Thursday 31 December 2020

New Self-Service machines cominng to Post Offices sometime.

There are often reports of Post and Go (P&G) or Self-Service Kiosks (SSK) in Post Office branches being out of order and we know that these are second generation, the NCR machines taking over from Wincor-Nixdorf from 2014 onwards.

Earlier this year Post Office Ltd started the process for replacing those NCR machines.  A paper was published in the summer with details of the requirement and what the new machines would be required to do - which is more than they do now.  This is a 12-page document (plus more pages explaining the Crown Commercial Service Spark framework system).  Here are a few:

From this you will see that the system will still be required (of course) to link to the "Horizon back end". In some ways it would make sense for Fujitsu to be involved - at least then there would be no blaming the other contractor when things went wrong.  But given Futjitsu's record on the previous problems with Horizon it would seem to be unlikely that they would be involved even if they offered the best price.

Meanwhile Better Retailing suggests that there could be SSKs in non-Post Office stores.

The ‘family’ of devices would include ‘full service kiosks’ providing a wide range of basic post office services and other devices focused on areas such as parcel drop-off and returns.

The advert read: “All devices must have the potential to increase revenue by reducing queues, transaction times & cost to serve and to enhance the customer experience by improving access to particular products.”

While it said many of these would be made available to PO and its retailers on a purchase or lease basis, the document also included plans to deploy the devices “in new stand-alone non-PO locations”.  [My emphasis]

Although the article also says 

When asked to comment, PO said it has since abandoned the plans. A spokesperson told betterRetailing: “The ‘self-service devices’ notice was an early market engagement exercise that started in 2019, then stopped and was not taken any further."

the fact that they considered it means that the option is always there to be considered.

Implications for collectors

When new machines are introduced I think it is most likely that there will be off-site trials, followed by live installations in a few test areas so that the public can do the 'test to destruction' and find the bugs that the contractor has not thought of.  This will be folllowed by a more general roll-out.

It is inconceivable that the overprinting on the new stamps produced from these machines will be identical to existing NCR or RM machines, so we will have a repeat of the situation when NCR were replacing Wincor.  The saving grace for those with limited budgets, or the sad thing for those who like a great deal of variety, is that there will be few different stamp designs available.  

The only stamps which should be available (barring any unexpected new issues) would be Machin 1st & 2nd, Union Flag, and - at the appropriate time - Robin and winter (probably Winter Greenery).  If the people who have managed to create multiple varieties from the last set of changes (using old stock which should not exist) haven't used all that on the September changes, then they might be expected to use it up on tomorrow's changes and thus have nothing left to feed the new machines.

Certainly I would hope that nobody would try to suggest that, for instance, Birds, Farm Animals, and British flowers would be legally available from the new machines.

Wednesday 30 December 2020

Spot the difference? How many things wrong with these (barely 1st class) forgeries?

Early forgeries of Machin definitives were poor.  Of the more recent ones, many have tell-tale signs

Early 24p postal forgery
like poor perforations or a very poor printing, but generally the most recent Machin forgeries have been getting better and better.

But now we seem to be coming out of the other side of the quality peak.

I'm showing two examples in this post, one 1st class booklet and one 1st class Large sheet.

As we know all modern Machin definitives have a semi-transparent ink layer showing the letters ROYAL MAIL in a pattern.  In many cases some of these letters can be different indicating the year or production or sale, and the source (sheet, booklet) of the stamps.  Later, a similar more visible pattern was added to the backing paper of all definitive self-adhesive stamps.  

Here's the latest booklet example to grace our pages.

I mentioned a similar stamp earlier this month, so one sign is obvious if you have read that post. But how many differences can you detect without seeing the actual stamps?  I have 8 - 10 depending on how you want to count!

I'll add more details later.

So what about this 1st class Large?  You may need to click on the image to see the larger version.

For sale on eBay at £24.99 for 50 (v £57.50 face at current rates) they are described as 

... unfranked stamp is one which has been through the postal system but which hasn't been marked as used.

Sold for collecting and philatelic purposes

So what's wrong with that?  The backing paper has a faint security text printed on it, although it's difficult to see.  The stamps also have the semi-transparent security printing.  The listing has a picture of a sheet of 50, but it's not a Business Sheet or a counter sheet, the implication is that the stamps have been removed from envelopes and affixed to some genuine backing paper.  Very neatly.  

