Sunday 30 December 2012

Doctor Who stamps will be Royal Mail's blockbuster issue in 2013 - start saving now!

As was forecast long ago, Royal Mail will mark 50th years of the BBC Doctor Who series with a blockbuster issue of stamps and booklets.  Originally reported to be issued in 8 January (a report repeated in error by at least one daily newspaper last week) the stamp issue will be on 26th March 2013.

Royal Mail chose 26th December to publish the press release for this issue, to get maximum coverage in the British media.  With the government and politics in general very quiet over Christmas the coverage achieved was predictably wide so you probably already know about the basics.  Now, we bring you the bigger picture.

The first Doctor Who episode was broadcast on 23 November 1963 at 5.15pm, but Royal Mail and the BBC are wisely marking the 50th anniversary throughout 2013.

Dr Who Stamps
Each of the 11 Doctors is featured on a 1st class stamp. The first two, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton are in monochrome, while the remaining 9 are in full colour.

From the top: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith.  (Current face value £6.60)
The stamps are printed in three sheets, 11-9, 8-5, 4-1, by Cartor Security Printing in litho.

Dr Who Miniature Sheet
The miniature sheet shows the TARDIS and four of the Doctor's enemies.  The sheet is self-adhesive and the publicity pictures suggest that the four 2nd class stamps have designs extending beyond the perforations, and these may be 'free-form' die-cut as was used with the Charles Darwin stamps.  We've modified the image to show what we think individual stamps might look like.  This has not been confirmed by Royal Mail.

1st class TARDIS; 2nd class Dalek, The Ood, Weeping Angel, Cyberman.  Current Face value £2.60)

Dr Who retail booklet
A retail booklet of 6 x 1st class stamps will also be issued.  This will contain the 1st class Matt Smith and William Hartnell stamps (ie the original and latest Doctors), with the 4 definitive-sized stamps showing the Tardis, rather than being Machin definitives. (Current face value £3.60  - probably printed in gravure by Walsall Security Printers.)

Dr Who Prestige Stamp Book
The prestige stamp book contains 5 panes of stamps.  The 11 Doctors are split over 3 panes, but these images have narratives unrelated to the Doctors on the pages.  These are publicity pictures which are subject to change; the images are low resolution.  The announced price of the PSB is £13.77 (as usual, almost £1 over the £12.82 face value of the stamps).

Cover and Definitive pane: 4 x 1st class Tardis, 1 each 5p, 10p, 20p, 87p Machin and Tardis label
Five panes:
Definitive, miniature sheet, Doctors 11-9, 8-5, and 4-1.
PSB Technical Details added 26.2.13:

All panes are gummed except for the mini-sheet pane, which is self-adhesive.
MS pane is printed by Enschede Cartor in litho (corrected 27.2.13)
Doctor panes are by Cartor in litho
Machin/Tardis pane is by Walsall in Gravure, with iridescent security layer on the Machins but not the Tardis stamps.

PSB Format:
Maintaining the distinction between the (8) Old Doctors and the (3) New Doctors the Prestige stamp book has two covers, and two ends.

The order of the pages is:
1.  Coloured cover
2.  Miniature sheet stamp pane
3. (11th Doctor info page/ Tardis info page)
4. (10th / 9th Doctor info pages)
5.  stamp pane - Doctors 11, 10, 9
6.  (The Time Lord Returns / monsters from the modern day info pages).

Then inverted
7.  (Creatures from the Classic Era / 8th Doctor)
8.  Stamp pane (gummed side up) - Doctors 5-8, narrative 'The 7th Doctor'
9.  Stamp pane (gummed side up) - Doctors 1-4, narrative 'The 6th Doctor'
10. (5th / 4th Doctor info page)
11. Machin stamp pane (gummed side up), narrative 'The 3rd Doctor'
12. (2nd/1st Doctor info page)
13. Monochrome cover, with FSC logo and bar-code.

We now have the Miniature Sheet pane from the PSBs.  Although there may be some technical details (above) still to be verified by Royal Mail we can confirm that the stamps in the PSB are not the same as those on the MS.

The phosphor bands on the 'enemies' stamps are fractionally wider on the MS than on the PSB pane.  The gap between the bands is 11mm on the MS and about 7mm on the PSB pane.
The paper surface is different, which means the bands appear sold on the PSB but not on the MS.

