Friday 18 November 2016

Machin Definitive Stamps issued in 2016

Barring any last minute surprises we now have a complete list of Machin definitives issued or first available during 2016.  The surprise change in colour of the red stamps has boosted the total with 2016 codes to 39 - and there remains the possibility that the counter two sheet stamps might also appear in the darker colour, and any of the counter sheet stamps may have been printed by De La Rue on security backing paper, if their earlier problems have been resolved.

These stamps have been incorporated into the comprehensive Norvic Philatelics Security Machin Checklist. The current version can be downloaded from Dropbox.   

2016 stamps summary - these have been issued or first found in 2016

2015 Year Codes   (8)
2931R.5 -   2nd class coil - MRIL - reported used, then mint

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

2914B.5a - 1st class red business sheet MBIL on SBP 
2915B.5a - 1st Large red business sheet MBIL on SBP
2931.5a -   2nd class book of 12 MTIL on SBP

2936.5a -   1st class red book of 12 MTIL 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) (39)
2911.6  -    2nd class counter sheet - plain backing paper (PBP)

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)
2913B.6 -  2nd Large business sheet MBIL  11/02/16 on security backing paper (SBP)
2914.6 -    1st class counter sheet (PBP)

2914B.6 - 1st class business sheet MBIL 17/03/16 SBP
2914B.6a - 1st class deep scarlet business sheet 08/09/16 MBIL SBP
2916.6 -    1st Large counter sheet printed 12/02/16 -  (PBP)
2916B.6 - 1st Large business sheet printed 15/02/16 MBL SBP
2916B.6a - 1st Large deep scarlet business sheet printed 07/09/16 MBL SBP 
2931.6 -    2nd class book of 12 MTIL on SBP

2933.6 -   2nd Large book of 4 MFIL 
2936.6 -    1st class red book of 12 MTIL on SBP  
2936.6a -  1st class deep scarlet book of 12 MTIL on SBP 
2936C.6 - 1st class deep scarlet from mixed book of 6 MCIL SBP 
2936S.6 - 1st class red book of 6 MSIL on SBP from redesigned booklet 
2936S.6a - ditto, deep scarlet  
2937.6 -   1st Large book of 4 MFIL 
2937.6a - 1st Large deep scarlet book of 4 MFIL  

3001.6 - 1p counter sheet printed 02/02/16 - PBP
3002.6 - 2p counter sheet printed 12/01/16 - PBP
3005.6 - 5p counter sheet printed 04/02/16 - PBP
3010.6 - 10p counter sheet printed 11/01/16 - PBP
3020.6 - 20p counter sheet printed 03/02/16 - PBP

3101.6 - £1.00 brown counter sheet printed 10/02/16 - PBP 
3105 -    £1.05 counter sheet printed 20/01/16 new tariff - PBP
3133.6  - £1.33 counter sheet  08/01/16 - PBP

2991.6 - 1st class Signed For - printed 10/05/16 - PBP
2992.6 - 1st Large Signed For - printed 01/03/16 - PBP
2985.6 - Special Delivery 100g - printed 03/10/16
2986.6 - Special Delivery 500g - printed 03/03/16
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]
3746.6 -    1st class amethyst purple from mixed book of 6 on SBP - issued 21/04/16
3748 -       1st class amethyst purple gummed paper from PSB O16R REIGP issued 21/04/16

3702P.6  - 1st class red MPIL  gummed paper from PSB issued 21/04/16
4005P.6 -  5p gummed MPIL M16L from Beatrix Potter PSB

4010P.6 - 10p gummed MPIL M16L from Beatrix Potter PSB 
4105P -    £1.05 gummed MPIL M16L from Beatrix Potter PSB 

New Definitive Stamps, Booklets and Business Sheets.

