Sunday, 16 September 2018

Machin Definitive Stamps Checklist v 2.0.8 now available

My apologies for the delay in providing a new version of the Checklist.  This is now available at

http://www.norphil.co.uk/securitymachins/

Version 2.0.8 incorporates the latest information about blue and yellow phosphor on Walsall printings of the counter sheet stamps, and includes the 1st class from the World War I PSB issued last week.  Some changes have also been made to Royal Mail product codes for these stamps.

A reminder, it does not distinguish between upright and inverted versions of PSB2, nor the light and dark shades.  On the latest printings the security printing is so pale as to be almost invisible in normal daylight.

We don't yet have stock of the £1.00 or 1st class stamps with blue phosphor but we hope to have these ready to add to the shop when we return from this week's break.

Thank you for your continued interest: reports on new printing dates and phosphor colours will be gratefully received and reported here.  Now that we have established two distinct differences may be it is time to look at booklets?

Updates and Corrections:
Thanks to readers who have provided corrections and additions to the list, and my apologies for the oversight.

Firstly, in the latest Gibbons Stamp Monthly John Deering has pointed out that the colour of the 1st class from the World War I PSB is 'vermillion' rather than 'bright scarlet'.  This is the one we have listed as deep scarlet 3702aP.8 - but it could be renumbered as 3702P.8!  In fact, looking at all the 1st class red MPIL stamps, they are remakably similar in shade, and viewing them is not helped by the iridescent printing which does alter ones perception of the shade.  Anyway, I shall scan them side-by-side in due course and leave you to judge.

20p: the second printing of the Walsall M18L counter sheet was omitted, this should appear as

2018 - M18L - Issue 12/09/18 - DS207WL - U2924 - U2924 - (Norvic) 3020.8a - PD 085/0/18 Blue phosphor.

Page 16, 2p M_IL:  the SG number is U3071d not U3071e.



Wednesday, 12 September 2018

2018 Machin counter sheet stamps reviewed

As we have reported, the distribution of Walsall-printed counter sheet stamps has been erratic
in relation to their printing dates, and now that we have time to examine them properly we can report the variations not only in the backing paper - which as you know we do not spend much time on nor stock - but also with the phosphor bands.

John Deering referred to this in his Machin Watch column in the August 2018 edition of Gibbons Stamp Monthly.  John is using a dual-wave ultra-violet (DWUV) lamp, ie one that has 'a broad wavelength covering both short- and long-wave phosphors.

In his column, John identifies that the five tariff-change stamps issued on 20 March have "a standard (dull) blue fluor which, under the DWUV lamp appears violet-blue".  He then goes on to cover the six counter-sheet stamps made available from 23 May.  These he identifies "the 10p, 20p, £1, and 1st having the interesting yellow-hued fluor, the 2nd (CB) has the dull violet-blue, and the 1st Large has the brighter violet-blue".  (He also mentioned that the dull blue fluor tariff change stamps have 'a minor hint of yellow' which he concludes is very minor and not worth counting as yellow.)

Subsequently there have been later printings of the tariff change stamps, and the other values have appeared, finally being released by Royal Mail today.

Other lamps
I don't have a dual-wave lamp; I have a couple of short-wave lamps (245nM).  These also show the colour of the fluorescence in the phosphor, but your experience may be different.  (I was told yesterday by somebody using a different lamp that my conclusions didn't match his - so your experience may vary from mine.)  The important thing, though, is that the same stamp may exist with more than one colour phosphor from different printings.

Listing by Value
These are my findings arranged by value.  The difference between the blue and yellow using the short-wave lamp is quite marked.  The table shows the printing dates and the dates of availability, as well as the type of backing paper.
§ indicates that there was no official release by Royal Mail of these printings.

