Wednesday 30 March 2016

Royal Mail moving forward with IT solutions.

Press Release extract 30 March 2016

"Royal Mail today announces it has acquired Intersoft Systems and Programming Ltd (Intersoft*) a provider of delivery management software for international parcel shipments.

"The acquisition complements the purchases of data management and labelling provider NetDespatch and delivery software developer Storefeeder, further enhancing Royal Mail’s in-house IT capability. It underpins Royal Mail’s objective to provide customers with flexible, integrated, technologically advanced solutions that make shipping parcels easier."

* Not to be confused with any other company of a similar name: the first hit on Google was an Indonesian software company!

Sadly this in-house IT capability won't affect the problems at Tallents House, which continue although one correspondent wrote that they had been told that RM were taking steps to recruit and retain more customer services staff there. 

The latest comment on my earlier post about their problems raises some interesting points from the overseas perspective - waiting nearly an hour on the phone and paying in advance for stamps that don't arrive is more of a problem for them than for UK customers.

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Shakespeare and The Queen - new stamp issues

Today I've added pages for the next two stamp issues to our website.

The 400th annivesary of the death of William Shakespeare is marked not on the anniversary,
which is supposed to be on the anniversary of his birth (23rd April) because that would clash with the next issue, but on 5 April.

I haven't written much about the 10 x 1st class stamps on the new webpage, and I'm not going to here, because I think they are ghastly! 

The 90th Birthday of Queen Elizabeth II is marked by a set of 6 stamps, a miniature sheet, a prestige stamp book and a retail booklet to be issued on 21 April.  Another retail booklet will be issued on 9 June.  The image of the miniature sheet (and hence one of the PSB panes, and the retail booklet) will not be released until the day of issue, but I think it will have wide appeal among fans of our royalty.  Once again for a 'royal' issue, the special stamps (3 x 1st class and 3 x £1.52) are a mix of monochrome for the older pictures and colour for the newer.

The April and June retail booklets each contain two stamps from the miniature sheet.  The PSB also contains the miniature sheet.  The design will be released to the media early, for publication on 21st.  This is why the stamps are not being distributed early.  Even registered dealers are not getting them to usual timescales unless they are for bulk FDC production.  

Collectors who want to produce their own first day covers can send them to one of the Special Handstamp Centres for any FD postmark for a period after they obtain the stamps (either from a PO or from Tallents House).

ANZAC Commemorative Stamp Sheet and Generic Smiler Sheet for New York 2016

Royal Mail have issued pictures of the next Commemorative Sheet and Exhibition Smilers Sheet.

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was a First World War army corps of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and operated during the Battle of Gallipoli. General William Birdwood commanded the corps, which comprised troops from the First Australian Imperial Force and 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The corps was disbanded in 1916 following the Allied evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula and the formation of I Anzac Corps and II Anzac Corps.

The sheet recognises the role played by Anzac troops in WWI on the Centenary of the first official ANZAC day which was first observed in Australia in 1916.  The 1st class Poppy stamps are attached to 10 different labels depicting various aspects of the Anzac regiments.

Price £14.95  Royal Mail product code AV042

These special postmarks have been announced for this sheet, available from the London (13796) and Cardiff (13802) Special Handstamp Centres (updated 5 April 2016).

The World Stamp Show NY2016 will take place in New York City from 28 May to 4 June 2016.  Royal Mail will be present and will issue an exhibition generic sheet on the opening day.  Following the style of previous exhibiton generic sheets it contains 20 x 1st class Hello stamps with images of New York on the attached labels.  Unusually the labels in the first column form a composite picture with the Statue of Liberty (emblem of the show) pictured.  The self-adhesive sheet is printed by International Security Printers (Cartor) in Litho.  The price is £13.30.

Royal Mail's Post and Go machines will also be at the show selling, among others, the New York skyline stamp from a single-design roll.

