Tuesday 26 March 2019

New Tariff FDC coil stamps not as different as last year

Royal Mail's standing order first day covers have stamps affixed from coils rather than sheets: these coil stamps are not available to collectors except on the FDCs.  Regular readers will recall that in 2018 the coil stamps (allegedly printed by ISP/Walsall as were the sheet stamps) were quite different in having much larger gaps in the U-shaped cuts.  (See here.)

This wide gap isn't present on the 2019 tariff stamps, but they are still different.  I don't know whether it is because of a different direction of print (coils are nearly always printed from right to left or vice versa) or slightly more/less ink, but to the naked eye they just look different.  (FDC stamps above sheet stamps here).

And close examination shows that the shading is different in many places (sheet above FDC). As always, click on the images for larger versions.  Note also the face value is 'softer' on the sheet-printed stamps.

I'll only show two 'heads' but you'll get the idea; the colours are slightly variable (£2.30 and £1.60 especially) when seen in close-up - click on to see the each stamp on its own.)


So, are they different?  Well not different enough for basic catalogues, and not for intermediate-level specialism.  But if you want the stamps on the FDC, then please let me know by email to ian@norphil.co.uk.  They will cost £20 due to the high face value, plus postage and I can add them in to any other order, or they can wait for more stamps that you want.

Friday 22 March 2019

Birds of Prey stamps, 4 April 2019

Royal Mail have now opened their shop up for orders for the 4 April Birds of Prey stamps, so I have no problem with showing them here.

The set is of 10 x 1st class stamps, and there is also a retail booklet containing two self-adhesive birds stamps and 4 x 1st class MCIL M19L stamps.   Click on the lower-right image to show the identities of all the birds.

UPDATE 3 April
The Royal Mail Postmark Bulletin for this issue has been posted but has not yet been added to the website.  We've reminded them (a) that handstamps are supposed to be added to the website as available, and (b) that the Bulletin should also be updated.  I've also asked via Twitter when this will be done - no reply at all.  So here are the handstamps; they are screen captures for my benefit so take them as they come.  14853/4 & FD1909PL are available from London SHC, 14850-2 and both FD1909 are available from Northern SHC/Tallents House, addresses in previous Bulletins.  The non-pictorial FD1909NP is not shown here.



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 judiciary.uk 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. 

UPDATE 22nd March.   I can best relate yesterday's happenings by a verbatim copy from Nick Wallis's blog today:
What a week. A blistering judgment, revelation after revelation, and then this: the nuclear option......
Right now we're still reeling from the Post Office's attempt to have the judge recuse (sack) himself on grounds of apparent bias. It seemed to come as a surprise even to the Post Office's own QC, Anthony de Garr Robinson.
At 2.02pm, after the usual lunch break, the judge walked into court and said: "I have received an application,
 Mr De Garr Robinson.  Do you know about it?"

Mr de Garr Robinson replied: "My Lord, I know that there has been an
 application, that is almost all I know."

The judge explained: "It is
 an application for me to recuse myself as being the managing judge in these proceedings which means
 effectively.... for this trial to stop.
 Although the application says "adjourn the trial",
 I think it really means start it again with another

To say this is beyond extraordinary barely touches on it. The judge rose to give Mr de Garr Robinson a chance to try to work out what was going on. He returned ten minutes later to be told that Lord Grabiner, not Mr de Garr Robinson, would be acting for the Post Office in the application.

 Read Nick's Day 8 summary here, and today's write-up with comments from people affected here -

Horizon trial: Je recuse

I've been thinking about what it means going forwards, and this application does several things (even if it is unsuccessful), all of which favour the the Post Office.

First of all it buys them time to work out what their strategy is going to be in the face of the first judgment, which they clearly haven't got straight yet (which suggests the judgment was a big surprise).

It massively ramps up the cost for the claimants and, I think, most importantly it means that any eventual settlement in favour of the claimants will be less than it might have been before the recusal application was put in.

Now - since I tweeted something similar yesterday a few people have suggested I am wrong about this, but I had a lengthy conversation with a couple of legal types near the Rolls Building yesterday (chuck a brick round there and you're almost guaranteed to hit a lawyer - and sued), who helped me with my working out.

This is how I came to my conclusions: the claimants are funded by a group who, if successful will want a return on what their risky and very large investment.

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).  [See Slogan Postmarks]

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:

Update 6 November 2019:
Thanks to DP we can show that this buffering problem is continuing, with this example from Saltash recently.

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

UPDATE 8 April: MM has a lot of mail from Tyneside MC on 26 March which provides us with a useful source of slogans.  The latest batch includes a use of 'Stay Well' which may be considered late, but then it's not too late for snow even if today's forecast for Norfolk suggests temperatures up to 18/19ºC!  The original campaign was in December with some usage in January.

This is followed by Mother's Day 31 March used on Thursday 28 March:

Don't forget:
Mother's Day
Sunday 31
March 2019

The next one is in the April slogans post.

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?