Friday 30 May 2014

New Mobile Post Offices serve rural areas throughout the UK

Post Office has announced the roll-out its new fleet of mobile post offices, deploying 40 new vehicles to serve 250 locations every week in rural areas across the United Kingdom.

The new vehicles are Mercedes Sprinter vans, kitted out to provide a walk-in post office on wheels,
with the added facility of an accessibility lift.

The mobile branches are operated by subpostmasters who can bring all of the services that their core branches provide to more isolated areas.

The vehicles are being deployed to rural areas in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and will cover half a million miles between them over the next 12 months – the equivalent of driving along the Equator around the earth 20 times. 

They are replacing the current fleet of converted LDV vans, which have travelled around three million miles altogether over the past six years.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Shop updates

Our shop has been updated with all the new Machin security definitives listed in the previous blogpost - click here to buy.  

And most of the new Post and Go Faststamps are now listed - all the 60g pairs, sets of 12 or collectors sets - click here to buy.   We have a few Faststamp 60g FDCs not listed, Birds 4 and Farm Animals: if you asked for fdcs and have not been contacted recently, please call or email.

Remember the shoplistings appear to be in random order because the most recent additions are shown first, until you click the A-Z sort key.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Further updated list of 2014 Machin definitives

The latest Machin definitives for which we have pictures are the £1.28 counter sheet, the 1st class Large Business Sheet, and the 2nd class Large Counter Sheet which are now in stock in limited quantities.

2nd class Large counter sheet, 20/03/14 printing

UPDATE 28 MAY (less than 24 hours later!)
We now have the 2nd class stamp from retail books of 12:

Machins first issued or discovered in 2014  - 23 so far !
In the order they appeared:

2931R.2W - 2nd class coil 10,000 printed by Walsall - M12L MRIL

4002P.3E - 2p From Classic Locomotives of the UK prestige stamp book M13L MPIL
4005P.3F - 5p ditto.  4005P.3E was in the Merchant Navy PSB with inverted perforations

2911.4 - 2nd class counter sheet

3081 - 81p holly green
3097 - 97p purple heather
3147 -  £1.47 dove grey
3215 -  £2.15 marine turquoise

2913B.4 - 2nd class Large business sheet MBIL MA14
2936.4  - 1st class red MTIL from booklet of 12

4010P.4 -  10p MPIL from Buckingham Palace PSB
4020P.4  - 20p  MPIL from Buckingham Palace PSB
4100P.4  -  £1 MPIL from Buckingham Palace PSB

2936C.4  - 1st class MCIL from Buckingham Palace mixed retail booklet

3010.4  -  10p M14L/MAIL from counter sheet
3020.4  -  20p M14L/MAIL from counter sheet
3101.4  -  £1 wood-brown M14L/MAIL from counter sheet

3128.4 - £1.28 M14L/MAIL green from counter sheet
2914.4 - 1st  M14L/MAIL class counter sheet
2916.4 - 1st Large M14L/MAIL counter sheet

2916B.4 - 1st class Large business sheet MBIL MA14
2913.4 -  2nd class Large counter sheet M14L
2931.4 - 2nd class MTIL M14L from booklet of 12

In Value order including stamps which will appear later in the year

4002P.3E - 2p From Classic Locomotives of the UK prestige stamp book M13L MPIL
4005P.3F - 5p ditto. 
4010P.4 -  10p MPIL from Buckingham Palace PSB
3010.4  -  10p M14L/MAIL from counter sheet
4020P.4  - 20p  MPIL from Buckingham Palace PSB
3020.4  -  20p M14L/MAIL from counter sheet
3081   -   81p holly green
3097   -   97p purple heather

4100P.4  -  £1 MPIL from Buckingham Palace PSB
3101.4  -  £1 wood-brown M14L/MAIL from counter sheet
3128.4 - £1.28 M14L/MAIL green from counter sheet
3147 -  £1.47 dove grey
3215 -  £2.15 marine turquoise

2931R.2W - 2nd class coil 10,000 printed by Walsall - M12L MRIL  (currently out of stock)
2911.4 - 2nd class counter sheet
(2911B.4 - 2nd class business sheet - due 31 July 2014)
2931.4 - 2nd class MTIL from booklet of 12
2913.4 -  2nd class Large counter sheet M14L
2913B.4 - 2nd class Large business sheet MBIL MA14
(2933.4 - 2nd Large MFIL from booklet of 4 - due 31 July 2014)

