Friday 30 November 2012

Camden's Pop-Up Christmas Shop gets TV exposure

London's Independent Television channel had a brief item about the Pop-Up Christmas Post Office in Camden Market mentioned here.

The video clip is only 20 seconds - the actual broadcast must have been longer? - and it may not be online for long, but you can see the report here.

Readers outside the United Kingdom may not be able to view this footage.  It is good to see that this initiative is getting exposure in the general media.

Other media reports:

London Pop-Ups blog   Evening Standard      Gifts and Greetings Review

Thursday 29 November 2012

De La Rue move from Dunstable to Gateshead will be complete by April next.

From today:

"BANK note printer De La Rue yesterday promised further investment and more jobs at its Gateshead plant as it unveiled a rise in half-year turnover and profits.

The Basingstoke-based firm has invested £13m in its Team Valley facility in recent years, with staff numbers rising from 240 in 2009 to 450 today."

According to the firm's Interim results statement:

The relocation of activities from the Dunstable factory into the Gateshead facilities respectively is well advanced. This move remains on track, with completion scheduled for the end of the 2012/13 financial year.

First Class: A History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps - book review

First Class: A History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps
by Chris West 

This isn't and doesn't pretend to be book about stamps; the stamps are used as pegs upon which to hang aspects of the history of Britain from Victorian times to the present day.

If it was about stamps only, author Chris West would have had no trouble seeking out a better copy of the Victorian 4s red of 1867 than the one used to illustrate the increase in global trade and expansion of empire which required the General Post Office to issue this and other high value stamps.

Britain's trade into China was difficult, the Chinese maintaining that “Our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and lacks no product within its own borders. There is therefore no need to import the manufactures of outside barbarians in exchange for our own produce.” So Britain took opium from the hillsides of India to China, and after a couple of wars, Britain gained the island of Hong Kong, and that chapter is illustrated with a Hong Kong 5c stamp.

The inter-war years of inflation, depression, jazz and modernity are illustrated with a German 2 million mark surcharge, the Silver Jubilee issue, and King Edward VIII's definitive.

So the story of Britain is not only about Rowland Hill, Disraeli, Gladstone, Churchill, but includes Dickens, Brunel, Bazalgette (sewers), Tommy Flowers (Colossus), Stephen Tallents (GPO PR and after whom Tallents House is named), John Lennon, Edmund Dulac, and many others, some of whose names may be unfamiliar but who add to the story of Britain since 1840.

Of course many people have been omitted but in 250 very readable pages not everybody could be included.

Well worth a read.  I borrowed it from the public library, as the house is full of books and I  have not yet read more than a fifth of last year's Christmas present Masters of the Post: The Authorized History of the Royal Mail.

272pp, Square Peg, £16.99* ISBN 978-0-224-09546-4 *Cheaper on Amazon and elsewhere.

Royal Mail are selling the book at £11.99 - stock code VA247
Signed copies are £15.99 - stock code VA246 - postage extra in both cases.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

ALERT! London 2012 stamp products going off sale in a month

According to the November Philatelic Bulletin from Royal Mail, 31 December 2012 will see the withdrawal of all London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games products, except those in the annual packages.

This isn't something we've had from our official sources (and the Bulletin has been known to be wrong before) but if you are missing anything from the huge output, be sure to get it soon!

As a guide, Stanley Gibbons GB Concise Catalogue will list the Gold Medal stamps as individual stamps and as 'sheetlets' (Gibbons' description). Here are a few items you might want to fill gaps in next the album supplements issued next spring:

a. From the Keeping the Flame Alive PSB (Royal Mail stock code YB049)

- three panes of special Olympic sports stamps
        2982a pane Archery and Dressage pair
        2983a pane Football and track Athletics pair
        2984a pane Aquatics and field Athletics pair
- a pane of gummed Olympic/Paralympic definitives

b. Six retail booklets of 6  x 1st class stamps including 4 definitives and 2 Sports stamps

c. Generic (Smilers) Sheet - Olympic Venues
This contains self-adhesive Olympic/Paralympic definitives but printed in litho by Cartor, the only source of these stamps.

d.  Three miniature sheets
- Welcome to the Olympics
- Welcome to the Paralympics
- Memories of London 2012

One of the cheapest products, although it won't get catalogue listing, is the pack which contains facsimiles of the 1948 Olympic stamps, se-tenant, at £5.95.

All these are still available from Royal Mail online or by post.  But if you want single Gold Medal stamps rather than sheetlets, or stamps from the PSB, then you'll need to ask your favourite dealer!