New Booklets and Business Sheets 20 October 2016
As mentioned earlier Royal Mail have decided to standardise the typeface/font used in their public communications, and this means that stamp products have to change to the Chevin* font.  At the same time the colour of the 1st class and 1st Large stamps has been changed by the incorporation of 5% black ink to make the stamps darker, and closer to the 'Royal Mail Red' used elsewhere including on vehicles and postboxes.  In Stanley Gibbons catalogues this colour will be called 'deep scarlet' although it is very similar to the rosine used for the 8p and 26p stamps.  The new colour is also used for the booklet covers (which seem to have become more and more orange of late), including the Royal Mail cruciform on all booklets.
* The Chevin is the name given to the ridge on the south side of Wharfedale in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, overlooking the market town of Otley.

These images shows the new booklet below the old, the first class clearly showing a change in stamp colour, but also showing the change to the text.

Surprisingly the 6 x 1st booklet with padlock design was included in this issue.  When the original was issued on 28 July we thought that this was the first of the 5 booklet changes and were surprised when the font looked the same as on red and purple-cover booklets.  Obviously we misunderstood the information issued by Royal Mail! (Here the new booklet is above the old.)

These booklets were produced very close to the issue date of 20 October.  The booklet packing dates and business sheet printing dates I have seen are:

6 x 1st Mr Men - 21 September - [Cylinders not known]
4 x 1stL -  22 September - Cylinders W3 (red), W1 (iridescent), W2 (phosphor)
4 x 2ndL - 26 September - Cylinders W2 (blue), W1 (iridescent), W2 (phosphor)
12 x 1st  -  28 September - [Cylinders not known]
12 x 2nd  -  7 October - Cylinders W6 (blue), W1 (iridescent), W3 (phosphor)
6 x 1st   -   11 October - Cylinders W7 (red), W1 (iridescent), W2 (phosphor)

100 x 2nd -  1 September
50 x 2nd L - 5 September
50 x 1st L -  7 September
100 x 1st  -  8 September

On the business sheets, not only have the font and red colour changed, the layout of telephone numbers has changed from three lines to one.  All sheets are changed in the same way but I'm only showing the 2nd Large here.

The fonts on the barcode and FSC certification remain unchanged in the international standard designs.  The colour of the 2nd class and 2nd Large stamps seems slightly darker than before but this is not deliberate so these stamps will not warrant new catalogue numbers.

New stamps.  The Norvic numbers for the new stamps are:

2914B.6a    1st deep scarlet MBIL - business sheet
2916B.6a    1st Large deep scarlet MBIL - business sheet
2936.6a       1st deep scarlet MTIL - booklet of 12
2936C.6      1st deep scarlet MCIL - Mr Men mixed booklet of 6
2936S.6a     1st deep scarlet MSIL - Padlcok booklet of 6
2937.6a       1st Large deep scarlet MFIL - booklet of 4

New Booklets.  I expect Stanley Gibbons to allocate new whole numbers to this redesign, in which case numbers should be
MB18          6 x 1st padlock
ME7            12 x 2nd
MF9            12 x 1st
PM53           6 x 1st Mr Men
RA3             4 x 1st Large
RB6             4 x 2nd Large

Other new stamps
Totally new sheet stamps - we have been waiting for these for some time.  In addition to the July printing we understand that the 2nd class may have been reprinted in February, but we have seen no examples with this date.

2911.6      2nd class - 04/07/16
2914.6      1st class - 23/06/16
2992.6      1st Signed For - 05/10/16
2985.6      Special Delivery 100g - 03/10/16 

New sheet printings of existing stamps:
1st class -  28/09/16
1st Large - 28/09/16
1p -            04/07/16 and 20/10/16
2p and 5p - 05/07/16
10p -          20/06/16
20p -          21/06/16 and 20/10/16
£1.05 -       22/06/16

As the 1st and 2nd class counter sheets printed in the spring and summer have now been made available, and with Christmas stamps in post offices, it seems unlikely that counter sheets with the new dark red will appear any time soon.  However, that does not mean that they have not been printed in 2016 so we may well see deep scarlet 1st class and 1st Large counter sheets with M16L codes early in the new year.  The Large stamps are more likely to appear first, though.

