Friday, 17 May 2019

75th Anniversary of D-Day - the Normandy landings of World War 2

Royal Mail is marking the 75th Anniversary of the Allied Landings in Normandy in World War II with the issue of a set of stamps, a miniature sheet and a retail booklet.

Although we were told that we could not publish any details or pictures until 2 June, Royal Mail has now made the products available for pre-order on their website here.

The anniversary is marked on 6th June 2019 of D-Day, 75 years on since the largest combined naval, air and land operation in the history of warfare. On D-Day, 6 June 1944, Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France. Codenamed Operation 'Overlord', the Allied landings on the Normandy beaches marked the start of a long and costly campaign to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation. Early on 6 June, Allied airborne forces parachuted into drop zones across northern France. Ground troops then landed across five assault beaches - Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. By the end of the day, the Allies had established a foothold along the coast and could begin their advance into France. Royal Mail is marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and its indelible impact on the outcome of WW2 with this set of stamps and products.

Set of six stamps
A pair each of 1st class, £1.35 and £1.60 stamps.  The £1.60 pays the rate for European letters up to 100g, and the £1.35 pays for European letters to 20g, Postcards and Worldwide letters to 10g.

Miniature Sheet

Retail booklet


More details to follow shortly.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Post and Go update

As readers will know there have been no new Post and Go stamps issued by Royal Mail, and none is in the programme for the current year.  Some agree with this, some would welcome more of these and fewer expensive stamp issues.

The British Postmark Society Journal report for April includes the following which may be of interest to those collectors still looking for Post and Go.  It is worth noting that if the reels are being used for the 'post an item' option, ie with a value on, use of old stock may produce something totally new, so it is worth looking in kiloware as well.  I was reminded of this by the receipt this morning of an eBay purchase with a MA16 1st class Machin with value, date, and weight shown - see picture.

No new designs appeared in the first quarter of 2019, but the Winter Greenery designs reintroduced on 1 November 2018 continued in use into the new year. Various older issues reappear as stock is used up – for example, on 10 April 2019 kiosk 68 at Chorley was issuing Symbolic Flowers (2014) for 1st class/international and Hibernating Animals (2016) for 2nd class.  Meanwhile, Winter Fur and Feathers (2015) was found at Camden High Street and undated Poppies were still being issued at South Norwood.
In a number of cases, rolls of Post & Go stamps are inserted in the wrong reel of a kiosk, either in error or because of a shortage of the correct stamps.  Two recent examples found were 1st class letter on 2nd class (blue) Machin stamps from Camden High Street and 1st class letter on 2nd (blue) Game of Thrones stamps from Slough.
I'm grateful to DP for sending some examples of various Post & Go stamps with old and new European postage rates:

Robin MA13 from Harrogate

Poppy R17YAL from St Albans

Poppy MA16

Machin M17YAL from Farnham

"It does raise the question do we collect the service type or the value of the label which echoes what someone wrote about the Post and Go Christmas tour a few years ago about receipts."

Receipts are especially useful for location confirmation as it is more and more difficult to keep track of where old machines have gone and more particularly where new machines are installed, sometimes without publicity if they are the smaller machines with a counter mini-terminal as well.

"I wanted to get examples from both Huddersfield offices, which was pointless as the Northumberland Street office’s three machines were switched off and the New Street office’s two were on but out of service. At New Street I was told that they didn’t have any stock for the machines. Otherwise they would have turned it on for me to get the collectors strip. Colchester and Ipswich both turned the machines on for me to get collectors strips. However Chesterfield wouldn’t. 

"From correspondence with the Post Office I’ve had questioning if the relocated Ealing branch would have SSKs, I was told that they don’t publicise that information and won’t be adding new location or amending existing branches."

I looked at the Post Office website Branch Finder page, and Post and Go is still listed in the filter selection and in Branch Details. If it is kept updated then that is good for collectors.

Monday, 13 May 2019

May 2019 slogan postmarks

May has got off to a very slow start: indeed I spent some time looking through the May blog looking for the right entry to add this to, but found that indeed this is the first for this month!

Royal Mail celebrates the birth of Archie Harrison, first son of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex with the congratulatory slogan.  I don't know when it started: he was born on Monday 6th May and I suspect the slogan may have been in use as early as that the following day, as there were no mail collections on the Monday.
TRH The Duke and
Duchess of Sussex on
the birth of their son

UPDATE 14 May: On our own post and via email (thank you) we have received this year's Mental Health Awareness Week slogan.   I can't read the date on the Exeter Mail Centre one but it is probably 13 May, the same as that for Nottingham Mail Centre, which is in the other, four-line, format.

