Thursday 31 May 2012

Diamond Jubilee retail booklets full of errors

The Diamond Jubilee Commemorative retail booklet has been delivered and we can show these images, courtesy of Chris H.

As expected, the source code is MCND in the usual position.

Cylinder numbers W1 start above the TH (iridescent), the E+space (phosphor) and then diamond blue, black, cyan, yellow and magenta.  The diamond blue is outlined in reversed-out white as shown:

Quite a high proportion of the booklets have phosphor band short at the foot, to a greater or lesser degree.  Some are almost 1mm clear of the top of the perforation hole.  This also affects the commemorative stamp, as shown.

However, the 'invisible' phosphor is not the only registration problem that Walsall has had with this booklet as this picture shows, with a unusually large shift of the magenta:

We don't yet have the sheet stamps or the prestige books but will report on them next week.

Another update - Machins round-up

This is another summary of snippets that I have been sent over the last couple of months. Some of these might have warranted a full blog entry had time been available, but it wasn't, hence the round-up now.

Printing dates.
I don't follow these as avidly as some, but will report them as reported to me:

2nd M12L counter sheet - 13/02/12 [CH]
2p counter sheet - 24/01/12 [CH]

1st Gold booklet M12L MTIL
'packs have been found dated 15/12/11, 20/12/11 and 22/12/11 - sounds like a lot of stamps!' [IR]

Also found an upward shift of the iridescent layer and short phosphor bands at the foot on the same stamps - thanks to MD for the pictures:

Missing letters
The missing 'A' on the NAFAS Flowers booklet 1st class gold is well known and seems only to have occurred on that booklet,  but LS has sent a picture of the 2nd class Large with a missing 'M' behind the Queen's head:

This is from a 2nd class Business Sheet with no year code - 2009.  And when I checked my stock I found that they were all like that!  SO not a variety, but an interesting variation, because there seems to be space there for the whole letter 'M' - and even if there was not, the rest of the stamp shows part letters.

Are there any more little differences waiting to be discovered?  Let us know if you find any.

UPDATE: Robert reports that the same omission occurs on the 1st class Business Sheet.

Walsall-printed Horizon labels - different from DLR types

My thanks to Ted Shorney for the following analysis of the differences between the latest De La Rue printing and the new Walsall printing of Horizon labels.  I haven't had an opportunity to confirm these findings yet - haven't had a Horizon label for a while in fact.  Everybody must be using the stamps they bought before the rates went up!

Ted writes:

There are several differences between the Walsall and the De La Rue printings:

1. The background of the DLR is darker than the Walsall with the Royal Mail overprinting on the DLR more prominent.

2. The shading on the face, hair and neck and around the shoulders appears heavier on the Walsall printing.

3. The pearl in the earring is darker on the Walsall printing.

4. The background is printed as a a series of lines running top to bottom and angled to the left (a glass with 8x magnification is needed to see these):
On the DLR printing they appear broken and look like Morse Code, ie a series of dots and dashes;
on the Walsall printing they are more complete with only a few gaps.

5. The security cuts are basically the same except for the outer half-moon cuts.  These are separated into two parts by a small tab (8x glass again needed). On the Walsall printing these tabs are 0.4mm wide, and on the DLR they are 0.3mm.

It is possible that differences 2 and 3 are exaggerated by the lighter shade found.  If the shade varies between batches these other differences may not be as noticeable, in which case #4 and #5 may be more obvious.

I'd be interested in other observations as these spread round the country.

10 June: Ted has come back with an update based on labels from other sources:

The background shade is not constant and therefore should not be relied upon. 
When the labels have been printed in the post office it makes identifying #2 and #3 virtually impossible, but there can be no mistake identifying #4 and #5 so the seven labels I hold plus the two I already had are all Walsall printed.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Birds 1 Faststamps make a late appearance at Truro - for 40g

The Birds Faststamps continue to produce surprises long after the farm animals have arrived.  

Following on from the Cambridge 40g Birds 1 reported earlier in the year, We've now been told about another batch originating from the Truro Post and Go machines.  These were sold on eBay for a Buy-it-Now price of £350.  We don't know how many were produced from the Truro office, nor when (but see update, below).

Now, can there be any other offices which still have Birds to surprise us with?