"All the picture stamps are put into the 2nd class slot" - Crown PO.

Shortly before we went on holiday one of our readers related the story of his trip to a Crown Post Office in SE England.

He found that they were dispensing Union Flag stamps from the 2nd class position on their SSK machines - but they thought that this was perfectly correct.
Staff tell me that this is not wrong despite assurances from me that they have mixed up the rolls.  In fact I was told by the (very unhelpful and belligerent lady) clerk that they “always put blue ones in the 2nd and brown ones in the first – the flags are blue”.

Of course people in official positions don't like being told by customers that something is wrong in their system, but rude and obnoxious behaviour is no excuse when collectors - who nearly always know more about the stamps than Post Office staff do - try to avoid their possible embarrassment or censure.

I asked our contact if he was in the area again would he be brave and maybe get me a pair, which he duly did and they arrived last week.  Although a different member of staff was in attendance he met the same rudeness and the same story:
Again I was told that the stamps are not wrong as they tell me that when they get other picture stamps they are also put them in to the second class position!!  (I said – “so you mean you put any stamps in the 2nd class position such as when you get, say, ‘flowers’ etc.” – their reply “Yes”).  I did try to explain at length the reasoning and the function, but it just fell on deaf ears and they were not interested.  In fact she told me that her husband was a postman and he knows everything about them…!!!! And clearly I was wrong.
The moral of the story is, if you do have occasion to be near a Post Office with SSK machines, venture forth and spend 55p buying a single 2nd class stamp - maybe from each machine.  You never know what you might find!  And if you do find something previously unreported and are prepared to buy some for me, give me a call.  [If this is at all likely and you would like my mobile number, please get in touch by email.]  Any such purchase will always be made worth your while, and will spread your good fortune to a number of other collectors.

UPDATE 6 December:
DP reports that Blackfriars Road also had and Union Flag in the 2nd class printer and Ladybirds in the 1st class printer, in September.

Lunar New Year of the Rooster - last generic sheet for 2016

This continues the series of Lunar New Year Generic Sheets Royal Mail has issued since 2012. 2017 is the ‘Year of the Rooster’ which runs from the 28th January 2017 to 15th February 2018.   The sheet was issued on 15 November 2016, Royal Mail stock code AT095.

"The sheet designed by hat-trick features 20 x First Class Smilers ‘Fireworks’ stamps alongside labels showing images of Chinese New Year festivities in named cities around the UK set against an ornate background featuring paper cut-outs created by artist Rebecca Sutherland. The Rooster is the tenth of
the 12 animals featured in the Lunar New Year. Individuals born under this sign are likely to be observant, hardworking, confident, courageous, frank and honest."

We will not be stocking this sheet.

Monday 14 November 2016

Norvic Philatelics Security Checklist

A new version of the checklist is in preparation, and I'll make it available just as soon as I have all of the information and all of the stamps.  That should be later this week or early next.

The new version will include all stamps issued or found up to the end of October.

Sunday 13 November 2016

Mr Men and Little Misses celebrate 45 years on 10 stamp set.

Well the design for this one wasn't difficult, even though it  is attributed to Bath-based Supple Studio.  I suppose they added the Queen's head and the value to the existing book-cover-based artwork.  Mr Tickle first appeared in 1971, followed by 38 other Mr Men created by Roger Hargreaves by 1978.  Thirteen Little Misses appeared in 1981, with Little Miss Princess appearing in 2011 to mark the 40th anniversary of the series, and by 2015 the total of the whole range reached 85 titles - see Wikipedia for the full list including latest 2016 titles.

Royal Mail are marking the 45th anniversary (yes, forty-fifth!) of the creation of the Mr Men by Roger Hargreaves with a set of 10 stamps.

