Friday 30 September 2011

Start the year with Olympic definitives!

Even before the 'blockbuster' (ie wide public appeal) Roald Dahl literary characters issue at the beginning of January, Royal Mail will issue four Olympic/Paralympic Definitive stamps on 5 January.  There will be one each 1st class and 20g Worldwide stamp with the London 2012 Olympic Logo and the Paralympics Logo.  The stamps are being printed by Walsall Security Printers in gravure, in self-adhesive booklets. At this stage we don't know whether they will also be in sheets.
Update: Royal mail have confirmed that the stamps will also be issued in sheets self-adhesive and printed by De La Rue.

From the Royal Mail press release:

    “People sending letters to friends or family in the UK and overseas tourists sending mail abroad will be able to commemorate this historic event by using these stamps to post their items. As we reach the 300 day countdown, it’s exciting to see millions of these stamps rolling off the printing presses.”
The stamps will be available from all 11,800 Post Office branches across the UK from Thursday 5th January 2012. There are four new stamps - two 1st Class and two for Worldwide use to post items up to 20 gm in weight. Both sets of values feature one stamp with the London 2012 Olympic Games logo and one with London 2012 Paralympic Games logo.

Around a million stamps an hour in striking orange and blue inks will be printed on specialist stamp printing presses in Walsall, West Midlands over the next few days.

More images of the booklet, production, and checking:

Although appearing red in these images, the stamps will be orange - or maybe the same colour as the 1st class 'flame' that came before the gold, and with which we are so familiar. It also shows that on the web, they appear to be printed only 'two-up'.

There's a film of printing and interviews on Stamp Magazine's website.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Remembrance Poppy revival at the end of October

Royal Mail have confirmed that the strip of 3 s-tenant Poppy stamps will be available from Post Office branches again this year.

The stamps, first issued in 2008, will be in sheets of 60 and will be available at POs from 31 October, although postmasters are permitted to sell them earlier if they want to, as this is not a new issue.  The stamps will also be available from the Philatelic Bureau at Tallents House. (Thanks, Keith W, for news of this!)

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Bulk Mailers using stamps - a register, with your help

I was given a mailing from Taylor's Port today, a 2nd class blue stamp with a wavy line laser or ink-jet cancellation.  I was hopeful that they were using the same stamps as the Sunday Times Wine Club, but it was not the case.  This is the 'Sunday Times' stamp:

I thought a register of Business Direct Mail users and what stamps they use might be helpful.  so:

April 2011 Royal Mail Royal Wedding - 1st class SA coil 2009 - MRIL MAIL
July 2011  Sunday Times Wine Club - 2nd class SA coil 2010 - MRIL MA10
?? 2011  Taylor's Port - 2nd class Business sheet 2010 - MBIL MA10
---- 2011  One of the credit card companies (agents) sends out new cards using coil stamps but so far seem to be stuck with 2009.

March 2012 update: The British Heart Foundation also uses 2nd class coil stamps, this is the 2009 self-adhesive:

 (Thanks, Michael)

Let us know of any additions to this list, by email or using the comments box; either way I'll add them to the list.

Monday 26 September 2011

Changes to Horizon Labels today

I thought it had been quiet on the Horizon label front.  News today from Brian on postagelabelsuk:

New ‘accounting codes’ added to Horizon Postage Labels.

A change to the Horizon postage labels has taken place today, which has resulted in some additional codes being added to the overprint, to be used for Post Office internal accounting purposes. For example it will be possible to identify which product a ‘SD’ label refers to – Special Delivery by 9am, SD next day (1pm), SD to Channels Islands etc, as each different type will have a specific code added.

The two additional characters have been added at the end of the ‘Postage PaidUK’ and ‘Royal Mail’ or ‘Parcelforce’ lines.

New Horizon label images will be added to Brian's blog in due course.  I wonder who - apart from him - did first day covers.  I saw the news at 5pm,and I only know one person who would have been interested: I hope he follows Brian's news-stream as well as this one!

Update: I'm told (thanks Kevin!) that the reference to Special Delivery in Brian's blog is purely illustrative.  All Horizon labels for all services have changed, with additional coding on the Postage Paid line, and elsewhere.  Watch this space - and watch your mail.  We will, as usual be happy to show images of what you receive.

Monday 19 September 2011

Don't leave it too late to get Birds 4 Faststamps!

If you usually get your own sets of Faststamps from your nearest Post and Go machine, don't leave it too late.  For the two machines in Norwich, 3 rolls were provided.  They have all been fitted in one machine as far as I know.

From installation on Friday, and with the office open all day on Saturday, until about 11am this morning (Monday) two whole rolls have been dispensed.  I had the third one installed to complete my purchases.  I know that there is at least one other big buyer in Norwich, but unless there are more stocks forthcoming from central stores, there is no chance of getting a 40 g set from Norwich because by the time the software upgrade is completed there will be no Birds 4 left.