UPDATE 16 May: Postmarks available (in the UK) coinciding with the New York show:

The Broadway postmark (13827) is available from Midland Special Handstamp Centre, and the Lincoln one (13830) from Northern Special Handstamp Centre.

Monday 21 March 2016

Post and Go Mail Coach solo stamp to be offered at The Postal Museum

Museum E-news LONDON, 17 March 2016

"The Postal Museum is pleased to announce that from Friday 1 April, it will be exclusively offering a digitally printed version of the Mail Coach stamp from the Royal Mail Heritage: Transport Post and Go set. 

"This will replace the full set which will be available until Thursday 31 March and will be available in all values.

"The stamps can be purchased from the A001 Post and Go machine located at Freeling House, The Postal Museum’s present offices.  The issue will be available from 10am."

This is a Postal Museum announcement: so far Royal Mail have not confirmed the news.

So... while on the one hand Royal Mail are promising that they will make life easier for the collector, and less expensive, the Post and Go output continues unabated.  Maybe they don't understand that as this is a digital print it is philatelically different, never mind what printing their may be on it.

And, unless Royal Mail also make the digital mailcoach stamp available, the stamp will only be available at this stage from the Postal Museum and only with their additional inscription.

But at least the decision made when the set of Postal Heritage Transport stamps were sold at the Museum, ie that only 1st class stamps would be available, has been reversed.  The Mailcoach stamp will be available in all 6 denominations (click on the image for an enlargement), enabling collectors to buy a single 64p stamp, or a whole set.

Sunday 20 March 2016

Which is the odd one out?

As previously announced, the theme for PostEurop's 2016 Europa issue is 'Think Green'.  The design from Cyprus Post artist, Ms Doxia Sergidou, was chosen amongst 24 outstanding entries.

“The impact of our activities on the Environment is an area of high priority for European postal operators and the multitude of initiatives across Europe inspired the theme linked to Europe’s ecology - Think Green.  Once again the designers pulled through taking on this challenging theme and produced some magnificent entries.  A lot of thoughts have gone into the designs and we would like this special 60th issue of EUROPA stamp to help build a legacy for the future generations” exclaimed Anita Häggblom, Chair of the PostEurop Stamps and Philately working group from Ǻland Post.

Here are the interpretations from a number of member countries: which is the odd one out?

A number of commentators have said that they dislike the cluttered design.  Well, I can see what they mean, but at least this is design not just a stock photograph of a bridge, or a bird, or other wildlife. 

The stamp motif is the work of Ms Doxia Sergidou who explains that “the main purpose was to show that it is in our hand to create a greener planet.  Thus, I have placed a hand on the top side of the stamp which basically represents anyone of us, actively replacing the grey colour (the environmental pollution) with the green colour which symbolizes environmental living and hope, and in turn inspire us for a better world.”
“The left side of the stamp represents the polluted side and is painted grey showing us the tremendous disaster caused by the industries, automotive vehicles, power generation and inefficient waste.  It also shows how the human activities are negatively influencing the environment. In contrast on the right side of the stamp, is the green side which shows us how using renewable energy resources, acting in a more environmental way and becoming more environmentally aware could positively affect the environment. This will not only have a positive effect in our generation, but it will also help the future ones to co-exist in harmony” adds Ms Sergidou.

Friday 18 March 2016

More new Machin and Country definitive stamps - tariff and other variants

This round-up of new stamps received recently starts with the five £1.05 stamps to be issued on 22 March, and then moves on to newly discovered Machins, some from last year's cylinders with Security Backing Paper, and some 2016 versions.  [Updated 24/03/16]

The four country definitives are in the usual designs but with one major difference this year - I wonder if you can spot it, on the Scotland stamp:

For the first time, the face value on this Scotland design is not in silver, but reversed-out white.  From the outset there was an inconsistency in the country definitives. For these designs, the England had a silver head and white value, Northern Ireland and Wales had a white head and value, and Scotland had a silver head and value.  Now all we need is consistency in the typeface and we will be getting somewhere!  UPDATE 18 May: Not noticed at the time, the Queen's head on the England and Scotland stamps is in grey: there is no silver plate.

