Friday 28 April 2017

Windmills and Watermills - 20 June 2017

Thanks to the first day cover producers and another blog, whose author is not bound by the same rules as we are, the designs of the Windmills and Watermills set to be issued on 20 June is now available.

The set consists of 6 stamps, two each 1st class, £1.40 and £1.57.  It's an attractive set which covers all four nations of the United Kingdom, but which necessarily omits some areas completely, notably East Anglia.  People in Norfolk would point to the many sails which were to be seen on the Norfolk Broads - but others would then be able to mention that a big percentage of those were wind-pumps rather than mills.  

But my fellow author WhiteKnight has much more to say here on his Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog, which is well worth a read, and which also suggests some other mills which Royal Mail could have used to cash in on the topics.

Interesting, too, that all the photographs show blue skies, with just a few clouds.  There's often much more wind to drive the sails when the skies are cloudy!

Thursday 27 April 2017

Spear Thistle Stamps Compared - new digital printing and the original.

We have now had the opportunity to examine the new printing of the Spear Thistle Post and Go stamp released at the ASPS Scottish Congress at Perth.

As expected this is digitally printed, and is quite different to the original Symbolic Flowers stamps issued 17 September 2014.  As with other recent digital printings, the surface is glossy, especially the picture area.  There are no obvious phosphor bands - but I'll check them again when it is dark!  Most obviously - apart from the 88th Scottish Congress inscription, the new stamps have the year code MA17, whilst the originals are coded MA14.  In these pictures the upper stamp is the new digital one.

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Royal Mail Produce Carnival of Post and Go Errors for Scottish Congress at Perth

As we reported earlier, Royal Mail once again took their Post and Go machine to the ASPS Scottish Congress at Perth, and not for the first time at a philatelic show managed to (being polite) make a complete disaster of the stamps they produced.

As the organisers put in their press release:
All [three designs, Machin, Lion and Thistle] will have the additional inscription:
88th Scottish Congress 2017
Except that they didn't.  None of the stamps produced at the show, from either machine, had the year 2017 shown.  And there were not just three stamps.  The Machin exists in at least undated, MA13 and I believe MA15 (now confirmed).

However, Royal Mail Tallents House also belatedly made pre-orders available using machine B001.  The minimum order was £150 (not that difficult to achieve these days) and the stamps would have to be collected from the show.  Saves time queuing up, and there is a different machine number, but I have to say I don't really see the point if you are there anyway.   But of course there was a point, and there were further surprises.  For a start, the stamps were not available at the show, and had to be posted on, only arriving yesterday and today.

Then, the inscription on B001 was as it was supposed to be.

Machin stamps from B001 are (I think) always MAIL-coded because I don't think Tallents House have finished using their original stock yet despite the number of stamps they produce from that machine.  But another surprise was in store as the Machin stamps sent to pre-orderers were neither MAIL, MA13 or MA15.... but these:

So the Royal Mail Philatelic Service has managed to produce stamps that are not even due for sale until 5 June this year with a special inscription at the end of April, a full six weeks early.
(Images mostly taken from eBay, from various sellers.  I've lost track of who the sellers are for each of the images taken, and my apologies to those sellers that I can't properly credit them.)

We have now reached the stage where we can't even guess at what errors might occur because each one that happens is even more beyond belief than the last.   Oh, we can explain to ourselves how it happens, but where on earth is the supervision, the knowledge, the understanding that would prevent it happening, or at least stop the stamps from being sent out to customers when it has happened.

I've been sent a copy of an email sent by Royal Mail to a customer who received the Anniversary Machin's on pre-order.
Following a careful review of the events that led to this, including the quantity of the pre-orders in question and the disruption and inconvenience caused to you at the show, on this occasion we have decided not to replace your order, you are therefore free to retain these stamps. I trust this solution matches your preferred option to retain the order and resell the stamps as originally intended.    

Once again please accept our apologies for the inconvenience and confusion caused both at the show and following the delivery of your pre-order. We have initiated a thorough review of the events and internal processes that led to this situation and will share with you the pre-order arrangements for future shows in due course.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Big Batch of New Machin Printings Brings Surprises

We mentioned last week a number of new printings of Machin definitive counter sheets - but there are actually more new stamps than we realised from the first report.  And there are some values printed on old paper stocks, and others on the second type of Security Backing Paper, which we refer to as SBP2.

But first a recap.   As we reported on 6 February the March issue of Stamp Magazine reported that a 9 December 2016 printing of the 1st class counter sheet stamp is not only on backing paper with a security print (the first time for a counter sheet), but that it is the new type.

This isn't a very good picture because it is a scan of a magazine print: you can't see the security code but the article by Don Staddon stated that it was M16L, which is logical for a December 2016 printing. 

