Thursday 27 August 2015

New Horizon Labels being trialled around the country

The new format Horizon labels first used at Europhilex in May have been reported in trial use from several parts of the country.

This example used from Edinburgh on 20 July has been provided to me.  I'd be interested in having pictures of other examples - and if they are in use in your area, please email me!

UPDATE 1 September 2015
Richard (see comments) reports that:

"national distribution of the new labels starts from Monday 14th Sept and "go live" is Monday 21st Sept."

It will be interesting to see whether the design has changed at all (as was suggested to me at Europhilex), or whether the black text will be changed.  As the latter would probably involve a complete change of printers on the 11,500-strong branch network, I don't think that will happen yet.

Autumn Stampex Post and Go stamps - no news yet!

With the holiday season more or less over you will be aware that Autumn Stampex is fast
approaching, with the Sea Travel Post and Go stamps being issued on 16 September.

Unfortunately we are still awaiting news from Royal Mail as to exactly what will be available from the machines at the exhibition, other than the Sea Travel stamps.

My guess is that, with HM The Queen passing Queen Victoria's 'longest reign' milestone on 9 September, the additional inscription on either Machin or Flag (or both) will be

Long to Reign
Over Us

More news here just as soon as we get it from Royal Mail.

UPDATE 31 August.  I'm reminded that the Heraldic Lion stamp has been produced on a solo roll, to be used at the BPMA from September.  It may be that this will also be available (with a special inscription) at Stampex:this early blog entry.

Monday 24 August 2015

First special stamp for 2016 anounced - Sir Nicholas Winton

Sir Nicholas George Winton MBE was a British humanitarian was born in Hampstead in 1909, his parents having fled from Germany in 1907 changing their name from Wertheim to aid integration in British society.

He organized the rescue of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War, in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport (German for "children transportation"). He found homes for the children and arranged for their safe passage to Britain. The world found out about his work over 40 years later, in 1988. The British press dubbed him the "British Schindler".  He died on 1 July 2015.

Soon after his death a campaign was started, mainly from the Jewish population in the UK, to have his life commemorated on a special stamp.   On 24 August Royal Mail responded to the petition:

"Now we have consulted with his family, we are delighted to confirm our intention to feature Sir Nicholas on a stamp as part of a commemorative set, subject to the appropriate approvals, in 2016. The details will be confirmed in due course.

"One of the purposes of Royal Mail stamps is to honour those who have made important contributions to the UK, and every year we consider hundreds of subjects for inclusion. It is clear that Sir Nicholas Winton is a worthy candidate."

I expect this to be one stamp in a set of 10 x 1st class, on the same lines as Eminent Britons, Great Britons, Remarkable Lives, etc.

Sunday 23 August 2015


This year on September 9th Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will become the longest serving monarch of this country. Many territories have already announced stamps to mark the event, including Ascension Island, Bahamas, British Antarctic Territory, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Tristan da Cunha, Antigua, Barbados, Isle of Man, Papua New Guinea, Jersey etc, and Alderney which is issuing a single stamp with the extraordinarily avaricious face value of £10!

No commemoration is included in Royal Mail's announced programme, although many people have suggested that the gap in the programme in October is for just such a commemoration - albeit a month late.  In fact as far as the palace is concerned, this is a bit of a non-event, as the Daily Telegraph suggested in March:
Don’t expect a commemorative stamp. Forget gilded carriages, rows of painted faces along the Mall, cardboard periscopes in red, white and blue. There will be no Red Arrows fly-past, nor any salute of guns in Hyde Park or at the Tower of London; no concert or picnic or fireworks display to disturb the peace of Buckingham Palace gardens. Instead, according to royal aides, Wednesday September 9 2015 will be 'business as usual’. As far as the Palace is concerned, this is not a day for celebration.

However, in mid-July regular customers of Royal Mail were advised of future payments to be taken from their accounts - including one entitled "Long to Reign Over Us".

DF tells me of a recent exchange with Customer Services at Tallents House:

 "In the letter from Royal Mail it advises how much my debit card will be charged for the issue.  I telephoned to see if I could get a breakdown of costs and what would I be receiving.  They told me they don’t know much about it and not really sure – except information was still embargoed!! They suggested that as I had miniature sheets and Retail books on my standing order then I could assume I would be receiving these. I also mentioned that I had definitive stamps on standing order.  The reply was that this issue ‘maybe crosses over between commemorative and definitive’  So I asked whether there are any definitive stamps involved.  They didn't really know!!"  [Well think back to the Diamond Jubilee issue: the counter sheet definitives were not on automatic distribution to standing order customers, the Diamond Blue definitive replaced the gold, there was a miniature sheet and a press sheet. ]

Royal Mail's Postmark Bulletin last Friday (21 August) includes a number of special handstamps for 9 September.  This is not surprising - indeed it would be a surprise if the major cover producers did not mark the event with special covers.  But at the back of the Bulletin are three sets of official First Day postmarks, two being for the upcoming Stampex issues: Rugby World Cup and the Sea Travel faststamps.  Page 8 is captioned "The following first day of issue postmarks will be available for the Long To Reign Over Us stamps to be issued on 9 September 2015."  Page 11 includes the stamp programme for the year - but nothing is listed for 9 September !