Value Printing date Availability date Phosphor Backing paper Norvic number
2nd 14/02/18 23/05/18 Blue SuLu pale 2911.8
1st 14/02/18 23/05/18 Yellow SuLu pale 2914a.8
1st 08/05/18 09/07/18 § Blue SuLu dark 2914a.8a
1st Large 14/02/18 23/05/18 Yellow SuLu pale 2916a.8
2nd Large 14/02/18 12/09/18 Yellow SuLu pale 2913.8
1p 09/05/18 12/09/18 Blue SuLu pale 3001.8
2p 09/02/18 POs 5/18 TH 12/09/18 Yellow SiLu pale 3002.8
2p 08/05/18 12/09/18 Blue SuLu pale 3002.8a
5p 09/02/18 12/09/18 Yellow SiLu pale 3005.8
10p 09/02/18 23/05/18 Yellow SiLu pale 3010.8
20p 09/02/18 23/05/18 Yellow SiLu pale 3020.8
20p 08/05/18 12/09/18 Blue SiLu pale 3020.8a
£1.00 09/02/18 23/05/18 Yellow SiLu pale 3101.8
£1.00 09/05/18 12/09/18 Blue SiLu pale 3101.8a
£1.25 10/01/18 30/03/18 Blue SiLu dark 3125
£1.25 06/02/18 09/04/2018 § Blue SiLu pale -
£1.25 09/05/18 09/07/18 § Blue SuLu pale -
£1.45 10/01/18 30/03/18 Blue SiLu dark 3145
£1.45 06/02/18 09/04/2018 § Blue SiLu pale -
£1.55 15/01/18 30/03/18 Blue SuLu pale 3155
£1.55 07/02/18 09/04/2018 § Blue SiLu pale -
£2.25 15/01/18 30/03/18 Blue SiLu dark 3225.8
£2.25 07/02/18 09/04/2018 § Blue SiLu pale -
£2.65 15/01/18 30/03/18 Blue SiLu dark 3265
£2.65 07/02/18 09/04/2018 § Blue SiLu pale -



Rearranged by printing date it is clear that the January printings have blue phosphor, the February dates have yellow phosphor - except for the 2nd class centre band stamp which has blue, and the May printings have blue.  Note that today's new stamps are from a mix of printing dates, so have a mix of colours.

AND, there are two versions of the 2p green.  So the 2p which we have been selling for some weeks, and which has been found in Post Office branches during the summer is from the 9 February printing and has yellow phosphor, but a new printing available from Tallents House today was printed on 8 May and has blue phosphor.   The stock at Tallents House is not separated.  If you have ordered cylinder blocks they are, I think, most likely to be the later printing.  If you get date blocks of course they will be easy to identify - but check: you may have CBs and DBs from different sheets, and so different dates!  Singles could be either.   Because of the obvious difference the first day covers we have prepared have both 2p stamps on. 

Summary of variation on the same or adjacent printing dates.


Printing Date Phosphor SBP Values





10 Jan 2018 Blue SiLu dark 1.25, 1.45, 2.25, 2.65


SuLu pale £1.55





6 & 7 Feb 2018 Blue SiLu pale 1.25, 1.45, 1.55, 2.25, 2.65





9 Feb 2018 Yellow SiLu pale 2, 5, 10, 20p, £1.00





14 Feb 2018 Blue SuLu pale 2nd class centre band

Yellow SuLu pale 1st, 1st Large, 2nd Large





8 & 9 May 2018 Blue SuLu pale 1p, 2p, £1.25


SiLu pale 20p, £1.00


SuLu dark 1st class


NB: The latest batches have very pale printing on the backing paper, so apologies if I have misidentified any of the variants.

UPDATE: We will be away from Norvic HQ and our offices will be closed next week - 17 to 26 September.  We will be unable to take phone calls, or respond to emails.

However, our eCommerce site will remain open where all the new Machins from counter sheets and the World War I PSB are now available.


Photographing differences in ultra-violet reaction is very difficult, so in this case I haven't been able to start.  If I can do so successfully, I'll post the pictures here.

Other printings
Details are now shown in the tables above, of other printings that we know about.  Two new printings were discovered this week at Stampex, the 20p 8 May and £1.00 9 May printings.  I have treated these two dates and the 6 & 7 February as being in the same batches of printing.

If you want a complete collection of Walsall printed sheet stamps, there could be far more than we have been prepared for!   And of course the booklets and business sheets are also printed by Walsall - time to check these as well!

If the different printings have produced different stamps that we are unaware of will will endeavour to obtain them and list them on our shop.


No Spring Stampex in 2020.

According to information from the ABPS, the Philatelic Traders Society have decided for financial reasons not to hold a Stampex in February 2020.   However, Autumn Stampex will take place as usual in September 2020.  Of course there is also the International London 2020 in the first week of May, so it is understandable that the regular dealers will want to attend only one event in the first half of the year.


Monday, 10 September 2018

No Bikes at Royal Mail Delivery Offices

Ok, so this is not exactly news to most UK readers as Royal Mail has mostly abandoned the use of bicycles for deliveries, instead using vans or trolleys to take the many parcels and packets on delivery rounds.

But our message actually refers to the Mail by Bike Post and Go stamps which, we understand, will be in Post Office self-service kiosks and the Post and Go machine at The Postal Museum, but not at Royal Mail Delivery Offices.  More information here.

UPDATE 14 SEPTEMBER:  Rumour from Stampex is that there will be no more special Post and Go issues.  More about this after our break when there will, hopefully, be confirmation or otherwise.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

New Walsall printings in time for Stampex - probably.