Mental Health 
13-19 May 2019

UPDATE 17 May:  BM has sent this further example of the Mental Health Awareness slogan, from Gatwick on 16th, applied to a prec-cancelled Machin PPI.  Strange how Royal Mail's machines miss so much stamped machineable mail, and yet postmark mailpieces which don't need it!


As usual I welcome other reports of this slogan to confirm its usage period (funny, nobody has mentioned it yet, a week after the event), and any other slogans which will be added here.

Additions to our shop today

We have added to our shop a few recent products and some earlier ones that have been missed.  You can always find the latest by clicking on the Recent Additions link.  There are several different categories updated this time (numbers indicate number of products in each category):

Harrier Jump Jet maximum cards (British Engineering MS) - [3]

Machin Definitive first day cover [1]

Red Arrows booklet stamps first day cover [1]

Machin 'dummy booklet' point of sale material [1]

1986/87 Christmas special packs - gutter strips and traffic light blocks with underprint [4]

Queen Victoria picture postcards [4]

Latest PSB Machins, Queen Victoria PSB, compared with earlier.

We can never be sure from Royal Mail's pre-issue publicity images, just what the stamps will actually look like.  While the commemorative/special stamps are generally faithfully reproduced, new definitives are usually depicted using mock-ups so when they actually appear it is always likely to be a surprise.

This is true again with the Queen Victoria Bicentenary prestige stamp book definitive pane. This is the publicity picture which we showed earlier. 

The 2p is quite unlike the one included in the RAF PSB (on the left) in 2018.  This must surely have a separate listing in the catalogue.

The 50p included in the Harry Potter PSB is a different shade to the current (gravure printed) counter sheet, so this is comparison with the 2017 counter sheet (SG U2925 on the left), which likewise ought to be considered a different stamp even if it were not for the year code.:

And this is the comparison with the Battle of Waterloo PSB (SG U3077)


The 1st class reproductions of Victorian stamps may not be regarded as sufficiently different, although the 2d blue especially is considerably darker - what do you think?  The phosphor is also different if viewed in the 'hold to light' way.

1d black SG3807, 1d red SG3808, 2d blue SG3809 - top row from Royal Mail 500 PSB (2016), lower row from latest book. 

 At least they didn't change the corner letters (hope they aren't reading this!).

Friday, 10 May 2019

75th Anniversary of D-Day, set of 6 and MS - 6 June 2019

It will be a while before we are able to show the pictures of these stamps, but you can see them on Commonwealth Stamps Opinion and also in the latest magazine of Buckingham Covers.

We'll show them in due course, of course.  This isn't like any of the stamps which all show contemporary photographs - another black and white issue.

French postcard by Festicart, Création FORE.

Details of this stamp issue can now be found here, with more details to follow.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

2018 stamps going off sale from Royal Mail soon

We are advised that the following sets will go off-sale from Royal Mail's website and for phone/email enquiries on 19 May 2019:

UPDATE 14 May:  
The 2017 tariff stamps (Machin and Country) also go off sale at Edinburgh on 19th May.

Owls set of 10

Royal Wedding miniature sheet

Old Vic set of 8


Wednesday, 8 May 2019

British Engineering Time Machine?

Following on from the early Birds of Prey, NC has sent a picture of the 1st class Raspberry Pi stamp from the British Engineering set issued on 2 May. 

I'm a little tardy in reporting this which was actually sent to me on 15 April 2019, so three weeks before the proper date of issue, and well before we were permitted to show the stamps on our website - not that it would have stopped me showing this one had we not been on holiday.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Phosphor - or non-phosphor error?

We know that all defintive stamps for decades have carried two phosphor bands, except for 2nd class which have one, usually at the centre.  There haven't been any missing phosphor errors for many years as far as I can recall. 

Many people still use the traditional 'hold-to-light' method for checking short or shifted bands, especially in the summer when the real darkness necessary for a UV-lamp is in short supply.  Years ago this method was also used as a first check to find out whether the stamp had phosphor missing altogether - we could even do that in the post office and I remember looking at my first 1980 £3 Wedgwood PSB and saying to myself - "oh, they've changed the phosphor bands again" as I found the bands on the se-tenant pane shifted.   I soon shifted that on my next trip to Stampex! 

