Monday, 18 March 2019

Severe cutback in Stanley Gibbons product range

Stanley Gibbons have written to dealers and other trade customers with several announcements, one of which is that they will cease stocking a wide range of other suppliers' accessories.

They have also changed trade discount arrangements and introduced postage charges on small orders. If you buy direct you may need to find other suppliers.  If you buy from your friendly local stamp dealer you may find that any discounts you have been used to may have to be reduced.

Friday, 15 March 2019

The Verdict: Judge delivers devastating blow against Post Office in first trial.


The Bates v Post Office class action (more correctly known as Group Litigation Order or GLO) has now reached the end of the first stage. 

Former subpostmasters who have been sacked and/or charged and/or jailed for theft, fraud or improper accounting are claiming that the errors revealed by the Horizon computer system and audits were all due to errors within the system, and that there was no fraudulent activity.  The situation goes back at least as far as 2007.

The first trial, which started in November 2018, is known as the Common Issues Trial.  This centres around the relationship between Post Office Ltd and the individual SubpostmastersTo borrow from Nick Wallis's excellent reporting on postofficetrial,

In very broad brush strokes, the JFSA appears to be saying that the Post Office is responsible for putting Subpostmasters in a horribly disadvantaged situation, which was so unfair as to be unlawful.

The Post Office appears to be saying it followed its contract with its Subpostmasters to the letter and didn't do anything wrong. It is particularly keen to deny its contract with Subpostmasters is "relational" or in any way "tortious".

On the claim form, which summarises the case against the Post Office, the claimants (mainly Subpostmasters, but including some Post Office employees and Subpostmaster assistants) say they "have been subjected to unlawful treatment by the Defendant causing them significant financial losses (including loss of their business and property) bankruptcy, prosecutions, serving community or custodial sentences, distress and related ill-health, stigma and/or reputational damage."
And Mr Justice Fraser has delivered a devastating blow to Post Office Ltd.  Patrick Green QC for the claimant calls judgment an "incredible vindication" of the Subpostmasters and a very important legal decision in the findings against the Post Office.  One lawyer called this a "clean sweep" for the claimants. The lead solicitor called this a "huge judgment in more ways than one".

If you have a few hours to spare, the entire judgement is now on the official website here.

Meanwhile here are a few highlights:

"§1113.  "he Post Office is not entitled to act in a way that would be considered commercially unacceptable by reasonable and honest people.

"§1116. I find that the Post Office is not therefore entitled to rely upon the Branch Trading Statements, for any period in respect of which a SPM notified a dispute to the Helpline, as a settled account between agent and principal."

"§1117. Suspended SPMs were not paid for their period of suspension but in order to keep their branches open had to pay Temporary SPMs to run them. Even if reinstated, they had no right to be paid their remuneration for their period of suspension.  I find that the Claimants are correct and the Post Office was required to act in accordance with the implied duty of good faith in these contracts (as a result of their being relational ones) in exercising its power to terminate the contracts.

"§1119.  In [the new post-2011] contract the extent of contractual liability of a SPM was sought to be increased by the Post Office very substantially, and to entitle the Post Office to recover losses from SPMs regardless of any fault on their part.  I find that this clause fails the test of reasonableness in the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977, which governs these contracts, and the Post Office is not entitled to rely upon it."

Second trial
The Horizon trial is the second trial in the Bates and others v Post Office group litigation at the High Court.  It is being held between 11 March 2019 and 4 April 2019 at the Rolls Building in London. Mr Justice Fraser is again presiding.

This trial includes witness statements from Sub-Postmasters, employees of Fujitsu (who provided the Horizon system to POLtd), and Second Sight, the company that was engaged by POLtd to carry out a review of the system to identify problems, and which was sacked by POLtd before the report could be made public, and directors of which gave evidence to a select committee of MPs, as did POLtd managers and their Chief Executive Office, Paula Vennells.

