Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Next round of Walsall-printed Machin counter sheets due on 12 September.

Royal Mail have confirmed that the September round of Walsall-printed counter sheets will be issued on 12 September, the first day of Autumn Stampex and ideal for getting first day covers. 

But will you include the 2p on this 'first day of philatelic availability'?  Or any of the others that might have been found in Post Office branches by then.  I suppose it is worth having one as a record, as long as it is stored with a note indicating its unusual nature and details of when the stamps actually appeared.

Royal Mail product codes are predicatbly

1p - DS018WL
2p - DS022WL
5p - DS055WL
2nd Large - DS421WLS

Also issued on that day will be Royal Mail's 'Mail by Bike' Post and Go set.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Machin stocks running down at Tallents House

As regular readers will know, Royal Mail occasionally send a list of the printing dates of  available counter sheets.  Sometimes this is how we know of a new year's printing, and otherwise it provides new date blocks for those who like to collect them.  While information about new stock is useful, what this also shows is what stock is not available.

That's not to say that you might not get other printings when you order single definitive stamps from Tallents House, just that whole sheets are no longer held by the philatelic department, although they may be supplied via the Royal Mail business shop.  The two sets of stock are kept quite separate, which is why the 2018 2p is available from the business side but not from philatelic.

A list received today has some interesting revelations. The only year's printings (I'm not going to list all the dates) for these stamps are:

1p   -  2016, 2017
2p   -  2015
5p   -  2016, 2017
10p -  2017, 2018
20p -  2016, 2017, 2018
50p -  2012 (yes, there are no 2017*)
£1   -  2015, 2016, 2018
£2   -  2009, 2013

*We still have this in our shop, with a few date and cylinder blocks.
The shortage of lower values may be attributed to the lack of a 9p which necessitates using 5p +2x2p to raise 2nd class to first, who knows.

2nd class   - 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
1st class    - 2016, 2017, 2018
2nd Large - 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
1st Large  - 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

So if anybody collects date blocks or date margin singles of these values (and the special service stamps) we can supply these years and in some cases multiple dates within years.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Captain Cook's Voyages stamp issue 16 August 2018

Once again I am able to refer you to the website of Buckingham covers for your first sight of a new stamp issue that Royal Mail won't allow me to show* here.

As you can see from the page showing the Buckingham FDCs, the issue consists of a set of 6 stamps and a miniature sheet of 4.  The set consists of se-tenant pairs of 2nd class, 1st class and £1.45 (the basic rate to Australasia) stamps, and the miniature sheet has a pair of 1st class and a pair of £1.45.

One first class stamp shows the familiar picture of James Cook, with an unidentified ship in the background.  Also shown are Sir Joseph Banks (2nd class), naturalist and botanist, and Sydney Parkinson (£1.45), artist, who drew the picture of the Blue-black grassquit (bird) as well as the self-portrait.   The other stamps in the set show the Chief Mourner of Tahiti (2nd), the transit of Venus (1st), and portrait of a Maori Chief.

The miniature sheet shows a chart of Cook's discoveries, canoes on Raiatea, a Maori clifftop fort on an arched rock, and repairs to the Endeavour in Australia.

The stamps will be issued on 16 August to mark the 250th anniversary of Cook's three-year expedition.  By including talented artists and scientists Cook's voyage provided never-before-seen information about the lands on the other side of the world.

Cook last appeared on a British stamp in the Travellers' Tale Millennium series in February 1999.

* Part of the reason is so that they can do their own publicity of the stamp issue and events surrounding it, and they don't want big splashes on social media such as Twitter, which is exactly where I picked up Buckingham's news.  Comments not really necessary, but Royal Mail do read, so go ahead!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Postmark News: Midlands Handstamp Centre to close

Not announced in the 29 June Postmark Bulletin from Royal Mail is the news that the Midland Special Handstamp Centre will be closing on 23 July.

The work of Birmingham will be transferred to the Northern SHC at Tallents House, Edinburgh which already handles Scotland, Northern Ireland, and North of England.


Collectors and dealers who plan to use the Hampton Court Road postmark (14590) on their new stamps might be advised to send their covers direct to Edinburgh at the usual address.

Meanwhile, thanks to Roger and his team for their service over the years.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Why 2nd class Large stamps in Post Offices are so old

Anybody who has tried to find 2nd class Large stamps in almost any post office will find that the booklets are probably from late 2016 when the cover was changes, the business sheets are probably from 2014 or earlier, and the counter sheets are 2014 or earlier if they have any at all.

