Friday 19 August 2016

The Last Post - until November.

As mentioned at the beginning of the month....

.... we are taking a break to recharge the batteries.  

The webshop is closed until November, the website is updated as far as the mid-September issues.

There will be no more posts from me on the blog until mid-November. 

Comments made in the meantime may be authorised and added. 

In the same way as he did before, for my enforced absence through injury, John may add some news supplied by our regular contributors if time permits.

Thank you for your patience and understanding, we look forward to serving you again before Christmas, and in 2017.

New Country Definitive Stamp printing brings more grey heads and no silver

A new printing of the 1st class Scotland and 2nd class England country definitives was made on 19 May 2016.  As with the 2nd class Scotland the silver cylinder for the Queen's head and (in the case of the Scotland stamp) value has been dropped, and these details now appear in grey.

Unlike the 2nd class Scotland, which was printed in all four panes on the sheets, the four panes on the latest printing are shared, with the Scotland 1st being in the left column, and the England 2nd being in the right column, ie two panes each on a master sheet.

The cylinder numbers are once again C1, phosphor, yellow, magenta, cyan and black, reading downwards.  The single phosphor band on the 2nd class stamp is easy to see, but the 2 bands on the 1st class stamp are more difficult to see in normal light.

I was surprised to find, on checking my reference collection, that the change from silver to grey on the 2nd class England stamp appears to have taken place at least four years ago, when Cartor took over the production of these.  I have a block with a printing date of 10/07/12 and another 12/07/13, with a different master sheet configuration.  And the latest one is yet another new configuration. 

This picture shows the cylinder numbers for the three printings I have with a grey head.  As you can see, the first printing (10/07/12, released by Tallents House on 3 January 2013) has the England 2nd class in just one of the 4 positions on the master sheet.
The second printing (12/07/13) has the same stamp in all 4 positions - either more were needed or the print run was shorter.  This was available from Tallents House from approximately September 2013 to January 2014.
The latest printing (19/05/16) has just two positions for the same stamp.  
These are obviously all new cylinders but ISP/Cartor for some reason see no need to increment the numbers - and Royal Mail apparently see no reason to suggest that they should do so!  As far as I know there have not been any Cartor printings of this stamp other than those shown.

The second picture shows both stamps from the current printing.

The stamps, including date and cylinder blocks, will be added to our webshop for purchase in November when we re-open.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Plenty to read in new Agatha Christie mystery set from Royal Mail.

The Centenary of publication of Agatha Christie's first story, which introduced Hercule Poirot to the worldwide detective fiction readership, and the 40th anniversary of the author's death, are marked by Royal Mail with a set of 6 stamps with most innovative designs, to be issued on 15 September 2016.   The more you look at them, the more you see.

Each stamp - there are se-tenant pairs of 1st class, £1.33 and £.152 - is fully captioned with the title of the work illustrated, but there is more to read in the small print - microtext and detail only revealed with an ultra-violet lamp.

For the £1.52 stamp illustrating The Body in the Library there appears to be text on the spines of the books lining the shelf beyond the chalk outline of the body.  What that text reads is anybody's guess as we are not privy to the detail!

You can see the rest of the stamps, and read more about the author and the stories, on our new webpage.  But as for the hidden details, you will have to find out for yourself, or wait until we reveal what we have found, (long*) after the stamps are issued.  (* long after, because we are not updating website or blog with these details until we have been able to see the stamps, which will be in November.)

UPDATE 18 August
Incidentally, the Agatha Christie Birthday Celebrations in Torquay, also on 15 September includes a Royal Mail Special Stamps shop, and book signings (and probably first day cover and postcards signiings), and Sutherland (stamp designers) cleverly used the IST class Machin stamp on their invitation cards (see right).

Sutherland also designed the Charles Darwin, Royal Society, London Underground, Rescue at Sea, and Royal Shakespeare Company stamp sets.

Bugs are flavour of the month with Royal Mail and Jersey for Post and Go.

As previously mentioned Royal Mail's new pictorial Faststamps will be available from the Post and Go machines at Autumn Stampex and nationwide from 14 September.

The six designs show the Seven Spot Ladybird, Orange Ladybird, Striped Ladybird; Fourteen Spot Ladybird, Heather Ladybird, and the Water Ladybird.  Two are shown here, the others and more details about these insects and the stamp design can be seen on our new web-page here.