Ah yes, Paula Vennells: CEO of Post Office Ltd who, in January 2019 was awarded a CBE and in February was appointed as a non-executive board member to the Cabinet Office.  At the end of February she announced she was leaving POLtd to join Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust as its Chair in April.  She leaves POLtd "fighting a class action which has the potential to sink it. Paula Vennells' award and the appointments have outraged dozens of former Subpostmasters who hold her ultimately responsible for what happened to them - variously sacked, criminalised and ruined." ( - Nick Wallis).

You can read more about the progress of the second trial here and follow daily reports live from the court, from Nick Wallis. 

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

The real new tariff stamps, colours as expected

Now that we have our own supplies of the new tariff stamps previously mentioned here, I can show the actual stamps compared with the pre-issue publicity image supplied by Royal Mail, and the last use of the same colours, rescanned for comparison purposes.

£1.35 orchid mauve (previously used for £1.52)
£1.60 amber yellow (previously used for £1.33)
£2.30 gooseberry green (previously used for £1.05)


£2.80 spruce green (previously used for £2.45)
£3.45 dark pine green (previously used for £1.40)
£3.60 bright orange (the 87p was just 'orange')

So, as predicted, the £2.30 and £2.80 stamps are nothing like the publicity pictures which makes you wonder why Royal Mail can't be bothered to get it right.  Who are they producing these pictures for? Not for the general press which really can't see past 1st & 2nd class rises (which is what their readers are really concerned about).  

So it must be for the philatelic media and trade, in which case what is provided is useless for that target audience.  As a philatelic service, Royal Mail really don't come up to scratch, not for collectors who are consistently short-changed as to what they can and can't buy from the part of the organisation previously referred to as the Philatelic Bureau.  And not for dealers who get a better service, and publishers, who both deserve to have accurate information and correctly coloured pictures.  

What the actual stamps do show is that the colours of all but the £2.30 and £3.45 are actually pleasantly bright.

All are printed by ISP Walsall on SBP2 paper with small text above Large, known by some as SBP2i.  The phosphor is blue (I'll need darkness to tell how bright) and there is no yellow fluorescence.  Last year we had reprints in February and further reprints for some values as needed.  Many of these produced different variants which we hope, for the sake of collectors' pockets, is not repeated this year!

First printing dates are confirmed as
£1.35 07/01/19
£1.60 07/01/19
£2.30 08/01/19
£2.80 09/01/19
£3.45 09/01/19
£3.60 09/01/19
These are counter sheets of 25 on each primary sheet for each value, meaning a grid of 2 columns of 4 rows.  As you can see the Queen's head is, as last year, the wishy-washy flat version lacking the detail shown in the publicity pictures and on earlier stamps.

The stamps will be issued at Post Office branches and from Royal Mail on Tuesday 19th March for the new rates commencing Monday 25th March.  So for variety you could use some of the lower values to send airmail letters at the old rates, for example the new £1.35 + 20p to make up the European over 20g rate.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Another decorated postbox, in London, for Comic Relief

In the run up to Comic Relief Red Nose Day on 15 March, Royal Mail has unveiled a special edition ‘laughing’ postbox, which responds to posted mail with a variety of jokes from stand-up comedian Hal Cruttenden.

The postbox is situated on Langham Place, close to Broadcasting House. It will be in place from 8 March until 22 March 2019.

"There will also be a special Red Nose Day postmark that we will be distributing across stamped UK mail, driving awareness in the lead up to the Red Nose Day 2019 programme which will be broadcast live on BBC One on Friday 15 March. "

Unfortunately it doesn't say the start date, but look out for it tomorrow (9th).

Bizarre Post and Go error.

As you know there is not much to report about Post and Go since Royal Mail stopped issuing new designs ("saving collectors money"), although machines continue to be used widely in many post office branches.

With little going on technically, by way of inscription changes, you would think that technological problems would have been a thing of the past, but Mike C has sent this image of a great little error which occurred at Bury St Edmunds.