As announced back in the summer, four new Walsall-printed counter-sheet stamps are due to be available at Stampex.  We have ordered these from Tallents House for supply to customers and they will be available on our e-commmerce site soon.

So far we have received only the 2nd class Large and a single sheet of the 2p, which we have been selling for some time, but which I ordered in case there was something different about it.  Well there is!  As shown below, the printing date on this sheet is 08/05/18 - all the stock we have had so far was printed on 09/02/18.  This single sheet does seem to be a slightly lighter shade than the others we have, but not significantly different.

The 2nd class Large was printed on 14/02/18 - which is odd, because based on usage and existing 2014 stocks in some Post Office branches, that is the last stamp we would have expected to see reprinted.  The need for this must come from stock being sold by Royal Mail through their website and wholesale network.

 


The 5p was printed on 09/02/18, as was the 2p first printing, the 10p, 20p and £1.  The 2nd class Large was printed on 14 February, the same date as the 2nd, 1st and 1st Large.  Was it really needed? Obviously not as urgently as the others which have been listed on the Tallents House definitive stock list some time ago.

So where have the 5p & 2nd Large been all this time?  Did Royal Mail really ask Walsall to print these stamps seven months ago and then keep them in a warehouse?   Nobody has reported them from any other source - maybe we should periodically order from Royal Mail's business-user website just to see what we get.

 

First supplies of the 1p have now arrived, printed on 09/05/18 - again, they must have been in a Royal Mail warehouse somewhere, so it's surprising that it took so long to find them that these new stamps couldn't all be despatched together!




Monday, 3 September 2018

Mail by Bike Post and Go stamp issue 12 September 2018

In February 2016 Royal Mail issued the Royal Mail Heritage: Transport set as part of the Royal Mail 500 celebrations.  Post & Go issues in 2017 and 2018 have built on the theme, creating a series exploring the transportation of mail in greater detail.

Mail by Bike is the fifth issue in this series and follows Mail by Rail which was issued in February 2017, Mail by Air which was issued in September 2017 and Mail by Sea which was issued on 14th February 2018. Although launched during Autumn Stampex, there will be no Royal Mail vending machines with these stamps at the show.


UPDATE 10 Sept. We understand that although these stamps have been distributed to Post Office branches for their SSKs, they are not being sent to Royal Mail Delivery Offices.  Whilst confirmation of the nationwide position is awaited, we know that there are none at Windsor DO, although they are at the PO next door!

Background
Cycles were used for the delivery of mail since at least 1880, when tricycles were trialled in Coventry.

Many designs of machines with two, three, four or five wheels were experimented with, and by 1933 cycle posts covered some 200 million miles (nearly 322 million km) every year. The many suppliers of cycles to the Post Office included Quadrant, Singer, Elswick, James and Pashley, the last of these being
the largest supplier of bicycles to the mail fleet.

The number of cycles peaked at around 36,000 in 2006.  In 1903, the Postmaster General reported that experimental motor tricycle posts were being operated in London. In July 1914, the Post Office purchased 20 motorcycle combinations to replace horsedrawn services over routes between 40 and 50 miles (64 and 80km).

More powerful machines available after the First World War encouraged greater use. Solo motorcycles entered letter delivery service in 1924 and telegram delivery in 1933. In later years, motorcycles were used for priority mails, such as Expresspost and Datapost.

Stamps in detail  (click on any image to see a larger version.)


Pentacycle, 1882
Five-wheeled ‘Hen and Chicks’ were used for mail delivery in the Horsham district, Sussex, in 1882.  Postmen liked these machines, but officials were unconvinced of their practicality, and so their use never extended beyond the initial trials.

Motorcycle and trailer, 1902
Such a motorcycle and trailer were used in 1902 for delivering letters and parcels to the rural districts surrounding Sittingbourne, Kent. This was very much a local initiative, and it was among the first motorised mail deliveries outside London.

Tricycle and basket, 1920
First introduced in 1880, tricycles, with their large wicker baskets, had been ideal for carrying substantial amounts of mail in urban and rural districts. By the First World War, they were antiquated and insufficient for the increasing weight of the mail.

Bicycle, 1949
The bicycle was the mainstay of the postal fleet for more than a hundred years, with over 36,000 in use in 2006, followed by a dramatic decline. A standard specification for delivery bicycles remained almost unchanged between 1929 and 1992.

Motorcycle, 1965
Motorcycles were used for mail delivery and collection, as well as for telegram delivery. Various manufacturers supplied them, with BSA being the largest. The BSA Bantam was the much-loved and
reliable workhorse of the fleet between 1948 and 1971.

