Colour with a silver security overprint (seems unlikely, they still think this is a secret security device!)? 
And if there are no more gold stamps, will the Arnold Machin Centenary sheet hold the last printing of gold 1st class stamps?

Your speculation is invited - use the comment box!

Another new 1st class Machin forgery - with 'security features' found

We've been sent a photo of the latest 1st class gold definitive forgery.  This one has security features, including the slits and an overprint MSIL, but with no year code.

I'm told that this is identifiable as it is on bright paper, with no phosphor and printed in Litho.  It appears to have varnished 'phosphor bands'. 

Monday 11 July 2011

New stamp in Postmark's 350th Anniversary striking Smilers sheet

The first type of British postmark was introduced in 1661, at the London Chief Office, when Henry Bishop was Postmaster General (June 1660 to April 1663).

When refuting charges of delays in the post, he claimed:-
"A stamp is invented, that is putt upon every letter shewing the day of the moneth that every letter comes to this office, so that no letter Carryer may dare to detayne a letter from post to post ; which, before, was usual."

Bishop published the announcement of the "Bishop Mark" in the Mercurius Publicus. The Bishop Marks varied in size and in lettering, and they remained in general use until 1787 with survivals into 1788.

Some excellent examples of Bishop Marks can be seen on Eunice Shanahan's website.

With 2011 being the 350th anniversary of Bishop's Mark, Royal Mail has produced a striking generic smilers sheet showing more than 20 different types of postmark that have been used in Britain across the centuries. The sheet will be on sale from 15 September (including at Autumn Stampex).

This is the first Generic sheet (since the one issued in January 2010 which introduced the design) to use the 'wax seal' 1st class stamp introduced in February 2010 as part of the Business Customised Sheet range.  It is not available for Personalisation as a Smiler stamp. The labels show:

Column 1: Bishop Mark 1661, Essex Post (1674), Dockwra (1680), Birmingham 'Chandelier' (1772), and Provincial Penny Post (Aylsham, Norfolk).

Column 2: Red Maltese Cross (1840), Barred Numeral England & Wales (1844), Pearson Hill machine (1857), Duplex - International Exhibition (1862), and Edinburgh duplex, Brunswick Star (1863)

Centre of Sheet: Britain's Most Northerly Post Office, Baltasound (permanent pictorial handstamp, in use currently), Britain's most southerly post office, The Lizard Helston Cornwall (counter datestamp),
the Oldest post office in Britain, Sanquar, Dumfries-shire (permanent pictorial handstamp - now closed), Longest placename in postmark, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (special handstamp for re-opening of railway station).

Column 3: Birmingham Squared Circle (1879), Scottish Double Arc, Largs (1883), Parcel Post 'Label' Handstamp Cannon Street London (1887), First machine slogan, War Bonds (1917), and First Tourist Slogan, Hastings (1963).

Column 4: First Day of Issue handstamp, Stratford-upon-Avon (1964 - Shakespeare), National Postal Museum Handstamp (1969), Self-Inking Datestamp [SID] Winchester (1981 counter date stamp), First regular ink-jet slogan Watford (1997), and Travelling Post Office operational handstamp, last day of service (Midland TPO South No2 Side 9 Jan 2004).

Click here for larger image, and here for super-size (1.1Mb) image.

Update: Special postmarks for the date of issue are shown here.

First Aerial Post PSB - wer'e getting closer to the facts

The Centenary of the First UK Aerial Post from Hendon to Windsor will be marked by a miniature sheet and prestige stamp booklet.  There has been much speculation regarding the Machin pane in the booklet, whether it will be litho or gravure, and with ordinary gum or self-adhesive.  Some of the uncertainty is caused by Royal Mail's pre-production publicity images, which never show the stamps properly joined, however they are produced.

Based on this, and technical information provided, I wrote:
The printing process is described as "Lithography, except pane 1 which is gravure", and the printer is identified as Cartor Security Printing.  However, we know that Cartor do not have gravure capability, so pane 1 will probably be printed by Walsall, especially if self-adhesive.  

I must admit the label confused me - I thought it was the same design as in the 2010 King George V PSB but that was a Mackennal profile of the King, and this is the Downey head.

Now we have images of what I believe are the actual panes, and not only have the values changed, the Machin pane is conventionally gummed.  How many stamps will have security features, though - we don't know!  Of these, the 5p has been issued with security slits but no overprint but only in self-adhesive form, the 1st class has been issued with overprint in both gummed and self-adhesive form but only the latter has the security slits.  The 76p has only been issued self-adhesive, having both security slits and overprint.  (I wonder if part of the "cost of production' - the reason for the selling price of these books now being 10% above face - is due to the complexity of the cylinders used for these security features?)

And while we're on the subject of costs - it hardly seems necessary to include two rouletting cutters for the panes which contain the commemorative stamps in this booklet:

For the record, the final pane contains 4 x Windsor Castle 50p stamps, printed in intaglio - or what we used to call 'recess' printing.

Arnold Machin Centenary MS - a missed opportunity, and so boring!

As reported here, Royal Mail have decided to mark the centenary of the birth of the sculptor Arnold Machin with a souvenir sheet of ten definitive stamps bearing his iconic image of HM The Queen will be issued on the opening day of Stampex, 14 September. 

The sheet will have conventional gum, but will have "full security features except for the security slits" according to the publicity information we have received. As this is a new source (miniature sheet) for security definitives it is to be expected that a new source code will be used.

Updated: we have been told that the sheet is printed by Walsall in gravure, and has PVA gum.

The souvenir sheet will reportedly be available at Stampex and on order from Tallents House but not, by implication, at post offices which seems odd.  If they are available at Post Offices, then it seems unnecessary to mention that they will be sold at Stampex and Tallents House, where all other new issues are sold!
Updated: this is a souvenir sheet not a miniature sheet so it will not be distributed to Royal Mail's MS customers on standing order. Special postmarks in use on the day of issue are shown here.
(as of 9 September we haven't received our advance supplies from Royal Mail!)

But once again, Royal Mail have missed a trick.  This is undoubtedly the most boring British stamp issue of recent years.  Why not a bold heading for 'Arnold Machin Centenary', rather than just dropping his dates alongside his signature.  As there is no date of issue, the sheet has nothing to indicate that it has been produced for his birth centenary.  On the other hand collectors of security definitives will be delighted that there will probably only be one collectable stamp here, and dealers will be able to supply 10 customers from just one sheet. 

These were, surely, better:


Or even this!!

Saturday 2 July 2011

Inset Phosphor Bands on Security Stamps

I don't have much occasion to write about phosphor band variations on modern stamps.  Most variations I have seen are on the booklet stamps, but even then the shift is very slight and not worthy of a catalogue listing by even the most detailed catalogue.

I've now had a report that the 1st class Large from Business sheets exists with bands Inset from Right clear of the  margin.  These are from sheets 03-11-10 with yearcode MA11.  If anybody is interested please contact me by email.