So what do we make of this:

It's a mix of stamps, the 1p and 11½p definitely se-tenant and the 14p and 11½p maybe not.  Certainly the 11½p have left bands and if the 14p is - or was - joined as a pair, then that will have 2 bands - which are not visible by this method.

Fortunately the bands are visible to the Uvitec lamp, confirming that there is nothing amiss, aside from a lack of postmark on these!   It also makes it much easier to see that the stamps are joined, at least in  pair even if it is not a block of 4.

So remember, a UV lamp is a very worthwhile investment. What good finds have you made, with or without a UV lamp?

Friday, 3 May 2019

Royal Mail secrecy - it wasn't always so!

While it's raining I've been able to spend some time looking at the draft of SG's 2019 Concise catalogue and going back through old blog posts to check issue/discovery dates.  I was surprised to find two consecutive entries in February 2010 about the future stamp programme.

The second updated the 2010 stamp issues programme.  The first updated the 2011 programme - shown below.

I had forgotten how comprehensive the advance information used to be - not just special stamp issues but Post and Go, mixed booklets, smilers sheet setc.  So two of those categories have virtually disappeared from the modern stamp programmes, but this was 10 months before the year started.  Now we are lucky to get the outline programme before 31 December and even then there will be at least two 'to be confirmed' subjects about which even we dealers know nothing.  There are several reasons for secrecy, usually concerning copyright issues.

Royal Mail explain that they are reducing the basic cost to collectors by involving third party rights holders - Warner Bros, Disney, the music industry, etc - and that the additional income they get from people who don't normally collect stamps more than offsets the reduction in income from regular collectors.  As a way of increasing overall revenues this is a good thing, but the new policy is causing many regular collectors to either stop, or to limit what they collect to 'those that I like', only one of each stamp and not blocks', 'only definitives', or 'only up to last year", etc.

At the same time, they restrict more and more the availability of news from those of us who have it.  Restrictions over copyright and tie-ins with the royal family have, in the past few years, meant that ordinary collectors are left in the dark about what subjects are being covered, which makes innovation and personalisation of collections very difficult. Maximum card collectors have very little time to source the cards they need, and collectors who produce individual one-off or very low volume first day covers have far too little time to source their designs and produce the covers.

Little of the above is news to most readers so, rant over - just browse and remember the better days.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Great Britain 2011 Programme (updated)

Royal Mail have provided their outline programme for 2011 as follows:

11 January - Classic Children's Television: Gerry Anderson set, MS + retail booklet

24 January - Pictorial Faststamps - Birds 2

1 February - Classic Railway Locomotives miniature sheet

24 February - West End Stage Musicals - set & MS expected (postponed from autumn 2010)
24 February - Retail Booklet: Medical Breakthroughs Beta-Blockers, British Heart Foundation

8 March - Magical Heroes of Fiction
8 March - Low value self-adhesive definitives: 1,2,5,10,20p

22 March - World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund)
22 March - New retail booklets, 1st Large, 2nd Large

29 March - new Machins and Country Stamps on tariff change

12 April - Royal Shakespeare Company 50th Anniversary set & MS

21 April - Royal Wedding MS

5 May - William Morris & Co 150th Anniversary, incl PSB

19 May - Pictorial Faststamps - Birds 3

14 June - Rev Wm Awdry Birth Centenary (Thomas the Tank Engine author), set MS & booklet
14 June - Prince Philip 90th Birthday Commemorative Sheet

27 July - Olympics/Paralympics III, booklet 5, commemorative sheet and composite sheet

28 July - Philanippon, Japan, Exhibition Generic Smilers Sheet.

23 August - Crown Jewels
23 August - Classic Locomotives of England retail booklet

9 September - World's First Scheduled Airmail, Windsor

14 September - Arnold Machin Birth Centenary miniature sheet

15 September - Kings + Queens, House of Hannover (Stampex issue)
15 September - Olympics/Paralympics retail booklet 6
15 September - 350th Anniv of the Postmark - Generic Smilers Sheet

16 September - Pictorial Faststamps - Birds4

13 October - A-Z of the United Kingdom (A-L 12 stamps)

25 October - retail booklets with FSC Logo - 6 x 1st, 12 x 1st, 12 x 2nd, 4 x 1st Large, 4 x 2nd Large

8 November - Christmas (religious) [400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible]

This programme list will be added to and amended from time to time: there will be Smilers sheets, retail booklets and commemorative sheets.

