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. 

New Machin printings for 2019

While we were away we received a list of new printings for the commonly used Machin definitive stamps.  We haven't seen any of these yet so can't say anything about backing paper or phsophor/fluorescence, but will provide pictures as soon as we can.

The new printings with M19L year code are:

2nd class  - 14/02/19 25/02/19 corrected by Royal Mail
1st class  -  25/02/19
2nd Large - 25/02/19
1st Large  - 25/02/19
£1.55        - 14/02/19

All the above are new stamps, the £1.55 was originally issued for the 2018 tariff change.

Airmail rate stamps for the 2019 tariff change have also been reprinted (note the £2.80 value isn't included in the list we have):

£1.35  -  12/02/19
£1.60  -  15/02/19
£2.30  -  15/02/19
£3.45  -  18/02/19
£3.60  -  18/02/19

The Checklist will be updated when we have the stamps; a reminder that we are not supplying these - a list of dealers who should be able to help is included in our December notice.

Full list of M19L stamps so far:
Counter Sheets
3020.9 - 20p green reprint, first on 19/02/19
3135    - £1.35 orchid mauve 
3155.9 - £1.55 turquoise blue reprint
3160    - £1.60 amber yellow 
3230    - £2.30 gooseberry green
3280    - £2.80 spruce green  
3345    - £3.45 dark pine green 
3360    - £3.60 bright orange
2911.9   - 2nd class
2913.9   - 2nd class Large
2914a.9 - 1st class
2916a.9 - 1st class Large
2936aC.9 - 1st class MCIL from mixed booklets, Marvel Comics 14.3.19 and Birds of Prey 4.4.19.

Royal Mail discounts Marvel special products already

Barely a month after they were issued (on March 14th) Royal Mail has knocked 20% off some of its special products aimed outside the philatelic community.

A collector reader sent me an email about this yesterday, pointing to this page on the RM website.  And this morning a dealer called complaining that - whilst not much concerned with the artwork and medallion covers - he was peeved to note that the special edition prestige stamp book is included in these offers. 

Originally sold to dealers at a small discount off £64.99 (you did know that registered dealers get a small discount from Royal Mail?) this is now being sold for only £51.99 much less than the price dealers would have paid. And while we can return 'ordinary' stock for refund/credit, these 'specials' are non-returnable. 

Philatelic customers should also be rightly miffed if they bought on issue, tempted by the 'limited edition' tag.  It's not as if this is something that has been available for very long.

As always, while you should spend your money as you wish, our advice is to spend it on something worthwhile.  For £50 you could buy good examples of used KGV Seahorses.

Thursday 11 April 2019

Spring break 12-24 April

Our office will be closed from 12-24 April, although we may be able to access the internet and allow blog-comments through to be published.

The shop will remain open and we will be dealing with orders as quickly as possible on our return.

British Engineering 2 May, Queen Victoria Bicentenary 24th May 2019, Stockholmia.

As usual cover producers have started putting online their offerings for the next two stamp issues.  You can see those of Adrian Bradbury FDCs here.

British Engineering set

British Engineering Harrier Jump Jet miniature sheet

Bicentenary of the Birth of Queen Victoria set

Ditto - Prince Albert MS

As usual, we will provide information and images when we are permitted to which in both cases is the date of issue, or when Royal Mail put them on their website, which should be earlier, but who knows!

To coincide with the Stockholmia 2019 World Stamp Exhibition, which is also marks the 150th anniversary of the Royal Philatelic Society London (RPSL), Royal Mail will issue the usual type of Exhibition sheet containing 20 Hello stamps.  The labels have images of Stockholm and artifacts provided by the RPSL.  This will be issued on 29 May 2019 priced at £15.10.  The Royal Mail stock code is AT108.

New Machin Security Checklist available now

The Machin Security Checklist has been updated with the 2019 printings, including the 20p counter sheet and recent mixed booklets, as well as the late M18L stamps from this year's prestige stamp books.

There will be at least one more PSB this year, in May, and maybe more later in the year for the (expected to be) blockbuster issues currently listed in the autumn as TBA on Royal Mail's programme.

The latest version - 2.0.23 - can be downloaded from Dropbox in the usual way.

Tuesday 9 April 2019

How many definitive make-up values are needed?

Looking back over 2018, there was an interesting pattern for printing of the low 'make-up' values of Machin definitives: the 1p, 2p, 50p 10p, 20p, 50p and £1 values.

The new tariff stamps were first printed (in, presumably, small quantities) in January.  The second printing of these was in February, along with all the make-up values except the 50p - which hasn't been printed since autumn 2017 - and the 1p.