There are at least three obvious pointers to these being not quite what they seem.

Again, more later, while this is discussed on twitter and elsewhere. 

Sunday 27 December 2020

Britain's National Parks 14 January 2021 - Royal Mail Stamps' worst kept secret of the year so far.

As many people - especially Royal Mail's standing order customers - have known for several weeks, the first stamp issue of 2021 provides a gallery of Great Britain's National Parks.   

April 2021 sees the 70th anniversary of the first National Parks being established.  Today there are 15 national parks covering 10% of England, Scotland and Wales. They contain some of our most memorable landscapes, thousands of ancient monuments and almost one-third of our internationally important wildlife sites. 

The stamps: The 10 x 1st class stamps features images from 10 of the UK’s 15 National Parks (although as there are no National Parks in Northern Ireland, it is fair also to refer to these as Great Britain's National Parks).  [Wikipedia: National Parks of the United Kingdom]

Dartmoor (1951), New Forest (2005), Lake District (1951), Loch Lomond and the Trossachs (2002), Snowdonia (1951)

Five x 1st class National Parks stamps issued 14 January 2021 showing Great Staple Tor on Dartmoor, the New Forest, Crummock Water in the Lake District, Milarrochy Bay on Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and Snowdonia national park.


North York Moors (1952), South Downs (2010), Peak District (1951), Pembrokeshire Coast (1952), The Broads (1989)

Five x 1st class National Parks stamps issued 14 January 2021 showing Freebrough Hill on the North York Moors; the South Downs; Peak District from the north edge of Kinder Scout; Pembrokeshire Coast; Suffolk's Herringfleet Windmill in The Broads National Park

Retail booklet containing 4 x 1st class Machin definitives and self-adhesive versions of the Peak District and Snowdonia stamps.

The retail booklet ought to have year code M21L - we will confirm when received nearer the date of issue. 

UPDATE 28 December: Thanks to CH for confirming that the Machins are M21L MCIL with this picture.

1st class Machin definitive stamp from National Parks booklet, coded M21L MCIL.


1. I'm forestalling any comment from locals or knowledgable people elsewhere by pointing out that The Norfolk Broads are not a National Park in law.  Although branded as the Broads National Park by The Broads Authority, it is not a National Park in law.  This is only for marketing purposes.  This has been the subject of much discussion here in the east; you are invited to read Wikipedia which has links to official websites.

2. Attractive as the photographs are, I can't help thinking that they would have shown Britain in an even better light if there had been more sunlight and less gloom.  The New Forest could have been much greener - here's an image from the NF National Park Authority website for example.

Technical details and acknowledgements

The stamps were designed by Studio Mean using photographs as shown below, and were printed by International Security Printers (C) in litho, size 37 x 35 mm. 

Photographs: Dartmoor National Park © Andrew Ray/Getty Images; New Forest National Park © Photokes/Alamy Stock Photo; Lake District National Park © Pablo Fernandez/Alamy Stock Photo; Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park © Richard Burdon/Alamy Stock Photo; Snowdonia National Park © Andrew Ray/500px/Getty Images; North York Moors National Park © Stephen Street/Alamy Stock Photo; South Downs National Park © Peter Cripps/Alamy Stock Photo; Peak District National Park © RA Kearton/Getty Images; Pembrokeshire Coast National Park © Gareth Spiller/EyeEm/Getty Images; Broads National Park © Chris Herring; a special thank-you to National Parks UK.

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Best wishes for the Festive Season! What a year 2020 has been!

Maximum card of No 10 Downing
Street, residence of
the UK prime minister

Who would be a politician?  You make promises that the electors know that you won't necessarily keep once in power; that's a given.  You say things that people 'take out of context' when it suits you.  But even when you put on your really earnest face, and look really tired and tell people that they can have Christmas together, you overlook the fact that circumstances may change, and you may have to change the rules.  

