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.


  1. The most obvious difference between the February and May printings of the 2p, not requiring a UV lamp, is that the initial printing is on SBP2u backing paper and the reprint is SBP2i.It should be easy to tell which date your cylinder blocks are from.

    And please, please, please -- please don't invent a third system for describing these backing papers. It is bad enough that that we already have the MBPC, the MCC, and most Ebay sellers who bother to mention it using SBP2i/SBP2u whereas John Deering uses the totally different notation of L/S or S/L. Can't we standardise on one system or the other? We really don't need a third notation of SuLu and LuSu to create additional confusion.

    1. Thank you. Two points:

      1. It has happened before that the same value has been printed on backing paper with both orientations of printing. It is just as likely that a third printing of the 2p (or other printings of any other values) will be printed with one of the existing backings but with the other phosphor colour. So while your method works for now, it may not work in the future.

      2. As with all situations where something new is discovered or occurs, catalogues will use a notation of some sort to identify it. In decades gone by we all waited for Stanley Gibbons as the default. Now, with the internet and faster communication, anybody who devises his own system can instantly share it with everybody else. Indeed any dealer who differentiates will want to do so before waiting for Gibbons' magazine or catalogue with their long lead times.

      SBP2i or 2u don't specify *within the code* just which is which, it is left to the user to find out or work it out.

      Similarly L/S and S/L aren't explicit enough for some people. Sure, it means Large/Small Small/Large but what does that refer to?
      Gibbons have now adopted a different system which is being used by John Deering since July's GSM, which is
      PB-Ls for LARGE above small and PB-sL for small above LARGE, still without being absolutely explicit.

      I have said from the outset, when I first suggested this as a possibility before it even happened, because Royal Mail stupidly didn't specify that the format should be the same when inverted, I don't intend to list these for every instance, nor stock them separately. In the table above, there was room to show it, so I did.

      I also don't claim that the system shown there is any better or worse than any other, but I think it is clear which one is which.