The Mr Men and Little Miss series is one of the most iconic series of children’s characters ever created. Successful series of books and TV cartoons have been enjoyed by generations since the birth in 1971 of Mr Tickle, Mr Happy and the rest. Loved thanks to the bold, colourful designs and universality of personality traits which each character exhibits the Mr. Men and Little Miss books have been absorbing and enchanting children worldwide for 45 years.

Mr. Men and Little Miss books are published in 18 languages, including Hebrew and Icelandic.  Over 250 million books have been sold worldwide.

The set of 10 is slightly off-balance (one might have expected 5 Mr Men and 5 Little Misses) but the mix probably reflects the gender balance of the whole series of stories.   As shown above, they are:
Mr Happy, Little Miss Naughty, Mr Bump, Little Miss Sunshine, Mr Tickle, Mr Grumpy, Little Miss Princess, Mr Strong, Little Miss Christmas, and Mr Messy.
The set of ten 35mm square stamps are printed in strips of 5 (2 sheets) in sheets of 50, by ISP in litho on ordinary gummed paper.

The set is also available in an A4 self-adhesive generic sheet (shown below), although only six of them will be available in Royal Mail's personalised Smilers programme.

Available for personalisation are:
  • Little Miss Princess
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Mr Bump
  • Mr Grumpy
  • Mr Happy, and
  • Mr Messy
I can't help thinking that Royal Mail is being a little optimistic, or is maybe relying on unkind parents.  Would it be right to put a picture of your young boy alongside a 'Mr Grumpy' stamp?  Mr Strong or Mr Tickle, maybe, but whose kid is going to be forever remembered as Grumpy.  And again, where's the balance.  Miss Sunshine and Miss Princess are positives.  Mr Happy is a positive, but Grumpy and Messy....?

Maybe I'm overthinking this, but I'm not sure that it has been throught through enough from a marketing and business point of view - not that we will be stocking them, unless there is something interesting on the Machin stamp in the Retail Book.  And surely this is only the first, containing as it does just two Mr Men stamps.  Not only are there 8 more in the set, but once again the Little Misses lose out.

Added: Now that we have the actual booklets we can show the cover, and demonstrate that this is in Royal Mail's new Chevin font, and the actual definitive stamps are in the new deep scarlet shade of Royal Mail red.

The whole thing strikes one as being just a little underthought, maybe too hastily put together, suggesting perhaps that this isn't 'Project Atlas' (the original working title of the October issue) at all.

Battle of Hastings 950 years: just a pricey commemorative sheet and a pricier coin cover.

Fifty years ago the General Post office marked the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1966 with a set of 8 stamps printed by Harrison and Sons using the latest technology available, in 9 colours and gold blocking (and phosphor).  The set depicted scenes redrawn from the Bayeux Tapestry, and the 1st class (4d) value was issued in a strip of 6 showing a composite design.

The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II, beginning the Norman conquest of England. It took place approximately 7 miles northwest of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex, and was a decisive Norman victory.

Issued on the anniversary of the battle 14 October, this year's offering from Royal Mail is one premium-priced (£14.99) Commemorative Sheet, also showing scenes from the tapestry, and an even more expensive cover containing a 50p coin - price £15.95.

Friday 11 November 2016

November slogan postmarks: Remembrance

I suspect I have missed some slogan postmarks in my 10 week absence (although none were on the letters waiting when we got back).   Here's the first of the November slogans, thanks to AB.

Lest we forget / 11.11.16 from Home Counties North on 09-11-2016 2nd class.
More November slogans will be added if found.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

The wanderers return - with a lot of catching up to do!

Greetings readers!  We're back, and floundering under a pile of mail and stamp news.

First, a big thank you for keeping our (e-)mailbox relatively free over the last 11 weeks.  Although I had access to the internet for much of the time, dealing with emails was made easy by the much lower volume than usual. 

From what I knew before our break, and from what I have discovered since, I should soon be in possession of, and able to offer for sale, a number of new Machin definitives.  I've spotted mentions of these on other blogs and news reports:

5p, 2nd class and 1st class sheet with MAIL M16L
Royal Mail Signed For and Special Delivery 100g also with MAIL M16L
A possible new shade of the 2p sheet.

