Thursday 22 December 2016

Another year passes - the end of 2016

Lack of time prevents this from being the usual comprehensive Review of the Philatelic Year - you probably all have your own high points and low points.  I suppose one of my low points was discovering that if I wanted to send postcards from New Zeland with other than the $2.20 definitive stamp, I could use 2 single $1 stamps and a 20c definitive, but without exception all the $1 special stamps available were larger than the British special stamps we are used to at about 38/40mm square, which left little room for a message!

On the definitive front, there was just one new stamp value on the tariff change in the spring, producing one Machin and four country definitives.  A welcome change from the £14-worth of Machins in 2015.  Royal Mail seem to have been at sixes and sevens over booklets and stamp colours with the last of the Long To Reign purple stamps (in the Beatrix Potter booklet) being issued on the same day as the first red booklet stamp (in the padlock booklet), with both types being replaced by a new darker colour three months later.  The use of the new colour in all booklets and business sheets went part way to making up Royal Mail's financial shortfall from the spring.

Post and Go output continued apace with more museum locations and Enquiry Offices added, although the output of Open Values from Post Office self-service kiosks has abated - only to be replaced with a larger horizon-type label with 2-D barcode.  That this carries the Machin head and has a year date, suggests that Royal Mail are hoping that collector interest in these will continue.  Certainly they are an important element of the evolution of postage payment, and should be included in a postal history collection - has anybody received one suitable for keeping yet?

The special stamp output continued unabated with the highlight for me being the Agatha Christie issue, a marvel of design and intricacy and so much better than photographs of whatever this week's subject was.  Many new issue distributions suffered because of problems with Royal Mail's computer accounting system, with delivery of customer orders very erratic and sometimes very late.  Dealers suffered less than ordinary customers but were affected by the accounting failures.  The fall out from this may not be over, but at least we can draw a line under the delays and customer service shortcomings that occurred.   I understand that there are still problems with customers not being told when their deposits are exhausted, or when credit cards have passed their end date.

That Royal Mail find it unnecessary to publicise the multitude of slogan postmarks that are being used, often for very short periods, continues to frustrate collectors and reporters alike.  On the other hand the Postmark Bulletin (which shows special handstamps) is now available free and also online.  Sadly the number of sponsored postmarks continues at a low level.  The non-availability to collectors at special handstamp centres of some 'postmarks' applied to Royal Mail (expensive) special souvenir covers is annoying and seems to go against all post office principals.  If it cancels a stamp on a special cover, it is a postmark.  If it is a postmark it should be available to everybody. 

And so we come to the end of another year.  Once again I am unable to use the photograph that I prepared last year and which was inappropriate due to the mildness of Christmas here.  (You'll see why when it does eventually get used).   My thanks to all our customers, to the readers of this blog and especially to the many contributors - many of whom remain anonymous meaning that I don't know just how many there are.  Despite our 10 week holiday, you have remained loyal to this source of information, and I am very grateful for that - as are all the readers.

Once again we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Most people will realise that this is not a picture of winter in Dereham, this year or any other.  It was taken in the Mount Aspiring National Park in New Zealand's South Island.  I don't know which mountain it was, they were all snow-capped in mid-October, but the sky was blue and the sun was warm!


  1. And a merry Christmas to you too Ian. Thank you for the huge amount of work you've put into this Blog keeping its readers informed about what''s happening in British stamp issues and postal developments during the year. I'm sure the Blog will be as indispensable to us in 2017 as it has been in 2016. Which, if you think about it, makes you pretty indispensable too. Now there's a Christmas thought for you to keep in mind!

  2. Best festive wishes and many thanks for the great work that goes into providing us Machinheads with such detailed and topical information.

  3. Happy Christmas to you and everyone at Norvic, keep up the great work.

  4. Merry Christmas Ian and thank you for all the information you make available to collectors via the Blog!

  5. Ian, I hope that stamp collecting will grow in quality next year and we all will be part of that job. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, with joy and health for you and your family! Kind regards, Catalin

  6. A very Happy Christmas Ian and your family, and to all fellow collectors,

    Regards Terry

  7. A very Happy Christmas to Ian and the team and thanks for all the work that is put in to this blog.

  8. happy new year.. wave you magic wand to stop RM ruining the hobby, they will on/y have half of their customers in 3 years and will need to issue 30 or more sets a year to meet
    their targets, they want all the money... shame on them


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