That's what happened here on 19 December; with a week to go the rules changed so that 'Christmas' - normally several days of meeting and eating - was cut to just one day, and for Londoner's and others who moved up to tier 4, no visits at all.  Back to square one.  I know the politicians could have made different decisions earlier and maybe we may not have been under quite such tight restrictions as many people are in now, but that broadcast had some of us feeling great sympathy for our PM and his scientific advisors just as we did back in March and April.

As one of my American dealer contacts wrote just last week: 'The currently available vaccines seem to be effective against the current version of the virus.  However, the "enemy has a say in all this".  We DO know that the virus WILL mutate, but we don't know HOW the virus will mutate, nor if the current vaccines will be effective as the mutations occur.'  And so it has turned out. 

It won't make any difference to us; we weren't planning to visit anybody even though we have several sets of relatives within 5, and 20, miles.   We have plenty to do, with Netflix and Amazon Prime in addition to most other tv channels, and dozens of board and card games, many of which have been packed for a year in preparation for our moves. 


2020 & 2021 Special Stamp Programmes
This year's stamp programme met with the usual range of criticisms - too many, too expensive, and just plain "why?".   Out of 14 issues, only two or three could be regarded as commemorating something really significant to the United Kingdom events and institutions - the 200th Anniversary of the Royal Astronomical Society, the end of World War II, and 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth.  Oh, and the London 2020 International Philatelic Exhibition - like so many others a victim of circumstance.  It's cancellation didn't stop Royal Mail from issuing a sheet of 25 Penny Blacks which were only available as a £19 sheet!

Whilst the first two issues mentioned were stand-alone, the last could only be justified by Royal Mail under a banner of Romantic Poets in which Wordsworth shared the limelight with nine others.  And even then, they were illustrated by abstract lino cuts rather than the faces of the poets themselves.  What is it about this country that we can show rock stars (living or dead) but not William Wordsworth?  

Everything else was either a blatant thematic/topical subject or a popular entertainment subject (or both):  Royal Palaces and Insects, Video Games, James Bond, Coronation Street, Sherlock, Queen, Star Trek.  When this last was revealed more people than ever declared that they would stop collecting new issues and not wait for a change of reign.

Perhaps we are all Sherlocked!

This won't make any difference to Royal Mail, of course.  The existing policies will continue and probably get worse.  I've looked at the outline of 2021's programme and I can find 50th, 70th, 75th and  550th anniversaries.  From a short look at Wikipedia I can see that Peter Ustinov, Dennis Brain, George Formby, Malcolm Arnold, Humphrey Lyttleton, Dirk Bogarde, Deborah Kerr, Peter Sallis, Harry Secombe, Thomas Gray, Nobel Chemistry laureate Geoffrey Wilkinson, and John Keats might all have qualified, all have anniversaries next year, and that list includes eight popular entertainers.  But there are NO centenaries, or bicentenaries as far as I can see.   

Breaking news: the first issue for 2021 will be in the national media on 27 December, and the programme will be announced on 5 January.


Machin and Country Definitives
There was nothing excepetional in the definitive range, by which I mean we had the usual tariff change in March, which brought 15 new stamps.  There were no new stamps for the second tariff increase on 1 September, but the final one (from 1 January 2021) gives us 7/8 new stamps before Christmas. 

Some late M19L reprints of security definitives were finally supplied early in the year, and M20L reprints appeared through the year in the usual way.  The first two (February and March) prestige books (PSBs) both contained M19L stamps but only three new ones between them.  Subsequent PSBs (there were three more before the year was out) contained 6 or 7* new gummed M20L stamps (*depending on how you see them). 

The number of different postal forgeries found during the year was remarkable, with 1st class books and sheetlets of 12, sheets of 99 (11 x 9), and 100 (two panes of 50 - 10 x 5), 1st class Large sheets of 66, getting better and better but unlikely to fool astute collectors.

Making an appearance for the first time was the 1st class (definitive-sized) Game of Thrones stamp in booklets of 12 (it was only ever issued in 6s).  Making a reappearance on eBay was the 1st class Olympic games definitive (just the one type) in sheets of 16, some of which were despatched direct from China.  This was followed by the 1st class Machin with the reversed text which I reported here.

