Thursday 28 November 2013

Post and Go / Faststamps - customer update

A note to customers on the Faststamps situation.

We now have the 2nd class MA13 Faststamps from both machines from the first day at Newcastle and we will have a few first day covers, probably by next week.

We also now have stocks of MA13 Robins from the BPMA with collectors strips now added to our shop to accompany the 1st class singles.  FDCs will also be added soon.

MA13 Robins from Post Office branch Wincor machines are also in stock, and FDCs from Trafalgar Square are expected next week.

If the items you want are not listed in our shop please email to have them reserved.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

2nd class MA13 Faststamps at Glasgow - and where else?

A pair of 2nd class Post and Go stamps listed on eBay and bought on Glasgow's 2nd day is reported to have the MA13 code.  This is from session 2570 on Machine A4.

However the image doesn't show the stamp clearly so I will be happy to report any other findings as the trailer goes further on its journey!

Friday 22 November 2013

Doctor Who Day - Maximum Cards Half Price offer !!

To celebrate Doctor Who Day or The Day of The Doctor, the 50th Anniversary of the first broadcast, we've cut all our Doctor Who maximum cards to half-price for the week-end!

What's a Doctor Who Maximum Card ?  

It's a Doctor Who Stamp, on a the front of a Doctor Who Postcard with a Doctor Who Postmark

Real stamps used for postage on all orders of course, including at least one Tardis stamp!

Buy here but hurry - only limited supplies and mostly no more than two of each!

Image Image

Thursday 21 November 2013

Royal Mail Design a Christmas Stamp Slogans - Part 3 Welsh slogans to English addresses

Royal Mail's slogan postmarks for the Design a Stamp Competition finalists are recorded in two earlier posts: first half and second half.  The latest discoveries are so surprising as to warrant a separate blog post (though the previous posts will be updated also).

We understood that the two finalists from Wales would be marked on firstly an English-language postmark and then a Welsh-language postmark which would be applied at all capable mailing centres on mail sent to addresses in Wales.  Imagine my surprise, therefore to be given examples addressed to Norwich!

Jayden Roberts
+ Nicola Murphy
o Gymru
rhestr fer Cystadleuaeth
Dylunic Stamp Nadolig y
Post Brenhinol

Sheffield Mail Centre 29.10.13 06:56 pm
Nottingham Mail Centre (scene of so many errors!) 04.11.13 06:44 pm

Bath Bristol Taunton MC 04.11.13  ?09:06pm

On the lower one the down-stroke of the R in NR7 has failed to write, so interpreting this as NP7 (Newport Mon) seems likely.  But the other two are clearer.  The bar-codes are different on all three.

Post and Go Flag Stamps MA13 appear at a post office!

We have a running survey on the availability (or not) of Robins Faststamp availability from Post and Go machines in PO branches.  Now Brian reports that the MA13 Union Flag stamps are available in the unique Self-service branch at Tudor Street, Ludgate Circus, London EC1.

Machine 1 has MA13 Robins
Machine 2 has MA13 Machins Union Flags
Machine 3 has MA13 Union Flags Machins

So - unlikely as it may be - we're open to reports of Union Flag MA13 stamps appearing anywhere else.  Given that Birds 4, Farm Animals, and Freshwater Life are available across the country and Robins are fighting for space, I doubt that our intrepid reporters will find many!

Incidentally if anybody in the London area would like to supply me with some MA13 Flags, please email so that we can put arrangements in place.  Thanks.

Update 25/11/2013 - Machine 2 up and running dispensing Flags MA13, BUT with part printing missing (image e-mailed). Machine 3 no longer has Machins MA13 in it.  (Thanks Chris)
Machine 3 has Freshwater Life 2 - Thanks Doug
From 11:31 am transaction: The machine jammed between the two transactions and jammed after it. I’m not sure if it was going to left on pending the arrival of an engineer to replace the printer. (Thanks Dominic)

UPDATE - see this entry

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Nomadic Post and Go change x2

19 November: I have been advised this morning that the 2nd class Faststamps on the mobile Pop-up Post Office which starts operations in Newcastle tomorrow are MA12, not MA13.

Also, there are no 2nd class personalised Smilers as the Post and Go machines do not have that option.

UPDATED: As mentioned in the 'comments' some MA13 2nd class faststamps were available at Newcastle on the afternoon of Day 1 - 3000 labels only.