We're now just waiting for the Generic Sheet to confirm that that the Tardis stamp in that will also be different.

The Tardis stamp in the retail booklet has phosphor bands almost exactly the same size as those on the MS, but the stamp image size is different!  On the MS & PSB the image size is 17 x 21 mm.  In the retail booklet it is 17.5 x 21.25mm.

There are 4 Official Royal Mail first day covers, using the postmarks shown below. The miniature sheet, and the definitive (half-)pane from the PSB are on two.  The 11 Doctors are split between the 8 Classic and 3 Modern Doctors.  The publicity pictures show the Classic stamps on a cover with a different design.  However, only one blank FDC has been listed for us to order, so either the image or the order form is in error.

Update 25.2.13:
There are two FDE’s. 
Royal Mail will use the multicoloured one for the three recent Doctors, Mini Sheet and PSB (Machin) Pane.  
The more monochrome cover will be used for the eight earlier Doctors.  (The retail book stamps are not supplied on FDE by Royal Mail.)

Dr Who Smilers Sheets
The Tardis stamp is being made available in Royal Mail's Smilers (c) service, and so a generic sheet will also be issued.  The generic sheet will comprise of 20 1st Class TARDIS definitives accompanied by labels featuring four different incarnations of Cybermen, Daleks, Silurians, Sontarans and the Master.  Cost from Royal Mail £12.50.

The TARDIS stamp will be in the consumer Smilers service and the Business Customised Service. Smilers are available at and also through the iPhone App.  Smilers will be available in sheets of 10 and 20 stamps (sheets of 20 perforated down the centre).  Personalised Smilers are £9.99 for 10, £18.25 for 20.

Other Dr Who Products
Royal Mail will issue 17 stamp cards - one for each stamp and one for the miniature sheet - which can only be obtained in sets price £7.65.
The presentation pack containing all 11 stamps and the miniature sheet is £9.70 (50p over face value).

How to get the stamps and other products.
Royal Mail have made it easy to buy these, on a new webpage.

We will not be stocking these products:
a. Doctors set
b. miniature sheet
c. presentation pack
d. Smilers Generic sheet
e. prestige stamp book
f. set of stamp cards
g. first day covers of a, b, d or serviced stamp cards.

We will stock:
h. Machin Definitives from Prestige Stamp Book
i. mini-sheet stamps from PSB
j. retail stamp booklet
k. single stamps from Generic Smilers sheet.
l. First Day Covers of
- Machin stamps from PSB (with and without the Tardis stamp)
- single stamps from retail stamp book as these are self-adhesive Doctors
- single stamps & labels from Smilers sheet as these are a different printing

Details and prices will appear on our website.

The Post Office (rather than Royal Mail) have a blogpost which includes a Dr Who Timeline.  In theory it should be there forever, but I can't vouch for that.

Acknowledgements and Copyright
Stamp (etc) images Copyright Royal Mail 2013. BBC, DOCTOR WHO (word marks, logos and devices), TARDIS, DALEKS, CYBERMAN and K-9 (word marks and devices) are trade marks of the British Broadcasting Corporation and are used under licence. BBC logo © BBC 1996. Doctor Who logo © BBC 2012. Dalek image © BBC/Terry Nation 1963. Cyberman image © BBC/Kit Pedler/Gerry Davis 1966. K-9 image © BBC/Bob Baker/Dave Martin 1977.

Two of the actors who played Doctors have previously appeared on British stamps - can you remember which stamps?

Friday 21 December 2012

Seasons Greetings! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

It's that time of year again, folks, and what a year it has been!  All thoughts of a quiet philatelic year were put in doubt by Royal Mail's intention to issue a stamp for each of Britain's Olympic Gold Medal winners, and those thoughts were swept aside as Britain's athletes swept aside the opposition. 

Other highlights  were: early appearance of M12L Machin printings (including 1st gold books), early release of 1st class Large Jubilee, and steep increases in postage rates.  Three new stamps were not included in Royal Mail's standing order arrangements. Scotland's new country stamps were released with fanfare but those for England and Wales were not.  Locally overprinted Faststamps were made available at the Philatelic Congress in Perth and collectors voiced their disquiet over the restricted availability of any future local overprints.