UPDATE:  One of our readers reports that he was told by Tallents House that the sale had to stop at the end of the year "as that is when Royal Mail licence from LOCOG runs out ". 
"This has to be the shortest time Royal Mail have had items on sale for and am sure a lot of collectors will get caught out. Watch this space in 2 months time when the complaints start rolling in."

Indeed.  Dealers can still continue to sell these without a licence from LOCOG but the primary producer arranged things so that instead of 12 months some of their products will be on sale for only 3 months (the Memories of London 2012 sheet).

Sunday 25 November 2012

Royal Mail stamp issues for February 2013 including Stampex

Following the issue last year of the Generic sheet for the Oriental Year of the Dragon, Royal Mail follows up this year with a similar sheet for the Year of the Snake.

We only have this picture so far, and will provide a larger one when it is available. This sheet will be issued on 7 February 2013 and, as before, contains 20 x 1st class 'firework' stamps.  The labels in columns 1 and 4 depict scenes of celebrations around the UK, and those in columns 2 and 3 show 5 different snakes.  Designed by Hat-Trick, the sheet will be printed by Cartor in France.

A new Machin Faststamp will be available from Post & Go machines printed blue with one phosphor bar for 2nd Class. They will be issued on the first day of Stampex (20 February) and start to be rolled out to Post Office branches in March.  This means that they will first be available from Hytech machines (v2) and only later from Wincor-Nixdorf machines.  This is the pre-release mock-up; we don't know whether (like the Robin) there will be a year code on this stamp.

On the second day of Stampex, 21st February, Royal Mail will mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  But this is an excuse for six stamps depicting scenes from Pride and five other novels.  The stamps are designed by Webb and Webb with new striking and atmospheric illustrations by Angela Barrett.

1st class - Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice
77p - Mansfield Park and Emma;  £1.28 Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Finally, on the third day of Stampex, 22nd February, the first in a new series of pictorial Faststamps will be issued.  In a series entitled 'Freshwater Life', the first set depicts Pond Life.

The species selected for each stamp issue comprise three common species that may be found widely in the UK, plus three rarer species, which are threatened with extinction in the UK but are being conserved.     
Life in Ponds features the following common species –
Three-spined Stickleback, Emperor Dragonfly and Smooth Newt.
The threatened species are – Lesser Silver Water Beetle, Fairy Shrimp and Glutinous Snail.

These will be available from Hytech v2 machines at Stampex and should be available from all Post and Go branches from Wincor-Nixdorf machines on the same day. 

Friday 23 November 2012

Changes to Machin Definitive Stamps from 3 January 2013 - update

The new Royal Mail red colour to be used for 1st class stamps in 2013 is not as red as we expected - certainly not as red as the booklet covers!  Although these are not issued until 2013 the year codes are M12L and MA12 (Large stamps).

The new stamps use cylinders D1 and the stamps are in guttered sheets of 50 with two panes of 25.  Dates of printing known so far are

19/09/12 and 20/09/12 for the small 1st red, and (updated 15 Jan)
24/09/12 for the 1st class Large.

The 1p - 20p stamps have been printed with an iridescent overprint for the first time.  The cylinder numbers used are D2 for the colour, and D1 for the phosphor and iridescent overprint.  The sheets are of 25 (5x5) as before.  In this new printing all the stamps appear to be printed in all 12 grid positions on the cylinder.

Printing dates seen (and there may be others) are:
1p              17/09/12
2p & 5p     12/09/12
10p & 20p 13/09/12


The 50p and £1 stamps are also in sheets of 25, with 12 grid positions for each.  Cylinder numbers are D1 x3.  Colours in these pictures are darker than the stamps appear to me (the 50p shown here looks very blue).  The £1 is very close to the colour of the engraved £5.
Printing dates are 18/09/12 for both values.

The booklets are very similar to the previous versions with security codes MSIL for the book of 6, MTIL for the book of 12, and MFIL for the book of 4 Large.

Booklet of 4 x 1st Large - cylinders W2 W1 W1

Booklet of 12 x 1st - cylinders W5 W2(p) W1(i) - correction

Booklet of 6 x 1st - no cylinder booklets received yet.

12.12.12 Richard has found some cylinder booklets showing red cylinder W6 (cylinders for phosphor and iridescent not yet confirmed).  Note that the cylinder numbers on these booklets is obscured by the front cover, being printed further to the left than on the other two booklets.


BUSINESS SHEETS and COILS - not yet received

UPDATE:  for those who have asked, here is a comparison between the original 1st class flame and the new Royal Mail red>

Thursday 22 November 2012

New Post and Go Postmark from City of London.