Quad bike, 2002
Honda quad bikes were used for collecting and delivering mail in Scotland between 2001 and 2010. They were ideal for the rough terrain of the Scottish islands Gigha, Iona and Kerrera, allowing Royal Mail to reach locations previously accessible only by foot.



Post & Go stamps are sold from Post Office Self-Service Kiosks (SSK), which allow customers to weigh their letters and packets, pay for and print postage stamps and stationery supplies, often without the need to visit the counter. The first Post & Go machine was trialled in The Galleries Post Office® in Bristol in 2008.  The labels will be used in Post & Go machines at Post Offices around the country, and from Royal Mail machines at Enquiry Offices, Museums. These stamps are not available from machines at Stampex.   

The labels can be obtained with 6 different service indicators: 1st class up to 100g & 1st class Large up to 100g, a dual-value Europe up to 20g/World up to 10g, Europe 100g, Worldwide 20g, and Worldwide 100g.  From SSKs other stamps can be printed with monetary values for a variety of services including Special Delivery and parcels.


World War I Centenary – 1918 stamp issue 13 September 2018

This is the fifth and final set in landmark series that commemorates ‘the War to end all Wars’.   Not only did the First World War claim millions of lives, it changed the course of history and transformed the lives of generations to come.  Each year of the war is explored though a stamp which covers six key themes: Poppies, Poetry, War Art, Memorials and Artefacts. These themes combine to form a beautiful and poignant collection which serves as a fitting way to commemorate this tragic conflict. 

 

The stamps in detail
1st CLASS - 100 POPPIES, ZAFER AND BARBARA BARAN
The poppy has been one of the enduring symbols of the First World War and has come to be associated with remembrance. To mark the centenary of the end of the war, Zafer and Barbara Baran photographed one hundred poppy flowers, layering the images together to create 100 Poppies. Each of the poppies was freshly cut and carefully lit before being photographed, to capture the flower’s delicate luminosity. In the final artwork, the light gently filters through the overlapping petals, giving this composite image a ghostly, fleeting appearance and suggesting movement.

1st CLASS - ‘ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH’, WILFRED OWEN
In ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, British Army officer and poet Wilfred Owen mourns the waste of young lives, cut short by wailing shells and the rattle of rifle fire. Killed in action in 1918, a week before the armistice, Owen has become one of Britain’s most celebrated war poets. In this woodblock print, illustrator Andrew Davidson has hand-carved the opening lines of Owen’s poem. Using an illuminated letter style that evokes the shattered treescapes of war artist Paul Nash, the design reflects the rawness and power of Owen’s words.

1st CLASS - SECOND LIEUTENANT WALTER TULL
Second Lieutenant Walter Tull was born in Folkestone in 1888 and orphaned after the death of his English mother and his Barbadian father. He became known as a professional footballer. After war broke out, he served in the Footballers’ Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and fought on the Somme. Commissioned in May 1917, Tull became the first mixed-race Army officer to command troops in a regular unit. After fighting in Italy, he returned to the Western Front. On 25 March 1918, he was killed in action. Having no known grave, Tull is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

£1.55 - WE ARE MAKING A NEW WORLD, PAUL NASH
In 1914, Paul Nash enlisted as a private in the Artists’ Rifles and was later commissioned into the Hampshire Regiment. Invalided home in May 1917 following an accident, he returned to the front in November 1917 as an official artist. He was appalled by the sight of the Ypres Salient. In We Are Making A New World – titled with bitter irony – Nash depicts a bleak and hopeless sunrise over a copse of shattered trees. The ground is pitted with waterlogged shell holes. Nash was deeply moved by the destruction of trees, seeing in their degradation a metaphor for human suffering.

£1.55 - THE GRAVE OF THE UNKNOWN WARRIOR, WESTMINSTER ABBEY, LONDON
On Armistice Day, 11 November 1920, an Unknown Warrior was buried at Westminster Abbey, after being chosen at random from several unidentifiable sets of remains and solemnly conveyed from France. Enormous crowds gathered in silence to witness the procession through London, and King George V unveiled the Cenotaph at Whitehall before following behind the coffin to the Abbey. For a nation reeling from the enormous loss of life, the burial of the Unknown Warrior provided a focal point for grief.

£1.55 - LIEUTENANT FRANCIS HOPGOOD’S GOGGLES
Lieutenant Francis Hopgood joined the Royal Flying Corps in March 1918, transferring from the Artists’ Rifles. On 10 April – a few days after the Royal Flying Corps had been incorporated into the new Royal Air Force – Hopgood was shot down. Crash-landing behind German lines, he was captured and held as a prisoner of war. Clear sight was vital to a pilot’s ability to survive aerial  combat. Hopgood’s goggles are fitted with custom prescription lenses in Triplex safety glass, which  survived his crash-landing without breaking into pieces.