In 2013 we start with a rash of new Machins, and the promise of more when the prices rise again in the spring. Following the success of the gold medal issues in making the general public more aware of special stamps, there will be some this year which should also have wide appeal.  We'll continue to provide the news as we get it, though there may be occasional delays as we plan to take a few more breaks from the desk from now on.

Away from the blog we are planning to open a new e-commerce site in the spring.  Those who have visited the old one will notice a marked difference in the look and shape of the new one.  This is open for viewing but not yet fully operational - no buying until there is much more stock and everything is fully tested. The new system will enable automatic checkout and payment, something that we know has been a problem for some buyers since we set up in 2004.  Feel free to browse and let us know what you think!

Before we close, a big thank you to our customers, to all the regular readers (over 360,000 visits to the blog in 2012), and also to the regular reporters who keep sending us their finds, together with pictures without which the blog would not be what it is.  We don't include names, to preserve your anonymity, but you know who you are, and I'm sure our readers in the UK and internationally are as grateful to you as we are.



Our offices will be closed intermittently from 20 - 30 December,
with possible absence before then and for a few days afterwards !

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Has Walsall produced the first British 3D-stamp?

A reader has sent this picture of the 2nd class 2012 Christmas stamp received today.  It's the sort of view that Santa might have after a few too many sherries on the night of 24th/25th December.

We're used to minor mis-registration of the colours on modern stamps produced on high-speed presses, especially on the booklets produced by Walsall, but this is a spectacular shift!

It's difficult to be sure from this image but it doesn't look like the De La Rue sheet version.

Thanks to AAB.

UPDATE: H J R has sent this image from the 1st class booklet, so it's not just Rudolph!

Late printing for old 10p Machin stamp

Just a week before De La Rue were printing the new low value Machin stamps with iridescent overprint they were still printing the old ones!

We have been shown the 10p with a printing date of 06/09/12. The new stamps have been seen with printing dates of -

2p & 5p     12/09/12
10p & 20p 13/09/12

Saturday 15 December 2012

Silver head missing on new England litho-printed 1st & 2nd class stamps.

We received the new litho-printed England and Wales 1st and 2nd class stamps in November, and posted all the details here.

Somebody has since asked why there is no silver cylinder on the England stamps, as there was on the Scotland stamps issued in the summer.  I concede that with everything else going on I hadn't noticed the missing cylinder number (properly 'plate number' as it is litho).

Here are the C1 numbers in yellow, magenta, cyan and black with phosphor above the yellow.  The Wales stamps of course have the Queen's head reversed out of the colour printing so it appears white.

But the England stamps have the head in silver - or do they? Well in fact no.  Although in this scan the head on the right could easily be silver it is, in fact, grey-black.  There is no silver on the new England stamps!

This, of course, makes it very much easier to identify the Cartor stamps.  It must also mean that the 1st class stamp will have a new catalogue number as SG EN18 printed in litho by Enschede for the British Army prestige stamp book is "lake-brown and silver".  The 2nd class has not previously been printed in litho.

In fact this reminds me that the country definitives are an odd mixture.

The Wales and Northern Ireland stamps have both head and value in white.
The Scotland stamps have both head and value in silver.
The England stamps have the head in silver (or grey-black), and the value in white!

Friday 14 December 2012

Royal Mail Red Machin definitives in Business Sheets - 3 January 2013 issue

More deliveries from Royal Mail allow me to post these pictures of the new business sheets which will be issued on 3 January.

The source and year codes are as expected, M12L MBIL on the small, and MA12 MBIL on the Large, in the same positions as before.  Detailed close-ups of all the stamps will be shown when my Machin elf has scanned them for me! The only new stamp still awaited is the MRIL coil of 10,000.

Thursday 13 December 2012

So where are the 6 x 1st Jubilee booklets ?

... and was there any point in producing them?

It's been an interesting year for definitives, with two special issues running in a sort of parallel existence.

The London 2012 definitives were issued in January, to be replaced a month later when the Diamond Jubilee Machins were issued.  The intention was that these would be used until July when the games started, then the London 2012 stamps would be re-distributed, being replaced again by the Jubilee stamps when the games were over.