An example is shown above to remind you of the stamp!  And shown below is why you see so few used.  Sellers on eBay, Amazon, Etsy etc, often use Royal Mail's widely advertised Click and Drop service.  Although primarily intended for parcels, the system can be used on ordinary and large letters: this was used to send postcards of Hampton Court, but I have had them used for many other eBay sales. 

Although the price is the same, the labels can be printed directly from the computer when preparing the goods for posting.  No transcription errors for the addressee; the sender's details are included automatically.  The only thing that has to be right is the weight and postal service, and in many cases these are part of the details entered on the selling platform.  The system also prints the bar-code which Royal Mail are trying to get all parcel senders to use (as on the Horizon system).  The details revealed by a QR-reader include the destination address and the postcode of the sender, as well as the weight and price, and a unique code.  The sender can also receive delivery conformation if the item is scanned on delivery.

What's shown is a good example of modern postage, but you won't collect as many of them as you do covers with stamps on!

Monday, 2 July 2018

Security Machin Checklist update - version 2.0.6

Now that we have received our weighty copy of Stanley Gibbons new Great Britain Concise 2018
catalogue we have made some more minor corrections to our Checklist and uploaded version 2.0.6, which can be downloaded from here.

As Gibbons have decided that the gummed stamps in the RAF prestige stamp book are missing the 'P' in the MPIL code, they have given these new sub-numbers irrespective of their year code.  I believe that all the errors previously mentioned have been corrected, but as usual will be grateful for any further corrections that readers find necessary.  Please email to the address at the head of this page.

July slogan postmarks

June was a bumper month for slogans, and one campaign runs over the end of the month.  So this month we start with a re-run of the first two Art Fund_ Museum of the Year slogans.  We still only have one example of each, so examples of the version from the other machines will be welcome.

27 June: The Art Fund - the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund - has a contest to find The Museum of the Year.  There are five finalists including the Postal Museum. MB has sent a copy of the latest slogan postmark which notes Brooklands Museum as one of the finalists - which suggests that there will be a slogan for each of the finalists.  But this series is likely to be interrupted by one tomorrow for Armed Forces Day which is this Saturday, 30 June.

The Brooklands slogan is from Edinburgh, and dated 27 June 2016. Thanks to MG we can at last show the other layout, from Lancashire & South Lakes (Preston) 27/06/18

             Art Fund_ 
             Museum of
                 the Year 2018
Brooklands Museum

 * the underscore after 'Art Fund_' is deliberate and part of their operating name.

28 June:  the second museum of the year candidate to get a slogan is Ferens Art Gallery, this example from North West Midlands 28 June 2018.  And we also now have the Edinburgh version.

2 July:  the third candidate is the Glasgow Women's Library, used here in Edinburgh on 30 June 2018.  I've been told that the Glasgow slogan was not used in the other format, but that Armed Forces Day continued instead.  This must either be a mistake or unnecessary!

3 July: the fourth candidate is the Tate St Ives, used here in Peterborough MC on 2 July.  Also the alternative version from Lancashire and South Lakes.



4 July:  the final candidate is The Postal Museum, this one from North West Midlands on 3 July.

As The Postal Museum was outdone by Tate St Ives, there was no (self-)congratulatory slogan for them winning the big prize.

9 July:  It seems that there is a bigger problem with dogs and postmen in the Wolverhampton area as they are running with a second Dog Awareness Week, judging by this slogan used on Saturday 7 July (while other MCs have returned to the default 'Action for Children' slogan).  Thanks to MB for this used at the North West Midlands Mail Centre:

11 July 2018 The winner of this year's Man Brooker Prize is Michael Ondaatje, for The English Patient.  Slogans of both types have been received at Norvic Towers, but we will be interested to see any oddities with this slogan.
Glasgow 09-07-18, North & West Yorkshire 10/07/2018, and a glitched logo from Gatwick on the same date.

UPDATE:  Thanks to KC for this transposed version from Chelmsford (South East Anglia) - which still missed the stamp!

16 July 2018: I'm convinced that Wolverhampton's North West Midlands Mail Centre is stuck in a time warp (see Dog Awareness 2 above).  MB has now sent a copy of the Ferens Gallert Art Fund postmark clearly dated 14 July


As usual, all new postmarks for July will be shown here and, don't forget, there are two layouts for most slogans.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Smilers to follow Business Customised Sheets into history?

