Wednesday 30 January 2013

More news about Stampex products

Royal Mail have updated the information previously provided about stamp issues and Faststamps available at Spring Stampex (20-23 February 2013) at the Business Design Centre Islington North London.

The 2nd class Faststamp will be available at Stampex from day 1 (20th) but roll-out to Post Office branches is not now expected until the summer. (Two 'values' - 2nd class, and 2nd class Large)

The Machin Faststamp will be available from 20th February with a new Stampex-only 'overprint' marking the 60th Anniversary of the Coronation. This will be available in the standard 6 values.

The Pond Life set will be issued on 22nd February.

As usual payment at the public vending machines will only be possible via Credit or Debit Card.  The machines will dispense singles, multiples, and collectors strips of 6 of the Coronation or Pond Life (or 2 for the 2nd class).

As usual other machines will be situated in the back office producing stamps to be sold 'over-the-counter', and dealers' pre-release orders.   Items sold over-the-counter can be paid for in cash or by card.  Single stamps will not be available over-the-counter, but collectors sets will be.

Our wesbite has been updated with special postmarks for the 2nd class and Pond Life faststamps and the Jane Austen issue.  Stampex postmark designs have yet to be published.

UPDATE 31 January:
I do sometimes wish that Royal Mail had an interactive blog where they could field the questions that are posed by this blog and the comments it brings !

2nd class Faststamp  -  Back in November I wrote:

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.

Further update for clarification: As 20 February is the first day of issue, the Bureau (Presentation) pack will be issued on that date!

In fact, we understand that the 2nd class stamps will only be installed in Hytech v2 machines, which (as previously reported) have two rolls of Faststamps and no Post and Go labels.  This suggests it will only happen in offices which have several Post and Go machines.

Also as previously stated the intention of Post Office Ltd was to roll out the extension to branches in March, which is now postponed until later in the summer.  This may be a software problem, it may be to do with the change in postal tariffs.  

I have also read elsewhere that the Packet rate is to be suplanted into a changed set-up for Parcels.  That isn't how I understood the information I read, but maybe the writer had a different source.  

And just to reiterate, there will NOT be 6 stamps in a collectors strip of 2nd class as there are only two stamps available. (Somebody asked, "why not 6 though?" - well would you want to be forced to buy three sets when you only wanted one?

A recent slogan postmark error - how widespread is it?

After Christmas Royal Mail introduced a new slogan on some of its ink-jet machines.  I don't know when it started as the Christmas Special Delivery slogan was still in use at some offices into January.


Delivered by Royal Mail // Royal Mail / Lancashire and / South Lakes / 25.01.13
Check Royal Mail's  
Education Website

However at least at the Lanacshire and South Lakes MLO they got the slogan wrong as this web address was not in use, only reserved for use.  The correct address is

UPDATE: Margaret reports that Plymouth and Cornwall mail centre had this error on 21.01.13

UPDATE: Thanks to Stuart for sending this image showing that North West Midlands had corrected the error by 29 January

And to Doug for sending this one from Cambridge Mail Centre 30.01.13

And John for this one from Manchester also 30.01.13

Please look at your incoming mail and let us know of any other offices (and dates) with the incorrect slogan, and dates when it was corrected - many thanks!  Scans will be useful.

Dr Who will be expensive for small-scale cover producers

The Association of Great Britain First Day Cover Collectors reports that the Dr Who issue will be the most challenging/expensive ever in terms of using copyrighted material. (And we thought the Olympic organisations were strict!)

"A word of warning to anyone hoping to design and produce their own covers, copyright issues surrounding Doctor Who are the strictest I have ever come across.

"Do not under any circumstances be tempted to put any image or wording on your covers relating to Doctor Who or the BBC. .....  A licence for just mentioning Doctor Who or anything to do with Doctor Who is £1000. The BBC will vigorously pursue through the courts anyone infringing copyright. So you have been warned. It is a minefield like no other."

So aside from some retro televisions, I suspect there will be a lot of covers showing other generic images such as this!

