Saturday 26 November 2011

Christmas 2011 Personalised Smilers - update

I mentioned earlier the confusion about what was available this year and where to get them from. 

The confusion was not aided by Royal Mail's website being down for maintenance last weekend with problems affecting various modules all week.

Graham Howard, on his Smilers-info website has probably now cracked it, though we would still be interested in the experience of other Smiler-seekers.

In brief, Snapfish are producing Smilers sheets, known there as Photostamps, for the 2nd & 1st class values only.  No personalised Smilers sheets are available through Royal Mail's website, but all four values (including the 68p & £1.10 airmail stamps) can be obtained from Royal Mail Tallents House, by phone, e-mail or written application form (which ought to be available at POs though I haven't yet seen any.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Post and Go Faststamps for 2012 - dates and subjects

Royal Mail's Stamp Programme mini-calendar lists some definitives and Faststamps as well as the expected commemorative issues.

Dates and subjects for Faststamps are as follows:

24 February - Sheep (by Robert Gillmor)
24 April - Pigs (by Robert Gillmor)
21 May - Union Flag (design as used in PSBs and Smilers Sheets)*
28 September - Cattle (by Robert Gillmor)

 The Union flag could be very useful for the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics.  Maybe other flags will follow with a White Ensign Post and Go machine at Portsmouth and Chatham Historic Dockyard!

Christmas 2011 Personalised Smilers - how and which?

Christmas is supposed to be one of the most popular times for people to get personalised stamps - Smilers.  Sometimes they use the Christmas stamps, sometimes they use one of the many greetings stamp alternatives.  But this year they could have a problem (especially today as Royal Mail's website is totally unavailable!).

As we know, Royal Mail philatelic have produced the usual Generic Smilers Sheet containing 2nd & 1st class stamps and the two airmail rates 68p & £1.10.  The Christmas catalogue shows the inland stamps personalised in sheets of 10 & 20.  The philatelic listing also mentions these but not the airmail stamps.

Go to as usual and there is no sign of the 2011 Christmas stamps at all!  So what's happening?  Have we actually got a pair of philatelic stamps (the 68p & £1.10) that are in a generic sheet but which are NOT available for personalisation?  

Has anybody ordered - better still received - any Smilers stamps this Christmas?  How did you get them??

As I expected, Graham Howard at is on top of this (click on 'News').  Royal Mail won't answer any questions about the Snapfish part of the operation, even a simple one like "why only 1st & 2nd class?".  I would have expected the principal to this contract (rather than the sub-contractor) to say, "yes the airmail values should be available and we will contact Snapfish and make sure it is so."  

And, says Graham, the ordering process at Snapfish is not entirely without its problems. 

Update 2:

This morning's post brought proof that this year's Smilers so exist!

Sunday 13 November 2011

Lest We Forget

Friday 11 November 2011

Diamond Blue 1st class Machin for Jubilee, and coin/banknote link

We can now show the stamps which will be issued next year to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  The definitive will be 'diamond blue' and the preliminary images show the words 'DIAMOND JUBILEE' continuously in the style of the current security print, but on the background only.

If we have correctly understood the information provided the following will be issued on 6 February 2012:
Counter sheet, Business sheet x 100, 12 x 1st booklet. The booklet will be on sale throughout the year replacing the 1st gold definitive.  (Whether this applies also to the counter and business sheets isn't clear.)

In March the following will be issued:
4 x 1st Large letter, 1st Large counter sheet, 1st large x 50 business sheet.
There is no indication of any variation in the inscription to indicate the source of the stamps.  The stamps will have full security features.

Also on 6 February there is a Jubilee miniature sheet with 6 x 1st class stamps with designs taken from banknotes, coins and similar to the Wilding stamp:

The designs are:

• Wilding Definitve.
• £1 note portrait by Robert Austin first issued in 1960.
• £5 note portrait by Harry Eccleston first issued 1971.
• Pre-decimal coinage head by Mary Gillick.
• Arnold Machin’s decimal currency head first introduced in 1968.
• New Jubilee Machin Definitive Stamp.

I'm reminded, of course, that the bronze penny 1st class stamp is another Machin stamp, though not as we know it.  Thanks to MachinMania. By the way, the Gillick head on the old 6d coin is surely the source of the profile head used on GB commemoratives since the 1960s - and on the regional pictorial definitives, giving rise to the 'ribbon' variations on some stamps.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

First SA Greetings booklet found with missing silver - Queen's heads

The first GB self-adhesive greetings booklet has been found with missing silver - which affects the Queen's head on 5 of the 6 stamps!