That made a lot of sense for the sheet stamps, but was less straightforward for the booklet stamps.  The London 2012 stamps were issued only in booklets of 6, whilst the Jubilee stamps were issued only in booklets of 12, so they could run side-by-side.  But post office branches tend to get new booklets only when they are ordered and, if they had plentiful stocks of previous stamp booklets, receipt of the new stamps would be delayed until they were needed.

And then there was the surprise issue of a 1st class gold book (M12L) which had been packed up in December 2011!  Why was this even produced if the London 2012 and Jubilee booklets were going to be issued in January and February?

As it turned out the greater than normal increase in postage rates in the spring meant that many stamps were purchased before the rise, money in stamps for postage producing a better return than money in the bank, and there were shortages in many post offices.  Country definitives were distributed from stores - even to the wrong countries we understand - when Machins had been ordered, business sheets were broken up and sold as singles or blocks.

After that, many people had enough stamps to last them for years and then we were distracted by the Olympics and Paralympics.  And there were gold medal 1st class stamps to use.  However, when that was all over, it was back to the normal programme.

A mixed 6 x 1st booklet of Jubilee Machins and Scottish Locomotives was issued on 27 September.  The Christmas booklets of 12 1st or 2nd were due for issue on 6 November, and the new colour stamps, including booklets of 6 and 12 x 1st were scheduled for 3 January 2013.

But there was still one Jubilee variant missing, the one coded MSND.  The booklet of 6 x 1st Jubilee stamps with this code were scheduled for philatelic release on 1 October, and released they were - from Edinburgh to collectors and dealers.

As far as I can tell, nobody has found these in any post office branches yet, except the designated philatelic ones. Many branches are still selling London 2012 booklets.  Indeed we were told that these had been recalled after the games: one office which returned them and then ordered replacements were supplied with - yes, more London 2012 booklets!  (It has even been suggested that the Post Office Supplies Depot at Swindon has not received any Jubilee books of 6, which might explain why they are not in post offices.)

Supermarkets and corner shops could be selling them, but they will have had Christmas booklets since early November.

So if you know of any outlets - Post Offices, corner shops, newsagents, office suppliers, or supermarkets - which have or have had these for sale, please let us know.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

London Underground Retail Booklet of 6 stamps

On our website we show the publicity picture for the London Underground mixed retail booklet.

The background to the LU stamps is Harry Beck's London Underground map on the left, and the newer map on the right, with the cylinder numbers shown vertically at the right.  

As we know we can't always rely on the pre-issue images - but as I received a pack containing no cylinder numbers at all, I still don't know whether the image is accurate or not.  We can report that the year code is M12L and the source code MCIL.

Here are pictures of today's arrivals, which indicate that they were packed on 27 November:

Saturday 8 December 2012

Royal Mail proposes 2nd class and small/medium parcel service

7 December 2012 - Edited Press release

Royal Mail announces proposals to change its parcels range

  • Royal Mail is consulting on changes to its parcels range. The proposals apply to consumers, small non-contract business and franking customers. Currently, there are up to 15 weight bands for parcels. Royal Mail’s proposal is to reduce that by more than half to seven weight bands from April 2013
  • The proposal means Royal Mail’s range of parcel products should be easier for consumers to understand and improve choice. They will have the ability for the first time to send parcels between 1kg and 20kg using Royal Mail’s 2nd Class service, with the added option to receive a signature on delivery
  • The proposal also includes introducing two broad parcel categories – small parcels and medium parcels.
The proposals should be easier for consumers to understand and improve choice. They will have the ability for the first time to send parcels between 1kg and 20kg using Royal Mail’s 2nd Class service, with the added option to receive a signature on delivery.

Currently, for items weighing up to 20kg, signature on delivery is only available through 1stClass. We believe the increase in the 2ndClass weight limit to 20kg is a very meaningful addition to customer choice. As a result of this improvement, our Standard Parcels product will be withdrawn.

In addition, Royal Mail’s proposal is to introduce two broad parcel categories – small parcels and medium parcels.  Parcels are priced by weight but the size of a parcel has an impact on the cost of collecting, transporting, sorting and delivering an item.

Changes to compensation levels for untracked and Recorded Signed For items

Royal Mail intends to change its compensation arrangements to bring them more in line with other postal companies. It is our intention to increase the maximum compensation payable for loss or damage of Recorded Signed For items from £46 to £50. These are items for which a signature is collected on delivery and a proof of posting receipt is provided.