Mike writes:
Two machines had 1st Poppies & the third had Machin head; one had GoT 2nd & the other two Machin head.  The kiosk I used produced the Collectors sets as shown on the attached image (Poppy MA16, 2nd CL16)! When I saw the 'error', I immediately did another transaction but, to minimise potential wasted expenditure, I just asked for 3 x the 'Euro 20g/World 10g' value and they all appeared correctly.

It's a measure of the reduced interest in P&G that when I was in Bury St Edmunds two weeks ago I totally forgot that the PO had P&G machines; I found the Saturday market much more interesting!  Mike's example is obviously a software problem, coming in the middle of a strip.  I wonder if it has occurred anywhere else?

From the comments:
First noted at Tunbridge Well in April 2015 when they has the Working Sail, MA14 Poppy and the Machin with 2014 imprint date. Portsmouth had it at the same time with Working Sail.

This issue can affects all values in the strip bit you only get one shift per strip of six. If you buy 36 stamps in one transaction, you will end up with a shift for each value.
And BM has sent these, including the MA14 Poppy bought in April 2015:

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Public Service Announcement: Withdrawal from Sale by Royal Mail

Royal Mail have announced the last sale dates for these 2018 stamps, sets, cards, etc

Contact details:

More decorated postboxes, for World Book Day 2019

Royal Mail have decorated some more postboxes, including one painted yellow, to mark World Book Day 2019 and honour some of Britain's best-known children's authors.

In the absence of a copy of the Royal Mail press release this is taken from York's The Press website:
David Walliams has been honoured with a special postbox for his work as a children’s author on World Book Day.  The postbox is one of four decorated by Royal Mail in honour of some of Britain’s most popular children’s authors.

C.S. Lewis, Judith Kerr and Frances Hodgson Burnett have also been celebrated with specially-decorated postboxes, each adorned in quotes from some of their best-loved works, across the UK in locations significant to them.  Walliams’s influence as a children’s author has been highlighted with a bright yellow postbox outside London’s Natural History Museum, which is featured in his book The Ice Monster.

Walliams, 47, said: “I am honoured that my books are featured on this special postbox.  I am an advocate of letter writing. Letters are so much more meaningful than a text or email. So I hope this encourages children to use their local postbox.”

The postbox was created in collaboration with his publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books.  The Britain’s Got Talent judge and former Little Britain star is recognised as one of the most popular children’s authors of a generation.  His books, including 2008 debut The Boy In The Dress, and follow-ups Mr Stink, Gangsta Granny and Ratburger, have topped best-seller lists.

Lewis, whose most famous work is The Chronicles Of Narnia series of fantasy novels, has a postbox situated in Belfast, where he was born.

Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Secret Garden author Hodgson Burnett’s postbox is in Manchester, where she was born, and writer and illustrator Kerr, known for the Mog series of books and The Tiger Who Came To Tea, has a postbox situated in Barnes in London, where she currently lives.

Mark Street, head of campaigns at Royal Mail, said: “As one of the guardians of the written word, we relish the opportunity to celebrate the work of some of Britain’s most treasured writers.  “With such a rich history of children’s literature, it seems only fitting that this work is honoured on some of our iconic postboxes.”

The unveiling of the postboxes comes after research carried out by Royal Mail about the nation’s love affair with physical books showed that more than half (56%) of UK adults expressed an intent to read more in 2019.

The research also found that 10% of readers claim to exclusively use e-readers.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Checklist version 2.0.22 - up to date; additions to shop.

With the Marvel Comics stamps to be issued in a week, I have published an updated version of the checklist which includes the four new stamps from the Prestige Stamp Book, and the single 1st class from the retail booklet - the first of the M19L stamps.

This can be read at or downloaded from Dropbox at the usual link.

Apologies for the error that occurred yesterday for some readers; I think the mobile (ipad) download was ok (it was for me) but not the web.

