Thursday 31 July 2014

More new printings of Machin Definitive Stamp sheets

More stamps from the May 2014 round of printings are now appearing:

10p       -  21/05/2014
20p       -  28/05/2014
2 Large -  19/05/2014
£1.47    -  22/05/2014
£2.15    -  27/05/2014

Date blocks of 8 of all these are available on request and while stocks last.  They have been added to our webshop, but not in the Recent Additions category - look at the individual listings within 2014.

Of more interest to collectors of the basic stamps, we are expecting to have stocks of the first Special Delivery reprint, the 100g stamp with M14L year code very soon.  Cylinder numbers and Date Blocks will be available.  This will be numbered 2985.4 in our system and is now available to buy.

UPDATE 11August
Back from our August break, I can now add images of the new Special Delivery stamps:

Comparison with the original - because of the silver printing the coding in the iridescent ink shows up in ordinary scans.  The blue ink on the new stamps is deeper, but no more than might be expected during the print run.

 Full sheet of the new stamps showing the 8 grid positions:

And a microscope view of the security coding:

Stamp Booklet and Business Sheet update 31 July 2014 (revised report)

As reported earlier, new booklets and business sheets are available from 31 July 2014.  The stamp content will be unchanged as far as Royal Mail concerned.  [This blogpost replaces the two earlier ones on the same subject.]

In accordance with new EU regulations on Customer Service, premium rate numbers are no longer permitted for Business-to-Customer after-sales services.  This affects the stamp booklets, on which the telephone number 08457 740 740 has changed to 03457 740 740, and the Textphone/Minocom number from 08456 000 606 to 03456 000 606. 

The new regulations do not apply to Business-to-Business communications, so on the Business Sheets the telephone number is unchanged.  However, the same Textphone number is used for all customers, so that number has changed on Business Sheets.

As mentioned on the original blogpost, the M14L 1st x 6 booklet with the old numbers appeared in June.  We were told by Royal Mail that the Large Letter booklets and small stamp Business Sheets with 2014 codes (MA14/M14L) would make their first appearance with this printing.

In fact supplies of the M14L 2nd class Business Sheet were found in post offices last week, with printing dates of 18/02/14 and 19/02/14.  Our FDCs for 31 July will therefore have only 3 stamps!

(Click on any image for a larger version.)

We don't have cylinders on all booklets yet:

12 x 1st - W5 (red) W2 (phos) W1 (security)

4 x 1st Large - W2 (red), W1 (phos and security)

4 x 2nd Large

12 x 2nd

6 x 1st -  31 July with previous M14L booklet for comparison.  Used copies are known from mid-June.

Barcodes and packing details:

BUSINESS SHEETS (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Printing date 05/06/14 - sheet number 9403397 

Printing date 11/06/14 - sheet number 2456883

The Large Letter Stamps are unchanged, so here are the sheet tops for the record:

Printing date 27/05/14 - sheet number 1749264

Printing date 21/05/14 - sheet number 1683411

Thanks to all readers who sent in comments on this subject, and apologies for the confusion on the changes.  Royal Mail did not tell us the complete details, so there has been detective work involved!
Thanks to Robert, Brian and Machnimaniac and others.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

July 2014 Business Sheet update

As reported earlier, new booklets and business sheets will be available from 31 July 2014.  The stamp content will be unchanged as far as Royal Mail concerned, with the only change being the telephone number which on booklets changes from 08457 to 03457.  On Business Sheets, the TextPhone number changes from 08456 to 03456, but the telephone number remains 08457.

See revised report covering both booklets and business sheets.

Friday 25 July 2014

Seaside Architecture stamps commemorate multiple events, and 2014 Europa theme

The Seaside Architecture stamps and miniature sheet are issued on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the founding of Trinity House, the body responsible for all UK lighthouses and lightships. (wikipedia, official site)  The first pier in the UK was completed at Ryde on the Isle of Wight on 26 July 1814, so celebrating it's 200th anniversary tomorrow.

The Eastbourne Bandstand 1st class stamp, with its brass band, includes the EUROPA logo, which is Royal Mail's nod to the Post-Europ 2014 theme of 'National music instruments'.

