Friday 28 February 2014

Royal Mail's new tariff for 2014 - 1st and 2nd class stamps both increase

From a Royal Mail press release:

28 February 2014

First and second class stamp prices
"We have thought carefully about the impact on our customers and our own business before deciding to increase our prices. We understand how difficult it has been for householders and businesses in the recent tough economic conditions.
  • For the first time in two years, stamp prices will change. On 31 March, the price of a First Class Stamp will rise by 2p to 62p.  Royal Mail, under the current regulatory framework, could have raised the price of a Second Class stamp to 57p. Instead, the price of a Second Class stamp will rise by 3p to 53p.
  •  Royal Mail’s stamp prices are among the best value in Europe. The European average for First Class letters up to 100g is 67p. The UK First Class stamp price remains well below this. The European average for Second Class letters, up to 100g, is 60p; the UK Second Class stamp price remains well below this.
  • The UK has the highest quality specification of any major European country. Last week, we reported that we were on target for First Class delivery after the third quarter of this financial year, and were ahead of our Second Class target.
- See more at:

Further information on key prices

Letters and Large Letters

1st and 2nd Class mail
  • 1st Class Letter will cost 62p [60p]
  • 1st Class Large Letter (up to 100g) will cost 93p [90p]
  • 2nd Class Letter will cost 53p [50p]
  • 2nd Class Large Letter (up to 100g) will cost 73p [69p]
Royal Mail Signed ForTM
  • Royal Mail Signed ForTM 1st Class letter will cost £1.72 [£1.70]
  • Royal Mail Signed ForTM 1st Class Large Letter (up to 100g) will cost £2.03 [£2.00]
  • Royal Mail Signed ForTM 2nd Class letter will cost £1.63 [£1.60]
  • Royal Mail Signed ForTM 2nd Large Letter (up to 100g) will cost £1.83 [£1.79]
Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed®
  • Our Guaranteed service offers next day delivery, great value features, generous compensation and market-leading quality of service. Prices start from £6.40 [£6.22] for 1pm delivery and £18.18 for 9am delivery.

International prices:

International service Benefits Europe World zone 1 and 2
International Tracked and Signed Fully tracked with signature on delivery and online confirmation. Available to 43 destinations. Letters up to and
including 20g - £5.97
Letters up to and
including 20g - £6.28
International Tracked (previously Airsure) Fully tracked with online confirmation of delivery. Available to 33 destinations. Letters up to and
including 20g – £7.16
EU Countries
Letters up to and
including 20g – £6.28
International Signed (previously International Signed For) Tracked in the UK with a signature taken on delivery. Available to 190 destinations. Letters up to and
including 20g – £5.97
Letters up to and
including 20g – £6.28
International Standard (previously Airmail) Reliable, cost effective standard delivery. Letters up to and
including 20g – 97p[88p]
Letters up to and
including 20g - £1.28 [no change]

Impact for new stamps: the basic 1st and 2nd, Large Letter, and inland Signed For and Special Delivery rates are catered for by existing stamps.  Changes will be necessary for stamps for international services.

The current airmail rates to 100g will change from 7 steps (10, 20, 40, 60, 80 & 100g) to just three four.

Weight Europe World

Old rate New rate Old rate New rate
postcards 88p 97p 88p 97p
up to 10g 88p
88p 97p
up to 20g 88p £1.28
up to 40g £1.28  £1.47 £1.88 £2.15
up to 60g £1.68 £2.48
up to 80g £2.03 £2.35 £3.08 £3.48
up to 100g £2.38 £3.50

New stamps will be
81p Holly Green (correction - not 88p) - Surface mail rate worldwide up to 20g.
97p Purple Heather
£1.47 Dove Grey
£2.15 Marine Turquoise
97p country definitives x4

UPDATE 19.03.14: These pre-release images have been provided by Royal Mail - I hope that the £1.47 will be less insipid in reality.

Scans of the actual Machin definitives:

(It's strange how scanners apply some sort of colour-matching; the background paper on all these should be the same, and the automatic change has affected the colours of the stamps.)

Each value is printed on a cylinder containing 12 sheets.  Printing dates seen are:
81p - 16/01/14;   97p - 17/01/14;   £1.47 - 20/01/14;   £2.15 - 21/01/14.

These appear a bit darker than the actual stamps, so here for comparison is the 2010 97p Machin:

Pre-release images (England was in the wrong colour, Scotland shows value in white, not silver)

Scans of actual stamps

Cylinder blocks: England (at least) exists with C1 and C2 black cylinders.

