Friday 26 February 2016

Royal Mail apologise for the late arrival of the train at Swindon....

Yesterday marked 175th anniversary of the birth of the railway works in Swindon and the day was marked in the town with a day of celebrations, as reported on ThisisWiltshire
One of their initiatives came to fruition on Thursday with the revealing of a commemorative stamp by Royal Mail Heritage bearing the words Swindon 175.
STEAM was chosen as the perfect venue to unveil the stamp.It features a picture of a Dean Single Locomotive from the GWR’s Achilles Class, which was built at the railway works in Swindon between 1891 and 1899.
The new stamp was to be dispensed from Post and Go machine A010 which has been selling Machin head and Union Flag faststamps with the STEAM GWR inscription.  From yesterday the inscription Swindon 175 was added.

Unfortunately due to problems with Royal Mail's new computer system at Tallents House the Heritage Transport locomotive-only rolls were not delivered on time, and not until after lunch were the crowds (and collectors) able to but the new stamp. Swindon News shows STEAM’s Ian Surtees with Royal Mail’s Post and Go machine.

A work-around solution was found for people buying when the event started.  They bought Machins with the new inscription, which were then taken by the people manning the machine, to be replaced by Locomotive stamps with the right session numbers etc.  These are to be sent to the buyers through the post - would be nice if the postage was paid with Steam GWR Swindon 175 stamps, wouldn't it?
(It is to be hoped that ALL the Machins were retained so that none appear on the market, as this inscription is only supposed tobe on the Locomotive and Union Flag stamps.)

Thanks to Chris, Bob, Malcolm, and Andrew for the story as it happened, and for pictures.

I will be producing a limited number of Maximum Cards with the Locomotive stamps and the special postmark using Beric's card of the Didcot Railway Centre Great Western TPO Coach 814 built at Swindon.

Thursday 25 February 2016

Winton, Ryder, Rowntree three of the household names on British Humanitarians stamps.

As expected, Sir Nicholas Winton is one of the six people honoured in the British Humanitarians stamp set to be issued on 15 March 2016.

Although his story was not well known until 1988, Winton was then dubbed him the "British Schindler" by the British press.  On his death last year a campaign was launched for him to be honoured with a stamp by Royal Mail - the Czech Republic had already accorded him this honour.

Sue Ryder, Lady Cheshire, is well-known for care homes, hospices, and day care facilities, funded in part by many high street charity shops.

The Rowntree name is best known for the manufacture of chocolate products, but the wealth created by that business established several charitable foundations. Outside his business activities Rowntree is perhaps best known for being a champion of social reform.


There are six stamps in the set: larger pictures of the whole set, more biography, and first day postmarks can be found on our website.

Monday 22 February 2016

Post and Go Changes at The Postal Museum

Never a dull moment at the BPMA or Postal Museum, but some may think things are becoming a touch tedious.

The Machin 1st class and 2nd class strips purchased on February 1st, the day of rebranding with the new logo, have the text inset to the right compared with similar strips purchased on 17 February when the new Postal Heritage Transport stamps were issued.

Several people have reported this, and thanks for this image, which shows the original on the right and the realignment on the left:

Several readers also reported that it was not possible to buy anything other than 1st class 100g Postal Heritage Transport stamps from machine A001 at the Postal Museum.  Museum staff assured buyers that this was not a mistake.

A Royal Mail spokesman later said that this move was designed to save money for collectors.  They were told firmly that collectors are quite capable of making up their own mind what to spend money on and how much! 

Collectors of the Transport stamps at Stampex were able to buy
- set of 6 x 1st, price £3.78
- set of 6, one of each value, price £7.68
- set of 36: all values in all designs, price £46.08
Few collectors feel the compulsion to buy more than one of these - save perhaps for one of the two more expensive options plus a bureau pack.

Collectors don't need nannying by Royal Mail, especially not at the same time as they are selling an unnecessary miniature sheet at twice the face value of the stamps it contains.

Friday 19 February 2016

British Postage Rates largely unchanged in 2016 review.

Collectors and dealers alike will be pleased to know that postage rates will be generally unchanged in the 2016 Tariff Change review this spring.  The rates take effect from 29 March 2016.

Most airmail rates and inland premium rates remain unchanged.

2nd class, 1st class, 2nd Large, 1st Large basic rates all increase by 1p.
The Worldwide Postcard, Worldwide 10g and Europe 20g rate rises by 5p.

2nd class
1st class
2nd Large 100g
1st Large 100g
Postcard airmail
Europe 20g air
World 10g air
International Economy 10g

There are small increases in some international small parcels, although some rates are unchanged.

The prices for International Tracked, International Signed, and International Tracked and Signed Large Letters are reduced as are some Small Parcels.

The full list of rates can be found in a pdf of the rates leaflet here.

Although Royal Mail have not confirmed anything yet, there will certainly be new Machin and probably Country Definitives for the £1.05 value.  There will not be a surface mail stamp as far as we know.  This in welcome contrast to last year's £14 bundle of new rate definitives.

Sunday 14 February 2016

More New Machin Security Stamps - the list grows!