Full story here.  Further comments, on the original thread please.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Stamp for Trollope in 2015 ?

According to the Daily Mail, Royal Mail will issue stamp(s) in 2015 to mark the bicentenary of the birth of author Anthony Trollope.

Besides being an author, Trollope introduced the roadside Pillar Box to Great Britain.

Nomadic Pop-Up Post Office Shop - now you see it, now you don't, and guess what's inside ?

Royal Mail announcement 15 November:

Royal Mail are delighted to be working with Post Office Ltd on their Christmas Stamp Shop. This Pop Up Post Office is a large mobile trailer that will tour some of the major shopping locations around the UK in the run up to Christmas.

The Post Office will be selling Christmas Stamps and Smilers.  In addition, Royal Mail’s own Post and Go terminal will be vending Post and Go stamps.  The truck will be open from 11 am - 7 pm

Full details are listed below:

·         Royal Mail’s Post and Go machines used for Exhibitions:  A3 and A4
·         Post and Go Stamps: Robins (MA13) and 2nd Class (MA12) - not MA13* §§
·         There is no overprint
·         Receipts will be unique to each venue
·         The Smilers sheets will be available in 10 and 20 stamp sheets with the following designs available:
o   Madonna and Child 1st and 2nd class - no 2nd class
o   Christmas 2012 Santa 1st Class may be available dependant on early demand

§§  Well, so much for official information sources.  If this is a foretaste of what we can expect now that Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd are split, and external contractors are involved, the future looks to be full of confusion.

After the original MA13 report was countered by Royal Mail,  yesterday evening I received a report that the MA13 2nd class Faststamps had indeed been purchased at Newcastle on day 1, for a brief period.  Evidence from eBay and another blog shows that MA12 stock was loaded in both machines initially but that MA13 stock was loaded part-way through the morning of 20 November (Day 1).

I delayed reporting this initially because I wanted to find out whether the stamps were available from both machines and whether our representative on the road had was able to secure any for our customers.  (My initial thought was that he might not have made the journey when the 'no MA13' correction was made.)  I now believe that we may be able to secure some and make some FDCs for our customers.  More news to those customers later.  I've been told that only 2 rolls (of 1500 labels) were available.  But that does not mean that there may be more later depending on usage - by Shepherds Bush who knows what might be available.  

UPDATE 26 NOV:  An pair of stamps listed on eBay bought at Glasgow on Sunday morning (24th) is reported to have MA13 code, and we have since had reliable information that MA12 was available on Saturday, but MA13 was on sale on Sunday.  Both MA12 and MA13 were available at Liverpool.

Thanks to Mike, here are some pictures from Newcastle:

Click on the 'receipt' image to see a larger version.

(Note London Westfield is Shepherds Bush, not Stratford.)

Thanks to several contributors for this information.

Glasgow: 23 November both machines had MA12 2nd class.  24th November MA13 loaded and session numbers 2536(A3) and 2569(A4) obtained.

5th December: Machine A3 had MA13 Robins and MA13 2nd class and A4 had MA13 Robins and MA12 2nd class.   After 2pm - the 2nd class roll MA13 was now sitting in A4 and A3 was holding the MA12.
Visited twice on the 5th and once on the 6th. Business was slow on the 1st day with no crowds and no queue
The system was in use by the public but not in any quantity and used mainly for an individual value e.g. a Christmas card to Canada or a letter to Hong Kong. Sales push was with the Smilers and as these were ordered through the machine each sale would be logged and go on the final total figure so even though there might have been 40 transactions it would include the Smiler requests.

I am surprised that this wandering trailer - we used to know them as Mobile Post Offices - is making such a passing visit to each location.   Last year, Post Office Ltd announced that the pop-up post office (which opened on 30 November) was:

"The first of its kind to be found in the UK is located in Camden Market and is showcasing a range of collectible and retail items. The Pop Up shop will be open seven days a week and customers will benefit from extensive opening hours as well as a range of services including posting and packaging.  To help make life easier for customers a gift wrapping service is also available with all donations going to BBC Children in Need."

I haven't had a formal statement from Post Office Ltd about the rationale behind the tour, but understand that the focus is on selling stamps - expect there to be blow-ups of the competition winners designs - and instant Smilers.  There will be no counter services, no Horizon system, though there may be a posting box, presumably with mail to be offloaded into the local mail distribution system. So although they are described as post offices, they are really just post office retail units.

