Wednesday 12 March 2014

NCR Post and Go - what do collectors want?

When they were first introduced Post and Go machines had two primary functions: dispensing stamps in fixed 'values' (or service indicators) for customers to take away and use later; and dispensing labels for immediate posting of letters and packages to inland and international destinations.  The latter could be of various weights and values.

Post and Go Stamps (as designated by Royal Mail) were pictorial with, first, the Machin head and later a selection of birds, farm animals, etc, with which most collectors are familiar.

Post and Go Labels (the ones for immediate posting) were printed on non-pictorial labels, the design of which has changed over time.

The variable data shows the weight, price, and in some cases part of the UK postcode, as well as the Post and Go data string, and a 'Post By' date.

Now, with the introduction of the new range of NCR Post and Go machines at Harpenden the system has changed, so collectors face a dilemma.  No more white labels means that the 'Post and Go Label' data is now printed on what until now we have known as Faststamps, as 'Open Value' labels.

Here are examples taken from eBay sellers.  On the left, the conventional Collectors Set of Faststamps with the 6 current 'values'; on the right and below, examples of the traditional 'Label' data printed on Open Value Machin heads - a basic set of 1st and 2nd class inland standard (L) and large letters (LG) and a 28g Airmail letter costing £1.88.

Somebody suggested to me that Collectors will no longer want the Faststamps, but will collect different 'Open Value' labels. 

But the number of different Open Value LABELS is enormous, taking account of weight (including parcel rates), destination and special services such as Royal Mail Signed For, Special Delivery 1pm, Special Delivery 9am, Special Delivery Saturday Guarantee, Airsure, International Signed For, etc.  The cost of the most expensive single label must be approaching £30 at current rates, maybe higher.

So where does the collector stop (or even start)?  Some say the 'Collectors Set' should not be the traditional set of 6 values (2 for 2nd class), but a representative set of 6 'Open Value' labels.  But what constitutes a 'representative set' ?   When I posed this question, I was told that they should be the same as on the Faststamps, but Open Values - ie

1st class|| 1st Large || Europe 20g|| World 10g || World 20g || World 40g

1L £0.60 || 1LG £0.90 || A  £0.88  || A  £0.88  ||  A £1.28  || A £1.88

But - apart from the fact that this (at current rates) would produce two labels with the same value - why have 3 extra airmail labels?    Maybe more representative would be a set with 1st, 1st Large, 1st RMSF, Special Delivery, Airmail - that's 6.  But which Airmail?  To have Worldwide as well as Europe would need one more - but International Signed, Tracked, and Signed and Tracked, and Surface would need another 4....  and so it goes on.

I think these should all be collected as postal history - on cover - but how will you collect them?
Suggestions please!!

Update 14 March 2014:  Here's my latest one and the observant will see that it has a different branch code.  This one is from Leighton Buzzard

From the comments (anonymous - thank you)
"there are three other Post Offices which have NCR machines, Grantham, Kettering and Muswell Hill (in London)"


  1. It's fascinating - the dealer's dilemma - what can I sell? And the collector's dilemma - what should I buy?
    Given the intense disgruntlement expressed in the comments in your recent blogs about the museum and exhibition souvenirs - that sounds like an area which is rapidly going down the plug hole.
    But you are of course quite right, "post and go's" or "fast stamps" are an important part of modern British postal history and are a necessary and interesting part of an ongoing British stamp collection. I am quite happy to aim for a " representative" collection of various unused post and go stamps (bought from ordinary post offices not those which have limited 2 day availability at exhibitions") and then add any covers that come my way with the post and go's affixed to them. The latter is what I do with Horizon stamps which I also think are an important part of the story of modern British stamps. So, I agree, collect them as postal history and many collectors will be very satisfied with the collection they form as a result.

    1. Thank you White Knight. You are right, of course, he corollary of the collecor's "what shall I buy?" is the dealer's "what shall I stock?"

      With the increasing cost of holding stock, more dealers are buying fewer stamps - and for the collector (especially those using pre-printed albums, it must be a case of "buy them when you can" because they won't be around for ever.