Birds of Prey Maximum Cards

2019 has been a very difficult year for making Maximum Cards for GB stamps.  The year started with the Stamp Classics - a stamp on stamp issue not even including the 1d black, for which cards do exist.

The Leonardo da Vinci stamps were not very exicting, although one of my customers found two cards which I serviced. Not much opportunity with special postmarks either.  Then we moved on to Marvel Comics - cards exist, indeed there are boxes of 100, but they are mostly comic covers and cluttered. Again, not much opportunity to produce maximum cards from commonly found cards.

So it was good to have the Birds of Prey set because postcards for some of the birds are quite plentiful - although others are much more difficult to find here.  I had built up a small stock of bird postcards in anticipation of their eventual use, and a couple of our customers managed even better.

Some duplicates have been added to our shop for sale, but in most cases there is only one copy of each card.  Here are a few of them:


Bicentenary of the Birth of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert 24 May 2019

The stamps and miniature sheet for this issue have been visible on various cover producers'
websites for a few weeks now (their embargo was 2 April), and the products from Royal Mail are shown in the Philatelic Bulletin received this week, and on the Royal Mail website for advance orders. 

The stamps chart the life of Victoria from Princess to Empress, and the accompanying miniature sheet stamps celebrate the legacy of Prince Albert.

The 35mm square stamps are designed by Webb & Webb Design, printed in litho by ISP with PVA gum.  They are se-tenant and printed in sheets of 60 (30 pairs).

1st Class Head and shoulders portrait of Queen Victoria by Baron Heinrich Von Angeli in 1890. *
1st Class A painting of Queen Victoria and Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli at Osborne House in 1878, by Theodore Blake Wirgman §
£1.35 Painting of Queen Victoria depicted on horseback with servant, John Brown, dated 1876, by Charles Burton Barber §
£1.35 Portrait of Queen Victoria wearing the Robes of State dated 1859 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter*
£1.60 The marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert dated 1840 by Sir George Hayter *
£1.60 Queen Victoria as a young girl with her terrier, Fanny, dated 1830 by Richard Westall *

Technical: The 35 mm square stamps are printed in litho by ISP, 60 stamps per sheet, with PVA gum.

Acknowledgements: * Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019;
§ © The Forbes Magazine Collection, New York/Bridgeman Images

Miniature sheet
The Prince Consort, Albert, is shown on the selvedge of the miniature sheet. The stamps depict:

1st Class Model Lodge, Kennington
1st Class Balmoral Castle, Scotland
£1.55 The New Crystal Palace, Sydenham
£1.55 Royal Albert Hall, London

Technical: the stamps are 41 x 30mm in a sheet 146 x 74 mm, printed by ISP in litho with PVA gum.

Acknowledgements:  Albert Prince Consort © Hulton Fine Art Collection/Getty Images; Model Lodge, Kennington, Private Collection/© Look and Learn/Illustrated Papers Collection/Bridgeman Images; Balmoral Castle, Scotland, Private Collection/© Look and Learn/Bridgeman Images; The New Crystal Palace, Sydenham © Science & Society Picture Library/Getty Images; Royal Albert Hall, London, Private Collection/© Look and Learn/Peter Jackson Collection/Bridgeman.

Prestige stamp book.
As expected the PSB includes all six stamps and the four from the miniature sheet, which are shown in a different frame and will therefore have separate catalogue listing and spaces in most preprinted albums.   The definitive pane (Pane 2)includes four Machins and four Queen Victoria stamps previously included in the Penny Black 175th Anniversary issue and Royal Mail 500/175th Anniversary of the Penny Red PSB.

This is only a publicity shot, but shows the layout of the pane, which includes 2 x 1d black (SG 3807), and one each 1d red (3808) and 2d blue (3809) all 1st class.  The Machins are 2 x 2p (U3071) and 2 x 50p (U3077/a depending on shade).  The Machins should be the first MPIL gummed stamps with M19L year code.


Clockwise from left, pane 1, pane 4, pane 3 and front cover.

Pane 4 has as its backrgound a map of the British Empire in 1897.   Pane 3 shows the locket in which Victoria kept a lock of Albert's hair after his sudden death in 1861.