Booklets of 12 and 4, and Business Sheets issued on 20 October have new cover/top-panel designs at least as far as the text is concerned (Royal Mail refer to it as a change of font, but some prefer 'typeface').  The 1st class stamps are also, intentionally, a darker red.  We have noticed over the last year or so that both the booklet covers and stamps have been creeping towards a more orange colour, so this will restore them to proper Royal Mail Red.  So for 1st class and 1st Large there are new stamps, and new booklets; for 2nd class I don't think the stamps are different, so probably only whole booklets will warrant a new listing in catalogues.

Also on the same day the 1st class red MCIL M16L made an appearance in the Mr Men booklet.  Even without a darker colour this is new, because previous mixed booklet Machins this year have been purple.

Most of the Post and Go events were programmed (Stampex) or predictable (Poppy, Trafalgar Day),
but there were also some surprises.  Again, gleaned from other sources I have seen:

Ladybirds - issued at Stampex and available nationwide
Poppy with Battle of Somme (and tank) inscription - available at Stampex

Trafalgar Day inscription in use 23 September - 23 October at Royal Navy (but not Submarine or Marines) locations.

Poppy in use from most PO & Enquiry Office locations, and Museums 24 October - 13 November.  Examples have been seen with the text and museum logo superimposed on the Poppy image.

Machine A009 was installed at the Shakespeare Centre in Stratford-upon-Avon.  Originally supposed to have the Symbolic Flowers stamps it seems Royal Mail discovered that the stocks were too low, and so this machine dispenses Machins and Flags.  Apparently brisk first day sales resulted in reel replenishment and both undated and MA15 Machins were sold.

Machine A011 has been installed at the Royal Corps of Signals Blandford Forum, with the Mercury logo on the Machin stamps.

The BFPO HQ machine M001 includes the additional inscription Lest We Forget on the Poppy stamps. The Headquarters BFPO text overlaps the picture of the Poppy.

Lastly, and not for the first time, a Post and Go machine (M007) was taken to the Party Conferences in September.  In what I think is a change of practice the location was added to the text this year, Birmingham for the Conservatives, Liverpool for Labour, Glasgow for the Scottish Nationalists. I didn't spot any examples from the Liberal Party Conference yet.

UPDATE 14 November.
"Royal Mail is pleased to announce that machine M010 will go live at Norwich Enquiry Office from 17 November. The machine will carry the Hibernating Animals pictorial stamps.
"Machine A003, located at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset, will carry commemorative inscriptions from 3 December to commemorate the first jet carrier landing. The Vampire jet, which made the landing, is on display at the museum. The Machin stamp will carry ‘LZ551/G 1st Jet Carrier Landing’ and the Union Flag will carry ‘ LZ551/G 03Dec45’. The additional inscription will be available until 3 January 2017."

That's a quick summary of what I think I need to catch up on - you have doubtless read all this news elsewhere.  I've not made commenting available on this post: if you have any news or images that you would like me to add for the benefit of readers please send them by email to

Meanwhile, the next post will be a little picture quiz to keep you occupied!

So where have we been ?

To entertain you while I work through the news and stamps that will be the subject of more blog entries, here are some photographs from our holiday.  The first three people who correctly identify more than 12 locations will get a prize, though I haven't decided what that will be yet!

By the way, the locations are not in chronological order or geographical groups.
(Click on the images to see much larger versions.) 

UPDATE and clues:
#7 has not been identified by anybody - it's in North America.
#8 has only been identified by one (it's also in North America)
#15 has only been identified by two, it's in New Zealand, the whale being a clue but not of course exclusive.
#14 also appears on a stamp! 
Other non-New Zealand locations are 3, 5, 10, and 12.  


Answers by email to - no comments revealing locations will be allowed!  If it's too difficult, clues may follow.