Jersey Post will also be issuing Post and Go stamps showing beetles including 4 Ladybirds.

Stamps tell the story comic-strip style in Great Fire of London set of 6.

The Great Fire of London started in the early hours of Sunday 2 Sept 1666: a fire breaks out in bakery of Thomas Farriner in Pudding Lane, London, and over the next few days it spreads through the close-packed wooden houses in the city.

Royal Mail marks the 350th anniversary with a set of 6 stamps in comic-strip style.

In addition to two first class stamps, there are pairs of £1.05 and £1.52 stamps.  You can see them all and read more about the event and the design on our new webpage here.

R_y_l M_il's l_test Sl_g_n P_stm_rk supp_rts Missing Type f_r the NHS __ l__d _nd Tr_nspl_nt Service.

My thanks to Richard R for sending a copy of the latest Royal Mail slogan.  (And apologies to readers whose first language is not English and others who may have found the title of this post difficult to understand!)

Here's the new slogan, used at Croydon Mail Centre earlier today (I've adjusted the colours slightly):

While you can find out more about the NHS Blood and Transplant Service at, details of the campaign can be found on PR Week's website:
Engine Group's Missing Type campaign for NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is relaunching, this time reaching beyond England and Wales by involving 21 countries globally.
The integrated campaign, which first ran last year and was a winner at Cannes and has been shortlisted for four PRWeek UK Awards this year, sees organisations and individuals encouraged to remove the As, Os and Bs – the letters that make up blood types – from their name to highlight the lack of blood donors. It is led by NHSBT and Engine Group agency MHP Communications.
The number of first-time donors globally has dropped by more than a quarter between 2005 and 2015.   This year, blood donation organisations from a range of countries including Australia, America, South Africa, Japan, Belgium and Ireland are also involved – with locations including Bondi Beach and Table Mountain being given the Missing Type treatment.
It's a very clever campaign, and having the message on letters going worldwide this week will increase awareness - from the inquisitive, anyway!

Sunday 14 August 2016

Innovative Britain stamps win Asagio 'Best Design' award for 2015

Royal Mail has won the Asiago International Award for Philatelic Art 2016, for the Innovative Britain set of 8 stamps.  Often tagged in the media 'for the most beautiful stamps' the awards are considered the Oscars of Stamp Design and are awarded annually in Asiago Italy.  

This year the jury included a stamp designer, journalist, philatelist and film critic.  The awards are presented under the patronage of the President of Italy and Circolo filatelico Sette Comuni, the Seven Towns Philatelic Circle.

CIFO, the Italian equivalent of the ABPS reported this on 5 July.  The judges were favourably impressed, "the present boldly treatment of a difficult subject as the latest inventions of British scientists in the fields of optical fibers, stainless steel, DNA, electronics, bionics, road safety, through striking images and visually perfect, and concise captions but easily understood. "  (Google translation).  The stamps were designed by GBH and printed by International Security Printers in lithography.  Royal Mail said, "GBH created original visual interpretations of the inventions' key functions for six of the stamps, while two were designed using existing imagery and computer generated imagery illustration."

Portugal won the prize in the Ecology category, for four stamps, with a Polish stamp for World Blood Donation Day taking an award from the Italian Academy of Philately and Postal History. Spain received the award of the Palladian Axademy of Vicenze fo ra miniature sheet promoting Exfina, the Spanish national stamp exhibition.

More Post and Go Stamp news, Flags, Poppies, and Animals.

In the absence of anything new happening on the Machin definitive front, I can bring you some more news on the Faststamp or Post and Go scene.

John G has added to the news about the on-off Union Flags, introduced to coincide with the Rio Olympics.  John was pleasantly surprised to find them already installed in the Cambridge NCR Self-service Kiosks (SSKs), and even more so when he found that they had the year code MA13, as shown here:

John also took me to task about my comment (under the earlier post) that I was "less than enthusiastic about Post and Go these days".   He writes: "My guess it is the Royal Mail shenanigans that have put you and lots of others off Post and Go...", and I suppose he is correct in that.  Furthermore, as mentioned in another comment on that post, which I was too busy to grasp the full significance of:
... the MA13 Union Flag stamps hadn't appeared in NCR machines before, so there was a whole load of new material to obtain. And these are real Post and Go items dispensed for the public to use on letters and parcels, not the purely philatelic items dispensed by the Royal Mail machines! 