Alongside this, it is our intention to reduce compensation for loss or damage of items sent using our untracked 1stand 2ndClass stamped mail and parcels from £46 to £20. Many countries do not offer any compensation for loss or damage of untracked items, including Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.

We will continue to pay compensation for delayed items and the limit will be unchanged. The changes will ensure that Royal Mail provides proportionate and reasonable compensation based on the service used and postage paid.

I doubt that there will be much impact on stamps and collecting, although there may well be an option for 2nd class small parcels on Post and Go machines.

In the letter service, the Packets are anything over 353 x 250 x 25mm, and 2nd class (for which Recorded Signed For is available) is limited to 1 kg.

The new proposals will introduce

Small parcels - items that weigh up to 2kg and are no larger than 450mm x 350mm x 80mm in size; and

Medium parcels - items that have dimensions larger than the small parcels size but no bigger than 610mm x 460mm x 460mm, and up to 20kg in weight.

Under the proposals, items larger than the medium parcel size (610mm x 460mm x 460mm) or over 20kg in weight will no longer be delivered through the Royal Mail letter service as Packets, but will be sent by ParcelForce.  Recorded Signed For will not therefore be available for the larger-sized items.

Although this is supposed to provide extra services and simplify the service, there seems to be a degree of overlap with the Packet rates - customers will have to compare the options carefully.

Friday 7 December 2012

New Machin definitive stamps not in all POs on 3 January

As previously reported on 17 October and November blogposts, new Machin definitive stamps will be available from 3 January 2013.  The two 1st class stamps will change from Diamond Blue to Royal Mail Red, and the 50p and £1 will also change.

The 1p-20p stamps will also be issued with an iridescent security overprint for the first time.

We did not expect the low value stamps to be available in all Post Office branches as they are not - from Royal Mail's philatelic point of view - fundamentally new stamps.  But we have recently been told that the other 4 values will not be sent to all Post Offices for the day of issue, and that the initial distribution will be confined to the 24 Philatelic Offices* and some others.  This may mean that not even all 370+ Crown Offices will have them.

Other Postmasters can order these stamps if there is a demand, so if you have a regular PO where you buy your new stamps, ask the postmaster if he will order them!  He may have to contact the helpline to find out how. 

Royal Mail's research has shown increasingly that collectors are not buying new definitives and definitive FDCs at Post Office branches on the day of issue, and there will be no general distribution of blank First Day Envelopes. 

* According to the Philatelic Bulletin these are the philatelic outlets which remain:

Bristol, Cambridge, Chester, Colchester, Croydon, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Grimsby, Harrogate, London (Eastcheap and Trafalgar Square), Norwich, Nottingham, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southend on Sea, Stevenage, Stroud, Trowbridge, Truro, York, and Newport Isle of Wight.
(Notable by their absence - Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Wales, Northern Ireland !!)

We are planning to produce a small quantity of first day covers as follows:

1. Valued stamps - 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50p and £1 cost £4.95

2. NVIs.  1st standard and 1st Large.  The cost of these covers depends on what stamps are available.  We have the following:

1st class counter sheet, booklet of 6, booklet of 12.    Awaited: Business Sheet, Coil
1st class Large counter sheet, booklet of 4.                 Awaited: Business Sheet.

Prices will be
- £8.25 if all stamps are available,
- £7.50 without the coil,
- £6.25 without the coil or business sheet stamps.

If you wish us to obtain FDCs for you please contact us as soon as possible at so that we can obtain stocks.  Orders must be received by 21 December.

NB: Just over a week later the 1st class stamp from the mixed London Underground book will be issued, and we will do FDCs for that single stamp for £4 each, to be despatched with the above.  Please let us know if you also want that FDC.

Thursday 6 December 2012

BPMA Faststamp slippages - Stampex all over again!

Richard has sent a couple of pictures of mis-fed BPMA Robins.

"this is how they came out of the machine no tugs no interference, no putting in another lot, while the other ones are printing no skullduggery whatsoever" which was all witnessed by a technician who was there showing BPMA staff how to reload the machine.

Update: A video of the original Stampex Cattle long strips has now been added to the first report, demonstrating that there was no interference with the machine.