  2. I've got a set of 7 which I'm quite happy with. As your set of 6 but with only the one 88p and 2nd Class/2nd Large.

  3. The Post & Go stamps as issued by Royal Mail in packs seem to be more than enough to collect.
    By the end of 2014, there will have been 86 of these stamps, issued in 16 batches since March 2009 (the sand Machin values).
    These cost a total of £45.94 at face value (some of the early sets in packs are catalogued for quite a bit more).
    Personally, I have no interest in obtaining any other Post & Go stamps other than those already mentioned.

  4. As always, and has been said many times, it's down to personal preference and level of specialism as to what to choose to collect. The more specialised, the more expense. For my part I collect all the standard Royal Mail issues from packs as these conveniently have pre-printed album pages for my collection. Then, I continue with overprinted 'specials' such as Arnold Machin, Stampex, Coronation, BPMA, Perth Congress, Australia etc. in whatever format (Machin, Union Flag, Robin) and any year code variants that come along (MA12, MA13 etc). I would like to include any 'true' errors such as the First Class Large and Spring Stampex, but these are probably going to exceed my budget. As for the new faststamps with service codes, I am not including these as I see them becoming too varied to be able to keep on top of. Hope this helps the debate.

  5. I have taken a minimalist line with Post & Gos - I'm collecting the 'stamps', not the 'overprints'. So one each of the 2nd and 1st Class Machins, a 'Flag' and a strip of six 'Flowers' overprinted with the smallest denomination fills my collection. The annual increment in the Machin (and Robin) year code presents a minor (and inexpensive) complication. Relating this to the new Open Value Machins, I already have the substrate stamps and will not be buying the overprints.

  6. Talking to the bloke at Leighton Buzzard today, there are three other Post Offices which have NCR machines, Grantham, Kettering and Muswell Hill (in London), with three new offices next week.

    1. The Leighton Buzzard Machines (67 & 68, a third one is awaited) are faster than the ones at Harpenden when they were first installed. It is now possible to select either singed for or special delivery multiple time and print the off in one transaction.

      First and Second Class labels for destinations within the Royal Mail area carry a 4 (ie B4 for first class (60p)) whilst mail for Jersey, Guernsey (& Alderney) carry a 5 (ie B5 for first class (60p)).Stamps for Europe again carry a 4 (ie H4), whilst world Zones 1& 2 destinations carry a 5 (ie H5).

      There is no facility for surface mail to be sent using these machines yet. The machine have additional functions such as top ups and bill payment facilities.

    2. And Stroud & Cirencester

  7. You might like to know how I intend to deal with the NCR labels on my Deegam CD. Since it is now possible to get an NCR label for all services hitherto obtained from behind the counter, including SD1 and SD9, and since both Horizon and NCR labels contain the same VAT codes, I will list any NCR label that contains a different VAT code, ignoring the amount of the payment. This will total about 40 labels I think. This decision will be announced in the next Deegam Report, due to be uploaded to my website on 11 April.

  8. Not sure why any but the most avid collectors would want 40+ of these things (VAT codes? Really?) 6/7 is more than enough for me.These are effectively equivalents to Gold Horizons so presumably the way people collect will replicate what they have done with Horizons - think this development makes Post and Gos likely to devalue so no great investment (as Norvic said earlier) and also probably best collected used.

  9. It’s unfortunate that the introduction of these labels has occurred after a contentious Stampex/BPMA overprint with their Post & Go issues and their multitude of varieties and errors which have jaded the most avid of collectors, and there are some, who now are faced with the decision on how to continue. We will have to decide if there stamps or labels, and based on what we currently collect expand our collections to accommodate these new developments or not.

    How and what we collect is frequently guided by stamp catalogues, published the various companies around the world. These are new and individual collectors will choose what to collect, some will go for a basic set mirroring the current Machins, interestingly Royal Mail seem to have forgotten to issue a 2nd Class Signed for to go with the First Class version. Some will choose to collect the NVI versions which we seem to have accepted with their frequent colourful images, others will choose to go for the premium services versions, there will of course be those who go for one of everything, who probably have more money than sense, but each is entitled to their opinion and that is part of the joy of philately. Time will tell if these replace the gold labels dispensed at counters.