England and Scotland stamps are printed with plates of 8 sheets each.
Wales and Northern Ireland are printed one one plate with 4 sheets of each.
Printing dates seen are 13/01/14 (E and S), 14/01/14 (W and NI)

Surface mail, now known as International Economy will also change, with the minimum rising from 78p to 81p.  No new 81p stamp has been announced.

There is a greater impact for Post and Go Stamps (Faststamps).  Even now the machines dispense two stamps with the same value for different services (Europe 20g, Worldwide 10g).  In future Worldwide 10g and Worldwide 40g will not be required.   I'm awaiting for clarification but have been told that the 10g will be valid for the 20g rate andThe Worldwide 40g will be valid for the 60g rate.

UPDATE 28/3/14:
Since writing the above the 10g rate has been reinstated, and is 97p for Worldwide Postcards and Letters to 10g.   

But on both Wincor-Nixdorf and NCR Post and Go machines (and the BPMA machine) I've been told that the new stamps will be available from start of business.  A notice should tell customers wanting Worldwide 10g to buy Europe 20g.  At a later date the Worldwide 10g option will be reinstated under the 'post an item' menu.

UPDATE November 2014
To clarify the situation of older NVI stamps:

E and Europe 20g stamps are valid at the 20g Europe rate, currently 97p.

Worldwide Postcard stamps are valid at the current Postcard (and Worldwide 10g letter rate), also 97p.

Worldwide 20g stamps are worth £1.28.

Worldwide 40g stamps are valid at the Worldwide 60g rate, currently £2.15.

These stamps, like inland NVIs, will continue to increase in monetary value on the next change of tariff in March 2015.  All E, Europe, and Worldwide stamps can be used on inland post, in the same way that 2nd, 1st, and Large Letter stamps can be used on international post.

Thursday 27 February 2014

Guest blog: All 'Stampex Spring' errors explained finally

This is the first Guest Blog entry, because I couldn't have written it without Thomas's help, without his pictures, and his information needs no editing.

All 'Stampex Spring' errors explained finally

When the new software for the Stampex kiosks was programmed, kiosk no. A005 was set up first. 

The default was Union Flag on reel A and Machin on reel B. The default text imprint for the Machins was „Stampex Spring / 19 – 22 February“.  And the receipts would have the imprint „Union Flag“ and „Machin“ accordingly.

Another default was that the receipts for the 1st Class strip of 6 have the value of 0.60 instead of £3.60.   This default software was then adapted and copied to kiosks A003 and A004.

On the afternoon of the 1st day of Stampex [19 February] kiosk A005 fell back to the default settings after a malfunction and subsequent software upload.  The kiosk was loaded with Union Flag on reel A and Machin (MA13) on reel B.  The default settings resulted in Machins with wrong text „Stampex Spring“ and receipts (for both) for 1st Class strips with a value of 0.60 GBP.

Much more interesting is the same error on kiosk A003. Also on the first day of Stampex this kiosk was reset after malfunction. This kiosk was loaded with flowers on reel A and Machins (NO YEAR CODE) on reel B. When the kiosk fell back to default settings, it printed id-number A0005 on all stamps and receipts! This is how Spring Flower stamps occured with number A0005. The Machins on reel B had the same wrong text „Stampex Spring“ (4 collector-sets Machins „Stampex Spring“ without year code are known).

The receipts for the Spring Flowers indicate Union Flag, of course, and the strips of 1st Class do have the wrong value 0.60 GBP, again.

The error on kiosk A003 was fixed very quickly and so far transaction no. 262-263 are known, only.

My thanks to Thomas von Loeper for a very clear explanation of what caused this amazing error!  You can find Thomas's website here

Tuesday 25 February 2014

End of the road in sight for Post Office Horizon system

According to Computer World UK, Post Office Limited is looking for a supplier to provide front office IT application services worth up to £636 million over 10 years.

"The procurement is to support the transformation of the Post Office following its separation from Royal Mail. As part of its long-term strategy published at the end of November, the Post Office outlined plans to modernise its business to become a modern, digital, multi-channel retailer.

"The front office application services contract will cover customer facing transactions across multiple channels, including the Post Office’s nationwide network of 11,500 branches, website, mobile and call centre.

"Fujitsu is the current provider of the Post Office’s branch IT system, known as Horizon. The controversial system was recently found to contain software defects that caused branch managers to be overcharged and accused of fraud, with some being sent to prison over the allegations."