The country stamps are produced by Cartor in litho, in sheets of 25 as usual.  The Wales and Northern Ireland stamps seem to be produced from the same cylinder, equal quantities being produced for each, with Northern Ireland in columns 1 + 2 and Wales in columns 3 + 4.   On the other cylinder, the England stamps are in columns 1, 2 + 3 and the Scotland in column 4.  This may not indicate that a small number of stamps are produced for Scotland: if the same number are produced as for the other smaller countries it would mean that 3 times as many were produced for England as for the others, presumably reflecting demand.  (Click on the images to see enlargements.)

The new £1.05 Machin is also in sheets of 25, printed by De La Rue in gravure.  There are 12 sheets to a cylinder, and the printing date seen so far is 20/01/16 (from Tallents House) and 19/01/16 (from PO branches).  The colour is very reminiscent of the 30p and 42p Machins, described by SG as 'deep olive-grey'.

In the Philatelic Bulletin at the time, Royal Mail described the colour of the 42p as 'sage', and I believe that was their description of the 18p and 30p (shown below) as well.  Now scanning is always an inexact science and what you see is largely down to your monitor, so how should the colour of the £1.05 be described?  It looks very similar to the others, so why have Royal Mail adopted a new series of colour names for existing colours?  This is now described as - I kid you not - 'Gooseberry Green', see the sheet picture below.

Note, on reflection, and showing how quickly one can forget recent events, this appears to be the same colour as the 2011 £1.65 described by Royal Mail as 'sage' on the sheets, and by Gibbons as 'grey-olive'.  

Now the reprints of existing stamps, starting with pictures of those that I didn't show in the last blog update.

1st class business sheet M15L MBIL code, security backing paper.

2nd class business sheet M16L* and 1st class book* of 6 O16R reprints, both with security backing paper, and new tariff £1.05 counter sheet (M16L) with plain backing paper.

*This new 6 x 1st booklet replaces the O15R version with security backing paper, the first replacement issue so far.  It remains to be seen how good supplies of the 2015 SBP version are, but it will be important for collectors and dealers to keep on top of these, and to ensure collections are complete before stocks are exhausted.  Similarly the 2nd class business sheet M15L SBP version may not exist in large numbers.

Those not yet in our webshop will be added as quickly as possible.  New additions are here highlighted thus. Whole booklets will be added as soon as we have sufficient stock.

2015 Year Codes  

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

2911B.5a - 2nd class business sheet MBIL on 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 

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

2937.5a - 1st Large book of 4 on SBP

2016 Year Codes (M16L unless otherwise stated)

2911B.6 - 2nd class business sheet MBIL on security backing paper (SBP)

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

3002.6 - 2p counter sheet printed 12/01/16 - PBP

3010.6 - 10p counter sheet printed 11/01/16 - PBP

3105 - £1.05 counter sheet printed 20/01/16 new tariff - PBP

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

3744.6 - 1st class amethyst purple counter sheet printed 21/01/16 - PBP  [O16R]

3745a.6  -  1st class amethyst purple book of 6 on SBP [O16R]

Unless I have missed any, that is 15 new stamps this year, already.

Post and Go Update: Scottish Congress, New York 2016 Exhibition - and MORE navy museums

From Royal Mail's Post and Go News website

87th Scottish Congress
Post and Go machines A011 and A012 will be attending the 87th Scottish Congress at the Dewar’s Centre in Perth on 15/16 April 2016. Machines will vend the Heraldic Lion, Machin and Union Flag designs with an ‘87th Scottish Congress 2016’ overprint. Jersey machine JE01 will have the same overprint on the Crest of Jersey and Jersey Flag designs. [see note 1]

World Stamp Show NY 2016
The Royal Mail stand will have A011 and A012 machines accompanied by Jersey’s JE01 machine. Also at the show will be Gibraltar’s GI01 and Guernsey’s GG01 machines. The New York skyline design from the Sea Travel set, issued in September 2015, and the Union Flag design will be vended with a ‘World Stamp Show NY2016’ overprint. Royal Mail will be offering GB printed versions of the show overprint from Tallents House. Unlike recent single design reels, the New York skyline stamp was produced in gravure alongside the original set and pre-dated the digital production capability.