May brought some more reprints, including the 1p, but not the 5p.   And in August the 1p, 2p, 10p and 20p values were printed again.  So the 2p, 10p, 20p were printed three times, the 1p and £1 only twice, and the 5p was only printed once.  Which suggests that Royal Mail had a huge quantity of 5p printed in February.

Of course all this does depend on demand/usage of the lower values.  But so many 'gaps' require several make-up values (all these are 2018/19 rates):

– between 2nd and 1st the gap is 9p which needs at least three stamps (5+2+2)
– between 1st and 1st Large the gap is 34p which needs four stamps (20+10+2+2)
– between 2nd and 2nd Large the gap is 21p which needs only two stamps (and no 5p).

Upgrading a letter to Europe, if already stamped with a 1st class stamp, was easy - add a 2nd class stamp.

So is it fair to assume that Royal Mail production got their forecasts right for the 5p and not the others, or were there good reasons for the variability of the production dates?  We'll never know, but it will be interesting to see how things develop in 2019.

I wonder how many values were actually printed on or around 19 February when the 20p was printed?

Monday 8 April 2019

First new counter sheets printed in February

The first Machin definitive reprint with M19L coding is the 20p counter sheet, which join the new tariff stamps printed in January. The other M19L stamp issued so far is the 1st class red MCIL from the Marvel Comics mixed retail booklet.

The Marvel Comics stamp (Norvic 2936aC.9) was shown earlier, but the 20p (3020.9) was actually found in Post Office branches before that was issued.


The printing date for the 20p is 19/02/19, and the backing paper is suLUsiLI.   

Full list of M19L stamps so far:

Counter Sheets
3020.9 - 20p green reprint, first on 19/02/19
3135 - £1.35 orchid mauve
3160 - £1.60 amber yellow 
3230 - £2.30 gooseberry green
3280 - £2.80 spruce green  
3345 - £3.45 dark pine green 
3360 - £3.60 bright orange


2936aC.9 - 1st class MCIL from mixed booklets, Marvel Comics 14.3.19 and Birds of Prey 4.4.19.

A new version of the Norvic Machin Checklist will be published soon.

Sunday 7 April 2019

First suggestion for 2020 Stamp Programme

According to The Mirror, who have their story from Talk TV, the 60th Anniversary of TV soap Coronation Street will be marked with a set of stamps next year, 2020.

Talk TV can exclusively reveal ITV bosses are in talks with Royal Mail over the anniversary collection.
Likely to be featured are iconic couple Jack and Vera Duckworth - who were played by the late Bill Tarmey and Liz Dawn.
And Corrie icon Hilda Ogden - who arrived on the street in 1964, played by Jean Alexander - is also in line for the accolade.
“It’s a huge honour,” a source tells me. “The collection would be an acknowledgement of how beloved Corrie is in this country.
Whether ITV is talking to Royal Mail, or to Isle of Man Stamps or another producer, none of the postal operators has made any comment yet.

A set of Coronation Street cinderella 'stamps' was produced in 1995 for one of the Scottish islands, and the programme was left out of the Royal Mail ITV anniversary commemoration in 2005.

Thursday 4 April 2019

Birds of Prey have flown early - at old prices?

It's a while since anybody has reported the early release of any of our special stamps, but DB has provided a picture of this torn off corner of an envelope showing one of today's new Birds of Prey stamps.

Of course it could have been as recently as this week if one of the Mail Centres was still using the Red Nose Day slogan in error. 

But it seems more likely that this was used in the week 9-15 March, nearly a month before the issue date, and presumably sold at the old price!

Tuesday 2 April 2019

April Slogan Postmarks

Royal Mail has started early with a new slogan on 1 April. 

World Autism Day is marked today on 2 April and we have received the first example on our mail today from Jubilee Mail Centre on 1 April.

World Autism
Awareness Day
2 April 2019

UPDATE 8 April:
I've added some more to March's post, and MM has also sent this for April.  Yesterday (7th) was UN/WHO World Health Day and this slogan was used at Tyneside MC on 4 April

Health Day
7 April 2019

A reminder, as we've received one, that the default slogan is Action for Children which is Royal Mail's chosen charity for this year and last.  Here is a reversed one on square envelope from South East Anglia, dated 10/04/2019

While we were away the Happy Easter! slogan was used.  Here are examples from South East Anglia dated 17/04/2019 and a reversed one from North & West Yorkshire probably dated 16 or 18 April.

Although not relevant to April in the UK I though I would show this one that I received in the same batch, which is one of the Netherlands Christmas slogans, still in use on 4 January.  I think it's rather attractive in it's simplicity, and is multi-faith as well.

As usual we will add further slogans as received or reported to us!