Tuesday 20 February 2018

Royal Air Force Centenary - 20 March 2018

In a month's time, and just before postage rates increase, Royal Mail is marking the Centenary of the Royal Air Force with a bumper issue consisting of a set of 6, a miniature sheet, a prestige stamp book, and two retail booklets.

The stamps will be issued on the same day as the new tariff stamps, which brings into question the point of the airmail rate stamps in this set.   In earlier years, the special stamps issued just before the tariff change were usually a selection of 1st class:

But in 2016 the British Humanitarians set consisted of 1st class and £1.33 stamps, which worked because the £1.33 Worldwide 20g rate remained unchanged.  And in 2017 the David Bowie set included 1st class and £1.52 stamps - the European 100g rate rising to £1.57 just two weeks later, requiring a 5p stamp to be added to the Bowie stamps.

Now we have RAF £1.40 and £1.57 stamps issued on the same day as their replacement Machin definitives!  And although, as last year, a 5p stamp can be used to make up the £1.40 to the new £1.45 rate, the £1.57 European 100g rate drops to £1.55, meaning that the £1.57 RAF stamps cannot be easily used.  Madness, or just further proof that the special stamps are not designed primarily for postage?

The six new stamps show the Lightning F6 and Hurricane Mk 1 (1st class), Vulcan B2 Bomber and Typhoon FGR4 (£1.40), and Sopwith Camel F1 and Nimrod MR2 (£1.57).

Taking every opportunity to widen the appeal of the set, Royal Mail have also included the Red Arrows aerial display team with four new stamps in the miniature sheet, consisting of 2 x 1st class and 2 more £1.42 stamps.

Two retail booklets will be issued, one on 20 March and the second (Red Arrows) on 11 May. We expect that the Machin definitives will be coded M18L MCIL.

The Prestige Stamp Book includes all these stamps, but widens the RAF net even further by drawing on the 2015 issue which marked the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.  That MS included 3 x 1st class and 3 x £1.33 stamps, and the 1st class stamps are reproduced in a block of 4 in the PSB.

The definitive pane contains three new stamps with security codes MPIL M18L - the 2p, 5p & £1.17: 2 sets with spare 2p & 5p.

Oddly the 'P' in the MPIL is very difficult to see, under the phosphor, leading some to suggest that it is not there.
UPDATE:  Stanley Gibbons catalogue editors have decided that the P is actually missing, so have given these a separate sub-number NOT because of the year, but because of the missing P.  The 2p is U3071d, the 5p is U3072f, and the £1.17 is U3084a.  This means that even collectors who don't distinguish by year code, will want these stamps because they have a separate catalogue listing.


Indeed on some it seems that the L appears like a P!

The total cost of the Prestige Stamp Book (product code YB076) is £18.69: it may not be the most expensive ever (I don't have time to check) but it must be close!  There will also be a Limited Edition PSB priced at £45 (product code YB077).


  1. Aside from the six Limited Edition Prestige Stamp Books, the Royal Air Force Centenary will be the most expensive one Royal Mail has ever issued at £18.69.
    Star Wars - The British Story was the previously the most expensive at £16.99.

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