In early August pictures appeared on the web of the Rugby World Cup retail booklet which included not the usual 1st class Machin definitive but a lavender-coloured version.

In mid-August PO branches received supplies of the new stamp in counter sheets and booklets.   You might have expected that these 'secret' stamps would be enclosed in opaque packaging with a clearly stated date for opening, but this was not the case as I have found in two branches, one in Wales and one in north Shropshire.

Not only were the stamps delivered to POs not properly 'protected' from sale, but they were actually placed on sale and were used before August 20th as these pictures, sent by regular contributors to this blog JF and RP, show.  I'm told that the counter sheet was offered because the PO branch had run out of red 1st class stamps.  UPDATE 26 Aug.  Richard reports (see comments) that there was "no special packaging and no indication of the date they were to be issued."

Although dealers have known about this for some months, Royal Mail intend that the issue will not receive mass-media publicity until the stamps are actually issued on 9 September.  That the Queen will break Queen Victoria's record will be the major news story in that morning's newspapers, radio and television and Royal Mail's aim is that they will get maximum publicity for their new stamps and other products at the same time.

Unfortunately because the news embargo is still in place I cannot provide full details of the products which will be used to mark this important event.  Poor distribution arrangements have meant that - as with many other special stamp issues - the stamps have been sold earlier than they should have been. For all the secrecy imposed on a few dealers it is the main retail distribution network and Royal Mail's own Postmark Bulletin that has leaked not just their existence but the stamps themselves at least three weeks before they are due.

We know that a degree of secrecy is necessary when a proposed stamp issue is the subject of intellectual property rights (such as for Dr Who).

But 'Long To Reign Over Us', begs the question, as the event was almost certain to be marked by the issue of stamps in this country, whether such secrecy was really necessary - and whether there will ever be an occasion for such a farce in the future.

UPDATE 28 August.  An important point for collectors of FDCs and maximum cards.  Mike asked:
As RM won't allow customers to place an order for items from this issue if you do not have them on regular order. Will they at least give collectors a prolonged window in which to send items for handstamps after the 9th when I assume one will be able to order stamps etc.?

    Yes - the usual conditions will apply as for 'fast-track' issues like the Olympics and earlier Rugby World Cup and Ashes Winners MS. I think collectors and dealers will have 28 days, but handstamp centres will be flexible especially if there are more handstamps announced after the stamps are issued.

August News Update - Post and Go Stamps and Slogan Postmarks

Thanks to a loyal band of reporters who have keep their eyes peeled while I have been away, I can report several pieces of Post and Go Faststamp, and special Slogan Postmark news.

Post and Go from Singpex - 14-19 August 2015.

Thanks to Chris for a picture of the 'GB' Singpex Faststamps sent out (early on 13 August) from Royal Mail Tallents House.  These have MA13 year code.   Mike reports that his GB supplies from Tallents House have undated Machins!  What a pity Tallents House can't be consistent: if you wanted one of each you would have to keep buying and take pot-luck that you got what you wanted.

UPDATE 26 August 2015: Thanks to Michael at cddstamps who went to Singapore and has allowed me to use his pictures of the stamps and machines at the exhibition.  (Click on the images to see larger versions.)

New Museum Location for Post and Go machine......

Royal Mail is pleased to announce that machine A010 will go live at the Steam GWR Museum in Swindon from 25 August 2015. Union Flag and Machin designs will be available with a ‘STEAM GWR’ identifier.   (Thanks to DF for this.)

UPDATE 24August:  The kiosk will be in the entrance to the museum and there is no charge for access. A series of events are planned with this kiosk throughout 2016 when the Museum celebrates Swindon175.

UPDATE 26 August 2015: Thanks to Bob and Chris for these pictures from Swindon (again, click on them for larger versions).  The Machins are MA13 and the flags undated.


.... and a new location in Guernsey

Machine GG02 will go live from 2 September at Envoy House in Guernsey and will carry the Guernsey Flag as well as the Union Flag. The identifier will be ‘ Envoy House’.  (Also from DF.)

Slogan Postmarks

Three better versions of the Edinburgh Fringe postmark first reported here.

Dorset and SW Hants basic version 10-08-2015

Nottingham Mail Centre 07.08.15 (Delivered by Royal Mail)

Plymouth and Cornwall 10.08.15 reverse format to an address in Wales, so with the bilingual 'Delivered by..' portion.

Coinciding with the issue of the Bees stamps, two versions of a slogan to promote their sale. Thanks to BM for these two.

BUZZ BUZZ / New Stamps / Explore British Bees / 

From Swindon Mail Centre 17-08-2015

and Bristol (BA,BS,GL,TA) Mail Centre 17.08.15.

The use of this would allow for first day covers to be produced with this slogan - did anybody manage to get a good clean example?