And this is where things start to get interesting.  The first counter sheet stamp to appear with M17L code was the 2nd class, printed on 04/01/17, and this was on plain paper.  The M16L SBP2 1st class stamp had still not been on sale when the new tariff stamps were issued on 21 March: these were also on plain paper printed in the period 19-24/01/17 (other dates in January may exist, but it now seems unlikely).  Around the same time new M17L printings of the 10p, 1st Large Signed For, and Special Delivery 100g were printed (27/01, 26/01 and 01/02/17 respectively).  All these were also on plain backing paper.

The first deep scarlet* M17L 1st class and 1st Large were printed on 27/02 and 01/03/17 respectively, followed by the 2nd Large, and a reprint of the M17L 2nd class on 13/03 and 22/03/17 respectively.  All are on SBP2, the 2nd class for the first time.  Between the two 1st class values, and the two 2nd class values, the new tariff stamps were reprinted on SBP2 in the period 03/03-10/03/17. 
* see note at foot of blog about why these are not considered 'new'.

Obviously the original printing of the new tariff stamps was for initial distribution to Post Offices, collectors, and businesses and these, along with the 10p, Signed For, and Special Delivery stamps were printed on the last of the plain paper - of course there may also be other values also printed in this period which are yet to appear, so we may not have seen the last of the plain paper printings.  But the 2nd class M17L on plain paper is likely to be scarcer than the new tariff stamps which were obviously treated as new issues for collectors by Royal Mail.

The stamps with new year codes will be mentioned in the Stanley Gibbons Concise Catalogue.  What we don't know at this stage, of course, is how Gibbons will treat stamps printed on SBP2 when the same stamp has already been listed on plain paper.  In our own Checklist these will be given 'a' numbers.  In numbering the new stamps we realised that we made some errors in allocating numbers last year when the deep scarlet stamps were issued, and so some 8 numbers have been changed for the next edition (Version 1.5.6)

This year's new stamps listing in full: 29 so far (includes some with M16L codes)
These should all now be visible on our webshop(please let me know if anything is missing!)

2911.7        2nd class counter sheet plain paper printed 04/01/17
2911.7a      2nd class counter sheet on SBP2 printed 22/03/17

2911B.6a   2nd class business sheet M16L on SBP2 printed 15/12/16

2913.7       2nd Large counter sheet M17L on SBP2 printed 13/03/17

(2914a.6     1st class deep scarlet M16L on SBP2 printed 09/12/06 - not yet seen)
2914a.7      1st class deep scarlet M17L on SBP2 printed 27/02/17
2914aB.6a  1st class deep scarlet business sheet M16L on SBP2 printed 14/12/16

2916a.7      1st Large deep scarlet M17L on SBP2 printed 01/03/17

2931.6a      2nd class retail booklet M16L on SBP2 packing date 13/12/16

2936a.6a     1st class retail booklet of 12 M16L on SBP2 packing date 12/12/16
2936aS.6a   1st class retail booklet of 6 M16L on SBP2 packing dates 4,5, 13/01/17
2936aC.7    1st class mixed retail booklet M17L on SBP1 packing date 30/11/16

2985.7         1st Large Signed For M17L plain paper printed 26/01/17
2992.7         Special Delivery 100g M17L plain paper printed 01/02/1

3010.7         10p dull orange M17L on plain paper printed 27/01/17

3117            £1.17 vermillion plain paper printed 20/01/17
3117a          £1.17 vermillion SBP2 printed 03/03/17
3140            £1.40 grey-green plain paper printed 19/01/17
3140a          £1.40 grey-green  SBP2 printed 07/03/17
3157            £1.57 olive-green plain paper printed 20/01/17
3157a          £1.57 olive-green SBP2 printed 07/03/17
3227            £2.27 ochre plain paper printed 23/01/17
3227a          £2.27 ochre SBP2 printed 10/03/17
3255            £2.55 deep red-brown plain paper printed 24/01/17
3255a          £2.55 deep red-brown SBP2 printed 08/03/17

3702aP.6     1st class deep scarlet MPIL M16L issued 15/02/17 Windsor Castle PSB
4002P.6       2p deep green MPIL M16L issued 15/02/17 Windsor Castle PSB

4010P.6       10p dull orange MPIL M16L MPIL M16L issued 15/02/17 Windsor Castle PSB ±
4105P.6       £1.05 sage-green MPIL M16L issued 15/02/17 Windsor Castle PSB ±

4500            £5 deep blue Accession Anniversary

± These two values were previously issued in the Beatrix Potter PSB; some slight shade difference can be seen on some stamps.