Royal Mail's set of 6 stamps depict:
1st class - Eastbourne Bandstand, Tinside Lido, Plymouth
97p - Bangor Pier, Southwold Lighthouse
£1.28 - Casino at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Bexhill-on-Sea Shelter

The miniature sheet contains 4 stamps, against a backdrop of the pier at Southend-on-Sea, the longest in the country (so we can expect a special postmark for Southend!):
1st class - Llandudno and Worthing Piers
£1.28 - Dunoon and Brighton Piers

The stamps and miniature sheet are designed by Why Not Associates using photography by Lee Mawdsley.  The stamps are printed by ISP and the miniature sheet by Enschede.

As well as the usual products there will be a coin cover to mark the Trinity House anniversary, the coin being a £2 commemorative.

More details and first day postmarks on our website.

Post Office Touring Displays Marking First World War

The Post Office has announced the venues for its special travelling displays in branches to commemorate the First World War. (I'm sorry that some of these dates are already passed.)

The free exhibitions will begin in Oldham and Nottingham – home of two VC recipients from the 1914-18 war – and travel the length and breadth of the UK, offering a greater understanding of how the General Post Office fitted into the story of the First World War.

The displays will be in:
  • Nottingham Post Office in Queen St (from July 8-July 25)
  • Oldham Post Office in Lord Street (from July 8-July 25)
  • Birmingham Post Office in Pinfold Street (from July 29-August 15)
  • Dundee Post Office in Meadowside (from July 29-August 15)
  • Pontycymer Post Office in Bridgend, Wales (from August 19-September 12)
  • Bangor Post Office in Main Street, Bangor, Northern Ireland from (August 19-September 12)
  • Oxford Post Office in St Aldate’s (from September 16-October 3)
  • High Wycombe Post Office in Units 10/11 Chiltern centre from (October 7-October 24)
  • Tonbridge Post Office in Angel Walk (from October 28-November 14).
The exhibition, curated with The British Postal Museum and Archive (BPMA), is part of a five-year programme of events by the Post Office to mark the centenary of the First World War. It is also currently on display at Post Office headquarters in Old Street, London EC1V 9HQ.

The Post Office Rifles fought at Ypres, the Somme and Passchendaele and were awarded 145 decorations for gallantry, including a Victoria Cross to Sergeant Alfred J Knight from Birmingham. At least three more GPO employees who fought in other regiments were awarded the VC, the highest medal for gallantry. They were: Sgt Albert Gill from Birmingham; Major Henry Kelly from Manchester; and Sgt John Hogan, of Royton near Oldham.

The Post Office Rifles included the younger brother of renowned war poet Rupert Brooke; 2nd Lt. William Alfred Cotterill Brooke who was serving with the 8th Battalion London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) was killed in action near Le Rutoire Farm on the historic Loos battlefield on 14th June 1915.  2nd Lt. W.A.C. Brooke was one of the two machine gun officers in the Post Office Rifles.

Paula Vennells, chief executive of The Post Office, said: “This exhibition is a mark of our respect for those whose courage and sacrifice in the First World War changed the course of history. On the centenary of the First World War, we particularly wanted to remember the Post Office Rifles, who earned high praise and a prestigious place in British military history. About 1,800 of its soldiers were killed – and 4,500 injured – during the war. “We’re proud to honour the fallen and their families this centenary.”

Duncan Barrett, author of a new book, Men of Letters*, which tells the story of the Post Office heroes who fought in the First World War, said: ‘Those who signed up with the Post Office Rifles were shocked by the horrors they found on the Western Front. Some men saw colleagues they had worked alongside for years killed right in front of their eyes. But with their courage, tenacity and good humour they distinguished themselves as a first-class fighting unit, and participated in many of the key battles of the war.’  (*AA Publishing, £8.99)

At Ypres and at Passchendaele the Post Office Rifles suffered tremendous losses. More than half of their fighting force was lost at the Battle of Wurst Farm Ridge in September 1917. Although unique in its composition, the experiences of the PORs were entirely representative of life on the Western Front. The 1st Battalion embarked from Southampton on 17 March 1915 and after a period of training and acclimatisation, entered the trenches to fight in the battle for Festubert, France on 11 May that year.

The Post Office Rifles fought resiliently to secure and reinforce the British position there but the experience was traumatic. Today Post Office Rifles are best remembered for their involvement as infantry on the Western Front in the First World War. Their bravery, tenacity and character during the severe circumstances of the trenches are well-documented and their endeavours have earned the regiment high praise and a prestigious place in British military history. Comprised mostly of Post Office employees, approximately 12,000 men fought with the regiment, suffering losses of 1,800 and 4,500 wounded.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

New Slogan Postmark for Abram Games - Festival of Britain designer

For once we have advance notice of a slogan postmark, courtesy of Design Week.