There is no doubt that - despite initial difficulties in actually finding it - customers made the Camden unit a great success.  The new mobile trailers - to be located in major shopping streets or covered shopping centres - will stand out.  It seems they won't be tucked away in an otherwise vacant corner.   But can the same sort of success be replicated when the unit is only in one place for two days?

By chance the Camden unit's turnover included significant philatelic sales as collectors and dealers found definitive stamps not previously available from Royal Mail's Tallents House bureau or from many post office branches, and further supplies were made available as collectors bought up initial stocks.  Philatelic sales will be far lower (pro rata) at these venues than at Camden last year, although collectors will certainly flock to Newcastle on 20th November for the new 2nd class Machin Faststamps with year code MA13 simply because it will be available for the first time.
(see above!)
But one has to question why it exists, given that stocks of the MA12 version were sold only at Spring Stampex and in bureau packs and have never appeared in Post Office Wincor-Nixdorf machines.   I'm not one for using the term 'cynical exploitation' but I feel sure that the original print run of MA12 2nd class Machin Faststamps has not been exhausted.

Some pictures from our readers - many thanks Doug, !

The leaflet given out in the Covent Garden area:
Croydon pictures from John McCullum:

and Covent Garden from John

Thursday 14 November 2013

Working horses stamp set - 4 Feburary 2014

The second Royal Mail stamp issue of 2014 shows Working Horses.   This set salutes the contribution horses still make to working life in the UK, from the ceremonial horses of the Kings Troop to Police Horses and horses used in environmentally-sensitive locations for forestry.

One 1st Class stamps celebrate the work of the Riding for the Disabled Association, which provides therapy and enjoyment to almost 30,000 people a year. The other shows ceremonial horses of the Kings Troop.

The 88p stamps show Dray Horses pulling a dray from Hook Norton Brewery and Royal Mews Carriage Horses.

The £1.28 stamps show a pair of police horses, and a forestry horse.

Designed by: Michael Denny and Harold Batten
Stamp Size:  41mm x 30mm
Printer: International Security Printers
Print Process: Lithography
Sheet size:  50 stamps per sheet

Perforation: unknown
Paper/gum: unknown
Se-tenant or single sheets: unknown

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Royal Mail Stamps v United States Post Office Stamps Service

I doubt that many readers of this column follow closely the philatelic happenings across the pond in the USA, so I hope this will be entertaining and enlightening.

Many people think that Royal Mail issues too many stamps with face values too high.  Another view is that the stamps that are issued are only for collectors with very few being used on letters and parcels, but I showed back in January that the 1st class stamps are widely used - and we've some evidence that the higher values are used, though we don't have as many examples.

But at least Royal Mail tell us what they are doing well in advance.  The programme for 2014 was announced at Stampex, with dealers being provided with details of the stamp designs for the first six months so that they could prepare their first day covers, special handstamps, and in some cases arrange for notable people to sign their covers.  This advance information also allows us to plan for next year - one of the reasons we stopped making our own FDCs and supplying stamps for every issue was that there were no spaces in the schedule for taking holidays!!

Royal Mail's dealer customers can also order stamps (etc) to be delivered in advance of the date of issue which enables FDCs to be prepared and available for sending to standing order customers on or shortly after the day of issue.  This is especially important because Royal Mail don't - in most cases - accept items for postmarking after the date of issue.

In the United States of America it's different.  Stamps can be ordered in advance but dealers and cover producers don't get any advance supplies, which adds to the challenge of getting first day covers on the day at relevant post offices - the equivalent of our CDS postmarked covers.  On the other hand collectors generally have 60 days to get their covers postmarked - and dealers 4 months.*  Which means if they produce, say, 25 covers and they all sell they can then prepare another batch and sell more!  And some people think UK FDCs are 'artificial'.  At least we can do a limited edition and know what the total quantity is.

And although some collectors in the UK say they can't find new stamps at their post offices, we are assured that supplies are sent to all branches.  In the USA stock is deliberately not distributed to all offices - many branches must order, and that even applies to definitives.

Also if you want stamps for your collection you may have to buy a sheet of 20 because many - even with a single design - are only sold in complete sheets because the die-cut perforations interlock - there is no gap between them.  Or they are sold in machine-vended booklets.  No wonder there is so much discount postage in the USA with collectors selling their surplus - there are only so many letters/cards to post after all!