Normal booklet (SG QA1 or QA2 depending on the cover):

The centre stamp on the top row has a pale blue head; the three stamps on the bottom row have the head reversed out of the background (making a white profile head) which is then overlaid with silver.

The other 2 stamps on the top row have the silver head on a white background. The effect of the error, shown on this news report from the Eastern Daily Press, is to produce two stamps with no head, three with white instead of silver, and one unchanged.

The find was brought to the Norfolk & Norwich Philatelic Society Centenary Exhibition last month.  I saw the booklet when it was being discussed on the 'valuations and advice' table, though I was dealing with the sales table at the time.

As reported this is believed to be previously unknown and we are all eagerly awaiting the result of its sale!

Christmas 2011 booklets

Stock arrived today, and in what is probably an unrepresentative sample our packs of 50 of each booklet each contained 10 with cylinder numbers.

Cylinder numbers start level with the bottom of the lower stamp and are Magenta, Yellow, Cyan, Black and Gold, all D1.  I can't see any phosphor cylinder number on either 1st or 2nd.  Package dates are 05/07/11 for 1st class and 30/08/11 for 2nd class.

Publicity images of the booklets. Scans of cylinder booklets will be added soon.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Post and Go version 2 update

We reported that version 2 was introduced to Broadway PO on 13 October, and later were told that six more London offices and Luton had been added.

We now have the full list including go live dates:


Live Date
Live Date

Old St (205)

The City Of London


Camden High Street


Baker Street

As you can see, Birds IV were available on 17 October but few if any FDCs were done, and as yet we have no Birds IV 40g labels.

More details as we get them.

Freedom of Information blackout hides location of v2 Post and Go machines!

Once upon a time - back in September 2010 in fact - we published this list of Post Offices which had the first Post & Go Machines to dispense Birds stamps:

Before that details of all Post and Go offices had been published elsewhere, and the full list of offices dispensing Birds III Faststamps was published on the Postagelabelsuk blog The information on these blogs was provided by Royal Mail.

As you will have seen from other blogposts, and comments on them, people want to know which machines have been updated to version 2 producing 40g labels, and accepting premium services.  But Royal Mail are hiding behind the Freedom of Information Act and refusing to say on the grounds that:

"Post Office Limited believes that this information, if disclosed in the
format you have requested, could be used by competitors to prejudice the
commercial interests of Post Office Limited and our partners."
(see this link

The base information is already in the public domain.  Post Office Ltd has no competitors at this stage which provide a postal service selling stamps.  The suggestion that competitors would use the information "to market their operations, services or products in areas where Post and Go machines are not yet situated."

What a lot of nonsense!

Monday 7 November 2011

Christmas 2011 early use of booklets

We've had a report that a village post office near Norwich was selling 2nd class Christmas booklets as early as mid-October (precise date not known). In the USA the 'earliest known use' (EKU) covers are prized by some collectors, but they might have trouble here when there is no guarantee of a readable dated postmark!

Thursday 3 November 2011

Numerical Symmetry and Remembrance

Every year in recent times there is a special postmark for 'numerical symmetry', ie 8 August 08, 9 September 09, 10 October 10.  And again there will be one for 11-11-11 - though this time with a difference as it will be illustrated with a poppy to mark Remembrance Day:

The three poppy stamps first issued as a strip in 2008 will also be on sale from Post Offices again this year.

Getting back to normal, thanks to the Apple Store Norwich

After my computer calamity on manic Monday - I really could have done without that after a week away - things are getting back to normal.

I updated the website today with the new webpage for the Christmas 2011 issue which is out on Tuesday 8th November.  This must be the closest to launch date that a new page has ever been issued - sorry folks!   All the published postmarks are there, and there are more on the miscellaneous postmarks page which could be used on the day of issue.

And designs and details are already available for the early 2012 issues.  The Olympic definitives are already shown earlier in the blog, and you'd be a Charlie to miss this fellow, in January:

The rest of the Roald Dahl stamps, due on 10 January, will be on a new webpage soon.

Meanwhile anybody who has enquired about Norfolk and Norwich Philatelic Society Centenary Covers and Smilers sheets (seen here), I'll get there soon!  While you're waiting you can see what a good time we all had at our Exhibition picture gallery.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Post and Go version 2 brings 40g: update London & Luton

We've been advised (thanks Dan!) that "6 more London offices and Luton in Bedfordshire" have been upgraded to version 2 and have 40g labels available.  More details as we get them, and we'll be pleased to publish any more news reports.

November 7
We have been advised that Old Street and Eastcheap have joined the V2 group.