Sets of 36 different bird/value stamps will be difficult to get: even sets of 30 (without the 40 g) won't be plentiful.  So while we dealers are sorting out what we have and who for, maybe it's time to nip into the PO and buy some to put aside (not that I would ever suggest stamps as an investment opportunity!)  But when they're gone they're gone, and if more do materialise, you can always use them for postage.

We understand that the initial distribution was low because the Swindon Stores Depot changed the unit of issue from a box (of 5 rolls) to a roll.  Consequently initial supplies were very limited.  The unit of issue has now been changed back to box, and any PO now ordering should get a box of 5 rolls which should last a while!  There may even be an automatic distibution to get the seabirds out of the way before the sheep come in next year!

Sunday 18 September 2011

Silly prices for Post & Go from Stampex?

As usual after Stampex there is a flood of listings on eBay for all combinations of what was available.  And some very wild claims with prices to match.

As you can see from the previous post (below), Birds 4 were in machine #93 and that is where almost all my stock has come from.  Yet a single £5.40 strip is listed on eBay for £95 - as a starting price! Will the bunnies bite?  Maybe, but there are probably more Birds 4 from #93 in dealers hands than from the self-service machine (#91).  [You won't find that £95 one now, it's been pulled by the seller.]

Birds 3 is a different matter.  This was in machine 93 at the beginning of Stampex and most people using the self-service machines (which dispensed only Machin Centenary stamps) would not have known about Birds 3 being available.  Those are likely to be scarcer by far, from the Hytec machine. 

And I wonder if any Wincor-Nixdorf machines in Post Offices were updated before Friday, and might have dispensed 40gr stamps?  Enquiring minds need to know!

Friday 16 September 2011

Stampex Post & Go Hytech - 16 September 2011

The fourth and final set of Birds Faststamps was issued today, and as expected one of the 'backroom' machines at Stampex (number 93) was producing these in strips of 6, while the other (number 94) remained producing Machin Centenary Faststamps:

One would expect that the self-service machines - or at least one of them - would also be loaded with Birds 4: I await confirmation.

Meanwhile, an early release of the Birds 4 pictorials has been reported. A first class faststamp showing an arctic tern has been seen on an envelope from Paisley (id 007859) dated 12th September 2011. The session number was 26868. (Thanks to John McCallum for this news: follow John's Postal Mechanisation updates on

Does anybody have news of P and G machines in Post Offices producing the new 40g label as shown above??  First Day Cover producers need them for the full set!

Thursday 15 September 2011

Faststamps News: Birds 3 from the Stampex Hytech machines

As well the Machin Centenary Faststamps first mentioned in this post (following the announcement on Postagelabelsuk) the Birds 3 faststamps were also available in Hytech strips of 6 from the Royal Mail counter at Stampex.  The self-service machines (No 91 & 92) only dispensed the Centenary items.  Over-the-counter sales are from machines 93 and 94 as shown below:

Centenary stamp from Hytech Machine 91:

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Sunday Times update: 4th 2nd class MA10 MRIL discovered

Update: I was thinking that this report was only the second occurrence but I've been reminded that there was a comment against the original entry from a reader who also had one.   That would make three, but I have been told of another held by a dealer/collector, so that's four.  More may well turn up in kiloware, and of course more could be used on other mailings from the STWC or others. 

We've heard from another collector that he has found a copy of this stamp:

The 2nd class coil (MRIL) stamp self-adhesive with MA10 year code is only known (so far) used by a mailer for the Sunday Times Wine Club, and we know of only two copies in collectors' hands.  We understand that a single roll of 10,000 of the MA10 version was used on the mailing - how many ended in the bin?

If you're a member of the Sunday Times Wine Club and haven't yet thrown out your mail - we are interested in buying this and will pay well!

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Arnold Machin Centenary MS update - new source AND year codes!

Thanks to a reader - we don't yet have our stock - we can now show a single stamp from the Arnold Machin Centenary Souvenir Sheet.  As you can see this has the year code AM11 and the source code MMIL.  In full the relevant line of the overlay reads ALAM11ROYALMMIL.

And from the postagelabelsuk blog, we can show the Machin Centenary Faststamps. All 6 values will be produced by the Hytach machines Stampex:


Christmas 2011: 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible

2011 marks 400 years since the production of the King James Authorised Version of the Holy Bible.  The Christmas stamps this year commemorate that anniversary.  More details on our website soon.