Even after this sheets of 16 x 2nd class Christmas stamps in four designs (2016, 2017, 2018 & 2014) were circulating, followed by mixed sheets of self-adhesive £1.55 country stamps, and finally this year's 2nd, 1st and 2018's £1.25 Christmas stamps were being used by eBay sellers.  The £1.33 Christmas 2016 stamp has also been found.  Many of these Christmas forgeries are in the smaller size of the Machin definitive rather than the original Christmas stamps so would be easily spotted.

I haven't had time to report and show all these.  I suggest readers who are really interested should join the MBPC and read 'Fake News'.  I hope to have some more forgeries, mint and used, for sale next year.

Post & Go
Once again there were no new designs, but there were new printings as needed. Branches continued to use stamps in the wrong place, so 2nd class stock being used for 1st class (and airmail) stamps and 1st class stock being used for 2nd class.

The tariff changes produced new stamps with different service indicators for airmail zones. Unfortunately alleged software limitations produced a misleading 'Zone 1-3' inscription which referred only to Zones 1 and 3.  This was corrected on Royal Mail machines (not PO SSKs) and the need will disappear from 1 January with the consolidation (for the time being) of the basic rates for all zones. With the range of stamps reduced, the cost increased as more expensive 100g airmail stamps were provided in place of the ones no longer needed.

Post Offices

There has been little to write about regarding actual post offices, although contributions to the postmarks topics allowed me to write about Mobile and Outreach postal services which I hope was of interest. 

The news about Post Office Ltd and their former sub-postmasters rolls on very slowly but has culminated this month in the news that the first six have had their convictions - for theft, false accounting, false representation and fraud - quashed.  Another 40 will come to the Court of Appeal in March.

There were, of course some early releases of special stamps, though maybe not as many as in previous years and fewer letters were posted.

Finally, news that I haven't had time to report suggests that Post Office is looking to replace the existing NCR self-service kiosk machines and has launched a process to find the next generation.  I'll cover this next month, but if you want to look at the paper, which includes some interesting diagrams about data relations and systems integration, click here (downloadable pdf).


Postmark Slogans
I'm indebted to all the readers who have continued to send in details of the slogan and other postmarks they have received during the year.  The number of Universals is probably down, but then letter mail was also down over the year by a significant amount, and it won't be until next month that we find out just how busy - in emergency postmarks terms - mail centres were during the Christmas period. All we know at the moment is that there are a few Universals, that parcel volumes are up, and the postmen and women are working their socks off in trying conditions. Our thanks to them all.


The business in 2020
The decisions we took to stop selling all new Machins after M18L and the Covid-related decision to shut up totally for most of this year means that our sales volume was down to less than 10% of 2019 which in turn was about 50% lower than 2018: it's just as well we don't do this for a living!  But with or without the pandemic we would have had to have closed at some time due to our relocation.  The pandemic made this a much longer process than it would normally have been, of course.  

Now, as things settle down here, and most of the stock has been unpacked, we have to catch up with other dealers.  According to word in the trade, business has been phenomenal, and that's even for dealers without detailed websites.  So we will reopen our online shop ( from Christmas - but we will not process any orders until January 3rd, as many as possible being posted on January 7th.

We hope that existing customers/readers will find something of interest, and we will welcome new customers as we expand into other areas of worldwide philately.  We will also be offering some bulk lots of postcards and postal history, and will also expand onto eBay and probably to Delcampe for some areas.  As always the user name is norvic, so when you are browsing those sites, take a look and see if we are there.  We'll try to put news here and on Twitter as well.  


The future

There can be little doubt that things will get worse before they get better in 2021.  Despite the endeavours of the politicians the enemy at the gate will be there for some time before sufficient vaccines are available and effective against all strains of Covid-19.  And sadly there will be some who are confused by the rules and others who simply refuse to obey.  Only yesterday police had to contend with a demonstration in London against the restrictions and some officers were injured. 

A local dealer was telling me about a hospital in the midlands where management had to call taxis for staff because anti-vaccine protesters and Covid-deniers were verbally abusing the nurses and doctors coming off shift who are fighting to keep people alive.  The staff were returning to the hospital rather than suffer the abuse.

Sadly the anti-vaxers could well be the people who acquire the virus without showing symptoms and pass it on to others.  So don't engage with them; don't argue, steer well clear.  Protect yourself and others as best you can, and be kind to people.