The Americans are also unlucky in the way that news about - and designs of - new stamps are announced.  The USPS has embraced social media in recent years, but without any real co-ordination or pattern.  They have a Facebook page, and had a blog 'Beyond the Perf', which they have now stopped using with all record having disappeared, and can only be seen on the 'wayback archive'.  At one time they had a plan to release news every 90 days.   They didn't keep to it.

Linn's Stamp News editor Michael Baadke wrote in the March 4th issue: "We've been struggling here at Linn's to unearth some of the basic facts about what's going on with the 2013 U.S. stamp program. We don't know why basic details about our nation's stamp program are being revealed later and later."  Partly it was due to downsizing - staffing at the USPS office that did the stamp announcements was cut from six to one.

Back in August the USPS issued a schedule which included a Harry Potter issue - no details, no date.  Linn's reported in September that this would be a pane of 20 to be issued in November.  Only at the end of October did somebody find out that the stamps would be issued on November 19, and that the publicity ceremony would be in Orlando.  But it isn't quite as straightforward as that:

The stamps will be released in "multiple waves". The first "wave" being in time for the First Day of Issue will ONLY be available through Stamp Fulfillment Services (the USPS Philatelic Bureau) which will release a "special automatic distribution to a select group of approx. 3100 "premier" post offices for the first day of issue." The other "wave" will be sometime in December 2013 and no post offices can place orders for the stamp issue until January 2014.

As you can imagine this brought a lot of negative comment from collectors and cover producers!  The November 19 date seems to have been forced by Universal Studios' agreement with the USPS, with the latter doing the big publicity push after Christmas in the 'dead' winter period.

Only yesterday - a week before the issue - did USPS confirm that this would be a pane of 20 different stamps with designs taken from the films, but only one of the designs is yet available. (Image courtesy of the Virtual Stamp Club website.)

USPS has only today - 13 November - provided more details and this image which is possibly of the cover of the book. 

So although I have often been critical of Royal Mail, it's stamp distribution system, the limited information sometimes provided, and it's total lack of real philatelic service, I am very much aware that things could be much worse, and collectors and dealers in GB stamps have much to be thankful for!

* Additional comment: there have been occasions when the covers sent for postmarking in the US may not be returned for 6 months which makes trading and selling very difficult.  Royal Mail's Special Handstamp Centres achieve a very quick turn-round even when they have multiple postmarks to deal with for one stamp issue.  And the quality of the UK product is far superior to that produced in the USA.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Christmas Robin Stamps appear at BPMA and Stafford

As foretold the Christmas Robin Faststamps were available from Post and Go machines last week.  Their first appearance was at the British Postal Museum and Archive in Phoenix Place, London WC1, and the first day of issue of the plain version with no further inscription was at the Stafford Stamp Show on Friday 8th, Saturday 9th November.

Discussion on their appearance at Post Offices - click here.



This doesn't really qualify as a variety but was a natural product of the machine with a little foreign matter trapped in the roll.  As you can see from the numbers it did not affect a continuous run, with strips starting with number 19 and number 25 unmarked.  (There's nothing on the back of any of the strips.)

It could be stray ink, but could be something else!

I'll be contacting regular customers about these as soon as possible, but if you want to write please do. 

Lest We Forget

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Christmas Robins Post and Go stamps make a return

As expected some Post Offices and other outlets are to use Robins Faststamps again this year.  This post will help keep track of what is happening where.

There is no formal 'first day' of Robins with the MA13 code at post offices.

1. The new stamps have been installed at the British Postal Museum and Archive in Phoenix Place effective 5 November.  These have the BPMA inscription and are sold from the Hytech/Next Generation machine.  (For images see here.)

2. Stamps with no additional inscription were on sale from machines A3 and A4 at the Stafford Stamp Fair on Friday 8 / Saturday 9 November. (For images see here.)

3. Use at ordinary post offices will be varied.  Some will continue to use MA12 stock which they have left over from last year.  Replenishment orders from Swindon stores may be MA12 initially then MA13.  Available at Trafalgar Square on 12 November - others see below!

4. It is likely that any 'pop-up' post office, as at Camden Lock last year, will use new stock. We have no details of such a post office yet - expect it in early December.  Details now available here.