Please do not use any previous bookmarks, only the Dropbox link.

These have now been listed on our shop, but will not be sent until next Tuesday, with postage part paid by at least one of the stamps from the pane if possible.  Also added in the shop are some other PSB panes and singles, including stamps from 1999.  The backward trek into our stock has started!

Monday, 4 March 2019

March Slogan Postmarks.

All slogan postmarks received or reported during the month of March will be included in this post.

The slogan postmark month started today with this example supplied by JG, for World Book Day which this year is a month earlier than last!

7 MARCH 2019

Oh, and here's a story about Royal Mail's author-posties.

UPDATE 8 March.
Royal Mail have announced on Twitter that there was a special slogan postmark for World Women's Day, which should be landing on doormats today (but not ours!).   This is the publicity mock-up.
Women's Day
08 March 2019

UPDATE 12 March:
Thanks to MB for this example of a real postmark from North West Midlands on 7 March 2019.

Also for this example of the World Book Day slogan from the other type of machine used in North West Midlands on 5 March 2019.


And the next is for British Science Week used at Edinburgh Mail Centre on 8 March 2019.

  8 - 17         

UPDATE 20 March.  Thanks to JG for this example of the British Science Week from the IMP machine at Lancashire & South Lakes MC on 15 March.

No sooner had I published this than our post arrived, with a similar example from Chester MC, but used after the end of the 'week'  on Monday 18th March!

That seems to be running on the one type of machine while RED NOSE DAY is running on the others.  Again, MB sent these examples, one at North West Midlands on 9 March 2019 and the other also NW Midlands (but without the 'Delivered by' portion) on 10th printed over British Science Week from Edinburgh.  (Can't replicate the layout but the text is here for search purposes.)


It seems I was wrong about which slogans were in which machines, as today's post brought two different versions of the Red Nose slogan.  The format previously shown is from Sheffield on 12 March, and the new version is from Exeter on 11 March. See also second Br Science Week example.  I wonder how they decided what to use where?

UPDATE 20 March:  JG has also sent the latest slogan, for World Water Day.  This is from South Midlands Mail Centre (although unclear it originated in Leicester) on 19 March

22 March 2019


More will be added here when reported to or, more rarely, received by us.

Meanwhile, I've added some more 2019 usage of Universal-type machines to the January list.  Two are unidentified so far - can you identify them?

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

And one becomes four - ISP take the P again.

We have now received initial supplies of the Marvel Comics PSB and can reveal that the Machin definitive pane has the source code once again missing the 'P' from MPIL.  This means that, contrary to what I suggested here in the first report, there are FOUR new stamps all of which will have full catalogue status in Stanley Gibbons GB Concise catalogue.

Shown here from top left, the 1p, 20p, £1.25 and £1.45
(Norvic numbers 4001P.8a, 4020P.8a, 4125P.8a, 4145P.8)



These will be available in our webshop in due course.

Also received, the mixed content retail booklet, coded M19L MCIL  (Norvic number 2936aC.9 - but as previously announced we will not be stocking any 2019/M19L stamps.)


Friday, 22 February 2019

Some prices up 8% - tariff changes from 25 March mean new definitives

Royal Mail have made an  announcement about tariff changes which take effect from 25 March 2019.  The new stamps will be issued on Tuesday 19th March.

UPDATE 26 February. 
The stamps for this tariff change are listed below. Note these colours are from publicity images and - as we have seen before - may be quite different when we get them!

£1.35 in orchid mauve (name previously used for £1.52 - in 2015)
£1.60 in amber yellow (name previously used for £1.33 - in 2015)
£2.30 in gooseberry green*
£2.80 in spruce green (name previously used for £2.45 - in 2015)
£3.45 in dark pine green (name previously used for £1.40 in 2017 which looks nothing like this)
£3.60 in bright orange

* This name was assigned to the £1.05, which had a colour much closer to the £2.80 shown below. The colour shown here is much closer to that of the £1.57 which had the colour tag 'Tarragon Green'.