The Abram Games slogan postmark will appear on mail for four days from 29 July – the day Games was born – until 4 August, and will bear the text ‘Celebrating the life of Abram Games, Remarkable Lives Stamps, 1914-1996’.


Among Games’ designs was the symbol for the 1951 Festival of Britain.
We're hoping for more details about which mail (ie to which destination) will get this postmark.

UPDATE 25 July:
  • The postmark will appear on mail for four days nationwide from Tuesday 29th July, the date of Abram’s birthday, until Saturday 2nd August 2014
  • Games was born in Whitechapel, East London and designed almost 300 posters and new products 

Based on information so far received, this will run concurrently with the Commonwealth Games Glasgow 2014 slogans

UPDATE 29 July:
Once again I have overlooked Royal Mail's terminology on this.  When they announce that the postmark "will appear on mail" it means it will be used earlier than the stated date for delivery on that date.   Hence I received one from North West Midlands this morning which is probably dated 28 July, but could be 26th.  Mike has sent one from Bristol (BA BS GL TA) Mail Centre definitely from 28th:

UPDATE 1 August
Thanks to Adrian for supplying this alternative layout from Edinburgh MC

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Slogan Postmarks - 3 so far!

As reported elsewhere, the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games stamps were issued last Thursday, 17th July 2014.  

I've been sent several pictures of special slogan postmarks which have been running, around the UK, since before the stamp issue.  Unfortunately unless you received one of these, or read about it before the stamp issue date, and also were able to post in one of the relevant areas, you would not have been able to get a first day cover cancelled with the slogan.  

Once again Royal Mail failed to provide any advance notice.  One really does have to wonder whether their marketing, PR, and Philatelic areas could be better joined up to generate more revenue.

One showing the Glasgow 2014 logo as on the stamps, from Edinburgh MC on 15 July - yes, from Royal Mail Tallents House! - to Norfolk

A similar one with the postmark elements in a different order, from Greenford MC on 14 July to Norfolk

And a 2nd class one sent from Swindon MC to a Swindon address 21-07-2014, picture from Bob (thanks!)

So obviously these are not on mail only to or only from Glasgow, so we must assume that they are being used nationwide to all addresses, and possibly on international mail.

New Post and Go installation: Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Museum

According to an unofficial website machine A002 is to be installed at the Portsmouth Dockyard Museum Shop:

‘Following on from the success of the static Post and Go machine at the BPMA in London, Royal Mail will be installing its second static Post & Go machine at the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth from 28 July 2014. Machine A002 will initially carry Union Flag and Machin designs with the static location identifier ‘The NMRN’. The machine will be located in the Museum shop’

The installation will take place before the shop opens, collectors wishing to visit on that date should note the Kiosk is scheduled to be available from 10:00 am.

It should be noted that entrance to the shop is free."

Although this is said to be on the Royal Mail website I haven't found it and Royal Mail Tallents House (and via twitter) have been unable to confirm that this news item is true.  The unofficial website also suggests that:

The machine ....  will be the first to use the new Royal Mail font.’

I've no idea what this means! 

I've now had this confirmed by Royal Mail, and this is on their website:

Post and Go News - New Font for Royal Mail Machines
Following the introduction of the dual value design in April and subsequent feedback from collectors, the font used on Royal Mail Post and Go machines will change to help improve the overall look of the stamps. The first use of the new font will be at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth from 28 July 2014.

Post and Go News - New Static Machine in Portsmouth
Following on from the success of the static Post and Go machine at the BPMA in London, Royal Mail will be installing its second static Post and Go machine at the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth from 28 July 2014. Machine A002 will initially carry Union Flag and Machin designs with the static location identifier ‘The NMRN’. The machine will be located in the Museum shop.

UPDATE 24 July
For some reason Royal Mail have decided that the best place to put news about Post and Go is on EVERY Post and Go product page in their web shop including album pages!  See here.

Thank you to dealers and collectors who visited Portsmouth and made reports, some as emails some as comments.  This update incorporates both sources.

Chris commented:

It is actually in the 'Babcock Galleries' which is part of the Museum itself which you need a ticket for and were initially challenged for. However, having spoken to staff and the ticket office at the main gate to the Dockyard, access to use the Post & Go Machine is now FREE.
Machine was up and running at 11 am after some technical hiccups.