    No one should ever buy anything with the expectation of making a huge return, nothing in life is guaranteed, you should buy because you like the items and it gives you pleasure having it, not how much will it be worth in xx years’ time. The current prices being paid on internet auction sites seem to be a little steep for the basic four values, given the rapid rate of deployment that the NCR machines a round the country.

    Don’t forget the views expressed in personal blogs are those of the writer, who may have a vested interest in pushing the items, rather than establishing debate. So instead of rushing into buying them in the heat of the moment, with the internet you’ll still be able to find them in in a week’s time, give it a few days to carefully consider your next move. You might find a machine has appeared local to you.

    1. Thank you for a very interesting and balance comment.

      Regarding dealers I would repeat the remark I made on 12th:
      "With the increasing cost of holding stock, more dealers are buying fewer stamps - and for the collector (especially those using pre-printed albums, it must be a case of "buy them when you can" because they won't be around for ever."

      I accept that this doesn't preclude blog-writers pushing their stock when they first get it, but I know several who are buying on the 'pre-booked orders plus a couple" basis, and simply don't have much to 'push'.

  10. Wait until you contact or hear from your dealers about what's available from Salisbury folks. You'll love it!

    1. Well here's one dealer who won't be offering anything from Salisbury, or York, or any of the other local events unless they produce new stamps as happened at Midpex last September!

    2. Can you really ignore the Machin strips from Salisbury? This is the first time that the Machin stamps from Royal Mail series 'B' machines have been offered without an overprint, with the new type font. It was also the first and last chance to get the 'Worldwide up to 10g' and 'Worldwide up to 40g' with this new type font, as these will not be available after the postage rate increase on 1st April 2014!

    3. Collectors shouldn't ignore these and undoubtedly some of our customers will ask if we have them. I didn't offer to get them because I wasn't going myself and it wasn't certain that anybody else locally was going.

      If I tell regular customers that I am getting them, but rely on other people who then don't go (a) the customers will be upset and (b) they add to the post-issue demand after I tell them that I can't supply after all.

      If I wait until after the event to tell customers that I have them, then some of the customers may already have sourced elsewhere, so I may have more than are needed.

  11. Is there a list or information anywhere, listing the Post Offices that have had or are about to have installed the new NCR Machines within the coming weeks ?. This would greatly help collectors in planning how far afield one might have to travel in order to obtain the new printings with the new 'Post & Go' values as of 31/03/2014.

    Are there any First Day facilities being offered by Royal Mail for these new 'Post & Go' values ?

    1. I'll start a new blog post with a list of those reported.

      As for FDCs, apart from the very first sets of brown which was sold in a pack of 5 values, and the first set of blue Machin heads, Royal Mail have only ever produced FDCs for the designs, rather than the values. I don't think Royal Mail will regard this as a new issue.

      I expect collectors and dealers to be able to produce FDCs of stamps available on 31 March. It will be interesting to see how many different ones there are...

      Wincor-Nixdorf: Machin head, Spring Blooms, various Freshwater Life, possibly Farm Animals, Union Flag, and maybe the odd Birds 4 ?
      NCR: Machin head, Spring Blooms, Union Flag?
      Hyetch: BPMA Postage Due overprint on Machin head, Union Flag

  12. My comment was written as a publisher. I am, I think, the only GB catalogue publisher who is not also a dealer. Thus I am free of the stock problems referred to my Ian and I am not tempted to "push" an item. My job is to record what exists so that collectors can make an informed choice what to collect. That choice is their's. Thus, while there may be 40 different NCR labels if you include different VAT codes, there are only 20 or so if you ignore them. This is not a huge number. (There are well over 600 different Horizon labels.) I do not think that an NCR list can be confined to the services met by the Wincor machines. That would omit A, SD1 and SD9 labels among others

  13. Before commenting, I must express an interest in these stamps/labels as I produce a newsletter (ATM Informer) and have published a free listing (May 2013). I do not deal in this material but I do purchase a couple of extra items which I exchange with others.

