Monday 20 February 2012

Birds 1 Faststamps record price on eBay.

The Cambridge Birds 1 version 2 Faststamps mentioned here, have sold for what is believed to be a record price on eBay.

This modest-looking set of 6 x 40g Worldwide, which cost £9.90 last month, sold for £361.50 on eBay this week-end.

Thirteen bidders chased it up but the winning bid was sniped 2 seconds before the close. The first under-bidder had made a few bids and probably thought that bidding 10 seconds away would win it, but he was beaten by £10.

The stamps were rare because only one roll of 1500 was used, in the last week of January. Some were probably bought by non-collecting PO users. Those bought for collectors would be in sets of 6 designs, either all with the 40g Worldwide rate, or one for each of the possible rates:


A set of these sold at the same time on eBay for £78.54. Seven bidders fought for this one.

The high price for the Worldwide 40g set comes about because when this particular set was issued the machines only dispensed 5 values: many collectors obtained the set of 30. Stanley Gibbons' catalogue assigned a number to each possible value (rather than each design). Now that the machines have been upgraded to provide the additional value 'Worldwide 40g' a new catalogue number must be assigned, and collectors will want this.

Nobody knows how many of either set were produced but some will have been bought by collectors in small numbers, and others will have bought multiples for sale. But there will be very few.

Friday 17 February 2012

Who let the sheep out? Faststamps used early in Bath.

It's been mentioned before that some PO branches hadn't really taken any notice of which Birds rolls they were loading into the Post and Go machines, and I suppose that was especially important if they were busy.  

Well maybe the Central PO in Bath has run out of Machin Faststamps - because they were using the Sheep (due for issue on 24 February) yesterday:

Thanks to Robert for this fine example - his other one didn't get a postmark - still time to repost it and try again for an early posting example!

Note that Bath is also using the original font, which means that the Worldwide 10g stamp will be printed with no weight on, and all service indicators and branch/session codes will overlap the picture.

Please let us know if you see any early uses from Bath (when did they actually start) or anywhere else!

UPDATE:  Malcolm reports more sheep were let loose at Farnham and were on sale on Saturday 18th February.  These were the standard (by which I think he means new) font.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Major phosphor shift on Aerial Post Machin stamp pane

A correspondent in the USA has reported a significant phosphor shift which I don't think has been reported elsewhere.

"Recently I ordered a First UK Aerial Post Prestige Book from Royal Mail.

"When it arrived late last week, I noticed that the mixed Machin pane had its phosphor bands shifted 6mm left. This leaves the right column of stamps with what looks like a center band instead of two side bands, and the stamps in the center and left columns have a double-wide band covering the right half of each stamp from the stamp centerline to just inside the right perfs. Even the center label of KGV has a phosphor band.

"I realize that phosphor shifts do not command the prices that a visible color would get, but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. It is not often one gets an EFO direct from the source.  As these panes were printed as multiple panes on one sheet, I assume there should be more examples out there, have you heard of any?"

If a picture can be obtained, I'll add it here in due course.

Do let us know if you have any significant phosphor shifts or any other errors.  It's a very long time since we had a book with any duplicated pages!

Wednesday 15 February 2012

"Private" Royal Mail Special Delivery Label

A reader has sent a copy of a Special Delivery PPI (Postage Paid Impression) label, used by Courier/Distribution company FRT Group of Crawley last October.

I presume the company is allocated a batch of numbers and prints the labels when sending out tickets for events or journeys (note the 'Booking Reference').


This is on a standard DL window envelope, so I suppose there would be no excuse for not obtaining a signature on delivery.  But without the sliver and blue of the standard labels, it would be easy to overlook this type of thing in the sorting office, given that so much mail has so many different non-postal labels, barcodes etc on.

Updated March: Another reader has sent a copy of a similar Recorded Signed For label:


It seemed appropriate to include it here.  As mentioned in the 'comments' it seems even more likely that this would be overlooked, than the separately handled Special Delivery packet.

Thursday 9 February 2012

Sunday Times Wine Club 2nd coil stamps now up to 10

Reminder: a number of 2nd class MA10 stamps have been found in kiloware with postmarks other than these which reminds me, to remind you searchers, that both 2nd and 1st also exist in conventionally gummed coils, which will have straight-cut and often short perforations on the long sides, and often torn perforations on the short sides.  These have no security slits.
These are NOT scarce as these stamps are from rolls of 500 & 1000 which have been sold by Royal Mail Tallents House.

The 2nd class MA10 coil has been found in kiloware, so if you have the time, it could pay careful searching!  See the comment on the original post.

A few more have now been found in kiloware, and these images provided:



And this image shows two different mailings from the STWC.


Stuart has also found an example in kiloware on a postcard mailing, so probably not from the Sunday Times Wine Club although possibly from the same direct mail house.

Total number found now known to be 10 - but what are they worth to collectors?

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Happy Birthday Charles Dickens - new stamps in June.


In celebration of the life and works of Charles Dickens, the Royal Mail today revealed a sneak preview of two stamps - officially launching in June - to celebrate the bicentenary of the novelist’s birth.

The two stamps feature illustrations from his first novel, The Pickwick Papers (originally serialised and entitled The Posthumous Papers of Pickwick) and his 1838 novel, Nicholas Nickleby.