We philatelists are generally solitary, although we meet at stamp clubs and fairs.  Maybe in 2021 some of this will happen again, but don't hold your breath.  The better we protect ourselves now, and in the future, the more likely things will return to normal.  

We count ourselves very lucky, considering the number of tradesemen we have had in our house & garden this year: I make it at least 20, not counting all the delivery drivers from Royal Mail, Amazon, Morrison's, and take-away drivers, etc.  By them being vigilant we and our local family are still safe, and as far as we know, so are they.

We thank you for your patience and good wishes both during the year, as we coped with the delays and the move, and for the festive season.  This summary is not a comprehensive or considered as usual, but let's hope in 12 months things will be so much better. 

We wish all our readers - customers or not - the best festive season you can have in the circumstances. To those who have lost friends or family during this pandemic we offer our sympathies.  We hope that you and your friends and loved ones stay safe now and in the future.
In the meantime let us be grateful for what we have and be kind to everyone.

Monday 21 December 2020

Royal Mail Stamp Programme for 2021 - earlier than expected.

We received this programme for next year's stamp issues earlier this morning.   I have checked with the source that it is genuine* and so we can now publish it here for your enjoyment or otherwise.

2021 Stamp Issues

January 14th – National Car Parks 90th Anniversary – pretty certain as I have received a direct debit notification.

February 9th – A set of 12 stamps depicting all the forthcoming commemorative issues for 2021 – to be issued 29th June.

March 16th – Great British Deceased Musicians – 6 stamps featuring Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Ami Winehouse, Lemmy, Rick Parfitt and Paul McCartney. It is pointed out to the new Chief Executive of the Royal Mail, Dido Harding, that Paul McCartney is still alive. Dido Harding has to resign.

April – Royal Mail announce there will be no stamp issue in April. Collectors everywhere issue a collective sigh of relief collectively.

April 1st – A set of six stamps celebrating April Fool’s Day.

May 20th – Great British Actors – 6 stamps featuring Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley and Lily James. The new Chief Executive of the Royal Mail, Chris Grayling, points out that surely these are actresses, not actors. Chris Grayling has to resign.

June 5th – A set of 30 stamps commemorating The Selling Out of Star Wars (Series 6….or is it 7)

July 6th – The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It is pointed out to the new Chief Executive of the Royal Mail, Frank Spencer, that the Queen actually came to the throne on February 6th not July 6th. Frank Spencer has to resign.

August 27th – Great British TV Comedies – Mrs Brown’s Boys. A collective ‘for feck’s sake’ from collectors everywhere.

September 17th – A set of 6 stamps celebrating something that happened in September, 13 years ago.
The Royal Mail announce that all presentation packs in the future will be pre-manufactured with creases in them so that no one has to return damaged items to them any more.  (May be Sept 5th, see picture alongside - Ed.)

October 8th – A Presentation Pack of 6 Christmas stamps with 1st and 2nd Class booklets all with the slogan ‘Post Early for Christmas’

November 14th - A set of 30 stamps commemorating Star Wars – Flogging A Dead Horse (Series 7….or is it 8)

December 20th – Celebrating Leaving the EU and the Signing of a Trade Deal - set of 6 stamps depicting the Union Jack from different angles. However, due to Tallents House in Edinburgh, complaining they hadn’t voted for Brexit, the stamps are issued without the blue St Andrew’s Cross of Scotland. Much disappointment amongst collectors as they thought they had a missing colour error. The new Chief Executive of the Royal Mail, Paula Vennells, is sentenced to 5 years in jail for her part in the ‘Post Office Scandal’ but can keep her job at the Royal Mail.

* My thanks to Paul Taylor for this inspired piece of writing.  It is genuine, ie all his own work. 

Friday 18 December 2020

Images of 23 December's new stamps.

Images of the actual stamps to be issued on 23 December including a remarkable 'flaw' on the England £1.70 stamp are shown on the original 2 December post.

Also included are details of the Postal Museum opening on 1 January  - Now cancelled.

Monday 14 December 2020

Another novelty which we hope that Royal Mail does not copy!