Prestige Stamp Book & Retail booklet
 
 

Of interest to Machin collectors is the final pane in the PSB, which includes the 1st class MPIL stamp with M18L year code.  Unlike the stamps in the Game of Thrones PSB this clearly shows the 'P' in MPIL, although some of the other letters are indistinct. [The phosphor on the Poppy stamps is gradated, and quite different to that on the Machins, although that seems to be unnecessary on these white stamps.]


The retail booklet contains 2014 & 2018 Poppy stamps in self-adhesive form for the first time. The 1st class Machin is coded MCIL M18L.  The iridescent printing is different (when viewed at an angle) to that in earlier 2018 booklets being not as reflective, but the visibility is the same. The security printing on the background is LsLs, as (some) previous versions.

Cylinder numbers W1 are Cyan, magenta, yellow, black, Royal Mail red, grey (for inscriptions on Poppies), iridescent, phosphor.

Technical details and acknowledgements
Printer: International Security Printers (ISP)
Stamp Size Square, 35mm x 35mm
Print process: Lithography,
Stamp Format: 6 sheets x 50 stamps per sheet
Retail booklet is printed in gravure and self-adhesive by ISP Walsall.


Products: Set of six stamps, FDC, Presentation Pack, Stampcards, Retail stamp book, PSB, Coin Cover x 3, Framed products.  Composite Sheet, Souvenir Pack. First World War Album.

The composite sheet shows the 30 stamps in 6 columns, one for each of the themes, and a row for each year.  The stamps are said by Royal Mail to be the same as those issued originally.  I'll leave it to those who buy them to do the comparison and share any differences found.

 

UPDATE 13.9.18: As mentioned in the comments to this post, there is a barcode printed on the back of the sheet behind the sheet number and onto the first stamp in column 6, as shown below.  This does not warrant the stamp being separately identified in catalogues - and quite honestly I can't understand why it has been done, unless for Royal Mail stock control purposes.  When barcodes were introduced on counter sheets and miniature sheets we were told that it was for Post Office Ltd stock control, rather than retail 'point of sale' purposes - and post offices don't scan the codes when selling at the counter, which bears this out.



We will stock and list shortly, the 1st class definitive from the PSB and a limited number of retail booklets.

Design: hat-trick Design
Acknowledgements: 100 Poppies by Zafer and Barbara Baran © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2018; ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ by Wilfred Owen, quotation used with kind permission of The Wilfred Owen Estate, illustration by Andrew Davidson © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2018; Second Lieutenant Walter Tull, photograph © Walter Tull Archive; We Are Making a New World by Paul Nash © IWM (Art.IWM ART 1146); The Grave of the Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey, London, photograph © English Heritage; Lieutenant Francis Hopgood’s goggles, featured with kind permission of The Museum of Army Flying, photograph by John Ross © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2018



The Old Vic Bicentenary stamp issue 30 August 2018

The bicentenary of the Old Vic has been marked by a set of eight stamps in four se-tenant pairs.  The iconic Old Vic has hosted most of our greatest actors at some point in their careers, many of whom have cited their Old Vic production as among their career highlights.

Over the last 60 years in particular, The Old Vic has played an important part in the development of modern British theatre, with many great actors making their names on its influential stage. This stamp issue commemorates eight of these actors in their heyday performing some of their greatest performances at The Old Vic, from the 1960s to modern day.



The stamp designs by hat-trick design, who also produced the 2011 Royal Shakespeare Company set featuring equally bizarre typography, although the MS was innovative.

The production and lead actors featured on the stamps are highlighted in bold below. The typography used in the stamps is woodblock set typography, done by Kelvyn Laurence Smith.

1st Class The Dance of Death, 1967 by August Strindber. Starring Laurence Olivier, Translated by CD Locock, Directed by Glen Byam Shaw.
1st Class King Lear, 2016 by William Shakespeare. Starring Glenda Jackson, Directed by Deborah Warner.

£1.25 Hamlet, 1975 by William Shakespeare. Starring Albert Finney, Directed by Peter Hall.
£1.25 Hedda Gabler, 1970 by Henrik Ibsen. Starring Maggie Smith, Translated by Michael Meyer Directed by Ingmar Bergman.

£1.45 No Man’s Land, 1975 by Harold Pinter. Starring John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson, Directed by Peter Hall
£1.45 Carmen Jones, 1991 by Oscar Hammerstein II. Starring Sharon Benson, Directed by Simon Callow.