2914.4 - 1st  M14L/MAIL class counter sheet
(2914B.4 - 1st class business sheet - due 31 July 2014)
2936.4  - 1st class red MTIL from booklet of 12
(2936S.4 - 1st class red MSIL from booklet of 6 - not yet found)
2936C.4  - 1st class MCIL from Buckingham Palace mixed retail booklet
2916.4 - 1st Large M14L/MAIL counter sheet
2916B.4  - 1st class Large business sheet MBIL MA14
(2937.4  - 1st Large MFIL from booklet of 4 - due 31 July 2014)

Sunday 25 May 2014

Presentation Packs - a new catalogue

The first presentation pack sold by the General Post Office was for the 1964 Shakespeare Festival stamps issued on 23 April 1964, but not until 1976 was a pack produced for every special stamp issue. 

After 50 years, the first catalogue devoted solely to packs has now been published, with a wealth of information on the history and development of the packs, and it reveals that there is far more to the subject than many people realise.

As well as the more obvious Commemorative and Definitive packs, and those for Greetings Stamps, Postage Dues, and Post and Go (Faststamps), the catalogue also covers Year Packs (and Books), privately produced packs and forerunners.  The earliest forerunners were simple window envelopes containing Castles High Values.  Sold in 1960 at either £1.18s.0d or US$6.50, these are now catalogued at £1,750 or £3,000.

The stamps in these packs were also available, of course, separately from other sources - post offices and later the Philatelic Bureau.  But the book also includes some products which exist only in that form, for instance packs produced in recent years by Royal Mail containing Facsimiles of classic stamps, the 1d black, 1d red, PUC £1 etc. 

Whilst the catalogue is comprehensive, the editors make no claim that it is complete.  Some printing varieties are included but there may be more.  'Format packs' are included - these are retail display packs containing (for example, cylinder blocks or gutter pairs of special issues), but I understand that some also exist for definitives.  The production of any catalogue or handbook is usually the impetus for collectors and dealers to identify errors and omissions which often results in an improved second edition.

Produced by the Packs and Cards company, and priced at £24.95 the catalogue is available from all good stamp dealers, bookshops and direct from [ISBN 978-099286750-8].

I think it is regrettable that Royal Mail have never produced a pack, or similar document, that would be much more practical.  As the catalogue advises:
To keep packs safe, it is advisable to store them in strong boxes or in specifically designed presentation pack albums. 
And therein lies a problem, as far as I am concerned.  In a stamp album, the stamps are displayed and written up (to a greater or lesser extent) and everything can be seen.

There is a great deal of well illustrated information included in presentation packs, but it is all hidden if stored as advised!   In 1982 Royal Mail changed the format to fold out vertically, rather than horizontally, in a format that used approximately an A4 sheet of card, with stamps on a separate carrier.

In 2004 there was a further change, when the plastic carrier was incorporated on one panel of the pack, often with important information printed behind the space for each stamp (something which was continued with the smaller packs produced for Faststamps).

But to get the real benefit of the packs they must be unfolded, and to see the information behind the stamps, they must be removed

Some packs are now designed to be viewed in the opposite orientation, such as the motorcycles and stamp locomotives.  But how much better they would be if they were A4 sheet designed to be kept as A4 sheets, unfolded, with space for the stamps, and with all the text visible and oriented the same direction.  Then they would be collectable, in an album that could be opened, the stamps admired and the stories read.

As they are, they are simply bought as collectables (or, sad to say, investments) and put away, and I suspect that a good number of the buyers never read the words or learn about their stamps.

UPDATE: Reinforcing one of the comments about Royal Mail quality control, I've been sent this picture of stamps included in the latest (Fish) pack sent to a loyal standing order subscriber:

Correcting errors when people complain is not good enough; they should correct the processes which lead to the errors as well.  But customers who don't even open them, they just put them in an album or box will never know whether they have collectable or damaged stamps!