The PSB is priced at £17.20 against a face value of the stamps of £15.64.

All the products are now shown and available to order on Royal Mail's website.  Full range of products:
Set of 6 and first day cover; miniature sheet and first day cover; first day cover for PSB Machin pane;
Presentation pack containing set and MS;  Prestige Stamp Book;  Set of 11 Stamp Cards;
Uncut Press Sheet of 15 miniature sheets; Coin covers - Gold Proof, Silver Proof, and Bright uncirculated £5 coin.

Although the use of the Queen Victoria 'definitives' is understandable - and assuming they are no different to those already listed - their reissue reduces the worth of existing stocks of those stamps held by dealers.  Consequently, unless they are needed for restocking, these will only be useful for postage meaning that the cost of the sets of 'new' Machins (face value only 52p) will be much higher as dealers sell the unneeded stamps at a discount to recoup their outlay.  So be prepared to pay relatively heavily for these (a reminder that we are not stocking M19L stamps).  

Monday, 29 April 2019

SG Catalogue editor revises more numbers, and not finished yet!

Over the weekend a customer asked me for help in identifying a 1st class red/vermillion/scarlet stamp from a prestige stamp book.  As it happens the May edition of Gibbons Stamp Monthly is on my desk, so I consulted that as well as our own checklist.  And found a surprise!

When the 2018 Concise Catalogue was produced there was a major overhaul of numbering of the security Machins.  But even with those changes I feared that they had not left sufficient gaps to accommodate the higher value stamps which were bound to appear.  And so it turns out.  All gummed (ex-PSB) stamps above £1.25 (SG3089) have been renumbered, which consequently requires the revision of the numbers for the litho-printed NVI stamps (previously U3095-8).

The Marvel Comics PSB stamps are not included in the catalogue listing, but are mentioned in John Deering's Machin Watch column, so I can provide all the details here in a variation of our Checklist.

There are also changes to listings for the complicated 5p values.
The stamp from DY8, the Merchant Navy PSB, which has the eliptical perforations near the top of the sides rather than near the foot, is listed as U3072d - but it's original listing of U3073 is retained.

The associated pane, U3073l, is not listed with U3072d.

The number U3072d is also retained by a pane, but the contents have been 'rewritten'.  They were U3072, 3074 and 3083 but are now shown as U3012, 3013 & 3021b which is a total nonsense. The pane is from the Beatrix Potter PSB, DY19.

The stamp from DY13, the 2015 Great War PSB, which shade is identified by Gibbons as deep red-brown rather than red-brown, is changed from U3072c to U3072a.

That from DY25, the RAF Centenary PSB with source code M IL instead of MPIL, is changed from U3072f to U3072b.  There is no U3072c unless that is the correct number for the Merchant Navy stamp.

Other changes:
1p - Marvel PSB single is U3070a as it is M IL.
2p - U3071d changes to U3071a, this is the RAF M IL stamp.
50p - U3077 Gibbons have changed their colour description from slate-blue to slate; the less-blue shade in the Harry Potter PSB is U3077a and is described as grey.

I can see what they have tried to do: the variants are now all numbered with a,b,c, etc codes to keep them all near the start of the listing.  The panes are now all listed separately from l,m,n etc as they are in pre-security listings.

I have written to Gibbons pointing out the errors in the latest listing in GSM and hope that they will publish a better listing in the next edition.  Meanwhile the next edition of our Checklist will await this clarification.

Stamps with ordinary gum

Value and colour
Source Code
Year code
Issue Date or EKD§
SG GB Concise 2018
May 2918
Norvic Number
(incl first printing date)

2nd class blue
DY15 Star Wars PSB

DY23 Star Wars PSB
1st class gold
DY2 Aerial Post
1st class red (SG=vermillion)
DY7 Football PS

DY15 Star Wars PSB

DY17 Queens 90th PSB

DY21 Machin Ann: Grv

DY23 Star Wars: Litho
(prev listed as deep scarlet)
DY26 World War I §§
1st deep scarlet (SG=bright scarlet)
DY20 Windsor Castle

§§ 3702aP.8 is renumbered as 3702P.8 with the colour confirmed as red/vermillion
£1.25 green
in suppt.
DY26 Harry Potter PSB
£1.25 light green
DY29 Marvel Comics
£1.33 orge-yell
DY13 Great War 15
£1.40 grey-green
DY23 Star Wars PSB
£1.45 dove grey
DY29 Marvel Comics
£1.55 turq-blue
DY28 da Vinci PSB

The £1.25 doesn't even appear in the 2018 Concise and was numbered U3084b in a GSM supplement. This is now U3089 from the Harry Potter PSB, and U3089a from the Marvel PSB (M IL); this is also deemed to be a different shade. 

Thursday, 25 April 2019

British Engineering 2 May 2019 - set of 6 and miniature sheet

As mentioned before, the stamps and miniature sheet for the British Engineering issue (and the Queen Victoria issue ) are now available on cover producers' websites.  They are also on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog.

But even if you hadn't seen those sites and were waiting for us or for them to be published officially, some special handstamps are already on the Royal Mail Postmarks page.

From these you can determine that the Harrier Jump Jet is one of the subjects, with five different handstamps so far, and there are others showing the Falkirk Wheel, the Crossrail tunnel-boring machine (unfortunate choice given the two?-year delay to this project), and so on.

Incidentally, one thing I hadn't appreciated for this page (and it may be a recent development) is that if you click on a single image then you can see that enlarged (as shown above).  This could be especially useful if you can't work out what the caption or date are, as happens on some of them.

UPDATE 26 April
The Postmark Bulletin with May handstamps has now been sent to dealers in pdf form so it should be on the Royal Mail website shortly.

No sooner had I posted the above than I had an email from MC saying that the stamps were now available to pre-order on Royal Mail's shop, so I have no problem in showing them here.

The designs are quite good, though most people will struggle to work out what they show - at least this set has captions on unlike so many in recent years.  (More details below)

1st class - Raspberry Pi microcomputer and The Falkirk Wheel
£1.55 - Catalytic Converter for cars and London Crossrail project
£1.60 - MRI and Synthetic bone-graft material

Miniature sheet: Harrier Jump Jet 50th Anniversary - 2 x 1st class, 2 x £1.55.

Royal Mail Data:

British innovation in engineering is world renowned. This stamp issue celebrates the projects and creations which showcase this, as well as demonstrating the extraordinary range of engineering disciplines that British engineers work in. From giant civil engineering projects to electronic engineering, chemical engineering and biomedical from the past 50 years.

Some of the innovations we celebrate have won the prestigious MacRobert Award bestowed by the Royal Academy of Engineering - the UK's most prestigious and longest running award for engineering innovation. The Award marks its 50th anniversary this year.

The issue Includes a limited-edition Medal Cover licensed by the MOD to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Harrier Jump Jet which was the first winner of the MacRobert Award and features an exclusive Harrier / Sea Harrier medal struck by The Royal Mint.

1st class - Raspberry Pi: At just the size of a credit card, the Raspberry Pi might be tiny, but with sales of over 20 million these microcomputers have revolutionised education in computer science and programming worldwide.
Falkirk Wheel: A collaboration of British engineers and architects produced the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, The Falkirk Wheel, joining two major Scottish canals for the first time in 70 years with a phenomenally beautiful structure.

£1.55 Catalytic Converter: We often hear about poor air quality in our urban centres, but today cars are far less polluting than they were 50 years ago, all thanks to three-way catalytic converters scrubbing car exhausts of harmful gases.
Crossrail: Connecting the suburbs across London in the Crossrail project required 13 miles (21km) of twin tunnels to be bored under the city, navigating existing sewers, Tube train tunnels and building foundations.

£1.60 MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) Scanner: In the hospital setting, MRI scanners, on which we now rely for routine imaging of our bodies, would not be possible without the work done with superconducting magnets by British engineers at Oxford Instruments.
Bone-graft: Finally, incredible engineered materials that encourage bone growth are used in complex orthopaedic surgeries and have improved the outcomes for hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide.

Design and illustrations: Common Curiosity, Martin Woodward

Printer, process and size: International Security Printers in litho, with PVA gum and phosphor bars. Size 35 x 37 mm, 3 se-tenant pairs, 60 stamps per sheet.

Acknowledgements: Raspberry Pi is a registered trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and used under licence, photo by John Ross © Royal Mail Group Ltd; The Falkirk Wheel featured with kind permission of Scottish Canals, photo by Neale Smith © Royal Mail Group Ltd; the three-way catalytic converter featured with kind permission of Johnson Matthey Plc, photo © Johnson Matthey Plc; Crossrail featured with kind permission of Crossrail Limited, images © Crossrail Limited; Actifuse is a registered trademark of Baxter Healthcare and used under licence, photo © Dr Karin Hing.

The Harrier Jump Jet had its origins in the Hawker Siddeley P1127 and P1154 both of which, like a lot of British military aircraft projects, suffered from the whims of political parties (and changes in government) during the 1960s.  The history of these planes seems to be well covered by Wikipedia.

The left- and right-hand stamps on the sheet both appear to show vertical movement, evidenced by the downward exhaust thrusts.  The centre two stamps show the aircraft manouevering while flying.

Design: Turner Duckworth with photography by Richard Cooke.

Printing: International Security Printers in litho, with PVA gum and phosphor bars.  Stamps 37 x 27 mm, sheet 146 x 74 mm.  Following a question from Robert, I can confirm that the stamps are 40 x 30 and the sheet 193 x 74 mm.

Acknowledgements: The Hawker Siddeley Harrier was designed, manufactured and supported by BAE Systems and its predecessor companies. ‘Harrier’ is a registered trademark of BAE Systems. RAF logos are trademarks of the UK Secretary of State for Defence and used under licence. Blueprints for the Harrier GR3 featured on the miniature sheet border © BAE Systems.

Products available from Royal Mail:
Set of 6, miniature sheet, presentation pack, stamp cards, press sheet of 12 miniature sheets, medal cover.

Official first day of issue postmarks, as these are not shown on the Royal Mail special postmarks webpage (not to scale):

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Royal Mail WHSmith Special packs of commemorative stamps

There have been many occasions over the last fifty years where stamps have been packaged differently by Royal Mail for retail sale.  One that springs to mind is the Fun Fruit & Veg self-adhesive pack which was sold by Sainsbury's supermarkets in special retail hanging packs.  

The rather uninspiring National Trust Centenary 1st and 2nd class stamps of 1995 were available in 'bubble packs' from (selected?) National Trust shops.  Not widely available but not widely collected these are catalogued at around £10 in the Presentation Packs catalogue produced by Packs and Cards before they ceased trading.

While we were away I noticed a post on Twitter from Suzanne Rae, Chairman of the PTS, which drew attention to new packs on sale at high street chain WHSmith:
Great to see new initiatives by the - getting stamp collecting back out there for the public to discover. Here, exclusive souvenir packs at

All very well, but as I pointed out, not much chance for collectors to get them in WHS-desert areas like Norfolk, Wales, and Scotland above the divide.

I then received an email from ChrisN who wrote with disturbing news for collectors, for WHSmith and for Royal Mail:
It would appear that these packs have been provided to WH Smith over a wider time period. Having visited a larger WH Smith’s I could find no ‘Stamp Packs’ on display at all. This was the same in all the stores I visited, so publicity is virtually non-existent.

When I made enquires with the management I was informed they did have them, but due to theft the items were no longer on display. They were hidden in the stockroom. Without publicity these items would stay that way, hidden.

I was then shown the Packs that they had. What appeared was quite surprising . I attach pictures of what I found. I was told that they had had other packs.

  1. First World War 1916
  2. Agatha Christie
  3. Mr Men Little Miss
  4. RAF
  5. Game of Thrones
  7. Harry Potter
  8. Star Wars
These are not apparently available from WHSmith online and arguably they are not essential to a collection of modern GB stamps.  But if you have particular collecting interests, they may well be something you would want.  Some pictures of the packs are shown below.  Of particular interest is the wording of the contents, which leaves me confused!  The Harry Potter one is easiest to read, blown up from the pictures Chris provided:

As you can see below, the pack shows the set of 10 and the miniature sheet.  Even if we assume that the 'A4-character card' (or in some cases a poster) only shows pictures of the stamps, the 'strikingly designed postcards' have the stamps attached.  So at the time of first sale, the face value of the 16 x 1st class stamps was £10.72 - and they were being sold at £9.99.   So if you wanted the pack for your Harry Potter collection, you could get it for less than the face value of the stamps!



At £9.99 some of these packs cost more than the original stamps, but in some cases there were other bonuses, and the Marvel Comics pack seems like a particularly good bargain if you are a Marvel fan and can find one, given the original cost of the stamps only a month ago.