Read more here.

Friday 21 February 2014

Spring Stampex 2014: The Good, The Bad and The BPMA!

Greetings!  An interesting day in London yesterday at Stampex and the BPMA.   This is a quick round-up as we have a lot to do - which I'll explain later.

NOTE: I know many people will or have read this and then contact their usual supplier for all the versions that they didn't ask for before Stampex.  Most of us bought what we could either on pre-order or from the machines.  If two versions of a stamp were available on pre-order (B machine) and we only got one, then that can't be changed!  If two versions were available at the public machines and this wasn't discovered until later, then it can't be changed.  Our customers will get what they asked for and if we happened to obtain other variants, then they will be offered.  Aside from that, it can't be done.  Have faith in your suppliers: they can't work miracles!

As regular readers will know, I always visit Stampex on day 2 as that is when Royal Mail do their Trade Briefing. So the first good thing was that while on the train to London I picked up emails from several regular contributors who had been on Wednesday!  (I'll answer you individually later today.)

As a reminder, this is what I wrote about what would be in the new-style Post and Go machines:

Spring Stampex 19-22 February - contents the same on all 4 days

Machines A2 and A3 - A: Spring Blooms, B: Machin with additional inscription
Machine A4 - A: Union Flag;    B: Machin with additional inscription, 4 days
Machine B1 - Spring Blooms on both reels, all 4 days
Machine B2 - Machin with additional inscription on both reels, all 4 days.

I thought it was clear from this that ONLY the Machin would have an additional inscription (or overprint), not the flags, not the new pictorials (which never have additional inscriptions).  Some people seem to have been looking for the Stampex 2014 inscription on the others.  Sorry if it wasn't clear!  It does get complicated at times.

Wednesday visitors soon found out that, unlike in previous events, there were no Post and Go stamps being sold over the Royal Mail counter, apart from the Spring Blooms packs.  So all publicity about 'B' machines applied only to pre-orders.  And the only people who knew how to pre-order were we dealers!
(Incidentally we didn't get the pre-order information until 30th January and then it omitted the Flags. As this would have required us all to crowd the public machines to get them, they were added.  Pre-ordering was only online; and there was an minimum order value but this was not mentioned!)

The omission of the B machines from the back-office meant that not only could collectors not obtain them, dealers could not get more than their original pre-orders.  There may well be good technical reasons for the change, but this hasn't been explained yet.  It suggests to me that some of the changes had been driven by the software supplier rather than by Royal Mail.

On the positive side, I talked to Royal Mail about the fact that - for us - arrangements for and availability of Post and Go stamps seemed to change for every Stampex (one time we couldn't pre-order multiples of 1st class, only collectors strips and sets), and I've been told that lessons have been learned and things will be regularised.

As we had already found out, new machines were used for the first time (I hope to get some pictures later).  The user-interface on these is different, so there was again a learning curve.  Printing was faster, and more could be bought on one transaction.  We were told that the maximum was 999, but on using the machine I found that this had been reset - for reasons not explained - to a limit of 350.  Still better, but not perfect.  The machine also estimates how many labels are left on the roll, so that if the order quantity is too high (for a particular roll) the touch-screen will not accept the order - the machine will not halt in mid-transaction leaving payment 'taken' but stamps not dispensed. (A GOOD THING!)

These new machines were not A2, A3 and A4 as originally announced but A3, A4 and A5!  I didn't try them all, but from what I bought and what I have seen on eBay A3 had Machins and flowers, A4 had Machins and ? (probably flowers), and A5 had Machins and Flags.

UPDATE 21 Feb.
And I put this in the BAD because it shouldn't have happened, there should have been greater control and consistency.  Responding to a question sent as a comment, I find that the overprinted Machins I have from A5 are without year code,  but those from machine B2 are coded MA13.  So not only were B machine stamps not sold over the counter, but the ones that were produced are different to those sold from the public machines.  What a farce: I'm now faced with customers wanting both types but I have very few spare of either type.

When I used the Jersey machine it dispensed both Jersey and UK flag stamps with no problems.  I had a report of Jersey flags with UK service indicators on, which suggests a transposition of the rolls in the machine rather than a software problem.  Pictures when/if I get them.  The receipts from the Jersey machine have Jersey Post's logo, and show the actual purchase price.  However, as Jersey is not in the EU and does not come under the UK's VAT regime, VAT at 20% is added to the cost of purchasing Jersey stamps and this shows on the card receipt. (The same has always applied to stamps sold by the islands at UK stamp events: "face value" = face value+20%.)