Following the cessation of the Business Customised Service, this announcement is currently showing on Royal Mail's Smilers Stamps page:
Important Notice: Thank you for your interest in Smilers®. Please note that the Smilers® service is going to be put on hold for an indefinite period after 5pm (GMT) on Thursday, 26th July. Customers will not be able to order personalised Smilers® sheets after this time either via the Royal Mail website or by post. All orders received before then will be fulfilled as normal.

A reader has forwarded a separate correspondence about this which coincides with the launch of Royal Mail's new online shop:
I wanted to let you know that the personalised Smilers ® service is going to be put on hold for an indefinite period after Thursday 26th July as Royal Mail launches its new online shop. Customers will not be able to order personalised Smilers ® sheets when the new web platform goes live until further notice.
In preparation of the migration to the new website, we reviewed the range of products and services we offer on the current website and took the decision not to migrate the personalised Smilers ® service to the new shop when it goes live and to suspend it for the foreseeable future. Whether or not the service will be reintroduced at a later date is still to be decided.
I should add that we will continue to offer Generic Sheets, Exhibition Sheets and Commemorative Sheets.

Given the increasing cost and, more importantly, lack of publicity surrounding the personalisation service in recent years, I suspect the public - who don't send that many stamped social letters anyway - have forgotten about this service, and that most recent productions have come from philatelic societies and so on.  The failure to make each year's Christmas stamps available will have hastened this, because that is one area where there could have been sales. (See also this blogpost from two years ago.)

However, what demonstrates clearly that Royal Mail - at the same time as marketing special stamp-related products outside the hobby - are continuing to target stamp collectors with unnecessary sheets is the continuation of the Generic Sheet.  Remember, these were originally produced in response to collector and trade complaints that personalisation was an expensive way for collectors to buy stamps which were not available from any other source.

Given that Royal Mail have produced Generic Sheets which include stamps not available for the personalisation service, I regard these as just the same as Business Customised Sheets - posters which happen to contain stamps and a quite unnecessary addition to the programme.  The sooner these cease the better, as far as I am concerned, though I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Dad's Army pricing error: another PO/RM foul-up

Once again, miscommunication between Royal Mail Stamps and their retail partner Post Office Ltd has left collectors either confused or overcharged.

As was the case with the New Tariff definitives, these two professional organisations have managed to mess-up the pricing of the Dad's Army Generic Sheet.

Apparently somebody has confused this with other more expensive sheets and decided to retail it at £13.90 instead of the correct price of only £7.50.

According to the person who reported this:
I was purchasing the new Dad’s Army Generic Sheet at the Post Office. What a surprise awaited instead of £7.50 I was told it was £13.90 and I could either take it of leave it. The Post Office told me that was the price set by Royal Mail and that was the price they had to sell it for.

Royal Mail confirmed the price should be £7.50, but the Post Office wouldn’t budge. The cashier was very reluctant to call the manager. When he did appear he had the same outlook, that’s what Royal Mail had priced it at.  Grudgingly he phoned someone in the Post Office, complaining about customers complaining to him about the price. Apparently there is to be a meeting about the debacle. No time frame given.
It isn't rocket science.  Royal Mail have had this £7.50 price in their publicity material and on their website for months.  How can one of the team that communicates with Post Office get this so wrong?

I hope we will get a much quicker resolution than before, and that the PO HQ team will quickly get the Horizon pricing system corrected, and allow customers to get a refund from any post office that sold the sheets.  Last time it was over 2 weeks before they relented.

UPDATED 3 July - message from Post Office Ltd.
We were incorrectly advised initially by Royal Mail which is being looked into. 
If you or anyone else has been overcharged we now have an agreed process. You can send your receipts to: Royal Mail, Stamps and Collectibles Business Enquiries, PO Box 1373, SUNDERLAND, SR5 9PG Please include a note with the receipt stating ‘Dad’s Army stamps overcharge’ and also include your name and address. 
Alternatively you can send an e-mail to with a scan of the receipt. Please can the title of the e-mail be ‘Dad’s Army stamps overcharge’ and can include your name and address details in the text of the e-mail.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Hampton Court stamps 31 July 2018

As you know, we can't provide details of these stamps yet.  Cover producers can show them on their covers etc from 19 June - and hence you can see them on other blogs - but we can't show them or provide details until 12 July.   In the meantime we have received this note from a reader.
I have received a note from Tallents House saying that the cost of the Hampton Court Palace issue will be £19.39. My first response was this may include some NVCs, but I now suspect the amount for my particular order is made up as follows: Stamps 3 @ 67p, 3 & £1.55 = £6.66; Mini sheet 2 @ 67p, 2 @ £1.45 = £4.24; Retail Books 2 @ £4.02 = £8.04 Post & Packing 45p Total £19.39. So no Prestige Stamp Book. We wait to see what happens.
Hampton Court Palace is one of the best-known buildings in Britain and one of the grandest. Ranked among the top British historic attractions for almost two centuries, the palace is inextricably linked to the Tudor king Henry VIII, one of England’s most famous monarchs.

