Saturday, 8 December 2018

Last orders for 2018

Christmas holiday update.

We will post one more batch of orders before Christmas and that will probably be on Friday 14th December.  Unless we are specifically asked to, there will be no international mailings in this batch, and certainly none to Canada (they know why!)

Our office will then be closed from 21 December to 2/3 January 2019.  Blog comments may be passed through in this period but emails are unlikely to be answered.  The shop will remain open and orders will be acknowledged automatically by the system.  Obviously in January it will take a while to catch up but we will update you and despatch orders as soon as possible, subject to getting any new Machin printings stock online.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Harry Potter PSB error - an upright pane!

In the early years of this blog there were a number of errors in Prestige Stamp Books, notably inverted panes and the occasional overturned pane, and the famous missing gold on one pane of the Victoria Cross book.  (search for 'errors' to find these.  But we have a new one as this year comes to a close.

As I indicated here, the Harry Potter prestige book can be started from either end, half the pages inverted in relation to the others, presenting two stories.  The two miniature sheet panes are facing each other, which is another problem for the printers assembling the sheets.  In this picture the back cover is on the left behind the pane with three stamps.

Pane 5 (with three stamps) is inverted so the wrong edge is bound in and Pane 4 (two stamps) is the correct way up. (Starting from the back, these are the 1st and 2nd panes.)

Members of the Modern British Philatelic Circle will find this in their next auction.

Update 7 December :  As JG writes,"It seems that ISP have had more problems than usual in assembling the Harry Potter PSBs."   Well, I suppose the make-up makes it more difficult.  Because the individual pages are from sheets, it's not like printing a magazine or newspaper that starts from both ends.  In that case the pages are set onto the plate that way before printing starts (usually on the web). JG's example has pane 3 missing - not torn out, just never put in.  A good variety even if it did cost more than the value of the stamps it includes.
(We are still waiting for a picture of the example with double cover (see comments).

UPDATE 11 December:  A second correspondent (thanks KC) has sent a picture of his PSB which also has two back covers - not easy to photograph, but quite clear in this picture.


For earlier PSB page errors, see here.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018


Today we are announcing a major change to our business. 

This further change will give me more time to spend on my own collection, and finding a way to dispose of the decades of accumulated stamps and postal history without buying any more!  It will also give us more time together, on holiday, which is as it should be in the eighth decade of your life!

One consequence of this, which I have alluded to in some email exchanges, is that we will not stock Machin definitives after the M18L stamps, ie none of the M19L codes or later.  To clarify, if there is a PSB in early 2019 containing M18L stamps, we will supply this but not any later ones.

I am sorry that this will come as a disappointment to our existing customers, some whom we have been supplying for some years, and quiet a few who have only recently joined us..

The blog will continue to provide news of Machins, slogan postmarks, and other British news.  It will also be used to tell you about additions to our e-commerce shop (of which more below).   The Machin Checklist will continue, using information from many people as at present. 

There are several reasons for this, mainly personal.  For those who don't already know, I turned 70 in April this year. In itself, that isn't a problem, as I am blessed with good health, and a good wife (Val) who keeps me properly and healthily fed. We know from our World Tour in late 2016 that the world can manage without us, and the business has continued as if that never happened.  Meanwhile John takes on all the technical stresses of the business.

We have boxes and boxes of ‘stuff’ here that we don't want to leave for John to sort out in 20 or 30 years time (see, I'm optimistic). There are stockbooks of older Machins, some Wildings and many commemoratives, and first day covers; many foreign & commonwealth stamps;  boxes of postcards mostly for their postal history side, and boxes of postal history from around the world. The sooner we can get these on our shop or eBay, or dispose of them through other outlets like, the better it will be – and I will find all manner of things I had forgotten about!

I don’t know what I will get to first. I will probably start by listing older Machins, regionals, pre-security booklets, etc, but I also have several hundred postal history covers already scanned, so some of those will be listed early on.

There is also a practical difficulty.  As you know Royal Mail Tallents House do not routinely supply definitive stamps with new year codes, nor singles from booklets or business sheets. They departed from that in 2018 by supplying the counter sheet stamps from the new printer.

But aside from that stock provided by Royal Mail most of the new stamps we sell have come from one or two local people who scour the post offices and retail outlets, and are often the first to discover new stamps. Now that more Crown and directly managed Post Office branches are changing to franchises in WHSmith and other retail chains employing their own staff and using self-service kiosks, the volume of new stamps ordered by those branches for sale to customers will decrease, making the hunt more difficult.