Also, very pleased to meet Sally from Jersey Post who is very enthusiastic about the Post and Go system: more news from her, and maybe Guernsey Post, ere long!

I'm told that 'the machine broke down a few times' but I suspect that may have been reel exhaustion as much as anything, as demand was great especially from European dealers, who were still present when I went at 5pm on Thursday (when the machine was reloaded once again).  Demand was given a boost when the Machin replacement rolls were coded MA13 - the dealers wanting just as many as before all over again.

And now an apology to our German readers.  Evidence from the comments made on the blog and emails sent makes it clear that some people have over-reacted to what actually happened over the three days last week at the BPMA.  It seems that some collectors are too impatient, and some exaggerated the extent of the problem.  And some people just don't seem to realise that not all collectors can - or want to - travel to London to buy these stamps.  An except from a comment that I didn't publish in full:
"So you [a dealer] are able to sell on at a profit when other individual customers later actually can't get any of them either. And individual collectors have to ask 'politely' for you to move over when you are printing out hundreds to make a profit for yourself."
Well, I'm sorry 'Anonymous' but dealers supply far more people than can make the trek themselves, and their 'profit' has to cover travelling, hotel accommodation, and taxes.  I am supplying to people from Cornwall to Cumbria, and Israel to Australia.  As per another comment,
"We only have ourselves to blame, if collectors didn’t want completeness and dealers eager to meet demand, this wouldn’t happen."
I think we will find at future events that only one version of each base stamp will be available: none of this MA12/MA13/MA14 all available at once.

The staff at the BPMA have their normal 'day jobs' to do, and they may rue the days when there are changes to the Post and Go machines.  They can't be expected to 'police' the queues to ensure that no one person or group monopolises the machine causing lengthy queues.

One saving grace of the new machines with their greater and faster output per payment is that such clogging will be vastly reduced.

Due to lack of time I didn't get any BPMA stamps yesterday but I hope somebody will get them for me today. 


The 'overprint' on the Machin stamps was, as announced 'Stampex 2014'.  But I've been sent this image of a stamp with the wrong imprint  'Stampex Spring' :

As you can see this is from session 0258 on machine A5.  On eBay I've seen session 247 with the correct inscription, and those I bought yesterday had the correct inscription.  So how is this explained?   Evidence from several buyers suggests that this error started around 2.30pm and continued for the rest of the day, ie 7pm.

Update from John, the lucky buyer:
The time on my receipt is 21:39:29, but in reality it was about 3.15.  [Session 247 was about an hour earlier.] This might suggest there had been a breakdown during that time requiring some resetting, but that doesn't explain why the text changed! 
Further update from Keith:
Session number was 267 timed at 22:00:16 (but actually about 4pm) and also shows the wrong caption.

Another surprise:
A new value (service indicator) has appeared on some stock supplied on pre-order from a B machine. (Note that the times and dates on receipts are irrelevant and artificial as these were printed before Stampex opened. ) Our thanks to Phil for this picture:

Stamp news

The Royal Mail stand didn't have much in the way of new stock - all the 88p regionals were from the original printing, for example.  But there were adequate supplies of 1st class Large MA13 sheet stamps, and they are back on stock.  If you need date blocks or cylinder blocks please contact me!

And finally....

We're moving all our operations to a new server - that's mail and website.  Mail has already moved - you won't have noticed (I didn't!), and the website will start early next week.  The old shop site is nearly empty and closed (yet we still had an order yesterday!) and stock is now at which is hosted independently.

This may mean that I cannot deal with emails and orders quite as quickly as usual, so please bear with me and all should be well in a couple of weeks.  If you notice anything missing, broken links, etc, I really would appreciate being told so that we can put things right.

Thank you!!

Monday 17 February 2014

Spring Stampex 2014 Special Postmarks

Readers who have also received the Royal Mail Postmark Bulletin for 7 February will have noticed that no handstamps are listed for Stampex.

I'm told this was an error in Edinburgh: the postmarks will be available this week from the London Special Handstamp Centre and they will be listed in the Bulletin this Friday, 21 February.

Collectors could send items for postmarking to the SHC before the Bulletin is published but would have to be very sure of the description to ensure that they received the correct postmark.   Collectors will, as usual, have 10 days after receipt of the Bulletin to send in items for postmarking.