The new stamps
M17L printings
2nd class Machin sheet stamp M17L with security printed backing paper.2nd Large Machin sheet stamp M17L with security printed backing paper.

100g Special Delivery Machin sheet stamp M17L with plain backing paper.




1st class M16L Business Sheet with SBP2:

1st class MSIL M16L Booklet with SBP2

All these will be added to our webshop to be available from the middle of next week.  Due to the number of stamps to be added it will take a while to prepare all the pictures and write-ups for the shop.

I have confirmed* that even though the 1st and 1st large stamps in counter sheets are obviously new and obviously different to the lighter colour issued earlier, Royal Mail do not intend to make them available as a new stamp or distribute them to standing order customers, something which I find quite incredible.  I think it demonstrates that what used to be a good Philatelic Bureau has lost the plot, taken its eye off the ball, and any number of other cliches that you might use - but this, the erratic information on Post and Go and in the Philatelic Bulletin, the very variable service reported by collectors about its new England-based call-centre, and the hiatus in production of the Postmark Bulletin means it no longer provides an adequate service to collectors.  

Time for another kick in the pants: Tallents House is not just there to sell collectables to music fans! 

Official response from Royal Mail both to me, and on Facebook (see comments):
We have reviewed the events regarding the new darker red and new security arrangements and clearly there is no prospect of any retroactive day of availability and therefore no regular order distribution either. Off the record, in terms of why it didn’t happen this was really a scheduling and shading matter in that the colour remained Royal Mail Red but with changes led by branding e.g. extending use of a padlock to books and adding 5% (CMYK) black to stamps to match the red tone of vans and pillar boxes, it was felt the stamp remained essentially the same with the change only noticeable with a direct comparison to an older stamp. In future, we will consider a bulk issue of such changes rather than the sequenced roll out of standard and large stamps through Retail Books, Business Sheets and Stamp sheets on a product by product basis.
Additionally, and not on Facebook:
In terms of the backing paper this is a moot point. The stamp image file was essentially unchanged but applied to a different backing paper, the security feature is in the paper process not the stamp printing process so didn’t come through our policy change process, which is historically design led. Perhaps it should have done and we’ve taken steps to ensure it does in future. 

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Unannounced Mail by Rail Post and Go Printing at Postal Museum

Stuart Leigh (compiler of the Post and Go catalogue) has reported a new unannounced printing of the Post Office Underground Railway Mail By Rail stamp on a solo-design roll now being sold at The Postal Museum!

According to eBay seller 25mal the new roll was added to machine A001 on 3 April 2017 replacing the set of 6 Mail by Rail stamps.  This image is taken from the current eBay listing (click on link in previous line).

I find it quite incredible that something aimed only at collectors has been (a) printed, and (b) installed with no information from the three possible sources.  The Postal Museum has been silent on the subject, the Royal Mail Post and Go News webpage has not been updated with this information, and the IAR webpage for kiosk A001 shows Hibernating Animals as the last installation!

Collectors needing this new stamp for their collections should be able to get them for a few weeks and with 5 different stamps possible from this machine, it may well be in long-term use after the Museum opens in July, and concurrently with the Machin Anniversary stamps issued on 5 June.  More details if any of the organisations involved responds to our request for informaiton.

These stamps will be listed in our webshop when it reopens, including single 1st class stamps for those who are content with just one example.

(Meanwhile the IAR website reports that machine M005 was installed at Queen Elizabeth Delivery Office, Windsor, on 5 April 2017, another change not mentioned on the Royal Mail webpage.)

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Guernsey Post relents on Cruise Ships Post and Go

We reported earlier that Guernsey Post would be providing their Lighthouse Post and Go stamps from the Smith Street PO with additional inscriptions for each cruise ship visit during the summer.

They decided, with some logical thought, that their standing order customers would not want between 55 and 75 additional sets of Post and Go stamps, and said, therefore, that they would not be available through the philatelic service but only in person.  Needless to say, some collectors decided that they would like to fill their stockbooks - and Guernsey Post's coffers - and complained.

Guernsey Post have now sent a letter to subscribers, an extract of which is shown below.
The first underprint on the Lighthouse stamps on the 21 st April will also be provided as a standing order item to customers.

Due to the number of ships visiting we recognised that it would be unreasonable to expect our customers to purchase every underprint which is why we initially stated they
would not be available from the bureau.

