Monday 27 October 2014

Yes, another short break in transmission !

Our office will be closed again from 28 October to 3 November 2014.  

All orders will be dealt with automatically and we will process them will as quickly as possible on our return.

Comments on the blog will be processed if we have email access on O2's mobile network.

I will check back through previous reports and comments, but does anybody know if Kidderminster, Walsall, Solihull, or Hereford have Wincor-Nixdorf Post and Go machines?

See below for details of what we found at Kidderminster, which does still have a Wincor-Nixdorf machine (card only when I left it!)

Thursday 23 October 2014

Post and Go Catalogue ? - not yet, not here!

Now that our Machin Security Definitives Catalogue is available - and thanks for all the kind comments about it - a number of collectors have asked if we are doing something similar for Post and Go Faststamps.

If anything these are more complex, and we all accept that the listing of these in Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise catalogue is very basic, even with all the caveats in the introduction about intentional and unintentional variables.

But I'm afraid for the present the answer must be no, I don't have time, nor the detailed knowledge, of all the variants that exist.  There are two other source of detailed information about Faststamps:

- John McCullum produces the periodic ATM Informer newsletter which is sent by email.  Contact details and more data on Postal Mechanisation and so on can be found here.  John has plenty to do apart from philately and I don't think he currently has time to produce a comprehensive Catalogue to match the Norvic Security Machins catalogue.

- Vince Patel produces a detailed listing of the stamps available from the many different machines at Exhibitions large and small.  The latest can be downloaded here.  If you want to contact Vince to get on his mailing list, email me and I'll pass on your request. (That avoids putting his email address here and attracting spammers!) 

I do recognise that my own numbering system - used on our webshop - is probably incomprehensible to most collectors.  I'll try to produce a simple guide to help you find your way - or change the numbers!

But if anybody else feels like producing a comprehensive and detailed catalogue of Post and Go Faststamps I'm happy to help with the publicity and distribution.  I can even help with some illustrations - which I think will be more important with Post and Go than with Security Stamps!  There is a demand out there - who's up for it?  Send me an email!

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Yet another unannounced Post and Go Faststamp change

Remember the Tariff Change at the end of March, when Royal Mail suddenly realised that they really ought to keep the 97p postcard and basic Worldwide letter rate? 

Emergency measures were taken with Post and Go machines and, after a false promise of a nationwide change in April, the NCR software was changed in June so that the 'Europe up to 20g' stamp was changed to read 'Euro 20g / World 10g'.

The special machines in use at philatelic events, and at the BPMA and NMRN also used this service indicator.  Those of us who thought about it generally reckoned that with the Wincor-Nixdorf machines being replaced rapidly their software would not be changed.  The Philatelic Bulletin (October p 55) confirmed that "The dual-value label was not vended from Wincor machines."

So imagine my surprise when this picture turned up this week from the other end of England to where the main action was supposed to be going on (London and Portsmouth) :

From machine number 1, so clearly not an NCR machine.  In fact, Spring Blooms from Chester-le-Street's Wincor-Nixdorf machine!

We await with bated breath your reports of availability on other stamps.  Brown Machins (various dates), Union Flag (also various dates), Symbolic Flowers, and possibly some of the older stock if any of it is left in Post Office branches yet to be converted.

This undated Union Flag (collector's strip) from Leeds was listed on eBay by melrider1949 *:

* Update: the same seller now also has the new Poppy stamp with this change, despite assertions elsewhere that this would not be provided to Wincor-Nixdorf offices.

Undated Machin example from Farringdon Road:

The Collectors Set shows clearly how the new caption is out of step with he others which were changed earlier in the year.  The 60g stamps still have the 'wrong' size figures which means that there are three different types in one set!

UPDATE 27 October:
Cattle were in the Macclesfield machine on Monday, but when that roll was exhausted they switched to Sheep, and then Freshwater Lakes. (Thanks to Robert and Stuart for these pictures)

Meanwhile at Chester-le-Street, Freshwater Lakes are now in use (thanks to Brian for the image )

Iain reports having bought Symbolic Flowers and Freshwater Rivers, but I don't know which offices these came from.