Even as this was in draft, news came in of even more new Machin definitive stamps or variants on last year's stamps.  So first a summary of what we have had so far this year.  

Following a suggestion from MachinManiac Larry, I have changed my terminology.  PBP now refers to PLAIN backing paper and SBP to SECURITY backing paper.

2015 Year Codes   (stamps in [ ] brackets not yet in stock)

2931R.5 - 2nd class coil - MRIL - reported used, then mint

2911B.5a - 2nd class business sheet MBIL on security security backing paper (SBP)

[2931.5a] - 2nd class book of 12 MTIL on SBP

[2936.5a] - 1st class red book of 12 MTIL on SBP

[2914B.5a] - 1st class red business sheet MBIL on SBP (no picture yet)

3745a  -  1st class amethyst purple book of 6 on SBP [O15R]

[2937.5a] - 1st Large book of 4 on SBP (no picture yet)

2016 Year Codes (M16L unless otherwise stated)

2913.6 - 2nd Large counter sheet printed 15/01/16 - plain backing paper (PBP) (see below)

3002.6 - 2p counter sheet printed 12/01/16 - PBP (see below)

3010.6 - 10p counter sheet printed 11/01/16 - PBP  (see below)

3133.6  - £1.33 counter sheet  08/01/16 - PBP

3744.6 - 1st class amethyst counter sheet printed 21/01/16 - PBP  [O16R] (see below)

We have stocks of some of these, in some cases very small stocks and only singles; we hope for sheets to arrive soon which will allow us to break out cylinder and date blocks.  Some booklets we have no cylinders but hope for them to arrive soon.

Last year I reported 5 new stamps (plus the Alice in Wonderland booklet) by 7 March.  This year we have 5 stamps with 2016 year codes, plus 7 more printed backing paper variants with last year codes.  Fortunately there are none scheduled for release at Stamps, but who knows what we may find on the Royal Mail stand that haven't already been found in Post Office branches and supermarkets ! ?

Locomotive Post and Go Stamp Marks Swindon 175 Celebrations

As predicted, the Locomotive single-design Post and Go Faststamp rolls will be in use at
Swindon's Steam GWR Museum with a special additional inscription.  According to the Royal Mail press release:

Post and Go machine A010 at STEAM GWR will carry the locomotive design from the RM Heritage set from 25 February 2016 to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of Swindon Works.  The stamp will carry the underprint ‘Swindon 175’ together with the standard ‘STEAM GWR’ identifier. The underprint will run until the end of the year.

UPDATE 15 February 2016
A special postmark (reference 13748) has been announced for the first day of this inscription, and can be obtained from the London Special Handstamp Centre on any stamps/covers (see Postmark Bulletin for instructions)

Happy Valentines - new slogan postmark

Royal Mail's latest exhortation, no doubt fully supported by the Greetings Card Association, is about St Valentine's Day today.  New slogans have been in use since 8 February, thanks to several people who have sent pictures.

Bristol Mail Centre 8 February

and Jubilee MC 12 February


Thursday 11 February 2016

Crazy Australia Stamps Update ! Expensive kiloware!

An update on the Australian Emergency 30c stamps from Adelaide.  

Before you look at the answer which I have added to the original post, what would you think this single piece from kiloware.  Used on the first day of availability, 6 January 2016, cut quite close.

Remember this cover, which is not first day, sold for A$1694.58 - £842!!!

Here's the original report - there's money down-under, for the right thing!

Monday 8 February 2016

Post and Go machine M001 had a life before BFPO

When Royal Mail announced that Post and Go machine M001 was being installeed at RAF Northolt's BFPO facility, some people asked where it had been before that.   The IAR website is silent on the subject, showing no 'history' on the relevant page.

So it happens that a complete coincidence has led to my being able to reveal the answer and show an example.  As you can see, these were purchased on 16 March 2015, at a time when the machines at Crewe and Bradford North were printing the location on their stamps.  This stopped on 30 March when rates increased.

The collectors strip had a top value of Worldwide 60g.  As you can see from this 1st class stamp, the location is Wheatstone House -

and as you can see from the receipt, this is in Swindon.

(Both images are from a photo which I have enhanced.)

A scan image of the purchases after the rate increase:


Wheatstone House is the base for ROMEC, Royal Mail's facilities management company, but there is (or was) also a Delivery Office there, because RM had adverts for postmen/women-drivers there.  On the other hand the local newspaper said that the DO was closing with relocation nearby, so only those really in the know can explain.

Anyway, my contact says that the machine was located at the training centre part of Wheatstone House and was accessible to anyone visiting the site, from outside contractors to postal staff. 
Apparently it did take cash but changed to card-only in early March.

After the tariff increase on 30 March the caption was removed.  The stamps I have seen from this period are from session 0085, so there were not that many transactions in the intervening period.  (On the other hand, session 0085 shows stamp numbers exceeding 150, so plenty were bought at that time.)

So, if the stamps were being bought on a regular basis by people who wanted to post letters, why have none appeared in kiloware?  One would expect that at least one would have shown up somewhere?  Or maybe sales were really very slow.   Maybe some people bought them as souvenirs of their training course??  (Stranger things have happened!)