UPDATE 23 January 2015
With the change-over from Wincor-Nixdorf machines to NCR Self-Service Kiosks a lot of old stocks came out from branch storage and many more surprises followed.  Birds 1 was identified from a couple of offices in April 2014 with more the latest (60g) new tariff indicators.  I wasn't aware of this until the following January.

UPDATE 7 June: Machine 1 at Truro is now dispensing Flags Faststamps, and as the image below shows, the transaction number is some 5500 more than shown on the Birds 1. 

It is impossible to know what the regular usage is a Truro, without which the production date of the Birds 1 40g cannot be determined for sure, but it suggests that they were obtained some time ago, probably around the end of 2011.

A further set of Birds 1 40g, probably also from Truro, is now for sale on eBay with a Buy-it-Now of £225 but the seller has covered up the identity line with his logo for some reason best known to himself. 

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Faststamps update - recent reports on Flags & Pigs

This is a round-up of recent information I've been sent by several collectors.  Thank you all.  This does not (intentionally) duplicate anything that has been in previous entries or comments on those entries.

Flag Faststamps
Despite statements that all faults on Post and Go machines using the original font had now been corrected Harrow's kiosk 2 dispensed Flag stamps on 22 May with the large font and missing weight from the 10g Worldwide value.  
Thanks to Dennis for this picture of the set as sold early on 21 May:

A wide-ranging census of machines revealed that on 21 May ....

Clapham High Street London SW4 had Machins in both machines
King William IV/Trafalgar Sq London WC2 had two machines with Flags and two with Pigs
Blackfriars London SE1's machine had Pigs – the receipt has 'newvision®' at the foot.

Flags Presentation packs were available at William IV/Trafalgar Square (015010) but limited to only 2 per customer as they were waiting for the rest of their stock.

Other offices canvassed had Flags installed.

Update: Darley Street Bradford installed Flag stampson the day of issue when requested to do so.

Earlier reports on the Pigs
"St Albans (010033) were selling the Pig Faststamps on the 25th April. Font 1 was in use on this kiosk. 

On the 24th, Trafalgar Square (015010) was using Pigs on all four kiosks but kiosk 4 was giving problems. Aldwych (010011) and Broadway (008010) were using Pigs on all kiosks."

Miscut Packs
No reports have been received of miscut Bureau Packs of Pigs, but 5 different versions of the Sheep packs have now been reported, with this report coming on 16 May:

"It appears that there are now 5 variants to the sheep P&G pack, only the Jacob bread to appear first in the strip. On closer inspection of the images on ebay, there appear to be different numbers after the 002012 02, 03, 04, which are presumably the month that the strip was produced."

I haven't had a chance to verify this, and nobody else has mentioned it.   All those currently on eBay appear to have 002012 02.  Please take a look at your packs and let me know the coding - thanks! 

Friday 25 May 2012

"Delivered by Royal Mail" to be on inland post soon

In the face of competition, Royal Mail is reinforcing it's brand by having the slogan 'Delivered by Royal Mail' on all inland mail.

The main impact is on companies who use Postage Paid Impressions (PPIs) as the PPI specification has changed and users will be required to change the PPI within the next 6 months by adding the slogan alongside the existing details thus:

Whilst this is probably only of minor interest to most collectors, the Direct Marketing Association is not happy.  

Moya Greene, chief executive of Royal Mail, said: “Delivering to 29 million addresses six days a week is a major task. The new mark ensures that postmen and women get recognition for the vital task they complete every working day.

“We are proud of the distinctive service we offer and we want customers to be aware of the difference. It is important we avoid customer confusion in the UK’s very competitive postal market.”

But the definition of 'customer' depends on your point of view.  Royal Mail obviously see the end recipient as the customer, whilst others regard the person or company that pays for the service as the customer. Both viewpoints are valid. 

However, Mike Lordan, chief of operation for the Direct Marketing Association, commented: “Royal Mail’s decision to start stamping the mail it delivers may well appeal to the postmen that deliver it, but the DMA members we’ve spoken to – Royal Mail’s customers – are not happy about the prospect.

“Royal Mail does not own the envelopes that it delivers, so it’s hard to understand what right it believes it has to stamp its own marketing message on a medium that is not its property. If Royal Mail wants to market itself to householders by telling them who delivered their mail, then it should find another means of doing so.”