UPDATE 28 October:
Now, here's a surprise - the Wincor machines were not all changed at the same time!  Roy reports that Chesterfield has two machines, with K2 being from the previous office at 1 Market Place and retaining the branch code of 011340.  Whilst K1 was changed as previously described, K2 was unchanged at 11.45 am:

This error has since been rectified.

As a result of advice from readers (many thanks all) I visited Kidderminster on Sunday and secured some Machin MA13 versions from their Wincor-Nixdorf machine.  No other Faststamps were available because all old stock was returned to store when the Crown House post office closed and operations moved to the WHSmith shop in Vicars Street, about 100 yards away.

Meanwhile, as reported in the comments, Macclesfield's WN machine has been removed and is not being replaced.  Fortunately Stuart managed to get me some Pigs and these (with the Machin above) will soon be in our webshop.

In its last 2 weeks Macclesfield was using up old stocks which included all of the Farm Animals and at least two of the Freshwater Life sets.

On this subject, these reports have been received in the last few days:

(1) Further conversions to NCR have now reduced Wincor in the Capital to a handful.
Wood Green has been NCR for some time and recent conversions are Great Portland Street and Junction Road.

Kensington (of poppy fame) has had Wincor withdrawn so NCR is imminent there.

I am sure it is not official but from today's observations it seems if a Wincor goes defective it is not been given priority for repair with Farringdon Road and also 2 of the 3 kiosks out of service at both Tudor Street and Clapham out of service.

The kiosk at Holloway is showing a Windows start up fault as it did two weeks ago, not checked were Finchley Road and Balham.

(2) I'm reliably informed that Harrogate W-N machines were removed this week (16 October) and York will be changed on 30 October.
(3) London's Baker Street's 2 W-N machines were withdrawn on 21 October.
(4) Sevenoaks NCR went live 31 October; Macclesfield W-N removed 31 October and not replaced;  Leeds W-N removed 27 October;  York W-N last day was 25 October.
I'm trying to get up to date information from Post Office Ltd.

Another rarity in the Trafalgar Day Post and Go update from BPMA & RN Museum

As regular readers will know there has been some discrepancy between what Royal Mail have announced and what we have been told by other sources regarding today's Post and Go changes.

In brief, the machine at the BPMA has been changed so that more than two types of stamps can be sold, and the NMRN machine will have Trafalgar Day inscription on the flag stamps and Remembrance on the newly installed Poppy stamps.  Thanks to Chris for this report and the pictures.

"Staff placed the Poppy Reel in the machine and it all started well, printing Poppy with ‘NMRN’. Only when someone queried the absence of the ‘Trafalgar Day’ overprint on the Union Flag, was it discovered that the machine had not been updated overnight.

"We were assured* that the only overprint on the Poppy would be ‘NMRN’, until 11 November when ‘Remembrance would be added for that one day only. When the software was updated, the ‘Remembrance’ overprint was available immediately!

"Only about 900 stamps exist with just the ‘NMRN’ on the Poppy stamp."
*(as I had been told last week by Museum staff) §

The Trafalgar Day inscription:

Chris and Mike have also sent pictures of the four stamps available from the BPMA machine today, showing that (after the Postage Due and Airmail inscriptions) the inscription has reverted to the lower position as it was in 2012.  Note that these four are all from session 1546.

On these the Machin and Flag are undated, the 2nd class is MA12, with the Poppy being MA14 of course.

The 2012 version:
It's not the same, of course: there have been (too?) many changes in 2 years - the font, the machine number and data string format.  But on a simplified level it's the same.

§ Mike commented ....

".... I was told by the 'minder' at Portsmouth that the software updates had been timed for 10.30* despite the BPMA having been under the impression that they would be done at 07.01 to allow them to cater for their needs before opening to the public).