The character of Mr Pickwick forms a set of six stamps featuring original illustrations adapted from Character Sketches from Charles Dickens, by Joseph Clayton Clarke (otherwise known as Kyd) and originally published around 1890.

The Nicholas Nickleby stamp will be part of a special Miniature Sheet of four stamps of illustrations by Hablot Knight Brown, (known as Phiz ), who illustrated ten books by the author.

Philip Parker, Royal Mail Stamps spokesperson said: “Charles Dickens was one of the truly great British novelists, a man born into poor circumstances who went on to change the world in which he lived thanks not just to his novels, but his campaigning journalism and philanthropy”.

Monday 6 February 2012

Major developments in British philately over the last 20 years.

At the start of the year the American weekly, Linn's Stamp News, ran an article by respected philatelist and writer on British stamps David Alderfer about what he regarded as the major developments in British philately over the last 20 years (January 9, 2012, edition).

His five key factors/events are shown, with a summary of his reasoning:
1. The introduction of elliptical perforations to Machin definitives. Initially album pages had an odd look as some stamps had traditional and others the new perforations, but now we all expect them as a matter of course.

2. Unsoakable gum - a development also adopted by the US postal service. Many collectors collect the new security-featured stamps on paper, neatly cut out.

3. Computer-generated labels, specifically the Horizon label - are they stamps?  Collectors had to decide whether to include these in their collections.

4. Discontinuation of postage due stamps in January 2000 - the end of a chapter and facet of British stamp collecting.

5. The introduction - and abandonment - of the £10 Britannia, the British stamp with the highest face value ever.  Comparison with the £5 Queen Victoria and its present value.
Such an article is always a personal opinion, and should encourage discussion among collectors. Whilst I agreed with some of the writer's suggestions I thought there were other events and changes which collectors of GB might think more important.  The editors of Linn's didn't have room for another article of the same size but were kind enough to publish some of my suggestions as a letter.

The three points which Linn's had room for (February 13 edition) were these:
a. The introduction of pictorial country definitives in 2001.  Machin collectors in particular had to decide whether to include these stamps in their Machin collections now that the main feature was not the Queens' head.

b. The introduction of Post & Go vending machines, producing not only the 'post it now' labels (which reduce the number of postage stamps used), but also the Machin Faststamps.  Again, Machin collectors were faced with a dilemma - is it a stamp, how many different ones to include in a collection. And then when the pictorial Faststamps were issued, up a whole new area of collecting opened up.

c.  Also of major significance in recent years has been Royal Mail's concentration on new markets, attracting 'niche' collectors. The 'Action for Species' started in 2007 and the Kings and Queens series started in 2008. All the stamps in these series have been kept on sale for a number of years, instead of being taken off sale 12 months after issue as previously. Royal Mail acknowledged that they no longer cater for 'completist' collectors but, with new thematic subjects, are targetting new collectors who may go on to buy more than they were originally attracted to. This has made acquisition of a complete collection – with all issued varieties – ever more expensive.
Two other points:
a. It was the security overprint rather than the introduction of water-soluble gum on the security stamps which was not the key factor, and which put the hunt back into collecting as most variations are not available from Royal Mail's philatelic service.  As we know, for one variation only 5 used copies are known.

b. The Horizon labels introduced in 2002 were not of interest to most collectors, apart from the fact that it reduced the number of stamps used.  Rather it was the later change to the Machin-head label which was of interest, particularly Machin collectors.
So what do you think?  Look back over the last 20 years, leave a comment, on what you think has been significant in the collection of British stamps between 1991 and 2011 !

Sunday 5 February 2012

Jubilee definitives Part 2, and change for 50p - but not yet!

With the Diamond Jubilee MS and 1st class definitive (in its various forms) being issued tomorrow, we can now confirm that the Large Letter versions - counter sheet, business sheet and booklet of 4 - will be issued on Tuesday 27 March. 

On the same date the 50p Machin definitive issued on 17 February 2009 in grey will be replaced by a new stamp in 'rust', a colour which has been used before.  No reason for this change has been announced.  It is close in colour to the diamond blue 1st class but not, I would have thought, close enough to warrant a change.

An informed source has said that this will have a single phosphor band,

A more informed source has now said that there will be no change to the 50p colour during 2012, but the colour may change next year.

Another source has said that at the end of this year the diamond-blue 1st class will be changed to post-office red.  Does this mean more colour changes - and for what purpose?*

At this time the new postage rates have not been announced, and they are unlikely to be announced until near the end of this month, for implementation at the end of April or in early May, so this colour change would not seem to be caused by the tariff change.  We'll publish the official explanation when we get it.

The 50p grey has not so far been reprinted in 2010/11 and so only exists from counter sheets with no year code.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

More new Faststamps at Spring Stampex?

Pure speculation on my part, but following the adaptation of the Hytech Post and Go machines at Autumn Stampex last September, can Post Office Ltd and Royal Mail ignore the proximity of the anniversary of the Accession (6 Feb) to do something similar at Spring Stampex (22 Feb)?

Don't be surprised to see the Machin head Faststamps with a Diamond Jubilee 1952 - 2012 inscription before the new pictorials (Sheep) arrive on Friday 24th.

Well, whadd'ya know?

Available from self-service machines and over the counter.