Thursday 24 January 2013

Two versions of London Underground booklet stamp

When I was first told about this difference I concluded that it was yet another case of poor registration on a Walsall printed booklet.

On most of the booklet we have the window frames in the tower are doubled due to mis-registration, and the thickness of the caption bar, BOSTON MANOR ART DECO STATION, on the booklet stamp is thinner than on the sheet stamp.

However, Dominic has now sent scans of two booklet stamps which show not only that the vertical height of that blue bar is variable (as might be expected from mis-registration), but that the spur up towards the date 1934 is also different.

(Click on the image for a larger one in a pop-up.)

Although there is some mis-registration on the left-hand stamp (see the shadow on the Queen's head and the ghostly grey colour of the face value), the thinness of the bar below 1934 is much thinner on the left-hand stamp than on the right.

And if you look at the blue caption below the stamp, this also seems to be shorter on the right-hand stamp, although that may be a trick of the scanner: I've asked for that to be checked.

UPDATE 25 January: My thanks to John G for this larger picture of the lower right corner.  This clearly shows that, while the amount of dark blue appearing in the spur is partly governed by the white space in the bluc background, the actual dimensions of the dark blue print are much greater in the right-hand stamp than in the left.  There are definitely at least two versions.  But why?  There should be one image dropped into every position on the cylinder.

Is it time for Walsall to give up printing these multi-coloured booklets?  One customer rejected multiple copies of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee booklet from other sources and asked if we had just one with the face value in white instead of with a cyan or magenta edge.  In fact we have several, but it did seem that the 'good' ones were not as common as the blurred ones.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Royal Mail used a new FDC for 3 January Machin definitives

A reader has pointed out to me that Royal Mail changed the colour of the official first day cover for the 3 January "new palette" Machin definitive issue. 

This wasn't obvious in the information we received, but I have now obtained one of the new covers and show it here in comparison with the older, maroon, colour.

All our customers have FDCs on the older covers that we had in stock, but as we have only two left, we will be using the new colour for any new versions of the Machins issued later this year.

Postage rates to rise in early April this year.

This is a total rewrite, as my error has been pointed out.  I mis-read the letter from Royal Mail.

We had news today that Royal Mail proposes to publish details of increased postage rates in early March 2013. This suggest an increase this year in early April, less than 12 months since  the previous (delayed) increase.  We expect the implementation date will be 1st April.

There is, of course, no news yet on what the rates will be but as 30 days notice of any increase must be given, we would expect basic details to be available within the next two weeks.  The bad news for collectors is that this will affect the bumper Dr Who issue due on 26 March.

A reminder from last year's consultation and Ofcom statements on rates:

"Ofcom proposes to put a price cap of between 45p and 55p [in 2012] on 2nd Class stamps for standard letters to protect vulnerable customers from significant price rises. The cap would be indexed in line with inflation."

1.23 The recent experience of postal regulation, however, has demonstrated all the weaknesses of price controls with none of the benefits. In a highly uncertain market, price controls have removed the flexibility that would allow Royal Mail to adjust to changes in demand, while at the same time Royal Mail has been unable to improve efficiency, either at the rate expected by the regulator when the price control was set, or at the rate set by its own internal targets at the time. 
1.24 Furthermore, price controls on Royal Mail have served less and less to protect customers from price rises. Since 2006 Royal Mail's financial position has led it to apply to the regulator for price rises over and above those consistent with the regulatory formula.

New rates and new stamps now added here.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

New images for February's new stamps

Royal Mail have provided these images for the stamps to be issued in February - preliminary images were shown earlier.  Click on any of these to see larger versions.

There will be two values of blue Machin Faststamps, 2nd class and 2nd class Large. I didn't notice that the year code MA12 was included in the original publicity image, and the same code is shown on these two, just NW of the Queen's nose.

The coding on these indicates printing in the UK in February 2013.  The stamps in the Bureau Pack are likely to be coded 2NL13 rather than 2GB13 unless different arrangements have been made from earlier packs.  I'm not convinced that the positioning of the weight service indicator is correct.