However after receiving feedback from numerous collectors we are now willing to take orders for the cruise ship underprints. However we would like to stress that these will not be a standing order item and orders will need to be placed for them separately. Please use the form enclosed or contact our customers services team at your earliest convenience on +44(0)1481 716486 or email
Please note that due to the large amount of administration required for these orders the
dispatch of all cruise ship underprints will be in September after our cruise ship offering has ended. Also each strip will incur a 50p administration fee in line with our current GG02 products.
So, they listened, and they acted.  And I hope that people who really want to have a complete collection will be pleased with these arrangements.    A collectors strip will cost £3.70 + 50p admin up until 1 st May 2017.   From 2nd May 2017 due to an increase in postal rates each strip will be £4.06 + 50p.  So a complete set will cost approaching £300.   One of the options offered is to have stamps for the first visit only for each ship.

Beware the slippery slope, though.  Will you buy next year's, and those from Gibraltar as well?

Thursday 13 April 2017

Why do they do that? It's Safety First!

Ever wondered why some of your letters from us come adorned with margins from old prestige book panes, like this?

It's not just to make them colourful - sometimes we use black and white pictures!   I bought two boxes of these DL envelopes some time ago, thinking they would be ideal for the job, especially sending Post and Go strips, or blocks of definitives.

The very first one was delivered with the invoice inside, but no stamps, and an opened end.  I've seen these sent by other people and they were all delivered without mishap, but the 'easy-opening' system on ours proved too much for the machinery at the mail centres, and the end burst.  This is what it looks like under the add-on:

So, I couldn't risk any more mishaps, and due to selling single stamps from the panes I always have plenty of gummed paper left over, so there you have it.  It might be Beatrix Potter, football, Churchill,  James Bond, etc.  Or ti might just be adhesive tape.  You never know what you'll get.  Puzzle no more, and have a good weekend!

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Royal Mail Postmark Bulletin Update

As readers who are interested will know, the Postmark Bulletin is supposed to be moving from
twice a month to monthly in April.

We had thought that the absence of a new edition since 10 March was part of this but apparently not.  The Bulletin is not produced in-house but is externally sourced: not just the hard copy but the pdf as well.  Problems with the contractor have delayed the 24 March and 7 April editions.  I am told that these have been resolved and that the editions should appear 'soon'.

It is unfortunate that despite having a webpage for Bulletins, Royal Mail can't be bothered to keep customers up to date with a message there about the delay.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Finlandia Post and Go News: Correction to Philatelic Bulletin

The following correction has just been issued by Royal Mail in an email to dealers:
CORRECTION: POST and GO / BRITISH PHILATELIC BULLETIN / FINLANDIA 2017: Please note that an article on the Finlandia 2017 Exhibition on page 233 of the April edition of the British Philatelic Bulletin stated that the Royal Mail Post and Go machines would be present at the show.
This is INCORRECT. Royal Mail Post and Go Machines will NOT be present at the Finlandia 2017 exhibition and so no exhibition overprints will be available by mail order. 

April 2017 Slogan Postmarks

Although the late use of the Valentines Day postmark might have made it into the April  listings, the first one we have is 'Happy Easter'.

It's an odd phrase, given the background to the religious story, but so few people actually practice their religion these days that secular considerations of eggs, rabbits and cards seem to have taken over - I couldn't even find a religious postcard for my previous greeting (see below).

Thanks to MG for sending this from Glasgow MC.  I understand that the other machines have the slogan in three lines.

I wonder if Royal Mail will take up the suggestion to have a slogan for National Stamp Day/Week? One can only hope!

The Valentines Day postmark does make it into the April list as Southampton were still using it on 3rd, 4th and 5th April!  Thanks to RS for sending these pictures:

But then they switched to Easter - I wonder what will come when that campaign finishes?

It looks as if North West Midlands is taking a leaf from Southampton's calendar as this arrived this morning - Happy Easter, used 19 April

RS has confirmed that NW Midlands were still using the Easter slogan on 26 April:

Edinburgh Mail Centre was also using Happy Easter on 18 April but the copy I have is on a Post and Go stamp (one not from a collector!)  and so doesn't really scan well.

It's National Stationery Week and so there is a new slogan to encourage people to write!  This one from North and West Yorkshire on 25 April 2017.

Week TM 24-30
                 APRIL 2017

Thanks to Mike for sending this version of the Stationery Week slogan, reversed, from Tyneside MC on 24-04-2017
... and to JG for this one from Manchester MC on 25.04.17 which includes the 'Delivered by' portion omitted from the first one shown.

This slogan was used at Bristol Mail Centre on 15.05.17
UPDATE 17 June
And again in North West Midlands Mail Centre on 10.6.17

This one arrived today following National Stationery Week, we now have, from South East Anglia on 27.04.17

on your 
April 28

While we're on postmarks and variants of them we don't usually see the older machines other than at Christmas, but Carlisle has dusted off this one out of the back room for use over Easter.  Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway 14 APR 2017