I wonder why, when we have bright primary colours for 2nd, 1st and Signed For stamps and some low values, why Royal Mail can't use more bright colours for the airmail values? 

As usual the country definitives repeat the tired images now in values of £1.35 and £1.55.  Post Office staff have particular problems with working out the denomination of the Northern Ireland top value.

As previously announced we will not be stocking any 2019/M19L stamps.

Printing dates known so far:
Northern Ireland - 28/12/18
England and Wales - 02/01/19
Scotland 03/01/19

Machin printings, all printed on SBP2i, have been reported as:

£1.35 07/01/19
£1.60 07/01/19
£2.30 08/01/19
£2.80 09/01/19
£3.45 09/01/19
£3.60 09/01/19

Reports of other dates are welcomed!

The rate tables

From 25 March 2019

Letter 100g
Large Let 100g
S Parcel 1kg
S Parcel 2kg
Med Parcel 1kg
Special Delivery has increased from £6.50 to £6.60 (100g) and from £7.30 to £7.40 for 500g.   What we used to call the Signed For fee has increased at the basic level from £1.10 to £1.20 making a 1st class signed for letter £1.90 from £1.77, and a 2nd class £1.81 (from £1.68).  The extra for Large letters and Parcels range from £1 to £1.20.

World Zone 1&2
10g & cards
Large Letter prices will increase up to 250g and be lowered for items above 250g.

Prices for tracked services up to 1kg will increase while those over 1kg will be reduced.

The price of surface or economy letters rises by 10p to  £1.20 for 20g and by 5p to $1.50 for 21-100g. As with airmail, the prices for Large Letters are increased at the 100g and 250g steps but reduced for 500g & 750g.

The full tables are now available to download here.
have not yet been published for ordinary customers, only those for business customers.

Effect on collectors
The effect of this will be to increase further the cost of collecting stamps, not just the definitives but special issues as well.  The price of the April Birds of Prey set will rise from £6.70 to £7.00 with corresponding increases in the cost of first day covers and presentation packs.  Books of 6 x 1st class will increase from £4.02 to £4.20.

If readers look at your incoming business mail with postage paid using a franking machine, you will see that the prices they show are 
  • Prices for sending a 1st Class Letter through your franking machine with Royal Mail Mailmark technology will increase and start from 61p and a 2nd Class Letter will start from 41p.
  • Prices for sending a 1st Class Large Letter through your Royal Mail Mailmark franking machine will start from 95p and a 2nd Class Large Letter will start from 72p
For other business customers prices start at the rate shown, although the actual price will depend on volumes posted and only the largest mailers will benefit from these huge discounts.
  • Prices for barcoded Letters and Large Letters will start from 40p and 72p respectively.
  • Prices for non-barcoded Letters and Large Letters will start from 42.7p and 75p respectively. 

Small businesses, especially those using stamps for postage, will see their costs rise again especially for heavier international mail.  Bearing in mind the commission charged by card companies and PayPal, it will probably be necessary to increase postage and packing costs - in our case for the first time in many years.   And although many dealers have 'discount postage' and older NVI stock, there is a limit to how many 7-20p stamps we can put on a letter to take advantage of this!

Royal Mail in trouble with Ofcom
As has been widely reported, this price increase has been set a week too early, which makes one wonder what the senior management team at Royal Mail had in mind.  Did nobody think of the regulatory regime?

The BBC reported: 
Royal Mail has apologised after announcing a price rise which breaches a cap designed to make the postal service "affordable" for all consumers.
From 25 March, the price of a second-class stamp will rise by 3p to 61p - breaching Ofcom's current price cap of 60p which is in place until 1 April.
Royal Mail says it will donate the extra revenue, expected to be £60,000, to charity Action for Children.