This last sentence has to be the most crass ever seen in relation to postal services. Perhaps DMA members could come up with some suggestions as to how that could be acheived.  Answers on a postcard to..... (oh no, that wouldn't work, would it?).

Apparently the slogan may soon be included in Royal Mail's ink-jet postmarks, judging by this illustration that we found (a mock-up, not an actual example):

We have also seen an illustration of the new slogan at the top left of an envelope with a franking machine impression.  These are not normally postmarked, so applying that slogan would require an extra process in the mail-handling process. 

Let us know when you first see the new slogan - on any type of mail.

UPDATE:  I saw one posted from Nottingham before 30 June, and John P has sent this one from Bristol dated 28.06.12 - thanks John

Thursday 24 May 2012

Charles Dickens Limited Edition first day cover - many signatories.

We don't do our own FDCs any more, and we're not handling this one but I promised to give some publicity to this one.  (I'm repeating some of the text from the image in the blogpost so that search engines will find it.)

All Saints Church Walsoken and the Fenland and Wisbech Museum is producing a first day cover in a limited edition of 280 for the Charles Dickens Bicentenary set on 19 June.

The organisers have gone to a great deal of effort with this cover and have the following actors actresses and others organised to sign the covers: Gillian Anderson, Douglas Booth, Simon Callow, Dame Judi Dench, Gerald Dickens, Stephen Fry, Sir George Martin, Ron Moody, Sir Derek Jacobi.  Patrick Stewart covers are sold out!

Please use the order form or contact the address shown on the form above - click on the image to see it larger.   Good luck to Trevor on this fundraising effort.
Sorry if this didn't show earlier!

Monday 21 May 2012

Flag Faststamps on restricted distribution!

A contact has written alerting me to the fact that the Union Flag Faststamps (Post and Go stamps) which should be available from today are not being distributed to standing order customers of Royal Mail.

This remarkable news is announced in 'first', Royal Mail's colourful pamphlet about new stamp issues, but it is hidden on page 3 of the Diamond Jubilee issue:

Ok, that may not be restricted distribution, as such, but it's not automatic distribution, which collectors might have expected.  None of the Faststamps are listed in the 'Special Stamp Programme' in the 6 x 1st stamp retail booklet, so nobody had any clue that these would not be sent to Post & Go standing order customers automatically.

Now my copy of 'first' arrived this morning but my correspondent only learned about this from a friend and hasn't yet had his own.   If he had, he would also see that the order form, predictably, indicates that the usual handling fees will apply - £1.45 UK, £1.55 Europe, £2.15 Rest of World.

UPDATE from Royal Mail Day 2 6.30pm (really!): "we will still process orders for FDCs at Tallents House for those people who received the communications late."

UPDATE (Day 1): other writers have said that the situation is worse even that we thought. At the time of writing some Post Offices cannot sell the packs today, the day of issue, because the pack is not yet on their till system (Harlow, Cambridge so presumably all.)  This probably means that they won't sell FDCs either.  (see comments, also)
There is likely to be considerable demand for FDCs produced by dealers!
LATER: Norwich PO was able to sell packs mid-afternoon on 1st day.

Day 2: Bought my Flags this morning without the problems that I had with the pigs, although £20 notes still not accepted (even for a £100+ purchase - they are normally restricted to purchases over £10 anyway).

I noticed that a customer using the 'post it now' menu for postcards for Hungary (87p) received 20g Europe Faststamp (which is also 87p).  That's the first time I've seen a Faststamp produced from the 'post it now' menu other than the 10g Worldwide (which is also currently 87p!).

Olympic Gold Medal stamp production

Royal Mail’s historic next day Gold Medal stamps, which will recognise the achievements of every Team GB win at the London 2012 Olympic Games, are all set for production. (See earlier report and stamp design etc.)

Walsall Security Print has produced the self-adhesive base sheets for these extra special stamps ready for the London 2012 Games, held from 27th July to 12th August.

These show common details for all the stamps, but leave blank the space for the image of the athletes and text details including the name of the athlete and event.
The sheets will be distributed to six regional printers in secret locations, selected to ensure speedy distribution to the 500 Post Office branches which will have the stamps on sale by noon – on Sundays if necessary - following each gold medal win.

Royal Mail has teamed up with photo agency Getty - the Olympic Games’ Official Photographic Agency - who, when each Team GB athlete wins gold or team gold, will send a selection of the best images to Royal Mail’s design team.