The higher resolution images of the Jane Austen publicity images (these are still not actual stamps) haven't improved them greatly but if you click on them you can see them as two larger images:

These images of the Pond Life faststamps show no year code in the background, and the spacing of the weight limit is different to that used previously (and is probably, therefore, wrong!)

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Britten, Cushing, Leakey, Shankly, Lloyd George, among Great Britons on stamps in April

The Great Britons stamp set for 2013 will mark a number of different birth anniversaries of key Britons.  The 10 x 1st class stamps will be issued on 16 April.

These mixed anniversary stamps are always popular, with different collectors focussing on different stamps as well as those who buy the whole set. The format enables Royal Mail to feature many individuals who otherwise would not be included in the stamp programme.

Commemorated this year are:

Photographer Norman Parkinson (born 1913);
Actress Vivien Leigh (born in 1913) famous for her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind;
Actor Peter Cushing (born 1913) one of the screen’s best known Sherlock Holmes, but also famed for playing Baron Frankenstein and Dracula’s nemesis Van Helsing in several Hammer Horrors, Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars and Dr Who in two cinema films in the 1960s amongst many other roles;
David Lloyd George (born 1863) the politician and wartime Prime Minister; 
Elizabeth David (born 1913) food and drink writer who revolutionised what we eat with her books that introduced French and Italian cooking to post-war Britain;
John Archer (born 1863) the first Briton of Afro-Caribbean origin to hold public office in the UK;
Benjamin Britten (born 1913) composer of Peter Grimes, Billy Budd and the War Requiem; There are some major events planned for Britten in 2013.
Mary Leakey (born 1913) the archaeologist and anthropologist who discovered some of the earliest hominid remains at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania;
Bill Shankly (born 1913) Scottish footballer and manager;
Broadcaster Richard Dimbleby who was also born in 1913.

The 35mm square stamps were designed by Together Design and will be printed by Cartor Security Printers in lithography. A presentation pack, first day cover and 10 stamp cards will be produced.

The stamps will be issued in two sheets of 25 stamps each, enabling customers to buy vertical strips of 5 different stamps.

Special postmarks for this issue are on our website.

Normal service will be resumed when it's sensible to go out!

UK readers will have been regaled on radio and TV about how Norfolk had the most snow dumped on us in the last two days.  I see that the rest of the country will be getting their share later in the week.

With the temperature outside still at -10ºC at 9am it's unlikely that we will be making a trip to the Post Office today to post orders and collect incoming.  The PO is closed this afternoon anyway.

I've been told of somebody who took 4 hours yesterday afternoon to make what is normally a 20 minute journey home.  And he left early!  Articulated lorries have no traction on lightweight cabs.

Meanwhile here is a picture taken Monday evening to make you feel as cool as we are!

Tuesday 15 January 2013

London Underground set issue date was changed.

Collectors will have noticed that the London Underground sheet stamps show a sale date of 8 January, and the presentation pack is also dated 8 January.

Royal Mail have now confirmed that the scheduled issue date (a Tuesday) was changed "to mirror the date the London Underground determined to use as their official anniversary".

Fortunately although this was done after printing it was before the date of issue was announced to dealers and collectors.

Monday 14 January 2013

London Underground Special Delivery CDS FDCS - done the way they should be

We've been sent some more images of London Underground first day covers sent from a relevant post office by special delivery to get the branch counter date stamp.  The original story is here.

First a repeat of Chris's Walthamstow(e) Central cover

Now a pair of covers (and reverses) postmarked at Boston Parade PO, close to Boston Manor station.  These also have the RMT Union metermark.

Friday 11 January 2013

Paralympics Gold Medal Stamps sold out before end-of-sale date?

We understand that some of the Paralympic Gold Medal stamps were sold out before they were taken off sale at the end of December.

As reported, the arrangement between Royal Mail and the International Olympic Committee ran from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2012, and there was a flurry of orders to Tallents House before the cut-off date, which of course coincided with the Christmas/New Year holiday.