Ofcom set the current price cap in 2012, when it allowed Royal Mail to increase the price of first and second-class stamps by 14p, following concerns the universal service was at "severe risk".   The cap was set at 55p and would increase in line with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation, making the official cap 60.65p today.
Ofcom had announced the cap will increase to 65p from 1 April, and then will rise in line with the annual CPI rate of inflation until April 2024.
So a week later, and they could have legitimately increased the price to 65p, though that would have met with huge criticism from users.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Marvellous new stamp issue March 14th.

We were expecting an announcement about the next stamp issue by the middle of next week which, when this was written, meant 20/21 February.  But see below (blue) for more details.

This note is repeated from the 2019 Stamps Programme post back in Janaury.

Customers have started to receive their DD notices from Tallents House, and from this it is established as likely to be a set of 10 stamps.

UPDATE 18 February - We have today been provided with full details of this blockbuster of stamps and associated 'stuff' which, we must remember, is mostly aimed at fans and collectors outside the philatelic market.  Our instructions are that the information is embargoed until the public launch tomorrow (19th) which makes it all the more bizarre that Royal Mail can't manage to delay the 'go-live' time for their sales pages until midnight tonight UK time (although of course it is, even as far west as Tokyo, already gone 1am tomorrow as I write this!).   Everything is visible on Royal Mail's website here.

The 10 x 1st class stamps (conventional gum) feature Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Hulk, Doctor Strange, and Captain Britain in one sheet; and Peggy Carter, Iron Man, Union Jack, Black Panther, Thor on the other sheet.


A self-adhesive miniature sheet at £4.71 - containing 3 x 1st class and one each £1.25 (lower right) and £1.45 (top left).   This will be particularly sought-after by Marvel fans as, according to Royal Mail:
This set of five bonus Marvel stamps form part of a ten-panel comic book strip in which the Mad Titan, Thanos, launches a deadly attack on the world.  This original, never-seen-before story with a unique British twist (look out for Trafalgar Square and the Gherkin!) has been specially written and designed by Marvel and is available exclusively through Royal Mail.

A mixed-content retail booklet.  I've had a report that the Machins have M19L code which, while not a surprise, is good to have confirmed.

  a prestige stamp book, more expensive than usual at £17.45. 


The M18L MPIL Machin pane contains 1 x £1.45, 2 x £1.25, 2 x 1p, and 3 x 20p, which means only one new stamp, the £1.45, and a lot of left-over postage, which will make that single stamp relatively expensive. The other stamps appeared in last year’s Harry Potter PSB, unfortunately. We will be offering this in our shop in due course.

And a Generic Sheet (self-adhesive so different stamps, but only the two in the retail booklet will have separate SG Concise numbers).


There are also framed stamp sets/sheets, medal covers, blow-ups of the art-work in a set or framed, etc etc, and a Limited Edition PSB in a tin, with the stamps exactly the same as the basic book, but with a different Spiderman cover.

Meanwhile, this is what another reader has provided from their advice note:

Stamp Set £6.70. 
Generic Sheet £7.70. 
Mini Sheet [BC ?] £4.71. 
Retail Book £4.02. 
Prestige Book £17.45. 
AND Postage & Packing 62p.  

UPDATE: It seems that Royal Mail's invoicing system has been completely wrecked for this issue as readers are reporting a diverse range of 'postage and packing' charges, including this shocker from Chris.  However, RM confirm that p&p remains the same as usual, ie 45p.
Even these prices are not all correct, but apparently are showing VAT-exclusive prices (where VAT applies), thus the £8.60 set FDC is shown as £7.17.  The VAT is probably included in the P&P total!

As somebody wrote - and you thought having a 12-stamp Leonardo da Vinci set was bad!

PM 19 February: As expected there has been much criticism already, but if Royal Mail Stamps & Collectables sell many of these, the income will reduce what is expected to be sold to stamp collectors.  Which is possibly one reason why there are no new Post and Go stamps to buy - whether you like them or not!

At £80, £145, and £195 there are just not aimed at us!