£1.55 Romeo and Juliet, 1960 by William Shakespeare. Starring Judi Dench and John Stride, Directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
£1.55 Henry V, 1955 by William Shakespeare. Starring Richard Burton, Directed by Michael Benthall

Technical Details
Printer: International Security Printers (Cartor)
Stamp Size 35mm (w) x 37mm (h)
Sheet Format: 60 per sheet, 4 se-tenant pairs
Print process: Lithography, ordinary gum.

Design:
The Dance of Death – photograph of Laurence Olivier © Zoë Dominic, used with kind permission of Catherine Ashmore; costume design by Motley; King Lear – photograph of Glenda Jackson © Marilyn Kingwill/ArenaPAL; costume design by Zeb Lalljee; content used with kind permission of The Old Vic; Hamlet – photograph of Albert Finney © Donald Cooper/Photostage; costume design by John Bury; Hedda Gabler – photograph of Maggie Smith © Zoë Dominic, used with kind permission of Catherine Ashmore; costume design by Mago; No Man’s Land – play by Harold Pinter used with kind permission of FPinter Limited; photograph of Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson © Nobby Clark /ArenaPAL; costume design by John Bury; Carmen Jones – play by Oscar
Hammerstein II used with kind permission of Hammerstein Properties LLC; photograph of Sharon Benson © Neil Libbert/ ArenaPAL; costume design by Bruno Santini; Romeo and Juliet – photograph of Dame Judi Dench and John Stride © Express Newspapers/N&S Syndication; costume design by Peter J Hall; content used with kind permission of The Royal Victoria Hall Foundation; Henry V – photograph of Richard Burton by Angus McBean © Houghton Library, Harvard University; content featured with kind permission of The Royal Victoria Hall Foundation; costume design by Audrey Cruddas.


Products
Set of 8 stamps - Presentation Pack - First Day Cover - Stamp Cards

Information from Royal Mail - we are not stocking these products.

Sidenote: Oddly the 250th anniversary of the Bristol Old Vic was marked by Royal Mail with a sligan postmark two years ago in May 2016.



Surprise addition to the 2018 stamp programme from Royal Mail

Readers will know that Royal Mail have a surprise up their sleeves for 16th October.  It will almost certainly be another bumper blockbuster issue to appeal to more than just stamp collectors, and will be accompanied by a variety of framed or novelty add-ons as Star Wars has been in the past.  I still don't know what the subject is, but I heard a whisper.  

However, a couple of readers have told me about the latest communication from Royal Mail about their standing order, which shows an issue on 10th October.  This has the title 'United for Wildlife' priced at £15.95 plus 45p delivery charge.  Although much cheaper than I expected for the blckbuster, I thought this was going to be another cryptic codeword with nothing to do with the stamp subject - Camelot was used for one of the Star Wars issues, I think.

[7 September updates in blue now that Royal Mail have issued details to the Trade.]

But the September Philatelic Bulletin received today shows a forthcoming issue with just that title:
United for Wildlife: Smilers Commemorative Sheet (10 x 1st class stamps with backing card).
I thought they had given up on these spurious sheets - doubtless we will find out soon just why this is necessary, apart from adding to Royal Mail's income.  The trade haven't been made aware of this in advance of it being mentioned in the Bulletin and ordinary customers being billed for it.
Technical details: printed by ISP in litho on self-adhesive paper, A4, with stamps 24 x 20 mm.

UPDATE:  Searching the web I find the website which explains:
United for Wildlife was created by The Royal Foundation. Led by The Duke of Cambridge, our campaign unites the world’s leading wildlife charities under a common purpose: to create a global movement for change.
Whilst animals continue to be killed by criminals, whilst whole species are poached to extinction, we will join together to ask one simple question: Whose side are you on?
With the help of our incredible ambassadors from around the world, including David Beckham, Andy Murray and Chris Froome, we’re building a movement that will make a real change for wildlife.
“I believe passionately that we have a duty to prevent critically endangered species from being wiped out. If we get together, everywhere, we can preserve these animals so that they share our world with future generations. That’s what United for Wildlife is all about, and why I’m proud to be involved.”

HRH The Duke of Cambridge,
President of United for Wildlife
I understand the sheet uses the Royal Seal 1st class stamp with labels showing the most endangered species - elephants, rhinos etc.  This explains everything except why this type of stamp product will be useful to the campaign. There was widespread publicity yesterday (see below) when the Duke visited the Royal Mail's Worldwide International Logistics Centre at Heathrow Airport to see how United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce members are working together to disrupt attempts to traffic illegal wildlife products.  But ordinary members of the public won't see the sheets.

[Image of sheet now available - click to see it larger.]