    A number of questions have arisen as a result of the introduction of the NCRs and their capabilities. Firstly, are the OV (Open Values) stamps or labels. We have been working with the definition that if this sort of item does not have a use by date and one can take it away for later use, then it is a stamp - so the Wincors, Hytechs, Royal Mail Series 1 and 2 units have all produced Machin and Pictorial Stamps. The PAG labels, also produced by the Wincors, are labels because one has to use them by the next day. The counter labels - either in the plain white form or gold Machin design - are labels because he counter clerk is required to stick the label onto the item to be posted and then place the item into the post box.

    In my listing, I have taken the view that for the PAG labels that I would just list the basic rate for each service and ignore the changes and rates as well as the various increments due to the weight of the item.

    Secondly, there is the problem caused by the datastrings along the bottom of the stamp. There are somewhere around 250 different combinations of office ident and kiosk ident for the Wincor machines. Does one give each stamp varietyfor each office a different catalogue number. Again, I chose the simpler approach and listed the basic stamps at the basic service rates (1st, 1st Large, Europe..etc). and then distinguished between the machine producing it. With the MA12, MA13 and now with MA14 in te security underprint, I define these as distinctive stamps.

    Now we come to the $64K question, what do we do about these OV stamps. Again there is a simple range which corresponds to the basic PAGs and I am tempted just to list these as a single entity say Flowers 2 set and the basic values (1st, 1st large, etc). As regards the Horizon style service codings, I am tempted to record them as OV with Horizon code and list the basic stamp(s) used but not list the plethora of codes. Again the inclusion of office codes and desk codes would be impractical.

    Up to the end of 2013, I have somewhere around the 800 plus basic stamps in the possible combinations for the Wincor/Hytech/RMS units. If I had chosen to try to add desk and office combinations, we would be talking of around 300K items and extreme madness in my case.

    My way of collecting is simple (and some may say cheap) is to try to collect an item from each kiosk. (I'm still looking for around 50 Wincor kiosks out of around 250). I also try to get a basic set at the first class rate. On occasion, I buy the odd collectors' strip, I tend to obtain my material by either writing off to the office of interest or by visiting the office (I've covered most of the Wincor ones in the London area. Sometimes, kind people send me the odd example. I also tend to revisit the same offices on a semi-regular basis to get an idea on the usage. To get this info, I buy a single from each kiosk along with a receipt as proof of date of purchase. All of this gets mounted up as a reference source.

  14. So. if it is any help to collector and dealer, I would suggest that collectors should always collect what interests them and not what appears to be the next money making fad as the only people making a profit from that fad are those promoting it. Even though I "promote" this collecting area, I do not charge for the newsletter or the listing and have made both freely available on the net. (I do ask people that if the material I produce is of any use to make a donation to a neurological charity directly).
    Collectors should also keep within their budget and not get tempted by the terms "scarce" and "rare" attached to these items on sites like ebay. Many of the "scarce" items are the norm for that local office. What is scarce about them is that the office is relatively remote from the major towns and cities.

    Dealers, you are in a particularly privileged position. You get people coming to you saying what they would like. So you can build up an idea of what you may me able to move without bankrupting yourself. You can judge the optimal distance you can travel to obtain that stock direct from the source and act accordingly. So, again, my suggestion to you is to make your calculations based on supply and demand and your resources and act accordingly.

    One other point is that this material seems to be more popular in mainland Europe based on the number of dealers coming from Germany, Holland, etc to Stampex and the amount of stock purchased. When the A1 unit first appeared at the BPMA, one dealer had a couple of boxes of covers(at least a couple of hundred per box) to be serviced with the BPMA overprint. Add to this that the main publication/society is organised in Spain (ATEMEE) then does ones client list warrant an extensive stock that may be worth more overseas but at a higher cost to oneself.

    To sum up - both dealer and collector - buy what is within your budget.Basic sets of each new issue at the first class rate is good enough for me (cf presentation pack material). Similarly with the different kiosk types appearing. Individual stamps from kiosks are acceptable to me as they prove that a machine existed and was used in a particular location.

    I hope that my comments have helped. I would welcome others.

    John McCallum

    1. Thank you John for that very comprehensive reply. Much there for people to think about.


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