Tuesday 2 July 2019

Just print some stamps, we don't care what they look like!

It's beginning to look that way, with Royal Mail seemingly not exercising any quality control over what their print contractors are doing. When I worked for a security print organisation we had our own people in contractors' premises, at least when printing started and finished, to check that what they were producing matched what we asked for and what we thought they should be printing.

Of course one could argue that it doesn't really matter as long as the stamps are fit for purpose, ie they will do the job that is required.  We've had prestige book make-up errors with duplicated or otherwise wrong pages (see blog posts - as they write in Private Eye - passim, ad nauseum).

We've had the long elliptical perforation hole at the top instead of nearer the foot of the pane.

We've had an entirely wrong colour, again in a PSB, where - arguably - it matters far less than elsewhere because those stamps rarely get used for postage. And the change to the colour of the 1st class 'red' wasn't consistent in PSBs either.  The 2p & 50p stamps in the Marvel PSB are so different from earlier ones that they may have full catalogue listing!

We've had phantom or missing cylinder numbers on counter sheets.

So what do you make of this?  

Since the printing of country definitives was moved from De La Rue to Cartor in 2012, there have been several reprints.

The original printing of the Wales 1st class was on 10 & 11/07/12  (released January 2013) using Cylinders C1.   What we believe to be the second printing was on 07/04/15 and these cylinders were also C1, but this was during the period when cylinders were not always renumbered as they should be.  The black was clearly a new cylinder as the printing date was part of the cylinder.

Cylinders C2 were used on 17/11/16.   And the next printing, on 26/12/17 was from a new set of C1 cylinders with the font revised to that used for the airmail values and the Machin definitives. 

A recent list from Royal Mail showed a printing from Cylinders C3.  This wasn't regarded as odd: it would be quite possible for Cylinders C2 to be produced but not used because they were - for some reason - not of the right quality.

It was only when a customer asked if he had had a C2 block, that I found the C2 that he had had, and realised that C3 is the same font.  So what gives?  Royal Mail asked Cartor to print some more 1st class stamps for Wales - and they used the previous master images and made a new cylinder.

Maybe Royal Mail didn't feel the need to specify "use the latest design" - I'm not sure that I would have.  Why would you?  Why would a printer NOT use the latest design?


Many people don't collect cylinder blocks and date blocks, and to be fair there isn't much to choose between the stamps printed by C1, C2 & C3 in the old font - minor shade differences excepted.

But if anybody wants date blocks or cylinder blocks - or even singles - of the latest printing I will make them available on our webshop shortly, although there will be a delay in supplying while I obtain more stocks from Royal Mail.  They will be listed here.

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