I've written before about other postal administrations novel ideas for getting money from stamp collectors, or other buyers.  Over the years Royal Mail has steered clear of many of these, although Press Sheets - large sheets with multiple examples of miniature sheets - have often been issued by Royal Mail after being first issued by the United States Postal Service.

I've also mentioned the range of commercial products that Australia Post produces far too frequently using sports teams and popular American culture.  But Australia's latest novelty is a step to far, in the view of many collectors.

The Year Book has become a popular product among collectors the world over.  Royal Mail's basic version is not expensive and contains a wealth of interesting information about the stamps issued during the year.  And if you remember when stamp issues commemorated something important or were otherwise interesting, then they would be worth having on your bookshelf.   The stamps are included in separate card wallets so that they can be slotted into place.

Australia Post has done likewise for many years, and often included something special, maybe a miniature sheet in a different format.  This is to encourage 'completist' collectors to buy the year book - which includes many stamps they have already bought.

But this year Australia Post has done something quite remarkable.  To save collectors the trouble of slotted into place all the many stamps and miniature sheets issued during the year each stamp issue is now presented as a full gummed page.  Yes, the stamps may be in a different format, now in a block rather than singly in ordinary sheets, and the whole A4 page is gummed!

From AP's promotional email.

Whereas before a collector who had already bought most of the year's stamp issues, and then decided to buy the book would be able to use, sell or exchange with others, all the duplicated stamps, they now find that the new format makes totally different stamps for which they don't even know all the printing details, ie whether it is a new printer/perforation/paper/gum etc.

Oh, and one page with a block of 4 'Art of the Desert' stamp set has one stamp with the country name omitted.  AP noticed this (!) and included an extra message on their website: "Purchasers of the publication, who wish to have a copy of the original stamp design without the irregularity, may request an Art of the Desert stamp set by contacting Australia Post."


Read what Australian and other collectors think on Stampboards.

2021 programme - first issue 14 January

This brief note acknowledges that Royal Mail's standing order customers know already what no dealers or cover producers are allowed to mention until 5 January - the identity and make up of the first issue of the year.

So although I will allow comments, none here will mention the name of the issue.   I'm sure you all appreciate the position we are in: I was tempted to write 'understand' but nobody really understands why Royal Mail can tell the collectors but not the wider public.

Sunday 13 December 2020

Back in Business - our shop will reopen for the holidays!

It was back on 22 March that I posted our Response to global pandemic. I sought views on what we could and should do, and thanks for the responses. 

Little did we know just how long it would be before we were in any position to restart.  Since then we have relocated, had most of our stock packed in boxes until the new office could be fitted out and only now do we know (roughly) where (almost) everything is.

So we will be fully open in January.   The shop will open before the Christmas holiday so that you can shop as normal.  BUT: although the shop you see should be the same as always, we are using a different 'back-end', and some of it is very different for us.

We will deal with any Christmas orders during the first week of January, and post them as soon as possible.

Nobody knows what the government restrictions will be in January, but I suspect they will get tighter after people have mixed at Christmas.  We won't be mixing even with family who live within Norfolk. 

Just some of the new items in our shop - while stocks last!

We will post orders just once a week, and we will collect from the PO Box on the same day.  (And weather permitting, of course - we now live on a slight hill so if it is too wintery, our weekly trip to town may be delayed!)

And while we received a Christmas card from Canada within 10 days, we don't know how international transit times will work out.  Worst of all, for all customers, is the fact that postage rates will all rise again on 1 January, and I had just re-worked all the postages on the shop before these changes were announced.

New items added since March include 2020 Security Machins including from PSBs, booklets, miniature sheets, some maximum cards, etc.  We'll have the new tariff Machins on as soon as we have them.  

New product categories will be coming soon in worldwide postal history, but also Machins and other modern British postal history. 

More news about new products, special offers, and everything else, will be posted here as early as possible.

Friday 11 December 2020

Charity mailings include 2020 2nd class Christmas pre-printed stamp

We've reported on many different pre-printed postage impressions often using the current Christmas stamp and this year is no exception.

My thanks to Kiwieditor on Twitter who showed this latest version of Royal Mail's digital postage (or PPI) shown here.  This is from the Royal British Legion (RBL), with a return address of Chippenham.