It's reported that some orders could not be fulfilled due to stocks of one or more sheets of Paralympic Gold Medal Stamps (containing stamps for 4 different medal winners) being already exhausted.

This suggests that the Paralympic stamps may be more scarce than the Olympic.  We know someone who has access to competition mailings who has completed many sets of Olympic GM stamps on cover, but is struggling to find a single complete set of Paralympic GM stamps.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Post Offices refuse to accept Special Delivery London Underground FDCs

Once again philatelists and first day cover producers have been frustrated by the inability of our Post Office to follow its own rules regarding Special Delivery mail.

Although the number of collectors of first day covers has been declining for some years, the die-hard collectors often go to extreme lengths and expense to produce something different for their collections.  Some design their own first day covers and they, and others, often seek out appropriate post offices at which to get their covers postmarked on the day of issue with the office's counter datestamp (CDS).

This usually means paying more than the face value of the set, as normally only special delivery items (current minumum fee £5.90) are cancelled at the counter.

The London Underground stamp issue presented some perfect opportunities to get covers postmarked in this way.  Relevant post offices included Boston Parade (London W7) - relevant to the 1st class Boston Manor stamp, Farringdon Road PO, relevant to the Metropolitan Line, and Canary Wharf PO, relevant to the £1.28 Canary Wharf stamp.

However, somebody in PO HQ has send an instruction of PO Branches which meant that yesterday some of those branches refused to accept first day covers for special delivery and cancellation with the branch's CDS.

One branch postmaster told one of our customer that he could accept other items with those stamps for special delivery and CDS postmarking, or could accept them on another day(!) but that any first day covers had to be sent to the special handstamp centre to get the official first day of issue postmark.
Attractive as it is, that isn't what the customers wanted.  The customer called Post Office Helpline from the branch, but was unable to make the customer services assistant understand the nature of the problem.

As this is now the subject of ongoing discussions you can expect to see more here soon.  But if anybody has had their FDCs rejected from the special delivery service, do not despair - please let me know by email ( which branch is involved so that we can establish how widespread the problem is.

UPDATE 11 January: We are still in discussions with Post Office Ltd who seem to be accepting that a misunderstanding occurred, and I am confident that we will see a resolution. More details will be noted as soon as possible.

Here is a Special Delivery cover which was properly serviced on 9 Janaury, at Walthamstow Central, E17. It was produced by Chris Sutcliffe and although he has none available to sell you can find his website here.

And here are some examples that we have done in the past, and some currently for sale on eBay.

Pub Signs set sent Special Delivery from Earl Soham PO (Suffolk) which is in the Brewery Shop:

Olympic/Paralympic set sent Special Delivery at Much Wenlock PO Shropshire

Burwash CDS on Rudyard Kipling set

2005 Trafalgar MS with Trafalgar Square CDS:


Millennium MS with Greenwich CDS, showing reverse with SD label


Tuesday 8 January 2013

Long strips of faststsamps - proof that they were genuine

In October we were sent images of extra long strips of Cattle Faststamps produced at Stampex, and these were followed by similar long strips of Robins from the BPMA machine.

Some people suggested that the purchaser had interefered with the machine or that the long strips were produced by collusion with Royal Mail staff at the time.  A video has now been loaded on YouTube showing the actual purchase at Stampex, and this is now embedded in the original post - see link above.  Proof indeed that these were genuine errors.

UPDATE 9 January:  It was not only at Stampex and BPMA that the long strip appeared.  Frank has sent this picture of one that he obtained from the Camden Market Christmas Shop:

Friday 4 January 2013

Buy unique Olympic Gold Medal memorabilia and help prostate charity

Sorry for the confusion, people.  There was a misunderstanding between Royal Mail (who donated these promotional enlargements) and the seller, but all is now sorted out, and the items are back on sale and have bids already - oh and if you are on twitter or facebook please send a link to this blogpost or to the items on eBay!