In 1838, the young Queen Victoria opened it to visitors and remains open to visitors to this day.

The issue forms part of the Royal Palaces series following Buckingham Palace in 2014 & Windsor Castle in 2017, and we can confirm that, unlike those earlier sets, there will be no PSB for Hamtpon Court.  The other details above are correct, and as before the set of 6 show external views and the miniature sheet shows internal views, as does the retail booklet. This wasn't mentioned to us in the original programme but has now been added.  We won't carry many of these because nobody will want the Machin's contained therein. See the designs here.

UPDATE 4 July. As we are producing maximum cards for this issue, I am now able to show them here, although without the postmarks as yet (click on the images for larger versons):

1st class: South Front, West Front and East Front.

£1.55 - Pond Garden, Maze, Great Fountain Garden

Miniature Sheet: 1st class - Great Hall and King's Great Bedchamber

Miniature sheet: £1.45 - Chapel Royal and King's Staircase

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Web-shop notice for customers

Thank you for all the recent orders.  Most orders to 4328 have now been despatched.

We are waiting for more supplies of many of the recent books which we will offer as whole books and as singles.  With this, and our visit to Philanglia (St Ives, Cambridgeshire) at the weekend, there will be a delay in processing most new orders until next week.

Apologies for the delay.  We hope all 2018 codes issued will be back in stock, at least temporarily.  As far as we know there will be no more new stamps, except perhaps the 2nd Large business sheet, and premium rate stamps, until mid-September.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Two more new stamps added to the shop - but with a twist

I am pleased to say that the 2p counter sheet and 1st Large business sheet 2018 printings have now been added to our shop - see 'recent additions'.

The twist is that the 2p is a 'non-visible change (NVC)' stamp printed by Walsall on 09/02/18, the same date as the 10p, 20p and £1 stamps - which were distributed by Royal Mail Tallents House to customers with NVCs as standing orders.

Obviously having discovered it after the previous distribution, they cannot economically distribute the 2p alone, so they have indicated that it will be delayed until September when the 1p, 5p and 2nd class Large counter sheet stamps will also be available.

Meanwhile the 2p can be found in Post Office branches across the country - and can be bought from Royal Mail's business website!  But dealers cannot buy from Royal Mail through normal trade channels.  What a farce.

SO.... if you regularly get NVCs from Royal Mail you don't need to buy this stamp from us - nor to pay 99p on eBay!   On the other hand if you want (and don't get) positional blocks then we have them.

An updated version of our Checklist will be available shortly.  Thank you to those people who have read it so thoroughly as to find the errors: doubtless some still exist, for which we apologise.  Please let us know if you find any.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

New stamps added to our shop

I am pleased to say that we now have stocks of several of the new stamps and booklets, which can be found on our webshop as 'Recent Additions' and in the 2018 Definitives and Booklets categories.

The additions are:

2931.8   2nd class from retail booklet of 12
2933.8   2nd Large from retail booklet of 4

2914aB.8  1st class from business sheet
2936a.8  1st class from retail booklet of 12

ME 7a.8  12 x 2nd booklet
MF 9a.8  12 x 1st booklet
RA4.8      4 x 2nd Large booklet

Latest news on the Walsall printing of counter sheets - and this is by no means final news - is that Royal Mail intend, as they did on 23 May, to distribute all the new printings to standing order customers for non-visible changes in September.  Rather than issue single stamps as they become available, which is uneconomic for them even if they charge 45p to send customers a 2p stamp, the 1p, 2p, 5p and 2nd class Large counter sheets will be distributed coinciding with the Autumn Stampex issues (World War I and Post and Go).

As readers have reported the 2p is widely available in Post Office branches up and down the country, and may have been available briefly from Tallents House in error.  We will list the 2p as soon as we can find a local post office that has stock, and the other values as they become available. Indications are that current Post Office and Royal Mail stocks of some values are sufficient for a reprint to be delayed until at least August.  Time will tell.