There are many other dealers selling new Machins as they appear, on a combination of their own websites, eBay, at fairs or simply by mail order on their lists.  I don’t intend to make any recommendations although I am compiling a list of other dealers.  There doesn’t appear to be any website using the same platform as we do, so layouts, provision of images, etc, will be different to what you are used to.  But some of you are already using several dealers.  I will be interested to know of other dealers that you can recommend, especially outside the UK as this may assist our customers in, especially, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

I will supply details of other dealers on request only with comments and contact details.  This will follow as soon as possible.

If any other dealer reading this wants to ‘pitch’ for business with our existing customers I will include their submission within those details, making it clear that it is their pitch rather than my comments.

Ian, Val & John Billings

Better SSK screens in time for Christmas

The One Post Office website reports changes to screens on self-service kiosks in Post Office branches are now being rolled out. 
Customers and Christmas Makers will see some changes when they use the Self Service Kiosks this festive peak.
Many of the screens have been updated with a simpler, more user-friendly and visual layout to make them easier for customers to use and to find the transaction they need.
Post Office Broadband & Phone bill payments have also been added.
We’re introducing these improvements thanks to feedback from branch colleagues and last year’s Christmas Makers.
The changes are rolling out to all branches with SSKs between today (Tuesday 27 November) and Thursday this week.
Some of the key changes include:
  • Customers will be able to just scan a bill to pay it without having to select the ‘pay a bill’ button. The great news is this will also include Post Office Broadband & Phone bill payments
  • On the ‘select destination’ screen, the UK, Jersey and Guernsey are displayed first followed by the most popular seven international destinations so it’s easier for customers to find the destination for their item, and the search button is bigger too
  • On the screen that asks what type of item it is, the different item descriptions will have an image showing the size and weight limits. If the customer has put an item on the scales, it will only show the options for that weight
  • Non-tracked returns label images are shown on the prepaid items screen
  • On the ‘Buy stamps’ screen, stamp options are grouped by destination, and again it’s weight-sensitive so if the customer has put an item on the scales it will only show the relevant options
  • We have removed the 1st and 2nd class pick buttons from the start screen
  • There is now a cash payment button on the payment screen as well as the debit and credit card options.
UPDATE: Thanks to CN for this picture of the 'Stamp Purchase' screen.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

December slogan postmarks

The first December postmark actually starts in November as already reported, with the Post Early for Christmas slogan.

This was seen for the first time from Sheffield Mail Centre (and another indistinct) 29 November 2018.  (Thank you to JW who has sent an even less distinct example from Southampton dated 28 November.)

Remember to
Post Early
this Christmas!
So that's a start.  Another example of the first layout would be useful, and later there will be specific slogans for 1st & 2nd class inland posting dates.

Update 6 December: JG has sent a much better example of the first type of slogan, from Swindon:

And thanks to DF & RW we have two examples of the reversed slogan applied to square envelopes when the stamp is identified as being in the 'wrong' corner, one from Cumbria and the other from Plymouth.

UPDATE 8 DECEMBER:  Thanks to BM and JG for the latest batch of slogans which includes one for the NHS 'Staywell' campaign.   Glasgow 05-12-2018, Southampton with logo 07/12/2018, Edinburgh 05-12-2018, Birmingham with logo reversed 06/12/2018.
Stay well
this Winter!
Find out more at

Meanwhile Gatwick MC is still using Movember for it's reversed slogan on 06/12/2018. 

UPDATE 12 December
And here's a lovely square card envelope from Gatwick Mail Centre: cancelled on 8 December with the ordinary position of the Movember slogan (no logo) which missed the stamp - this should have been reversed so as to hit the stamp;  but it was delayed and processed again on 9 December with the Staywell slogan!

Remember also that there are still some Universal machines in use, or pressed into use, which may have old slogans.  We would be interested to show all of these as well. and they will be useful for the British Postmark Society records.

UPDATE 7 December: Surprisingly, the first Universal impression this year comes direct to us from Jubilee Mail Centre (I can just make out the JUB on the right of the datestamp), used on 5 December.

UPDATE 2.  This has to be the most bizarre piece every shown in the postmark threads.  The postmark on the left is about as good as mine from Jubilee, and is from Lerwick - you can see the CK.  This was posted on 1 December, a nice clear date.  It then got reprocessed in Edinburgh, again with a CFC1 Universal-type postmark!  And one on which they hadn't changed the date slugs since 30 VII 2017!!  Thanks to JG for this one.

Beat that!!