You may know that Prostate Cancer UK was supported by Royal Mail during 2012, particularly making an appearance on slogan postmarks in Movember.

Now there's a chance to obtain some unique Olympic stamp memorabilia currently on eBay, and for the next 10 days -- the auction is now closed and the sale realised just over £240 for charity a sum which was matched by Royal Mail.  Thanks for looking.

The items for sale are blow-ups of the stamps, produced by Royal Mail for promotional purposes - they are high quality photographic images on PVC Foamex backing card.  This is a rare chance to get something most unusual to add to your Olympics collection!

Shown above, the Jason Kenny sprint gold medal stamp.  Others available:

Anthony Joshua, Ben Ainslie, Alastair Brownlee, Dave Weir, and two stamps from the 'Welcome' miniature sheets, the 1st class Tower Bridge Fencing, and Athletics/Olympic Stadium.

Money raised will go towards the seller's London Marathon fundraising run for Prostate Cancer UK, and all sums will be matched by Royal Mail - see Calvin's facebook page here.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Gold Medal Stamps: Another major print error, this time on Paralympic sheet E.

One of our eagle-eyed contributors has spotted on eBay another major print shift on a Gold Medal Stamp (thanks Mark!)

This error occurs on the PGMWE1 stamp - Rowing: Mixed Coxed Four LTAMix4+ issued on 4 September.

There would have been 4 of these stamps on the A4 sheet, 16 on the press-sheet of 4 x A4 sheets.  Other stamps affected would have been

PGMWE2 Athletics Men's Discus F42
PGMWE3 Cycling Track, Men's Individual B Sprint
PGMWE4 Swimming Women's 200m Freestyle S14

As you can see, this single used stamp sold for £65+ on eBay.  I wonder if there are any more out there in kiloware sacks?

This is the mint item referred to in the comments below.  This sold for only £27, which seems odd, but it depends on who saw it at the time.  Although the images look similar, the perforation runs across the legs just above the knees - compare the sky next to the Queen's head.


UPDATE 26 February:
Thanks to Anonymous commenter, we can show another misplacement which has been offered on eBay:

The overprinting - the design and caption - is shifted vertically resulting in the black overlaying the original gold caption, and the head and arm are above the level of the perforations.

We've been told about a sheet of Gold Medal stamps with duplicate printing of the black, but if the design and caption were printed in one pass of the press, the picture should be doubled as well.  We're waiting for a picture!

First Forged Faststamp surfaces down under

We've been sent a scan of a Union Flag Faststamp used on a cover from Devon to Australia (thanks Neil). 

But this is clearly a 'wrong-un', as the weight is Worldwide 30g!

On Brian confirms that this is a forgery, presumably on genuine stock which has either been dispensed from the machine in error or from a reel-end found in a bin.

But even if the letter weighed 20-30g, why forge a 30g label when no such genuine label - or postage rate - exists?

We'll be interested to know of any other similar finds!

British Automobile Legends in August 2013 includes E-Type Jaguar

Royal Mail have released the first picture of the British Auto Legends set due on 13 August.

The shape of the stamps suits the subject very well - and the colour is Royal Mail Red, tying in with the 1st class rate!
(Better image added 7.1.13)

Who wants to take an uninformed guess at what the other models will be?

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Modern British stamps ARE used by ordinary people, not just by dealers and collectors

From time to time people suggest in comments on the blog that 'nobody uses modern stamps anyway, only collectors and dealers'.  So I thought I'd show some examples of recent stamps used by non-collectors.

This batch is the complete set of Olympic Gold Medal stamps (not all show on the spread), all on newspaper prize crossword competition entries.

The set of Eminent Britons

First part of the A-Z of the UK set

Winnie-the-Pooh airmail rate on commercial evangelical mail.

British Musicals, on the Prize Crossword entries.

1992 Gilbert and Sullivan pair on personal/social mail to India

So it's there if you look for it, but I suspect most people don't collect this sort of material because it doesn't interest them, or because it's too difficult.

But surely that's what collecting is all about.  Enjoy the hunt!