Static Sites
Royal Mail is pleased to announce that two museums will be added to the line-up of Royal Navy Museums. Locations and installation timings will be advised in due course. Both sites will carry the same ‘Royal Navy’ static identifier and logo as A002.

1. Scottish Congress Perth stamps may be ordered from the ASPS website as usual: see 24 February entry and use the interactive pdf form.

2. The New York 2016 International Stamp Exhibition has been on the calendar for many years, so it was natural that Royal Mail would plan to take the Post and Go machines there.  It was a surprise to many collectors that the 'Sea Travel' set did not show ocean liners or other shipping but the views from the liners.  This, of course, paved the way for Royal Mail to then use a single design at the NY2016 show, and these were printed by the traditional method in gravure.  Maybe the cost of that short run highlighted for Royal Mail that there might be a cheaper way - the stamps for use in Qatar's Post and Go machines, and Gibraltar's Christmas stamps were printed by a digital process, so it made sense for the Hong Kong solo reels (which seem to have been a late addition to the programme) to be similarly printed.

3. In his Machin Watch column in the March edition of Gibbons Stamp Monthly John Deering outlined his Post and Go ponderings, with thoughts on 'inscriptions and the future'.  In this well-considered article John draws a distinction between Philatelically relevant inscriptions (such as at major exhibitions and the Postal Museum), but he also writes:
"With the Armed Forces having a direct link to our monarch I feel comfortable enough with their museum machines and their inscriptions."
But he doesn't like the latest Swindon installation:
"Things took an unwelcome turn in August 2015 when a machine... was put into the Museum of the Great Western Railway in Swindon.  'Unwelcome' because most advocates of Post and Go and enthusiasts of inscriptions seem to think that this is a step too far. Unlike the other locations, the GWR has no direct association to our hobby, seems less relevant, and... is entering into truly unwarranted territory."
And now we are getting two more Naval Museum machines!  According to wikipedia, the only parts of the museum which don't yet have a machine are:
  • HMS Victory, Portsmouth Dockyard, Hampshire
  • Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower, Gosport, Hampshire
  • HMS Trincomalee, Hartlepool
Surely they won't put a machine on HMS Victory, which is within Portsmouth dockyard, so it probably means Gosport and Hartlepool.

I totally disagree with John Deering that the Swindon GWR Museum machine is unnecessary. To my mind NONE of the machines are in any way justified.  A connection with the monarch, as head of Britain's armed forces, means nothing. 

I doubt very much whether the tourist visitors are buying more than a very small fraction of these stamps. The bulk of the sales will be to you, the collectors and dealers.  Tourists - especially overseas visitors - are more likely to buy the stamps produced by Universal Mail UK which are already produced for HMS Victory!

There can be very little money to be made by the museums from the sale of Post and Go stamps.  Even when selling by mail order at a price higher than face value, the labour costs involved in getting the stamps and processing the orders cannot be worthwhile unless they get a very high proportion of the face value of the stamps, something which is most unlikely (and which Royal Mail is not likely to reveal). 

If Royal Mail want to develop Post and Go as a product then there are several avenues they could take.  It is too late now, but the annual remembrance Poppy stamp could have been created from the ones issues in the World War 1 commemoration stamp issues.

For commemorations, a design used for a commemorative stamp
could also be used on short-term Post and Go stamps, as has been done in Spain and France.  La Poste also produces pre-stamped envelopes with commemorative designs matching adhesive stamps, and apparently these are widely used.

Similarly the Post Office self-service kiosks could sell stamps with designs appropriate to their location, as Universal Mail UK has been doing for years.