The miniature sheet is, as usual, conventionally gummed.  The stamps will be issued in individual sheets of 25 self-adhesive, and the 1st & 2nd letter stamps will also be in booklets of 12.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Masters of the Post - The Authorized History of the Royal Mail

The British Postal Museum and Archive have told me that the original report was wrong: the book is unrelated to the radio series.  SO....

Two autumn events: A BBC Radio 4 series will be aired around Christmas time. It will comprise 15 episodes on the history of the post.  No details at present but we'll tell you when we know more!

There will also be a accompanying book with the above title, currently showing (but not available to pre-order) on the Penguin Books website. It is, however, available to pre-order on with a 30% discount and free delivery. has it listed but as yet not available to pre-order.

At £30 for .....
Format : Hardback
ISBN: 9781846143243
Size : 153 x 234mm
Pages : 832
Published : 03 Nov 2011
Publisher : Allen Lane

.... this looks to be a good buy, so add it to your Christmas list now!

Thursday 8 September 2011

Surprise Machin Centenary stamps from Post Office Ltd at Stampex.

Brian Sinnott has revealed on his Postage Labels UK blog a surprise Machin souvenir.

Royal Mail have today announced that Hytech Postalvision equipment at Autumn Stampex 2011 will dispense a tribute to ‘Arnold Machin’ in the form of an overprinted set of Post and Go Machin-head stamps next week.

This overprint will be only available at Stampex, and will be applied on the existing ‘Machin’ Post and Go stock on one of two new Hytech Self-service Stamp Machines.
This Post Office tribute is more exciting than Royal Mail's no-FDC-Souvenir-sheet.

Update: I will be trying to obtain strips for existing customers - customers requiring FDCs please advise and I will do my best!

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Special stamp issue for England Test team (cricket).

Special stamp issue for England Test team - well that's what the press-release headline says anyway. 

"Secret stamp issue for England Test team.
Britain’s secret little post office at Bletchley Park is celebrating England becoming the World’s Number 1 cricket team with a Smiler and cover issue. The cover features two exclusive paintings by renowned cricket artist Christina Pierce, one on the envelope and another on the stamp. The stamp has a 13th August 2011 cachet to mark the day of the big win."

And once again the press will pick it up, and the foreign press in some cricket countries (notably India) will report it as a new stamp issue by Royal Mail.  And I hope that this blogpost will get equal coverage!

This is NOT a new stamp issue by Royal Mail.  It will be a Smilers sheet commissioned by Bletchley Park PO to mark the fact that the England team have become the world number 1.  The exclusive painting is NOT on a stamp, but on the label loosely attached to the stamp.  I'm not saying that this is misrepresentation but it is misleading in that it leads readers to believe something that is not true. 

Doubtless once it gets in the press we will have a number of people emailing and phoning us asking whether it is in Post Offices.  I feel sorry for the employees of Post Office Ltd and Royal Mail's Tallents House philatelic bureau who - not knowing what it is - have to deny all knowledge of it.

Booklet Cylinder numbers - why bother?

I've now had time to scan the latest retail booklets (previously only publicity images were available). I am beginning to wonder why cylinder numbers are shown as we know that there are never any variations these days.

The English Locomotives retail booklet is unusual in not being printed with 4 process colours - at least I think it is printed in the actual colours; it's difficult to tell with the cylinders being printed on the dark green background!

The visible cylinder numbers, from the right, are Gold, Black or Green, Green or Black(both these look black!).  The less visible ones are the gold security overlay and phosphor which are above the LA of CLASSIC.

The 6th Olympic/Paralympics booklet which, being multicoloured, uses the normal process colours of (from left) Yellow, Magenta, Cyan and Black, plus light grey.  To the left are phosphor and gold security overlay, above the ond of London.

Saturday 3 September 2011

Security stamp usage observation

When the security definitives were first issued in 2009 the sheet stamps were issued on 17 February and booklets, business sheets and coils on 31 March - but that was just philatelic issue.  It took some months for the various different versions to percolate through Post Office Supplies Department and out to branches. 

Evidence from incoming business and social mail during 2009 was that most of the new stamps came from booklets.  And local post office branches were still using pre-security PIP stamps (especially 2nd Large, and 1st small) well into 2010.

Looking at similar mail this year - now that all the 2011 stamps from main sources have appeared - it is evident that many more counter sheet stamps are being used.  This includes 1st class despite the vast number of 1st class special stamps available.

For collectors of modern postal history - stamps on cover doing the right job - use of some versions of the 2009 stamps (the ones with no year code) in 2009 and early 2010 may be quite hard to find, especially the counter sheet versions.  I don't get many Large Letters with single LL stamps on, but I would say that 2009 counter sheets, and 2nd class 2010 business sheets will be difficult to find.  So far only one printing date for the latter has been discovered!

What's your experience?  Let us know by leaving a comment!