  

 

I've been asked to explain these two images - my apologies I thought that everybody knew the format for these premium-priced Commemorative Sheets.  This is an earlier one, showing how the stamps are held in the card sleeve, which is itself in a clear cellophane pocket.  The picture at left with the tiger at the top is the inside, the tiger folds over to show the subject title as shown (inverted) on the right, with the text and images on the reverse shown below it.





United for Wildlife is one of many projects created by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.  Led by The Duke of Cambridge and with the help of ambassadors from around the world and key partner organisations, it unites the world’s leading wildlife charities under a common purpose: to create a global movement for change.

The organisation is committed to: 

>  Better On-Site Protection for wildlife. 
>  Reduce demand for illegal wildlife products.
>  Improve law enforcement.
>  Work with the private sector to reduce trafficking.
In 2014 United for Wildlife created a Transport Taskforce, of leaders from the global transportation industry, to identify opportunities to break the illegal wildlife trade chain between suppliers and consumers. Royal Mail are members of this Taskforce and work with enforcement agencies to support the action.
> Engage young people with conservation


Labels show the animals in danger.
Cheetahs - hunted as pets and for their coats;
African elephants - poached for ivory tusks;
Tigers - hunted for bones, teeth and skins maybe only 3200 left;
Asian and African pangolin - hunted for scales and meat;
Indian rhinoceros - one of the most endangered with only 65 of the Java species remaining;
Lions - about 20,000 left in the wild;
African rhinoceros - only about 25,000 left compared with 500,000 in 1900.


6 September UPDATE: This has been in the news today as The Duke of Cambridge was presented with a special commemorative sheet demonstrating the work of United for Wildlife and the Transport Taskforce:


Captain Cook Voyages artist signed first day cover available

Royal Mail recently issued a set of six stamps and miniature sheet to mark the first voyage of Captain Cook in the Endeavour (see here).


The 1st class stamp showing Cook includes detail from a painting Triumph of the Navigators by marine artist Robin Brooks, who kindly agreed to sign five covers exclusively for Norvic Philatelics. 

We are now offering some of these covers at £30 with a donation of £10 for each cover being sent to the local Caister Lifeboat, a local service independent of the RNLI.

 

Also included is a Black Dog Studios card showing a larger picture of the Endeavour with a description on the reverse.  

To buy, please visit our e-commerce site here, where you will also find Cook maximum cards.


Validity and Value of stamps with no Value (NVI)

It is over four years since we first had to consider the change in letter weight steps and the question of stamps pre-printed with obsolete weights.  A reader asked the question on the latest Revenue Protection post last month, and so I'll give this important subject it's own entry on the blog.

The question was:
There is another issue, as touched on, in that what postage rate do some of the perfectly legal NVIs and earlier Post & Go stamps now pay. A number of the original rates no longer exist.
I assume an "E" value will probably still pay the Europe rate of up 20g. Where is this set out, either for the public or the Royal Mail staff?
We have Overseas booklet stamps showing Worldwide postcard rate? Originally apparently 43p. What does that pay for today? Ditto Europe up to 40g - no longer a published postage rate. Worldwide up to 40g & 60g likewise both as booklet stamps and/or Post & Go values. Europe up to 60g and so on.
Does anyone know whether the answer set out anywhere or where the contact point is to enquire?
The answer is buried deep in a blogpost of April 2014, so I'll repeat and expand on it here.
UPDATE 10 April 2014
Regarding the future value of obsolete Post and Go stamps Royal Mail have advised:

Existing P&G stamps for WW 10g and WW40g and other previously issued NVI’s for which there is no current postage value e.g. WW Postcard, will continue to be valid for the next applicable weight step up from its stated value i.e. WW 10g stamp will be valid at the WW 20g value and the WW 40g stamp will be valid at the new WW 60g value.
Although they were asked specifically about Post and Go stamps, the reply covers the self-adhesive booklet stamps, including the airmail postcard rate stamp, which is the same rate as the Europe 20g/World 10g. The following year the 60g step was replaced by the 100g step and the same principle applied.  In other words, the stamps showing 40g are now valid for 100g.  The 10g and 20g stamps are still valid for the weights shown, as before.


Users of Stanley Gibbons' Great Britain Concise catalogue will know that the introduction includes some tables of postage rates.  One which is missing is this table which, apart from indicating the original selling price of some of the stamps, explains why certain definitive stamps were issued and, in the case of the £2.25, reiussed after being replaced.