Update 7 December - Summary of comments so far:

Old St London    5 November - robins not yet available
Farringdon St      5 November - no robins available
York (Lendal)      5 November - Christmas Pigs 
Glasgow              5 November - Flags in 1 (since exhausted), Machins in 2+3.
Edinburgh           5 November - Rivers in 1,2,3
Stockport             6 November - Robins MA12
Plymouth             6 November - "have no intention of having Robins" (they say!) §
London Baker St  6 November - Rivers
York (Lendal)       8 November - Pigs (thanks PB!)
London Farringdon R 12 November - Ponds (Christmas Newt)
*Exeter                  11 November - Robins MA12
Devon/Cornwall  11 November - MA12 Robins widespread
Exmouth              12 November - Birds 4, Christmas Ringed Plover
Tonbridge             12 November - Pigs
Trafalgar Sq       12 November - ROBINS MA13
Aldwych              13 November - m/c 1 Rivers, m/c 2 Flags
Norwich              13 November - ROBINS MA13 
Reading               13 November - Rivers in both machines
Harrogate             13 November - Machins (1), Rivers (2)
Maidstone            14 November - Machin (1), Rivers (2) 
Plymouth  §          16 November - Robins MA12 in all machines
Macclesfield         16 November - Pond life
* Exeter               16 November - Robins MA12 in 1+2, MA13 in 3
Paignton               16 November - Rivers (update - see 19th)
Yeovil                   16 November - Rivers
Balham High St    18 Nov - Lakes
Clapham High St  18 Nov - Rivers x 3 m/c
Lavender Hill        19 Nov - Cattle (Clapham Junction)
New Malden         19 Nov - Rivers (1), Robins MA12 (2)
Croydon               19 Nov - Robins MA13 in all machines
Paignton                19 Nov - Robins, MA12  
Tudor Street (L)  21 Nov - MA13 Robins, Flag + Machin (* flag MA13 only briefly)
Aldwych (Lon)    21Nov - Robins MA13
Bristol Galleries   22 Nov - Robins MA12 in all 5
Aberystwyth         22 Nov - Cattle 
* Exeter               23 Nov - still Robins MA12 in 1+2, MA13 in 3
Blackfriars Road   25 Nov - Lakes
Great Portland St  25 Nov -  Machin Head original
Baker Street          25 Nov -  Rivers in both m/c
Paddington            25 Nov - Union Flag (original) in both m/c

Birmingham        27 Nov - Flag in #2; Machin in #3, 7 and 8; Fish in #4-6; Robin MA13 in #9-10
Plymouth   §        28 Nov - Robins MA13

Update 13 December
Farringdon Road - Ponds
Blackfriars Road, Southwark - Sheep (not Lakes)
* Tudor Street - Machins, MA13 in machines 1 & 3. Union Flags, no date in machine 2
Aldwych - Robins, MA13 in both machines (no Rivers)
Covent Garden - 2nd class & 2nd class Large Machins, MA13 in one machine
.... and because no Rivers at Aldwych:-
Baker Street - Ponds (not Rivers)

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Christmas Stamp competition winners get further slogan postmarks

Following the daily postmarks for each of the Design A Stamp competition finalists, Royal Mail have told us that there will be a national postmark for each of the winners of the Christmas Stamp Design Competition.
There is one each for Molly Robson and Rosie Hargreaves.  Their postmarks will feature on mail delivered from November 5th (Molly) and November 12th (Rosie).  

This means that the postmarks started in use yesterday Monday November 4th (I didn't get one this morning) so please send examples from any office on any day, and we'll post them here later today or when we get back from Stafford at the weekend.

Less than 90 minutes have passed and I can now show the first images from Mike M and John E - thanks guys!

4 November 2013 -
Congratulations to
Molly Robson
Winner of
Christmas Stamp 
Design Competition

Lancashire and South Lakes MC,
Cumbria, Dumfries + Galloway MC,
North West Midlands MC

Unfortunately mid-Norfolk's post is handled by Norwich mail centre which doesn't have the facility to add slogans like these, and the news was too late for any of our contacts to send me a first day cover with this slogan.   But one of our contributors in Glasgow was more fortunate and has sent this image over a FDC posted from Birmingham.  The slogan isn't as clear as it might have been, and the cover has suffered a little - perhaps it was raining.  Nonetheless it is a desirable item, and as good as a CDS FDC as far as I am concerned. 

Has anybody got any spare ones? 

This FDC with the Pudsey CDS also has the North and West Yorkshire 'congratulations' slogan.

Here's the second winner's slogan.  One from Chester that we received for the first day, and one from Cornwall (thanks Bob M):