I can let you have images of various Open Value stamps - the most widely dispensed stamps from Post Office NCR machines - if you want to see them. These will be the items for postal history collections in the future - and very few people seem to be bothering with them!
Yes, I firmly believe in collecting modern postal history, and have most of the basic rate security
Machins on cover from all sources.  I do have a small collection of Post and Go stamps, some from SSKs, but very few Open Value, and the ones that I do have, from any source are nearly all from other collectors or from dealers.   I would certainly agree that to find and accumulate a comprehensive collection of 'used-on-cover' Open Values would be very worthwhile, and would definitely be a challenge.

So start looking for Open Value stamps on letters, cards and packet wrappers: I'll be happy to have scans of these to demonstrate that they do exist and have been collected - but please don't send them until November.  Remember, postal history is best if it is dated, and most Post and Go/NCR stamps going through the post is not postmarked.  In the Special delivery case pictured nearby, the sender is another dealer, so obtained the counter datestamp on it.

[Even collecting Faststamps from all the various Royal Mail 'event' machines would be a challenge, given that some of them have been used with no publicity, for instance at the political Party Conferences.   That news doesn't appear on the Royal Mail Post and Go News webpage.  I suppose the reason is that they are restricted events, but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that one of the delegates or volunteers is a collector, or is known to collectors and could actually obtain some.]

Which brings me to other news from Royal Mail's News page.

Trafalgar Day
Royal Navy Museum (except Fleet Air Arm and Submarine) machines will carry a ‘Trafalgar Day’ additional inscription on the Union Flag design from 23 September until 23 October 2016, when they will be replaced by.... 

The Poppy design from the Symbolic Flowers Post and Go set will be re-introduced from 24 October until 13 November 2016. The stamps will be available from Post and Go post offices, The Postal Museum, Royal Navy and Royal Mail Enquiry office machines.

Hibernating Animals
Hibernating Animals Post and Go stamps will be issued on 14 November 2016. There will be two designs for multi-value reels and two 2nd Class designs. The 2nd Class designs will carry ‘2nd Class’ wording in the background text. Stamps will be available from Post and Go post offices as well as The Postal Museum and Enquiry Office machines.  (Pictures of these cannot be published until much nearer the time.)

Friday 12 August 2016

Royal Mail Stamps and Post and Go at Autumn Stampex 2016

For the first time in a while it appears there will be no Machin Post and Go stamps at Autumn Stampex this year (14-17 September).   According to the Royal Mail Post and Go webpage:
Royal Mail Kiosks A009, A012 and A014 will be in operation at Autumn Stampex.
All machines will carry the new issue Ladybirds designs as well as the Poppy design with a Battle of the Somme pictorial overprint. 
Jersey machine JE01 will carry the new issue Beetles designs along with the Jersey Flag. The flag design will carry a ‘Battle of the Somme’ overprint. 
Guernsey machine GG01 will carry the Bailiwick Life designs along with the Guernsey Flag. The flag design will carry a ‘Battle of the Somme’ overprint. 
Gibraltar machine GI01 will carry the International Year of the Monkey design alongside the Gibraltar Flag. The Gibraltar Flag design will carry a ‘Gorham’s Cave World Heritage’ overprint.

The Ladybirds and Somme Poppy stamps are also available to pre-order via the IAR website.

So there will be nothing new for Machin collectors, as there is no prestige book associated with the Agatha Christie special stamp issue on 15th September, which is yet another set of se-tenant pairs.

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Royal Mail stamps: the World War I presentation pack faux-pas

Update on the 2016 World War I Presentation Pack error.

Just for the record, although many people will know the reason for the reprint by now, here are the wrong and corrected versions of the presentation pack carrier card for the miniature sheet.  The original wrongly identifies the well-known Post Office Rifles VC recipient as Albert Knight instead of Alfred Knight (as shown in the 2006 Victoria X Prestige Book!)