Friday 7 August 2015

Post and Go Stamps Singpex 2015

I received the news today, not yet on Royal Mail's website nor the IAR site, that (unlike for Essen) Royal Mail Tallents House will be selling 'GB' versions of the Post and Go stamps with the Exhibition inscription, but only in collectors strips.

The additional inscription will be

Singpex 2015
World Stamp Expo

As usual for exhibition issues, we won't be stocking these, or the ones from Singapore.  Tallents House stock codes are ZS036 for Machins and ZS037 for Union Flag.

Pictures of the labels will be added after the show.

Thursday 6 August 2015

Great Britain Stamp and postmark news update.

Before we go for our main summer break, a quick round up of news items that have been reported recently.

1.  BE reports that the Dog Awareness slogan postmark has been used at Chester Mail Centre in the last few days.  I'll add a picture when I have it.  Not the first time that Chester has been out of step - they were still celebrating the Royal Princess on 16 June!

1a. BE also provides a picture of this Edinburgh Fringe Festival slogan received today (7 August) from Peterborough Mail Centre -apparently used on 5 August.  According to Royal Mail's press release:
"The postmark will be applied to stamped UK mail from Friday 7 to Monday 31 August", ie delivered in that period, and thus used before.

2.  RW sent this picture of part of a Battle of Britain first day cover with the BoB slogan postmark: not easy to get, well done!

3.  The 1st class Machin from retail books of 12 has been found but we have no stocks (or pictures) yet.

4. Our website has been updated with two new pages for the September Stampex issues.

The Sea Travel Post and Go stamps will be issued on Wednesday 16 September (the first day) at Stampex from Royal Mail Series II machines and in Bureau packs, and at Post Office NCR self-service kiosks in branches around the country.  These will be available for all Inland and International Services except for 2nd class mail.  Something of a surprise, the stamps do not show the luxury liners that were expected, but the views from those vessels.

The other Stampex issue is usually on Thursday, but this time the Rugby World Cup special issue will be issued on Friday 18th, as that is the day when the opening match in the tournament is played.

On the Thursday, the Animals of World War I Commemorative Sheet will be available, and is shown below.

5.  We'll be back on 25th August, part of the time away searching for those elusive 12 x 1st Machin booklets, one of the last of this year's coded red stamps to find.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Royal Mail marches out another Commemorative Sheet for World War 1

As reported earlier a Commemorative sheet marking 200 years of Service by the Gurkhas will be issued on 20 August.  A month later, a further World War 1 commemorative sheet will be issued to coincide with Autumn Stampex, featuring Animals of the First World War.

This is a further sheet in Royal Mails series to commemorate the Centenary of WWI. It will be on sale from 17 September and is priced at £14.95.

Since ancient times, animals have proved themselves indispensable to the human race in times of war. In particular, horses – clad in armour bearing kings and emperors, military leaders and soldiers – have become the embodiment and symbol of warfare, able to adapt to changing conditions and be trained to out-manoeuvre new weapons and combat techniques.

Similarly, many other animals, such as dogs, mules, donkeys, carrier pigeons, camels, elephants, goats and birds, have played an essential role in transportation, communications, surveillance and gas detection, as well as in the boosting of morale. And never was this more true than during the First World War.

The self-adhesive sheet has 10 x 1st class Union Flag stamps each with a black and white label attached.

Column 1
Carrier pigeons played a key role in the war effort.  With a message cylinder strapped to its leg, a pigeon is about to be released from lofts in Sorrus, France, in June 1918.

Still wet from a swim across a canal, a dog delivers a message to a dog handler of the Royal Engineers Signal Service based near Nieppe Wood, France, in May 1918.

Pictured carrying injured soldiers to safety in India in 1917, camels also conveyed supplies, as well as being employed in a combat role by the Imperial Camel Corps.

Billy the dog was hospital pet at the St John Ambulance Brigade Hospital at Étaples, France. He is pictured with nurses awaiting a visit from Queen Mary in July 1917.

Animal mascots came in a variety of different species. The fox-cub mascot of No. 32 Squadron keeps a pilot company at Humières airfield, France, in 1918.

Column 2
Early in the war, cavalry was often used to protect the infantry from attack. The column of horsemen of the British Expeditionary Force arrives in Belgium before the Battle of Mons in August 1914.

Animal mascots helped to boost morale during wartime. A Lewis gunner plays with his regiment’s cat mascot in a trench near Cambrin, France, in February 1918.

To help protect their horses against the effects of poison gas, Royal Field Artillery gunners train them in gasmask drill near Mont-Saint Éloi, France, in May 1918.

On the home front, Jim was an Airedale terrier trained for coastguard duties. He gave warning of the approach of the first Zeppelin to raid the Kent coast in 1915.

Mules had to endure difficult conditions in the First World War. At the Battle of Pilckem Ridge in August 1917, the hardy animals transported shells through the mud.

UPDATE 26 August 2015.
Two special postmarks have been announced to coincide with the issue of this sheet.  
Ref 13564 can be obtained from the London Special Handstamp Centre.
Ref 13575 can be obtained from the Wales & West Special Handstamp Centre, Cardiff.