Because of attendance at Stafford Stamp Fair and Philanglia there will be some delay in despatching orders of these new stamps.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

June Slogan Postmarks

June's slogans has got off to a flying start with a new one in use on the first day!

Coronation 65th Anniversary
Thanks to MB & RW for the two different versions of this slogan both used on 1 June 2018.  One from Mount Pleasant and the other from North West Midlands.  I wonder what they used at Tyneside?
Commemorating the
65th anniversary of the
Queen's Coronation
2 June 2018

Chippendale 300
Thanks to MB for sending the second slogan for June.  This appears to be a one-day campaign on 2nd June and we only have one version so far from Edinburgh.
Update: Thanks too for an example of the other format from Gatwick on 4 June, so apparently running in parallel with the Scott one below.

300 years
A celebration of Britain's
greatest furniture maker 


Scott 150
Thanks also to JG for the third slogan, in use apparently on 4th June, period unknown. Again the only example so far is from Peterborough Mail Centre.  (See also Chippendale above, used on 4th June.)

150 years since the birth
of polar explorer
Captain Robert Falcon Scott
6 June 2018

Update: Thanks to GF we now have the alternative which is a 6-line format, from Belfast's Northern Ireland Mail Centre used on 7 June.

Update 11 June.  Thanks to BM we can now show the fourth new slogan in June, this one marking the 250th Anniversary of the Royal Academy, used at Peterborough on 8 June.  Would have been useful on 5 June for first day covers of the related stamps, but not used in time.  Another sales opportunity lost by Royal Mail.

12 June: Thanks to MB we can now show the alternate layout from North West Midlands Mail Centre, dated 11 June, so clearly this slogan is running for a few days.  Unfortunate that Chippendale and Scott were celebrated on their birth anniversaries which coincided with the issue of the Royal Academy stamps.  The Royal Academy was founded on 10 December 1768, but as this is the 250th anniversary year most of their celebrations are taking place in the summer.

18 June:  Thanks to MB and RW for the two different examples of the Father's Day slogan from North West Midlands and a poor example from Norwich both dated 15 June.

After that one-day slogan the default seems to be back to 'youth mental health Action For Children'.  This has been seen on 2nd class from SE Anglia on 15th and Manchester on 16th.

19 June:   Thanks again to MB and to CH for the two versions of the latest slogan which makrs the award of the Walter Scott Prize to Benjamin Myers, one from Exeter and the other from North West Midlands both on 18.06.18

Benjamin Myers
Winner of the 2018
Walter Scott Prize
for historical fiction

25 June:  MB has opened his post again and sent an example of this year's Dog Awareness Week slogan. The Dog Awareness campaign runs every year and today's media has many reports due to the hard work of the Royal Mail media team. It's a pity they can't send the same info to philatelic journalists so that the information is available in advance: it wouldn't harm their media activity. BBC linkBelatedly we have the alternative layout from MB, from Dorset and SW Hants dated 25-06-2018.  See also July's listing which shows this in use at North West Midlands on 7 July.

Dog Awareness
Week 2018
Get advice & tips at


27 June: The Art Fund - the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund - has a contest to find The Museum of the Year.  There are five finalists including the Postal Museum. MB has sent a copy of the latest slogan postmark which notes Brooklands Museum as one of the finalists - which suggests that there will be a slogan for each of the finalists.  But this series is likely to be interrupted by one tomorrow for Armed Forces Day which is this Saturday, 30 June.

The Brooklands slogan is from Edinburgh, and dated 27 June 2016. Thanks to MG we can at last show the other layout, from Lancashire & South Lakes (Preston) 27/06/18

             Art Fund_ 
             Museum of
                 the Year 2018
Brooklands Museum

* the underscore after 'Art Fund_' is deliberate and part of their operating name.

28 June:  the second museum of the year candidate to get a slogan is Ferens Art Gallery, this example from North West Midlands 28 June 2018.  And we also now have the Edinburgh version.

2 July:  the third candidate is the Glasgow Women's Library, used here in Edinbugh on 30 June 2018

30 June:  As predicted a slogan was used yesterday, 29 June, for today's Armed Forces Day - and one arrived at Norvic Towers, from Chester & N Wales:

Forces Day
30 June 2018

Thanks to JG for sending an example of the other version from Swindon also on 29 June:

As usual, we will be pleased to show more new ones that you find and will add them here or on the appropriate month's post, as soon as possible.