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Direct Mail use of pre-printed Machin PPI

More companies which use direct mail are using the 2nd class Machin PPI format now, the latest being Laithwaites Wines.  These were originally mentioned back in September when the trial period was announced.

From this example it is clear that the PPI area is whiter than the rest of the envelope or on a label, but it doesn't appear to be a label.  Thanks to Tom, Adrian and Robert for reporting this latest use.  
§   There are still no reports of the alternative stamp image, which was one of the two Alice in Wonderland 2nd class, nor any 1st class examples.

This is reminiscent of the Sunday Times Wine Club mailshot which brought us the first self-adhesive security coil in 2010
§ My thanks to John Enfield for reminding me that two examples of the Alice in Wonderland were shown in the Journal of the British Postmark Society.  C9 10002 was initially used on mailings by Holiday Property Bond.  As with the Machin version, shades vary.

March Slogan Postmarks

The advance publicity for slogan postmarks, sometimes relevant to stamp issues, continues its erratic progress with Royal Mail still not managing to get news of Operational Slogans into the Postmark Bulletin, even though the decision to use them must have been taken some time ahead of actual use. (Updated 17 March)

A press release was added to Royal Mail's media webpage yesterday (15 March) although it must have been sent to the press at least the day before, announcing the issue of the British Humanitarians set of stamps.  
From Tuesday 15 March until Monday 21 March each of the humanitarians will be recognised by an individual postmark.
As usual this means "mail delivered on ..."  as we have examples of the Nicholas Winton slogan from Bristol on 14 March and the Sue Ryder slogan from Swindon on 15 March (2nd class, delivered next day!)

Nicholas Winton 1909 - 2015

Sue Ryder 1924 - 2000

[Update 18/3/16] Alternative layout from North West Midlands MC

John Boyd Orr 1880 - 1971 South Midlands MC 16-03-2016 (Update 17/3/16 - thanks Mike)

Eglantyne Jebb 1876-1928 - Both versions now supplied by John G, though neither very clear. Two different dates.  Peterborough MC 16-03-2016 and Romford MC 17.03.16 (updated 21/3/16)

Joseph Rowntree 1836-1925 South East Anglia MC 18-03-2016
(Update 20/3/16 - thanks Mike M.)

Josephine Butler 1828-1906 Exeter MC 19-03-2016 (thanks to Robert1943)

We've already mentioned the ONE YOU slogan used in conjunction with a National Health Service campaign to get us to be fitter, or more healthy, but I'm repeating the earlier one here (South Midlands, 5 March 2016), together with the alternative layout (Gatwick 11 March 2016).

The One You postmark is not shown in a press release on the Royal Mail media webpage, and neither are any of these, in no particular order as we don't know the period of use.

Don't forget Mother's Day 06 March 2016  from North West Midlands on Thursday March 3rd, and from Mount Pleasant on Friday March 4th in the alternative layout without the zero preceding '6 March'.

The Happy St David's Day slogan was actually used at the end of February but is included here because the relevant day is 1st March.  No idea whether this was used nationwide or only in Wales or only on mail addressed to Wales.   This is apparently used from SE Wales MC, but could have been from Birmingham, the other location using the Child Rescue Alert slogan.

Dydd gwyl Dewi hapus 2016
Happy St David's Day 2016

March 3 was World Book Day, and this slogan was in widespread use.  Shown is a SE Wales example, and the alternative layout from Mount Pleasant, both used on 2 March for mail delivered on the actual day.

The latest to arrive is for British Science Week, once again to 10 days extended from 11-20 March, and so running in partial parallel with the Humanitarians slogans.  This one from Bristol Mail Centre 12 March.

British Science Week 11-20 March 2016

and one from South Midlands MC 14 March

Update 23 March - Happy Easter!
One format from Peterborough Mail Centre and the other from Lancashire and South Lakes, both 21 March.

Thanks to Trevor and members of Stampboards for the news and many images, Mike C, Mike M, John G and Robert1943 for the latest updates.

More will be added as the month continues.