Thanks to Robert for sending this picture of the postmark that was used to cancel his Faststamps from the Camden Christmas Post Shop.

Update: I have been told that this was taken, not by Robert, to Eastcheap City of London PO. The device used is normally used for Post and Go certificates of posting.

Are there any other Post and Go postmarks in use to cancel stamps?

Wednesday 21 November 2012

More on coil stamps used by Direct Mailers

As Royal Mail are no longer producing coils of 500 or 1000 we had some debate on the original post about which Post Office branches still have vending machines (see comments on the original article).

Now there may be another explanation.  We recently received a mailshot from WCRF-UK (World Cancer Research Fund), with this stamp on:

The vertical sides are cut, suggesting that it comes from a coil, and the top and bottom are  cut slightly on the slant, indicating it was applied by a machine which cut each stamp from the coil.  There are no security features, and it is pre-Pricing in Proportion, ie pre-2006.  As it happens, looking through a box of odds and ends I found another from the same charity, and it was exactly the same - but that was in with some covers I put away in 2004! 

So a direct mailing house, or the charity if they have a stamp-fixing machine, are still using the stamps from a very similar source to that used 8 years ago!  Difficult to believe that they are still using the same roll, so they must have bought a considerable number back then.

Either that or Royal Mail, when they were scraping the bottom of the barrel to get stamps out to customers before the April price rise, found some of these and sold them instead of modern security versions.

Whatever the reason, it pays to keep looking at your post and kiloware, because some odd security versions may pop up yet!

More pictures from the Camden Christmas Post Shop

Thanks to an army of collectors who have sent in images from the Camden Christmas Post Shop which has Popped-Up in Camden Market we can now show the leaflet, stamps, receipts and a Sunday postmark.

These were posted on Sunday using the EQUIPMENT TEAM TEMPORARY self-inking datestamp, index 32.  We are unaware of any first day covers prepared on the opening day.

This flyer was available at the Post Shop and had, presumably, been distributed around the market and maybe the wider area.  However the people at the permanent Camden Post Office didn't appear to know anything about it! (Click on the image for a larger view.)

One of the display stands showing packing material, and London 2012 and other collectables.

And some Hytech receipts, showing that two of our contributors were using machine A4 within 20 minutes of each other!  Thanks to all.

The machines appear produce individual receipts for each collectors set and then a combined receipt for the entire purchase.

We understand that there is also a Smilers facility with a background picture of Tower Bridge.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

No special printng for stamps on Rio Olympic Handover covers.

After a long delay the Olympic Handover Covers have now been delivered.  In the original posting on this I suggested that there might be a special printing:

consider the likelihood of Royal Mail staff tearing maybe 100,000 stamps of these stamps from the miniature sheets?  I think the £1.28 stamp for these covers will come from a special printing of just this stamp.

From the evidence of the covers received, we can say that this does not seem to be the case:

Upper image, from cover, lower image from Memories miniature sheet:
 And a close-up of the stamp on the cover.  The design does not bleed off, and there is a clear straight to it, below which the perforations are white.  On the vertical perforations this is less obvious due to edge flaking.  Some perforations on the left side do show the straight edge to the design; the rest are flaked as shown here on the right side.

So on the basis of the pictures, these covers do not bear stamps from a special printing.

For the record, the actual cover and the double-fold insert :

Monday 19 November 2012

Special printing of Hytech Faststamps from Camden Pop-Up Christmas shop, sold for Charity

We have been advised by several collectors about some new Faststamps listed for sale on the online auction site eBay. 

These stamps are printed from Hytech Post and Go machines A3 and A4 (the ones used at Stampex were A1, A2, B1, B2) and both the Machin and the new Robin stamps have been used.  This means that the Robin is in strips of 6 for the first time. 

All the sales so far seen are for the benefit of Royal Mail's 2012 charity, Prostate Cancer UK.

Full details are awaited, but my guess is that these are not available anywhere with public access.  We will provide more details as soon as we have them.

We now have details from Postagelabelsuk:

Hytech Machines A3 and A4 Pop-Up in London Post Office with some very exclusive products!

In a new venture for Post Office and Royal Mail, a totally new type of Post Office (Similar to ‘Pop- Up Shops’ previously seen in shopping malls in the lead up to Christmas)  opened last week in the very busy Camden Market,  London NW1. This new branch is called ‘Camden Christmas Post Shop’.

