Monday 13 August 2018

Royal Mail Stamp Publicity Embargos

In the comments on this year's First World War stamps I answered some questions about Royal Mail's embargo policy for new issues.

The three British stamp magazine' editions for September illustrate this perfectly.  First to arrive was Stamp Magazine on 7 August, a few days after the 2 August embargo date for the James Cook Voyages stamps.

This was swiftly followed by Stamp & Coin Mart on 8 August which - despite being well within the period allowed for publication - doesn't include the Cook stamps, but gives full details of the Hampton Court issue which didn't make it into the August issue.

Finally today (or last Saturday for some subscribers) Gibbons Stamp Monthly includes pictures and full details of both the James Cook and Old Vic stamps, the embargo for which ends tomorrow 14 August! (This is the issue which swapped places with the Owls in the programme for undisclosed reasons, but which we can probably guess at, given that the stamps show living actors.)

The problem for the printed media is worse even that for bloggers and website dealers.  With longer lead times for printed material they have to try to match the planned distribution dates for their magazines with the precise but variable* embargo dates announced by Royal Mail.  (* precise in that the date is specific, but variable in that the period may be just after the magazine publication date.

Assuming publication dates are normally between 7th and 12th of each month, we can expect to see

- World War I (embargo 13 September) in the November issue, but possibly October for GSM
- October surprise (embargo 18-25 Oct) not in the November issue, so December due 7 November.
- Christmas (embargo & issue 1 Nov) in the December issue.
- Prince Charles 70h (embargo & issue 14 Nov) not until the January issue due 5 December-ish, three weeks after issue.

I know print editors are not happy with being unable to provide readers with information about new issues before they appear.  Are there so few buyers of new issues that it really doesn't matter if collectors don't find out about them until Royal Mail's own publicity machine cranks into action?  Of course all the mainstream media will cover Prince Charles' birthday stamps because they do push royal memorabilia - unless some sort of disaster, natural or political, pushes the stamps well inside the papers, in which case Royal Mail PR team will shrug and say that there is nothing they could do about it.

But for the collectors who are still interested, if they can't get it from websites and blogs, you would think that they could still trust their favourite philatelic magazine to get them details before the issue.


  1. Even more annoying to me as a subscriber to all three magazines is that they appear on the mat so close to each other, leaving circa three weeks with no new publication.

    As for the new issue publicity, I gave up on modern GB stamps long ago, but do believe that the RM policy on how it places its embargo on the information is flawed.

  2. As I have said before the secrecy surrounding RM new special stamp issues is ridiculous, it must be a nightmare for companies that rely mainly on 1st day covers to get their printing requirements done in good time. Also I believe if RM revealed details of upcoming issues and publicised them they would increase their revenue. But I don't think that will happen.

    1. FDC producers don't have a problem.
      1. They get an idea of most issues at Stampex twice a year.
      2. We all get hi-res pictures and more detail months before the stamps are issued.

      Even for the top secret October issue there was a briefing for cover producers last month (which I was not involved in) which disclosed the subject (which I do know) and, I assume, number of stamps and other products that cover producers need to know for their business.

  3. Today sees Royal Mail’s Old Vic stamps publicised on BBC (London) news, but it’s eclipsed on the National News about Royal Mails £50 million pound fine for breaching competition law., though Royal Mail is quoted as saying they will appeal

    Will Royal Mail see the folly of their current publicity policy or will they continue and alienate collectors, who are suffering from The Post Office’s policy, and use lack of demand for special stamps to discontinue their issue. Though given the increase in the number, composition and size of issues they may be taking a leaf out of some of the less reputable philatelic agencies.

    The recent batch of Franchising their Directly Managed/Crown Post Office which had self-service kiosks to retail partners without self-service kiosks or the full range of collectables (Royal Mail and Royal Mint). So what has happened to the displaced machines? Are Royal Mail and Royal Mint aware of this policy? Franchise Offices have little or no interest in selling ‘collectables’ which questions the Post Offices’ assertion ‘The same wide range of products and services would still be available’ line in their “consultations”

    The list is small but growing
    Acton (3) Notice to vacate by Landlord
    Blackfriars Road (2) Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    Bolton (2) - Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    Camden High Street (4) Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    Corn Exchange (3) Closed – no replacements
    Crouch End (2) Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    Earls Court (2) Closed – no replacement
    Finsbury Park (2) Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    Haywards Heath (2) Host store closing - Haywards Heath was one of the first co-located Crown Post offices
    Huddersfield (3) Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    Muswell Hill (2) Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    New Street (Huddersfield) (2) franchised No SSK or collectables
    Newport (3) Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    North Finchley (3) Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    Pudsey (2) Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    St Johns Wood (2) Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    Sydenham (2) Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    Walthamstow Central (2) Franchised No SSK or Collectables
    Walworth Road (2) Franchised No SSK or Collectables

  4. The Old Vic stamps are even uglier than the Game of Thrones ones were!

    1. On a par with the RSC issue of 2011. Both are designed by Hat-trick, and if I could be bothered to look I would probably find a third, so making ......

      a Hat-trick of poorly received designs!


Thank you for reading the blog and commenting: please use an identity (name or pseudonym) rather than being Anonymous; it helps us to know which 'anonymous' comments are from the same person to avoid confusion. Comments are moderated to avoid spam, but will be published as soon as possible.