Mike wrote:

I'm not sure where the last blog contributor thought he was today but having attended myself then the machine is in the shop accessed following signs for the Museum (there were books, models, etc there to buy right alongside the machine with a sales/cashier lady in attendance.

I arrived about 12.50 (my eventual receipt was timed at 13.01). I asked from the point of entry where the museum was because I wanted to use the new stamp machine; all 3 'assistants' I spoke to knew exactly where it was and guided me appropriately (and no-one asked me to buy a ticket). Yes, after following the well-displayed signs and entering through the only door marked for the Museum you have to pass along through the B. gallery, but then there is this little shop layout with stamp machine at the end before the (seemingly only!) public exit with things for people to buy.

Anyway, mere detail. The important thing was that the machine was up and running and only one other person wanting to use it (a dealer who very graciously allowed me to get the 2 x collectors sets of each + a strip of 6 x 1st of each in-between his transactions).

I would have to admit though, that I don't see what use the machine is going to get other than from collectors when varieties, etc change. I certainly don't remember any signs highlighting the availability of stamps to 'ordinary' visitors (and there is no post box, let alone any link with the permanent Portsmouth (Mary Rose) cancel - good marketing could link all this together for the public). But hey ho! 

I also went to Portsmouth on the first day for this issue and the machine appeared to be in a shop as there was a counter with till and lots of books, DVDs and souvenirs for sale. I got there at about 11.30 so maybe it was moved after I left. I was not asked for a ticket at either the main gate or the entrance to the Museum shop but just directed to the shop.
The stamps look quite good with the new bolder font and more in line with the current NCR stamps. Certainly an improvement on the previous font which is still in use at the BPMA until August.

Stock of both Machin and Union Flag stamps is undated.  See foot of this report for pictures of both stamps and receipts.

So thanks to all reporters for confirming that the machine is available, though as Mike mentions, there is little publicity there, and no marketing.  What is the point, apart from attracting collectors.  Now the collectors may spend some time in the museum as well, but that can't be the motivation behind this idea.  The BPMA I can understand; this one I can't.

Earlier in this blogpost I reported JG telling us that a new (non-bold) font produced by the machines at York Stamp Show, and Royal Mail confirmed that the change had not been announced beforehand (see below).  At the time we thought that the York change was the same 'font-change' that had been announced for Portsmouth, but as Brian writes, the Portsmouth font is different again, as shown below:

Previous BPMA layout, and (below) stamp produced at York.  Most noticeable is the rounder figure 0, the curved serif on the figure 1 in 10g, and the serif on the g.  Brian has mentioned that BPMA will be changed in August with the introduction of the Airmail slogan, and it remains to be seen whether the peripatetic machine A003 will be changed before its appearance at PhilaKorea or Stampex.

Summary of earlier report, referred to above.
But JG has pointed out that this is not be the first instance of the revised (non-bold) font for the 'World 10g' caption on the RM2 machines, as this was used at York on 18/19 July.  Here are pictures of the BPMA original version and the one used at York.  (The Union Flag* was also available.)  We expect the Portsmouth printing to be the same as York but with the addition of The NMRN.

A Royal Mail spokesman confirmed:
This was automatically uploaded overnight to the machine rather than going through a manual check which would have held it. We will be introducing a ‘Go/No Go’ option before similar updates go live.
So we are happy for the customers who pre-ordered these stamps, but have no stocks for sale at this point. 

More pictures from Portsmouth:

July 2014 retail stamp booklet update

As reported earlier, new booklets and business sheets will be available from 31 July 2014.  The stamp content will be unchanged as far as Royal Mail concerned, with the only change being the telephone number on the back cover, which changes from 08457 to 03457.  However this change sees the first appearance of 2014 codes on the Large Letter stamps, which are coded MA14.  


Monday 21 July 2014

New printings of Machin counter sheets

Another round of printing was undertaken by De La Rue in May, and so far the following have been seen:

2nd class         12/05/14
1st class           08/05/14
1st Large         20/05/14
97p                  23/05/14
£1                    22/05/14

Date blocks of 8 can be supplied on request.

Packing dates for the new Walsall retail booklets seen so far are:

6 x 1st              02/05/14
12 x 1st            08/05/14
12 x 2nd           14/05/14
4 x 1st Lge       03/06/14
4 x 2nd Lge      28/05/14

Friday 11 July 2014

Commonwealth Games booklet variants

The full set of Commonwealth Games stamps is now shown on our website, following Royal Mail's decision to put them and all products on their website shop before the embargo date.