It's been pointed out to me that the barcode on the miniature sheet carrier has also been changed for the reprint.  The original barcode (which is retained on the carrier for the set) is 5-01472-142050, but that on the reprint is 5-01472-143040.   There are few places where the barcode is actually scan at  point-of-sale, although the Post and Go machines at Stampex are used thus.  An interesting experiment would be to scan the old barcode on one of these machines in September!

Friday 5 August 2016

Post and Go update - 2nd class reprinted again, and Olympic Games Flag update.

In May this year I had reports that a reprint of the 2nd class Post and Go stamps had appeared with a 2015 year code (reported as MA15).  I didn't have a picture and overlooked reporting it on the blog with so much else going on at the time.

But already a further reprint has appeared in Norwich's SSKs.  These have the new 2nd CLASS in the security printing, and the 2016 year code CL16S rather than MA16 - well done to the finder for spotting that change!   And well done to Royal Mail Production for keeping us on our toes.  Here's an example of a blank label, click on it to see the coding which is left of centre, 4 large rows down.

And here is the MA15 printing which I omitted to show in May with the previous security printing:

A reminder that the Union Flag stamp should be in and Royal Mail enquiry offices from 1 August and in Post Office branches from 10 August (not 3rd as originally intended or 11th as amended) to coincide with the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.   But don't be surprised if they are still not there on the new date, as nobody in PO Ltd seem to know anything.  See an update to the original report here.

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Royal Mail marks the introduction of the Bishopmark again - 355 years after it was first used

Press Release 1 August 2016

Royal Mail is commemorating the introduction of the Bishopmark – now known as a postmark - 355 years after it was first used to ensure that mail was delivered in a timely manner by releasing a special slogan postmark that replicates the design of the original.

The Bishopmark, or date stamp, was introduced by the first Postmaster General, Colonel Henry Bishop on 2 August 1661. The mark featured the day and month when the item of mail had entered the postal service. It was originally used to ensure that post was delivered in a timely manner and according to Bishop himself ‘that no Letter Carrier may dare to detain a letter from post to post, which before was usual'.

Today the stamps are known as postmarks and perform two separate functions – one to highlight the date and corresponding post town where the item was posted or sorted and another to cancel the postage stamps affixed to the mail.

The UK was the first country in the world to introduce a date stamp to drive the timely processing of mail. Since then, the concept has been replicated across the world.

Royal Mail’s commemorative postmark will be applied to millions of items of mail nationwide from Tuesday 2 August to Saturday 13 August 2016.  (Which almost certainly refers to the dates when the mail will be delivered.

The Bishopmark also featured on Royal Mail's generic smiler sheet issued in 2011 to mark the 350th anniversary of the postmark:

We don't yet have any examples of the new slogan to show you.


Norwich Mail Centre 1 August 2016 -
The Bishopmark
Introduced in

Thanks to Mike for the 'other' version, from Southampton Portsmouth and Isle of Wight MC 01.08.16

Mr Men and Little Miss children's literature stars make a comeback on October's stamp issue

The mystery issue for 20 October 2016 has now been revealed by Royal Mail, and whilst it doesn't have the big impact of 2015's Star Wars issue, it is sure to be popular in certain quarters, and especially among collectors of modern culture and children's literature.

Celebrating the 45th anniversary (yes, really!) of the creation of the Mr Men by Roger Hargreaves, Royal Mail are issuing a set of stamps, and various other products, which will be available for pre-order from 6 October.

From the Royal Mail website 2016 Calendar:

Two of the characters appeared in the quickly aborted (but not quickly enough) Smilers for Kids issues in 2008 and 2009 one of which is shown at the top of this post.

No further details are available at this time, but it would not be a surprise if this was a set of 10 x 1st class stamps, with maybe 5 of each gender.   And Royal Mail may well make the stamps showing these long-popular characters available in the Smilers range for personalisation in the run up to Christmas.

Monday 1 August 2016

Webshop Closure Reminder

Webshop Closure Reminder

As mentioned last month, we will be taking a break and closing our web-shop temporarily until November.

The shop will close at mid-day UK time on Thursday 4th August.  Please do not start an order too close to mid-day: we cannot tell if you are processing an order, and you might be 'cut-off' in mid order.
All orders received by then will be posted early next week. 

Thank you for your patience and understanding, we look forward to serving you again before Christmas, and in 2017.