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.


  1. Apart from identifying forgeries/counterfeits from the real thing, there is an 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?
    It seems Revenue Protection (and Joe Public) do need more guidance if it is not already out there somewhere!

    1. We did comment on this when it first happened in 2014 but I'll write a new blog post about it, as that is not easy to find - it took me several minutes of searching!


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.