Friday 23 May 2014

Another Remarkable Life gets a slogan postmark - Barbara Ward

Royal Mail has announced a special slogan postmark to be used to mark the birth centenary of Barbara Ward, the economist who featured on a Remarkable Lives stamp earlier this year.

Barbara Mary Ward (23 May 1914 – 31 May 1981), later Baroness Jackson of Lodsworth, was a British economist and writer interested in the problems of developing countries. She urged Western governments to share their prosperity with the rest of the world and in the 1960s turned her attention to environmental questions as well. She was an early advocate of sustainable development before this term became familiar and was well known as a journalist, lecturer and broadcaster. Ward was adviser to policy-makers in the UK, United States and elsewhere.

The postmark is in use from today for a week from some mail centres* on mail delivered to parts of the YO (York) postcode area.

* Mail centres with ink-jet postmarks are:

(a) with intelligent Letter Sorting Machines
Aberdeen, Croydon, Dorset and S W Hants (Poole), Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow,
Home Counties North (Hemel Hempstead), Jubilee (Hounslow, W London), Medway (Strood, Kent),
Mount Pleasant, Norwich, Peterborough, Sheffield (the only office with IMP and iLSM machines),
South Midlands (Northampton), Swindon, Warrington

(b) with Integrated Mail Processors
Birmingham; Bristol (BA,BS,GL,TA), Belfast (Northern Ireland); Carlisle (Cumbria Dumfries and Galloway); Cardiff (De Dd Cymru SE Wales); Chester (N. Wales Caer Gog. Cymru); Chelmsford (South East Anglia); Gatwick; Greenford/Windsor; Leeds (North and West Yorkshire); Manchester; Newcastle (Tyneside NE/SR); Nottingham; Plymouth and Cornwall; Preston (Lancashire and South Lakes); Romford; Sheffield; Southampton; Swansea (De Orll Cymru SW Wales); Truro (Cornwall); Wolverhampton (North West Midlands) 

Monday 19 May 2014

Sustainable Fish: Another new retail booklet coming

According to the US weekly, Linn's Stamp News, a retail booklet containing two fish from June's 'Sustainable Fish' set and 4 x 1st class Machins will be issued in August.

Update 18 June: The book is printed as usual by International Security Printers (Walsall) in gravure.  The stamp on the left is the (threatened) Common Skate, and that on the right shows (sustainable) Cornish Sardines. The 1st class red Machin definitives are expected to be coded MCIL M14L.  The 'first day of availability' from Tallents House will be 18 August: I would suggest that this is unlikely to be in regular post office branches on that date but will probably be distributed against subsequent orders for 6 x 1st booklets. Royal Mail stock code is UB376.

Special postmarks have been announced for this booklet:

13161 is from the Midland Special Handstamp Centre (SHC), Birmingham
13169 from the Scotland amd NI SHC, Tallents House, Edinburgh
13171 from the Wales and West SHC, Cardiff

The set to be issued on 5 June consists (as is so often the case) 10 x 1st class, and although the issue title is 'Sustainable Fish' in fact 5 are 'under threat' and 5 'sustainable'.

Issued in two sheets, the Sustainable (row 1) are Herring, Red Gurnard, Dab, Pouting, and Cornish Sardine.   The Threatened (row 2) are Common Skate, Spiny Dogfish, Wolffish, Sturgeon and Conger Eel.

Amazing that the Herring is now sustainable when reduced numbers (by over-fishing) in the North Sea contributed to so many job-losses from Aberdeen to Lowestoft!

More details and special postmarks will be on our website later this week.

Spring Flowers now appearing on NCR Post and Go machines

There have been two reports of Spring Blooms stamps loaded into NCR machines.  Cambridge is said to have had only 2 rolls. 

These images are from eBay listings and show stamps from the machine at Nailsea, Bristol:

Thanks to Doug for this collectors set of 6 x 1st Spring Blooms from the Eastcheap NCR machine.

Royal Mail are unlikely to produce any 2013 or earlier special sets on NCR-size rolls, although the Union Flag should appear in due course.  The Robin may appear, but the final 2014 set is Winter Greenery which may be used instead of the Robin.  No announcements have yet been made.

