Thursday 26 September 2019

Royal Mail Variable Sales Period Policy

Readers and contributors have commented on certain products being now unavailable from Royal Mail, even though they were issued earlier this year.  This includes the Leonardo Da Vinci and Queen Victoria Prestige Stamp Books.

I thought it might be a good time to remind readers of Royal Mail's new variable sales period policy introduced in 2017.   

Historically special stamps were kept on sale at Post offices for 12 months from the date of issue, and at the Bureau for a further 12 months.  Definitives were generally kept on sale for 12 months after their replacement by new tariff stamps.  At the turn of the century Royal Mail started issuing series of stamps - the Royal Houses, the World War I and the Classic Locomotives being three.  In these cases all stamps were kept on sale until 12 months after the last set issued, as long as stocks lasted.

In 2017, "in an attempt to reduce waste and meet environmental responsibilities by printing fewer (for a shorter sales period) and running down stock so that there is less waste on the last day of sale" the policy was changed so that stamps of selected subjects - for which traditionally most of the sales occurred early in their 'life' - would only be on sale for six months, or might sell out earlier.

The first issue to have a planned short life was the 2017 Songbirds, Watermills and Windmills, Landmark Buildings, Classic Toys and Ladybird Books, in other words mostly the thematic - some would say less 'necessary' - issues.  Royal subjects and Christmas would continue for 12 months; blockbusters would stay available while stocks lasted, although these have now been limited as shown below.

New Stocklist at Stampex
Although Royal Mail's new Autumn Stocklist has some errors, the information it contains shows that there are some fixed dates, and some marked 'While Stocks Last'.

World War I (2014-2018) - off sale 11 November 2019

RAF Centenary (20.3.18) - off sale 31  December 2019

Harry Potter (16.10.18) - off sale 31 December 2021

D-Day miniature sheet (6.6.29) - off sale 6 June 2020

Elton John (3.9.19) - off sale 3 September 2022

The following will remain on sale while stocks last:

Lest We Forget Poppies strip of 3 (2008) and 1st class definitive-size (2012)
All Star Wars issues 2015, 2017
Music Giants - Pink Floyd 2016, David Bowie 2017
Game of Thrones 2018
Prince Charles 70th Birthday MS

From 2019:
Leonardo Da Vinci, Marvel, Birds of Prey, British Engineering, Queen Victoria, Curious Customs, Forests and Royal Navy Ships.
Although note stated, it seems likely to me that some of the 2019 issues will not remain on sale into next year.

Other products
Presentation packs and stamp cards will generally be sold for the same period, if still available.

Post and Go stamps - the only stamps still in stock are the 2012 Union Flag, the Game of Thrones
pair, and Mail by Sea.

Retail booklets - RAF Centenary pair, until 31 December 2019, and World War I until 11 November 2019.  Harry Potter until 16 October 2019, and D-Day until 6 June 2020.

Prestige Books - First World War 2014-2018, until 11 November 2019; Harry Potter until 31 December 2021.

If you continue to collect modern British stamps, it makes sense to buy them as soon as possible after they are issued - or wait very many years for them to be available on the second-hand market. While some may be available for less than face eventually, the key items - such as Machins from prestige book panes - are best bought early on.

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