The team will have just one hour to review all the images sent, locate the most fitting and atmospheric image, crop and if necessary refine the photo, add the name of the winning athlete or athletes and the event and then position it within the templated design of the six-stamp miniature sheet.

The border of each miniature sheet will also feature the athlete’s name as well as the date of medal win and the venue of the winning event.

Once the printers receive the artwork file from Royal Mail, they will then digitally overprint the athlete’s image, name and the winning event.

The finished sheets will be collected from the printers by a fleet of 90 Royal Mail vehicles for distribution to the Post Office branches the following morning. The stamps will be on sale by noon at these Post Offices. An additional 4500 Post Offices will receive the Gold Medal stamps within a week.

Details of the 500 Post Offices will be announced later this month.

Comment: when Royal Mail wrote that "they will then digitally overprint the athlete’s image" they referred to the way the image is transmitted; the base sheets, and the overprint are both litho printed.

Friday 18 May 2012

The Flags (Faststamps) are out early at Swiss Cottage

IN providing an update on the situation at various Post & Go offices one of our correspondents on the Pigs discussion announced today that Swiss Cottage post office (North West London*) has the Flag Faststamp in use already (not due for issue until next week!)

Swiss Cottage Branch Office
18 Harben  Parade
Finchley  Road

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Postage Paid Stationery cut-outs invalid for postage

Royal Mail have made the following announcement regarding PPI postal stationery

"Postage Paid Stationery - Symbol Policy and Procedure

"PPI designs which are used on official stationery are not valid if cut out or detached from the cover, label or form on which they are printed. Similarly any post paid design, without a monetary value if cut out or detached from the stationery for which it is intended, is not valid for postage.

"Any item found to have been posted in this manner from 1 August 2012 will be subject to our revenue protection process and will be pulled from the mail stream and a fee assigned to the item for collection at the local Delivery Office in the form of a surcharge."

When I originally drafted this blog entry I decided that there was a certain ambiguity in the announcement.  So I checked with Royal Mail and have been told that:

No Cut-outs are valid for postage, Revenue Protection teams are instructed to take such items aside and surcharge as appropriate”.

Which isn't anything like the same thing.  The original statement says "without a monetary value"; the 'clarification' says something quiet different.

We all make mistakes, but if you are going to make what amounts to a definitive policy change statement, it makes sense to double-check that it says what you mean it to say, and to get it right!

We will, of course, be interested to see any surcharged - or indeed unsurcharged - mail which bears cut-outs.  I have some old 3p postcards which I might use, in their entirety, on a larger item.  Not a cut-out, so should be OK.

Friday 11 May 2012

Olympics 2012 Gold Medal stamps - format and availability.

This is the style of the stamps to be issued by Royal Mail for each gold medal winner at the London 2012 Olympics:

The stamps will be issued in self-adhesive miniature sheets of 6 stamps with information in the margin.

EDIT: The stamps will be on sale by mid-day the next day at 500 Post Offices. An additional 4500 Post Offices will receive the Gold Medal stamps within a week.

There will be one for each gold medal, individual or team.  In the event of an individual winning more than one gold, then they will get two different stamps using pictures from the event where possible.  If there is more than one gold on in a day, then there will be two stamps/MSs the next day.  Royal Mail FDCs will carry the complete miniature sheet of 6. Only one style of postmark will be used.

The miniature sheets will be printed in A4 sheets of 4 with a narrow selvedge at the left.  This may also contain information about the medal winner, but not against every MS.

The Royal Mail press release said that stamps would be available singly, but we await confirmation that postmasters will be expected to separate stamps from the MS.

UPDATE: Stanley Gibbons catalogue editor confirms each gold medal stamp will be assigned its own SG number providing the stamps are readily available.

More technical information on our webpage.

Further update We understand that postmasters will be told that single stamps may be sold.  This probably means the use of scissors!

The location of the digital overprinter (but not the name) will be shown in the selvedge of the A4 sheet at bottom left.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Olympex 2012: Olympic philately brought to life at the British Library

From a press release:

Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games
25 July to 9 September
the British Library, St Pancras – admission FREE

The history, symbolism and personal stories of the Olympic Games will come to life through philately this summer at a special exhibition presented by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the British Library.

Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games is a visually striking exhibition that will use postage stamps, postcards, letters, programmes and maps to provide unique insights into the Olympic Games, past and present. Beginning with the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, Olympex 2012 will also focus on the London Games in 1908 and 1948, bringing the story into the present day with the London 2012 Games.

Reflecting the manner in which the Olympic spirit touches the individual spirit, the exhibition is drawn largely from the philatelic collections of private individuals. The interests of these individual collectors give this exhibition a unique character and demonstrate how each of us can become involved in curating the Olympic story.

More than 2,500 stamps will feature, tracing the way that Olympic iconography has evolved across more than a century. Also included are handwritten postcards and letters from athletes, spectators and public figures – recording with vivid immediacy the ways in which the Games touched their lives.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said: “The IOC is delighted to have the British Library as its partner in this exhibition. The Library’s international reputation for bringing stories to life makes it the natural home for this fascinating and unique view of Olympic history.”

Frances Brindle, the British Library’s Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications, said: “The British Library is thrilled to be working with the IOC on Olympex 2012. Each stamp, postcard and letter to be featured tells a story – understanding who sent them, and to whom, gives very personal insights into historical events.”

Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games is part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
The exhibition will be held in the Front Hall of the British Library, St Pancras, from 25 July to 9 September. Admission is free.
How to get to the British Library, including map
UPDATE: Website for Olympex added

Wednesday 9 May 2012

London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games - stamps galore!

We are now able to show some of the stamps and stamp products which Royal Mail is issuing to mark the XXX Olympiad and the 2012 Paralympic Games.


See this post for details of how to buy this sheet which RM seem reluctant to advertise!

A self-adhesive A4-size sheet of 20 Olympic/Paralympic definitive stamps with attached labels depicting games venues.

Columns 1 and 3: Aquatics Centre, Basketball Arena, BMX Track, Eton Manor, Copper Box;
Column 2 and 4: Riverbank Arena, Lee Valley White Water Centre, Olympic Stadium, Velodrome, Water Polo Arena

UPDATE:  We haven't got these yet but have been sent a picture of an actual sheet by Chris which shows that the design has changed somewhat, and it is now (apparently) even more garish and difficult to see the label images and captions.  Who dreamed this up?:  the publicity pictures were bad and the actual appears to be even worse!

If this is accurate (and remember the two sheets shown are from different sources) then the colour of the 1st class stamps is now even redder than those issued in January.  We should have expected as much, as the orange stamps on the first sheet image are very similar to the totally wrong publicity images for the definitive stamps.

Containing 2 x 1st class and 2 x £1.28 stamps showing competitors and London landmarks.

Containing 2 x 1st class and 2 x £1.28 stamps showing competitors and London landmarks.

The size of the miniature sheets is 192 x 74.5 mm, with stamps 60 x 30mm. 

More details of these, the Prestige Stamp Book and other Royal Mail Olympic Souvenirs on our website: Olympics - Paralympics

Faststamp found with inverted service details from Tudor Street.

I haven't seen one of these before - which, on reflection, is something of a surprise.

In theory it should only be possible to feed the stamps into the machine lower-edge first.  Unless the stamps were wrongly wound onto the core, or if this was a part-roll which had been re-wound and fed through in error.

Thanks to Robert for providing the picture of the stamp "received this cover this morning which was bought and posted yesterday from London" (it also shows the new ink-jet postmark from Mount Pleasant).

The stamp was bought from the kiosk at 2a Tudor Street, also known as Ludgate Circus, in London.

It's possible, of course, that the fault was a result of a software error. Who knows?

UPDATE: A collectors' set of 6 is currently on offer on eBay #251060441350

Country stamps: change of format and printer starts this summer

Royal Mail have announced that the printer for 1st and 2nd class Country Stamps is changing, starting this summer with the Scotland stamps.

The stamps have been gravure printed by De La Rue in sheets of 200 since first being issued in 1999.  In future they will be printed in litho by Cartor Security Printers, in sheets of 50. The new Scotland stamps will be issued on 27 June 2012 from Tallents House and philatelic offices, and will be distributed to other offices as needed to replenish existing stocks.

The sheet grid alongside the final row suggests that these two values are printed on the same plate.


As the stamps are essentially unchanged from a postal viewpoint we do not expect Royal Mail to produce first day covers or have any official first day postmarks.  Operational postmarks and permanent philatelic postmarks will be available.