And on that subject, I do not expect there to be any announcement from Royal Mail about the introduction of Spring Blooms to the NCR machines: the stamps were issued in February.  Royal Mail would have anticipated the extensive roll-out by Post Office Ltd of the NCR machines and accordingly ordered part of the printing to be on NCR-size rolls.

By request, this is the link to the stamps that I found on eBay:
Finding things on eBay is very easy: simply enter key words (I used flowers ncr in the Stamps category.)

I'll show other examples here as I get them:

Special Delivery 100-500g rate (£7.15), service code SD1, VAT code Y4, postcode NR20

Perth 2014 Post and Go date error

When the Royal Mail Post and Go machines went to the 85th Scottish Congress at Perth, another software error occurred on machine 3 resulting in the date showing as November instead of April.  

The receipts show the date as 11/11/2014 but more importantly the data string shows BNGB14 rather than B4GB14.  These were spotted on eBay and it seems that the error was soon corrected.  (See here, closing 4 June.)

As readers will know we didn't get any stock of the Perth Congress stamps.

Thanks to Joachim we can now show a scan with the last stamp with string BNGB14 (session 779; time 13:20:13) and the first stamp with string B4GB14 (session 780; time 13:25:39).

Thursday 15 May 2014

News update - while we were away....

Some news has been added by contributors as comments on previous blog posts.  This is a resume of news that has been sent by email.

The roll-out of NCR Post and Go machines seems to be gaining momentum, so the List of Post Offices with NCR machines may not be up to date.  Lists have been compiled by others, and I will try to find a way of making these available to our readers.

From Brian in Northern Ireland

"Belfast main office at Bridge Street/High Street is the only office in Northern Ireland with PandG machines. Previously it had 2 Wincor Nixdorf machines. I was surprised to see that they had been replaced by 4 NCR Machines (67 to 70). I was told they went live on Easter Tuesday 22nd April.
All 4 machines have Machins. Office number remains 011704 on all 4 machines.

1st Class etc. strips: All are MA13
2nd Class strips: 68 and 69 are MA12 whereas 67 and 70 are MA13.

I also enquired as to whether any machines had been installed elsewhere in N. Ireland and was told not at present."

John reported that Truro has 4 NCR mchines live from the 8th May - so no more accusations of misdeeds there!

Julia reported that Croydon's 6 NCR machines were live by 14 May.

Several people sent pictures of the new stamps from BPMA showing the stamp costing 97p with the new Euro 20g World 10g inscription (Thanks Chris, Doug)

Many people reported that the same change did not happen on NCR machines as Royal Mail had told us it would (I'm following this up still).  Tony reports also that:
"I met with the Manager of the (Muswell Hill London) branch who was not even aware of the 28th April introduction date for the change."

And of course the change did not happen on Wincor-Nixdorf machines as I found when I visited the northern-most Post and Go office in the country at Inverness.  I took the opportunity to get some Union Flag Post and Go stamps, an interesting choice in view of the independence referendum campaigning going on at the moment! I also bought this while I had the chance.  In my experience few people have kept the Post and Go Labels mint or on cover, and the opportunities are reducing daily!

PhilaKorea - Stuart reports that Jersey Post have decided not to take their Post and Go machine to Korea for the international exhibition.

British Films Miniature Sheet
John was the first of several to report that the copies in Post Office branches have the bar-coded selvedge as the Buckingham Palace sheets did.  I queried this with Royal Mail and can now confirm that this is not only deliberate but will be so for the forseeable future; the official response:

The inclusion of the barcode margin was at the request of Post Office Ltd. All Royal Mail products need to include barcodes as standard.

We decided to add the margin to avoid putting the barcode in the design area of the product. The sheets sent out from Tallents House have had the margin removed because it is not intended to be part of the collectable product.

Thanks to Chris for the image.

'Postal boxes' coming to Morrisons

May 12th 2014: InPost, the largest global operator of a 24/7 parcel locker network, has secured an agreement with Morrisons Supermarket to host parcel lockers across the UK. 

InPost continues to rapidly expand its collection points throughout the UK, with the intention of achieving in excess of 1,500 sites by the end of the year. To accelerate the locker system roll-out, the company has signed an agreement with Morrisons, which operates a total of over 500 Superstores around the country. The first collection point is now operating and is located at the Morrisons site on Dewsbury Road in Wakefield, with plans for further lockers to be established throughout the country to develop a 24/7 ‘click and collect’ network.