"RM (or whoever) seriously need to address this so that all PO branches and any other machines are updated before they are timed to open to the public."

Saturday 18 October 2014

New Catalogue Machin Security Definitive Stamps

We are pleased to announce that the new Norvic Checklist of Machin Security Definitive Stamps is now available free of charge to all collectors and dealers.

Designed to fit the gap between the Stanley Gibbons GB Concise Catalogue and the extreme detail of some other lists, this identifies all the values with all the source and year codes, cross-referenced to SG numbers and Royal Mail product codes.  Source booklet numbers are also included to assist in precise identification.

Table showing 2nd class counter sheet listing

Dates of issue or earliest known dates (EKD) of appearance are shown.  Over the summer the list has been checked by a number of customers and dealers, and many corrections made, but more information is waiting to be discovered, especially on dates.  Checking stamps on ordinary mail may yet reveal that stamps were actually in post offices or other retail outlets earlier than previously thought so the list is always subject to change.  But it is totally up to date with the latest discovery, the 2p M14L (see below).

Some collectors (and dealers) record these stamps in greater detail than we do, for instance according to the size of the gap in the security slits, according to the shape of the perforation, or the direction of printing.  This doesn't claim to be a complete list of Security Machins according to those criteria, but it does list all the basic stamps - and a few extras.

The Norvic numbers are used in our webshop, and we hope that this will help customers to find what they are looking for an fill the gaps.  

To download a copy of the checklist go to Dropbox.

Machin 2014 is not finished yet - 2p M14L now available.

Perhaps the year still holds more surprises for collectors of Machin Security stamps, as another low value reprint has appeared.

Not reprinted in 2013, the 2p was first issued without an overprint, but with security slits, in 2011. 

When the 1st class red and other palette changes were issued at the beginning of 2013, all the low value stamps were issued with M12L codes.  The 10p and 20p have already been reprinted, but now we have the 2p, reprinted on 26/09/14 with code M14L.  This is available in our shop from today.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Poppies sold early - Faststamps and counter sheets; other Faststamp news

As previously announced the definitive-sized self-adhesive Remembrance Poppy stamp is to be available from all Post Offices again on 21 October.  On the same date Post and Go machines will have 'Poppy-only' reels in the lead up to Remembrance Day.

Except that things at Post Offices don't always go to Royal Mail's plan.  On Saturday I was told by an American tourist that she had bought the Poppy stamps 'a couple of weeks ago' - so they were either early, or very old stock.

And I have also been told that some London Post Office Post and Go machines have been dispensing the Poppy-only Faststamps last week or earlier.  What I didn't realise when I first wrote this is that the early release was on a Wincor-Nixdorf machine which may have been removed by 21 October. There are few W-N machines remaining and getting solo-Poppy stamps from such a machine may be difficult.

Of course the Poppy stamp was included in the Symbolic Flowers set issued in September and all values could be obtained on the Poppy stamp, so 21 October was not intended to be a first day of issue or even philatelic availability - just the first day that all six values could be bought in a strip, and with NCR 'open values'.

In other Faststamp news, new installations at Inverness (3) and Norwich (4) are loaded with MA14 Machins, brown and blue, with no Symbolic Flowers delivered and (I understand) only 2 rolls of Poppies supplied (for the branch, not per machine).

Based on information from the unofficial IAR website, there will be a further short-term inscription on the NMRN Portsmouth machine:

The Poppy stamps will be available at the NMRN from the 21st with a ‘Remembrance’ inscription replacing the current Machin stamp from 11-13 November 2014

... that is, for just two or three days.  However, advice from the Museum Shop is that these will be available ONLY on 11 November.