As well as the daily generic Spring Stampex postmarks there should be one for the Spring Flowers Post and Go stamps, one for the Classic Locomotives of Wales, and possibly one for the Football Heroes retail booklet.

Emailed copy of 21 February Bulletin has now been supplied (thanks YH!)
I don't have time to copy all the pictures but this is the list:

13046 - 19 Feb Stampex
13047 - 19 Feb Stampex Spring Blooms FDI
13048 - 20 Feb Stampex
13049 - 20 Feb Stampex Welsh Locos FDI
13050 - 21 Feb Stampex
13051 - 22 Feb Stampex

13052 - 20 Feb Classic Locomotives of the UK - Liverpool

13053 - 20 Feb Classic Locomotives of the UK - Belfast
13054 - 20 Feb Classic Locomotives of the UK - Dundee

Friday 14 February 2014

Bend It Like ... Lawrence of Arabia: Great British FIlms

As announced in February's Philatelic Bulletin, 13 May will bring a stamp issue entitled Great British Films.  A set of 6 long landscape stamps shows blockbuster films over the decades since the second world war:

and a miniature sheet showcasing the work of the GPO Film Unit, including the famous Night Mail:

The three 1st class stamps depict:
- A Matter of Life and Death (1946), starring David Niven and Kim Hunter (also released as Stairway to Heaven;
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962), starring Peter O'Toole and Alec Guiness;
- 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968), screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke.

The three £1.28 (subject to change) stamps depict:
- Chariots of Fire (1981), screenplay by Colin Welland
- Secrets and Lies (1996), starring Timothy Spall, Brenda Blethin, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste;
- Bend it Like Beckham (2002), starring Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley

The 4 stamps on the miniature sheet show stills from Night Mail (1936), Love on the Wing (1938), A Colour Box (1939), and Spare Time (1939). We now understand that it will have 4 different values.

The miniature sheet is printed by Joh Enschede and the set by Cartor SP.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

London 2012 Olympic Ennis variety surfaces, now for auction

When Jessica Ennis won the Women's Heptathlon Gold Medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Royal Mail issued this stamp, one of 6 gold won on Super Saturday, 4 August 2012.

I kept this blog updated with the images as they were placed on Royal Mail's Image Library, usually within an hour of the medal being won.  According to BBC Sport's website, the Modern Heptathlon was scheduled to finish around 21.02. The image above is from that library - it is still there, I have just looked at it again.

The images were made available to Royal Mail's six regional printers at about the same time, so that printing could commence as soon as possible.  The stamps were printed and (as I reported at the time) available in selected post office branches by 11.30 am on Sunday morning.

How is it then that two panes (12 stamps) with a totally different image were "Purchased from a Post Office in the the Midlands", as reported by Brandon Auctions who are now offering this for £475 each:

This stamp uses an image from the Istanbul IAAF World Athletics Series earlier in the year.

If the stamp was indeed purchased at a Post Office there ought to be, as Brandon suggests,  another 12 out there as they were printed in sheets of 24.  And if one sheet was printed, then many others should have been.  What seems more likely is that this is another trial, an example of "printers' waste" which should never have escaped from the factory.  Conceivably such a sheet could have been mixed up with those printed overnight on 4/5 August, but it seems more likely that this has been hidden away for 18 months and that somebody is now trying to pass it off as having been legitimately sold at a post office.

“This is not an official Royal Mail stamp but was part of the testing done with printers some months before the London Olympics. All printers were under instruction to destroy such printed items and we do not have any knowledge as to how the example came to be on the auction site. However, as this example is Royal Mail property and never intended for sale it has been removed from the auction site.”

Special Delivery Horizon labels change from today

If you collect Horizon labels there are two new ones available from today.

The old SD Special Delivery is replaced by SD9 and SD1 for 9am and 1pm respectively, according to Brian Sinnott on Twitter.

I expect Brian will have some more news and images on his postagelabelsuk blog soon - see list at lower right of the page.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Post and Go Stamp pack error, straight from Royal Mail's Bureau

Edit: I made the mistake of leaving some images on other hosts rather than having them hosted on the blog.  I'm correcting these as I can, but there may be a period when some images are missing. Apologies for this.

Well, there's a funny thing!   I spotted this on eBay today.

According to the seller these unprinted 2nd class stamps came in a pack from Royal Mail's Tallents House Bureau.   The pack is listed now with a 9 February end date.