Lorna Mushing, Estates Manager at InPost, commented: “Morrisons is a trusted brand in the UK and we are delighted to be working alongside the property team to develop the locker locations at such an established, forward-thinking company. It’s been extremely heartening to see the e-commerce, retail and logistics sectors embracing our unique, robust and highly secure facilities. The lockers deliver real added-value to our client partners and host sites and InPost now boasts close to 1,000 collection points across the UK, since the company’s launch in April 2013. The company has seen rapid growth and is now the largest network of its kind in the UK and this partnership with Morrisons will help to further increase the pace of our expansion.”

Stacey Elsworth, Estates Data & Information Manager at Morrisons, said: “We have worked very closely with InPost over the past few months in order to install the parcel lockers at Morrisons sites across the UK. We are excited about this new venture and it offers a real opportunity to existing Morrisons customers, along with the local community, to have a parcel collection service that suits their needs.”

The InPost system is ideal for e-commerce, the retail sector, business-to-business applications and other markets, where ease of parcel collection is crucial. The lockers enable customers to place orders online from a range of different retailers that they then pick up from a local site, at a time that suits them. 

Locker parcel collection is the solution for busy shoppers who don’t have time to wait in for a traditional delivery, a near impossible task for 56% of today’s consumers . Provided by InPost, the collection point houses 47 individual lockers of varying sizes and will be conveniently located at stores throughout the country, allowing local shoppers to collect or return their parcels at any time of the day or night.

InPost is operated by Integer, a Polish company. InPost has introduced the solutions already in Australia, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.  For more inforamtion see 

Calling Cambridge! - New Post and Go machines and one-day slogan postmark.

This is a special report for residents of the Cambridge area.  

In case you haven't been watching the post and go machine discussions, you now have new NCR machines at 57-58 St Andrew Street Post Office.  See more information here.

Of more immediate importance if you collect local postal history or slogan postmarks, there will be a special ONE-DAY slogan postmark next week to mark the birth centenary of Max Perutz, recently featured on the remarkable lives stamp issue.   Born in Vienna, Max Perutz studied chemistry and moved to Cambridge in 1936 to pursue his research. Interned as an enemy alien at the outbreak of the Second World War, he was sent to Canada but released in 1941 to continue his work. He was the chairman of the Medical Research Council’s Unit (later its Laboratory) for Molecular Biology.  He devoted most of his working life to the study of haemoglobin.

Royal Mail have advised that a special one-day slogan postmark will be in use on Monday 19 May 2014, the anniversary of his birth.  Previous similar commemorative slogan postmarks have been available for mail due to arrive on the designated day, ie in this case it would be on mail posted on Friday 16/Saturday 17 May.  Also, in other cases, the postmarks have been applied on letters being sent TO the key location (ie the CB postcode area), but in this case we understand it will be applied on letters being sent FROM Cambridge, Saffron Waldon, Ely, Haverhill, and Newmarket.

I've sought confirmation of these details in view of the variation from some previous practice, and will update this blog when I hear from Royal Mail.


Royal Mail have advised that this postmark will be in use for one week from 19 May on mail delivered TO addresses in the CB (Cambridge) postcode area, including Intra-CB letters.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

We're back!

Thanks for all the blog comments, emails, and orders sent in the last 2 weeks.  Comments on existing blogs have been admitted, and in some cases answered. 

There will be a lot of news to add later this week, and pictures!

Meanwhile, as some of you found a previous holiday quiz so easy, I defy you to identify precisely where these were taken.  One is our forward view, the other back to the main road - and they could have been taken on the same day!

Once again I underestimated my readers - or at least one of them.

As Robert wrote, "Somewhere on the Cromarty Firth?" - it is indeed about a mile from Evanton on the northern shore of the Cromarty Firth.  Quite a lot of sea-birds especially shelduck, eider ducks, scaup (about 35), mixed gulls, mixed corvids feeding on the shore, curlew, and the obligatory oystercatchers, one pair of which was noisily mating just outside the window of the bungalow at 5.30 one morning.  Not the sort of alarm call I needed!!

Well done Robert!