Europe 20g
World 10g
World 20g
World 40g
April 2009
56p
62p
90p
-
April 2010
60p
67p
97p
£1.46
April 2011
68p
76p
£1.10
£1.65
April 2012
87p
£1.28
£1.90
April 2013
88p
£1.25
£1.88

E20/ W10
Europe 60g
World 20g
World 60g
April 2014
97p
£1.47
£1.28
£2.15

E20/ W10
Europe 100g
World 20g
World 100g
April 2015
£1
£1.52
£1.33
£2.25
April 2016
£1.05
£1.52
£1.33
£2.25
April 2017
£1.17
£1.57
£1.40
£2.27
April 2018
£1.25*
£1.55
£1.45
£2.25



* error corrected
I hope readers find this useful.  It is probably worth reminding everybody that these are also all valid at the rates shown for inland postage, just as the 2nd, 1st, Large, Signed For, and Special Delivery stamps are all valid for services other than those shown and on inland and international mail.


Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Early sale of World War I Centenary stamps

This year's stamps marking the Centenary of World War I are due for release on 13 September.  But the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog reports an early release offered for sale on an internet auction on 28 August!

Given that many Post Offices don't use higher values it's surprising that this is the £1.55 value, rather than a 1st class.   See more here.

If you're interested in Post and Go, Commonwealth stamps, thematics, or provisionals, the latest epistle from WhiteKnight also includes the latest Post & Go from Guernsey, and some provisional surcharges from The Republic of South Sudan.  If you are tired the easy task of collecting GB stamps, you could do worse than look for commercially used covers from smaller African nations.  They must be scarce!



Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Royal Mail's Latest Revenue Protection Tool - Not Quite Enough!


Yes, the latest tool to be deployed in Royal Mail's fight against counterfeit and fraudulent stamps is Stanley Gibbons Collect British Stamps 2018 (CBS).  The "ideal reference book", the "indispensible up-to-date guide for all GB collectors" has been provided to Royal Mail's revenue protection teams across the country.

Two dealers in different parts of the country have mentioned this to me while citing how perfectly valid stamps they have used have on mailings to customers have been surcharged for the use of counterfeit stamps!

I reported in May that Royal Mail had set up two pages on their website on the subject.  One has guidance to customers who may have bought stamps from sources other than Royal Mail or Post Office, on what to look out for to make sure their stamps are genuine (see below).  Many people commented that the advice was too simplistic, appearing to validate some that we know are forgeries (see right) while failing to describe many pre-security stamps that are still valid and which don't have the features described.

So how will CBS help Revenue Protection teams?  Very usefully it illustrates all commemorative and special stamps which, given the vast number of stamps that has been issued over the last 40 years, postal workers could be forgiven for not remembering them all.

However, where the system falls down is when it comes to definitives.  Few of these are illustrated in CBS but the ones that are are shown below.  (Numbers are SG illustration or 'type' numbers.)  So why did Revenue Protection not recognise the dark blue 'E', and the 1st self-adhesive horizontal booklet stamps?
 


My belief is that they didn't look for those because, after all, they know what definitives look like, don't they?  They see them every day.  They include 1st and 2nd (and Large) and some with monetary values.

Why would they look up the horizontal stamps (issued in 1993/95) or the 'E' or airmail stamps (issued in 1999 & 2003-10), and where would they look?   These are scattered through the catalogue, rather than being all in one place.  And apart from the two PIP and the horizontal stamps shown above, the 1st and 2nd class are not shown at all!  So what about the black & Millennium 1st class, and the dark blue 2nd class?

So, from a position of not knowing enough about special stamps, Revenue Protection now have all the pictures they need for those, but no idea about definitives which, to quote Royal Mail's webpage...

Do have:
  1. Die cuts within the body of the stamps
  2. The words 'Royal Mail' printed in a special ink across the surface of the stamp
  3. Wider oval perforations along both sides, close to the base of the stamp
while things to look out for on 1st and 2nd class counterfeits are:
  1. Cost less than the official Royal Mail prices
  2. Security ovals on each side of the stamp are missing or uneven
  3. Unusual colourings
  4. Uneven borders
  5. An unusually shiny surface
  6. Stamps may be stuck on to what appears to be greaseproof paper
  7. Books of stamps with anything other than 6 or 12 stamps included. Royal Mail only sell 1st and 2nd class stamps in books of 6 and 12.
All this makes life difficult for dealers and collectors who resell stamps for postage.  The odd one or two on social mail would almost certainly slip through unnoticed.  But the customers of a dealer or business preparing a bulk mailing of even 20-30 letters using unused spares of these might be in for a shock.


So, good effort, Royal Mail, but certainly not 10/10.  Collectors and dealers hold thousands of pounds-worth of these stamps and - believe me - many of them will be used eventually because there are insufficient new collectors wanting to buy them.  So time for Royal Mail Revenue Protection to be given a little more guidance on the good and the bad.