Although the regular issues are on the Museum shop website, the short-term specials will only be available in person or by telephone 02392 727596 or possibly email: They are taking advance orders, but take particular note of the following:

The price shown on the Museum website is £15 for a Collectors Strip.  For some reason this includes 20% VAT which does not seem appropriate,  (see also the comments by readers)

The price includes the Museum charge, to people who cannot attend, for the service of getting the stamps from the machine.  My understanding now is that Royal Mail regards the Museum as a secondary seller; being registered for VAT the Museum also charges 20% on the goods including their charge for the service.  So £7.42 + £5.08 = £12.50, plus VAT = £15.00 plus postage and packing.   Explained that way the charge does not seem as bad.

But the appeal of the Post and Go stamps must exceed that of the HMS Victory stamps from Universal Mail UK, also sold by the museum.   To a postage price of probably £4.85 (5 x 97p) the museum adds only 57p, plus VAT of £1.07 to arrive at a selling price of £6.50.

As collectors you have the choice, to vote with your feet rather than your hearts!

Advertising comes back to Slogan Postmarks - Man Booker Prize

From Press Release:

"Royal Mail is to issue a special postmark to celebrate the winning author of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.  

Richard Flanagan received the prestigious literary award for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North from HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, at a ceremony at London’s Guildhall.

Mr Flanagan was one of six authors who were shortlisted for the prize.

Royal Mail’s postmark will appear on millions of items of mail delivered nationwide from tomorrow to Saturday" - which means it will be applied from today, 15 October 2014.

It's good for postmark collectors to have something different to look for, but I question whether this is appropriate, since Royal Mail abandoned slogan postmark advertising for specific products some decades ago.  It's not even as if the slogan marks a success for a British author: Flanagan is Tasmanian.  As the press release also notes:

Winning the £50,000 prize brings an author international recognition, not to mention a dramatic increase in book sales.

Here is one version of the postmark:

and the other

Friday 10 October 2014

Special Covers from British Forces Postal Service Philatelic Bureau

The British Forces Post Office (BFPO) has had responsibility for all aspects of military mail, including philatelic matters, since its formation in 1882.  The British Forces Philatelic Service (BFPS) fundraises for Service charities through philately and is a not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers. BFPS was specially set-up to ensure that the Forces Philatelic Bureau survives and thrives.

This summer the Bureau has produced a number of first day and commemorative covers which can be bought from it's website. Each cover has as a full colour design and a special informative insert often A4 size.  Signed covers are often available, at a small premium.  All are limited editions.

Trooping the Colour

Armed Forces Day 28 June 2014

70th Anniversary of D-Day and Operation Overlord - 6 June 2014

42 Engineer Regiment (Geographic) relocation - 21 June 2014

Great War Centenary - 28 July 2014

Britain Declares War - 4 August 2014

Red Arrows: 50 seasons - 30 September 2014

350th Anniversary of the Royal Marines - 28 October 2014

Thursday 9 October 2014

Remarkable Life - Joan Littlewood slogan now in use

The latest slogan postmark in the Remarkable Lives series is now in use for Joan Littlewood, who was born on 6 October 1914.

Littlewood was born in a working-class district of south London. She left the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art early, and was a founder of the agit-prop-inspired Theatre Union in Manchester. After the Second World War, aiming to bring a fresh kind of theatre to a new audience, the company toured the UK and Europe as Theatre Workshop before settling in 1953 at the run-down Theatre Royal in London’s East End.

She revolutionised British theatre after the Second World War by making the classics immediate and by turning raw material relevant to its time into productions of international acclaim. Chief among them was the eye-opening First World War entertainment Oh What a Lovely War.

The postmark follows the usual patterns and is believed to have started on Friday 3 October for delivery on 6th.  These examples from Jubilee Mail Centre and Nottingham Mail Centre show the two different layouts normally seen

This example from Chester and N Wales MC shows the reverse layout normally applied to the right side of square envelopes (where the machinery has aligned the stamp to the top left corner).

UPDATE 15 October:
Royal Mail's press release shows this image confirms that
The postmark will appear on mail delivered nationwide from Monday 6th October - the date she was born – to Saturday 11th October