This new outlet is offering selected items from the Royal Mail ‘Collectibles’ range ,  personalised  Christmas 2012  Instant ‘Smilers’ and, more importantly from a Post and Go collectors point of view, it has given rise to the first outing of the brand new Royal Mail ‘Hytech’ Next-Generation machines No. ‘A3′ and ‘A4′.
This new branch offers full Post Office ‘Postal’ facilities where purchasers can post their gift  items  purchased from the shop or elsewhere worldwide.

Camden Town Christmas Postshop
The Post Office is open seven days a week from 10am to 8 pm every day apart from Sundays when it opens at 11am. Machines A3 and A4 are visually identical to those previously seen at Stampex – and appear to function the same, although, as they are in a full functioning Post Office branch rather than in an Exhibition setting , they do not have any overprints.

It is worth noting that this is the first time Hytech units have been  primarily positioned for Post Office customers-  posting mail specifically  Christmas cards and gifts– and not for stamp collectors purposes.
Each of the twin-reel Hytech machines are loaded with Christmas (MA12) Robin stamps as well as Machin Stamps – which for the specialist gives rise to two totally new and exclusive products to this Branch.

The Hytech Machin ‘Worldwide 40g’ stamps have not been previously issued - as when un-overprinted Hytech Machins previously appeared at Stampex, the WW40g had yet to be added to the range.

Additionally, this is the only outlet where ‘Hytech Christmas Robins’ (MA12), printed in strips of six, will be available. (These are not expected to appear at Spring Stampex 2013).

For Postmark Collectors the counter datestamps in use at the Post Office are ‘Equipment Team Temporary’ No. ’32′ and No. ’42′.

DID ANYBODY PRODUCE ANY FDCs ?  Cusomers asking!

Pictures of the two Collectors Strips available:

Gold Medal Winners Stamps, the printers revealed

From a Royal Mail press release:


"The base sheets had been pre-printed by Walsall Security Printers* and all printing facilities were managed by St Ives Management Services. The six printers utilised included:

  • Aquatint bsc, Wimbledon, London
  • Acorn Press, Swindon, Wiltshire
  • Breckland Print (Colchester Print Group), Attleborough, Norfolk
  • Crescent Press, Solihull, West Midlands
  • Allander Print, Edinburgh
  • B and D Print Services Limited, Leyland, Lancashire**

"Following their production, a fleet of almost one hundred Royal Mail Sameday vehicles were ready and waiting to deliver them to the thousands of staff at more than 500 Post Offices, along with additional assistance from A to Z Couriers. The Post offices also opened on Sundays to sell stamps from Saturday’s medal wins.

"A memorable aspect of the Gold Medal Stamps programme was the presentation of special enlargements of the stamps to the respective gold medal winning athletes. This was made possible by a team of staff working around the clock at Indusfoto, London, Loxley Colour in Glasgow and Freshwater UK in Cardiff."

* As previously stated litho printing for Walsall is undertaken by their French subsdiary, Cartor. 
** Identified on the stamp sheets as 'Preston'.

Friday 16 November 2012

Hytech Faststamp machine for British Postal Museum next month.

The blog reports that a Hytech v2 Post and Go machine is to be installed at the BPMA:

The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) has announced it will be getting a fully functioning Royal Mail Post and Go machine on 3 December 2012. This will make the BPMA the first place to get a permanent Royal Mail Hytech Post & Go machine outside of a temporary exhibition environment.

The BPMA Post and Go Machine will only accept credit and debit cards and is only available for use by visitors to the BPMA.

The Faststamps will be overprinted:

The British Postal 
Museum & Archive 
Unless there is a change of heart and mail-order facilities are provided through the BPMA shop, the scope for many collectors away from London, and especially outside the UK to obtain what they want with this overprint is slim, and they will have to rely on dealers.

This is a bad thing. Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd are creating a limited-access market when they know that collectors worldwide are interested. I understand that one or more of these machines is already lined up to be at a major south of England stamp fair next spring.  

So with an apparently ready market for these (look at the eBay results for the first sales from Perth) dealers can probably pay their table fees simply by spending some time at the Post and Go machine and selling the output !  

It's not sour grapes - I could go to that show.  But I suspect many collectors will be content with what they already have!  Several of our customers have declined Perth's output.

Note: unless somebody at BPMA makes these available to mail order customers we are unlikely to have these before January, or maybe even late February after Stampex.  We will not be producing FDCs.

UPDATE 1 December: we've been told that the overprint will read only

The B P M A 
Update 5 December: BPMA have advised that they are selling blank BPMA envelopes for 50p, and that  

"If people hand their covers to the Search Room staff by mid afternoon they can get our special handstamp."