Accompanying the set of 6 is a retail booklet containing 4 x 1st class Machin definitives and 2 x 1st class Swimming stamps.  As usual the Machins are coded MCIL M14L and the booklet is printed by Walsall Security Printers.  We are used to minor colour-registration problems on Walsall's booklets and from the examples of this booklet we have seen, they seem to have escaped this fate, although without seeing a booklet with cylinder numbers we don't know whether the almost mono-chrome special stamps are printed in 4-colour process or a reduced range of colours.

Here is the booklet itself:

However, in this booklet we have found misplaced phosphor and iridescent ink printing to make up for the often ugly mis-registered special stamps.

Booklets have been found with significant shifts of the phosphor both upwards and downwards, and with a significant shift of the iridescent layer downwards.  As these images show:

Downward shift of phosphor.  The top of the phosphor is in the Queen's head.  In more extreme examples the phosphor on the upper definitives is shifted down onto the lower ones.

Upward shift of phosphor.  The phosphor on the lower definitives is lapping onto the upper ones

In some examples the iridescent security printing is well down from the top of the design:

While stocks last these are available at our webshop, but will not be shipped until 22 July because of the issue date coinciding with holidays.

Thursday 10 July 2014

Symbolic Flowers at Autumn Stampex and nationwide in Post and Go machines

The second set of British Flora Post and Go Faststamps will be issued on 17 September 2014, coinciding with Autumn Stampex at London's Business Design Centre in Islington.  The stamps will also be available from the nationwide network of Post and Go machines which means that three* different versions will be available from the day of issue.

Designed by Kate Stephens using illustrations by award-winning Bath artist Julia Trickey, the six stamps show forget-me-not, common poppy, dog rose, spear thistle, heather and cultivated flax.

The forget-me-not is a common flower in cottage gardens, and grows wild if allowed to!

Common Poppies are widespread in the countryside notable along verges and in cornfields here in Norfolk, where we have Poppyland (an area near Cromer named in the 19th century by author Clement Scott),  the 'Poppy Line' or North Norfolk Railway, and a Poppyland brewery. 

The Dog Rose is widespread in roadside hedges, and even climing up into higher branches of trees.

Spear Thistle (or common thistle) has a purple flower atop a swollen, spiny green base and spear-like tips on the leaves. Its flowers provide a feast of nectar and pollen for insects in late summer.

Heather is widespread in moorland parts of Britain including the Pennines and Scotland.

Cultivated Flax has been grown for centuries for making cloth and linseed oil, traditionally used to finish and refresh cricket bats.  Now included in commercially available wild bird seed, it is often seen in gardens.

I'm pleased to say that we have all except the thistle and heather here at Norvic towers!

First day covers and presentation packs will be available as usual.

* The stamps in post office branches will be dispensed from Wincor-Nixdorf and NCR machines while those at Stampex will provide a third version.

Saturday 5 July 2014

New Tour De France Grand Départ Yorkshire Slogan Postmark

Royal Mail is to issue a special postmark to mark the Tour De France Grand Départ which begins in Yorkshire today (July 5th).

The postmark will be printed on mail that is delivered across the UK* on Saturday. It will read ‘Yorkshire Grand Départ Tour De France 2014’.   It is the first time the Tour has visited the UK since 2007.
Stephen Agar from Royal Mail said: “We’re delighted to be marking the Tour De France Grand Départ with one of our postmarks. “It’ll be a very special moment to see this iconic sporting event begin in the UK in Yorkshire and we’re pleased to mark the occasion in this unique way.”

Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, commented: "This celebration of the Yorkshire‎ Grand Départ by Royal Mail is testament to the scale of this historic event coming to our county and indeed the country. “Excitement is reaching fever pitch for millions in Yorkshire and beyond - and we're delighted the Tour's arrival is being celebrated in this way."

* The postmark must have been used at Mail Centres across the UK on Friday 4th July.  Although the official announcement is that it is on mail delivered to UK addresses, look out for it in other countries. The Lord's Cricket Ground postmark was used on mail from Gatwick to South Africa.

UPDATE: Evidence from JG that this was, in fact, already in use on Thursday 3rd July so could have been on 1st class mail delivered on 4th.  Now if only they could achieve 100% legibility despite the uneven contents...

Thanks also to Bob for this much better example in the other layout and in a totally different style from across the border in Lancashire: