Sunday 6 January 2019

What did you get for Christmas?

One of our correspondents regularly does a census of his incomings at Christmas to identify
what efforts Royal Mail are making to cancel the stamps.

His results:

Total 47 items received.
7 no trace of passing through the mail and therefore uncancelled.
3 stamp not cancelled but trace of it going through the mail (Stamp in correct position but missed by cancellation)
Of the 37 cancelled, one was a postman’s felt tip pen.

10 out of 47 is 21% of the mail uncancelled: only 1 religious Christmas stamp was included.

I forgot to check ours but checked a bundle I was given by somebody else:

Leaving aside a nicely cancelled lighthouse from Norway...
18 had stamps postmarked (by machine)
2 had envelopes postmarked on another side, so missing the stamps.  Neither of these had barcode on the stamps, nor biro
1 had no postmark at all, and had been pen-marked.
So only 2 our of 20 were let through, so not such a loss for Royal Mail.

Eventually most of these envelopes will be recycled as most are not worth keeping for postal history, and so will the cards.  But what do you do with cards and wrapping paper covered in glitter?  Do you know that glitter is plastic and will lie around in landfill for hundreds of years - or in marine mammals and fish until either it kills them, or we eat the fish and start the cycle again?

Biodegradable glitter is now made, including by the company that originally invented glitter in the 30's.   If you care for the planet, please read this article.


  1. Perhaps this is something I could look at as a sender/receiver of nice mail throughout the year!

    I did notice not as much biro/marker pen cancellations. There were a few more of the wavy lines - the handstamper?

    I do like buying Christmas cards from charity shops but was annoyed at the amount of glittery ones. Perhaps these were produced before Blue Planet II brought to our attention the amount of plastic out in the seas/oceans.

    1. I haven't counted specifically, but my general feeling was that there are more missed cancellations at Christmas which I've always put down to a) higher volumes and b) non-standard sizes of some cards. In the rest of the year - the most likely items in my mail to have not been cancelled are a) C4 envelopes bearing Large 1st or Large 2nd b) small jiffy bags with stamps. Which again, I have assumed is due to the handling equipment.

  2. Hello. On my side, all family and friends are sms-wishers :(

    But thank to my self-indulged gift by packets, I'm now aware of the multiples routes a parcel could go through to and from France, or from Germany and the United Kingdom.

    The last one from a British eBay individual seller is the most interesting. For example, I discovered Pitney-Bowes (the franking machine company) proposes a forwarding parcel service. I'm still figuring the whats and ifs for an article on my blog, but it seems quite popular for eBay packets coming from China/USA/UK and going to the EU Single Market. The seller can send the packet to P-B as "Signed For 2C" ; P-B processes the needed inter-country customs paperwork ; and I imagine put it through the French postal service with a discount as a large client.

    For once, the front of the packet looks like a mail from "once ago" when every step of the travel can be read by a postal historian.

    1. The Pitney-Bowes system through eBay is referred to as 'Global Shipping Programme' or something similar.

      It means they act as 'freight forwarders' or shipping agents and take care of all processing through customs etc. They then charge - or charge the sender. While this might work for large items of furniture or motor vehicles it doesn't work for small things like stamps and postcards.

      Some US eBay sellers adopt it as they think it solves all their problems and avoids them using USPS Priority Mail and insured services. However the cost for shipping a single stamp or cover can be $20-30 so these foolish sellers are not exactly encouraging buyers to bid. Within the US it is Ok, but for exports it is a big no.

      If you are bidding on or to US sellers on other sites, beware of this huge shipping cost.

  3. Thank you for these details. I was buying an old LEGO set and there was a 15 euro voucher offered by eBay that pays off most of the P&P throung Pitney-Bowes.

    You are right: until (and if) the UK exits the Single Market, this system is costly and not useful for trade between Uk and the continent.

  4. Of course, there is NO "loss for Royal Mail" unless people (disreputably, if not dishonestly) seek to reuse uncancelled stamps...


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