There is an earlier mention of M001 on the oh-so-inconsistent IAR website, though this does not tie in with the previously mentioned kiosk history:
M001 on the move

M001, the first of the new Royal Mail Enquiry Office kiosks is being moved from its location in Wheatstone House to an Enquiry Office to help with the Christmas rush.

A site survey is being carried out this week, and we will confirm venue and installation date shortly.
No indication that Wheatstone House is in Swindon, and it never did turn up in 'an Enquiry Office'. My guess is that that move did not happen, and it was eventually removed for transfer to BFPO after servicing.

This official statement from Royal Mail (for which many thanks!) tells the story in more detail and accuracy (dates updated 25 February):

Machine M001 was installed in Wheatstone House on 10 February 2015 The primary purpose was as a development machine for the Enquiry Office Upgrade Project where new features could be tested prior to going live in offices. The machine never took cash – there is no facility to do so. Wheatstone House was chosen because it is the base for Royal Mail Engineering (as opposed to ROMEC) who undertake the various business approvals for any new equipment. The machine was available for use by staff and visitors but only as a straightforward stamp vending facility.

The overprint was removed, along with Crewe and Bradford, following feedback from collectors, so that the same stamps could be obtained from any enquiry office site (ignoring the print string variants). Therefore stamps, with and without the identifier are in the marketplace.

The machine was removed in October 2015 ( I don’t have an exact date) as there was no further requirement for it following approvals of its new features. It was then refurbished and was lined up to go to another enquiry office but the project is holding on five machines at present. M001 was therefore held in store for the period prior to installation at BFPO Northolt on 27 January 2016.

Have you ever seen a Post and Go stamp from machine M001 in 2015, mint, used, on eBay or actual?  Dates and session numbers will be most useful.  

Friday 5 February 2016

First stamp booklet with backing paper print - from last year.

Following on from the Walsall-printed 2nd class Business Sheet (reported here) we can now show the first booklet reported on security backing paper (also printed by Walsall).

GW has sent this image of the Long To Reign 6x 1st booklet, with O15R year code.  These ought to be fairly widespread but without knowing the size of the printing, it is impossible to know whether it will be plentiful.

Further printing with O16R year code will surely appear later this year and those will also have the printing on the backing paper, but it may be that the O15R supplies will not be common.

UPDATE 7 February 2016
2nd class booklets of 12 and 1s Large booklets of 4 have now been found with the new backing. Details are:

6x1st purple - packing date 06/01/16 and 12/01/16
12x2nd - packing date 23/11/15
4x1st - packing date 21/12/15

All have 2015 year code, and have the more recent duller phosphor. 

Interesting to note that the Penny Red booklet sold on 18 February has no security printing on the backing cover.

Thursday 4 February 2016

We're Off! £1.33 counter sheet leads the way in new year Machin printings.

Although the 1st and 2nd class NVI counter sheets do get reprinted, there are so many other sources of these stamps - booklets, business sheets - and so many 1st class special stamps, that many Post Office branches don't need these basic values in sheets.  No surprise then that the first M16L printing to appear is the 20g Worldwide airmail stamp, the £1.33.

This has been found with a printing date of 08/01/16, demonstrating that production is sailing quite close to the wind as these are out in Post Office branches already.  Remember that De La Rue are moving stamp printing to Malta sometime this year so anything could happen!

Wednesday 3 February 2016

New Logo on Postal Museum Faststamps - But not without problems.

As could have been predicted, the production of new Post and Go Faststamps at the newly-branded Postal Museum (see earlier) wasn't without its problems.

The Museum opened on schedule at 10 am but no stamps were sold until 11.19am, apparently due to a problem with the way the logo was printed.  Nonetheless, on the stamps which were sold, the logo and text layout on the pictorial stamps is quite different to those on the Machins.  (Images from Chris, thanks also to Brian and Doug.)

Trelantis reports that year codes are: Brown Machin MA13, Union Flag Undated, Heraldic Lion MA15 and 2nd Class MA12.

I can only think this is deliberate, to allow for extra text to be added, when needed, on the Machins.  This would preclude any additional inscription on the pictorial stamps, such as the various Transport stamps in the Postal Heritage set, which may be used singly at the BPMA to accompany different exhibitions during the Royal Mail 500 year.

UPDATE 3 February.  Thanks to DP for this image of the actual new handstamp:

Brian reports that the new logo has also been extended to other merchandise, and they also have a different logo for Post and Go.  This appears on their website in two forms. The 'negative' form is essentially transparent and I have coloured it so that it shows.  It does seem odd to to have two different forms, and have the text in two different styles.

[For those reading on some mobile devices the lower logo may appear squashed and out of proportion: that is a problem with the display.  On desktop it appears in approximately the same dimensions as the upper one.]

Tuesday 2 February 2016

Burns Night Slogan Postmark returns

As last year, Royal Mail used a slogan postmark last week to remind us of Burns Night.

The postmark appears to have been used only on Saturday 23 January for Monday 25th delivery.  This is a particularly good example from Exeter sent by Robert, aided by the position of the stamp!

It also exists in the other format, this example from Manchester

By the way, this is post number 1000 - thanks to all the people who have made this possible!