2nd class Christmas 2020 postage paid impression - digital postage from Royal British Legion.


JF reports on the same stamp being used on a charity funding request from Royal Air Forces Association.

In this case the wavy line 'cancellation' appears to be grey-black compared with the black of the RBL one.  (The ink-jet on this one is because it was misdelivered and reposted.)

UPDATE 30 December

We've actually had one delivered here!  This is a postcard from one of the lesser-known subscription diet companies.  This doesn't have a Condition 9 (C9) Accesss code, but HQ104259.  

UPDATE 20 January

My thanks to H for this example of the White Rabbit Alice in Wonderland 2nd class stamp used by Dexters, an estate agency with over 100 branches in London.  DP reports that this is also used by Snellers Estate Agents with the same C9 licence number.

White Rabbit Alice in Wonderland 2nd class pre-printed stamp winter 2020/21.


UPDATE 5 February.

Another example from the wider family, is this one from Healthspan with licence HQ 23777, using the 2020 2nd class Christmas stamp.

Monday 7 December 2020

Service interruption

 We are having electrical work done at Norvic HQ.

Our website, blog, etc will be visible as usual, but there may be delays in answering emails/twitter/blog comments depending on whether we have power in the right places.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, with better lighting!


We're making progress although still with occasional outages as wires are touched and switches are tripped!  Work continues today, and probably Monday.

Meanwhile a reminder that slogan and other postmarks are listed on a single monthly post, so please check there in case what you are offering has already been listed.  If that post has slipped off the first page, look at the navigation on the right on desk-top machines and pads held landscape. On phones this may not be visible.

I'll be updating some posts today, power permitting.

Seasonal Postboxes revealed

It's been a quiet year for post boxes being painted different colours, but we have had blue ones to thank the NHS and black and gold ones with stamps on for Black History Month.  Now Royal Mail is bringing festive boxes to four locations across the UK.

Press Release

As the nation prepares to post their annual Christmas cards and presents, Royal Mail is today launching four festive postboxes to encourage early posting this festive season.

The postboxes – three of which are for letters and cards, and the other a parcel postbox – have been decorated as beautifully wrapped Christmas presents.

This year, the boxes will be ‘digitally activated’ – meaning that customers using them can scan a QR code contained within the design of the boxes on their mobile phones, and watch a short festive message from Father Christmas.

The four boxes are located in busy hotspots* in Brighton, Wrexham, Aberdeen and Bangor, and will be launched from today. They will be in place throughout December.

*The postboxes will be situated in the following locations:

  • Brighton – Outside Churchill Square, Brighton BN1 2TA (this is a parcel postbox).
  • Wrexham - Outside Natwest - 33 Lord St, Wrexham LL11 1LP.
  • Bangor (NI) - Outside YMCA - 10-12 High St, Bangor BT20 5AY.
  • Aberdeen – Outside Clydesdale Bank - 62 Union St, Aberdeen AB10 1WD.

 Here's the parcel box in Brighton, taken from The Argus:

Brighton's 2020 Festive Postbox

Other boxes are illustrated by other regional news sites although one in Wales shows both the Brighton box and what may be a library (supplied) photo as it also appears on a site reporting the Scottish one.  Pictures of the Northern Ireland box show a brighter green box with a red cap and no decoration, which may be an unfinished state.


Thursday 3 December 2020

Latest 1st class Forgery, and unsurprising Post and Go news.

Ahead of Royal Mail's January price increase there is still news in the philatelic world.

1st class Machin Forgery - another new one

My thanks to DL for sending this picture of a 1st class Machin forgery used to post an item he bought on eBay.  It's not the sort of thing likely to fool anybody, unless Royal Mail now take it on board as a new feature - but that's hardly likely given that the forgers have got there first!

1st class Machin forgery with alternate lines of ROYAL MAIL mirrored

As you can see, the top line and every alternate line has the ROYAL MAIL text shown as

There's no year code and I can't see a source code.  It has the squared-off elliptical perforation, and narrow varnished 'phosphor' bands.

Post and Go news

It comes as no great surprise that the 20-coded Winter Greenery have been found (at Oakham) in the wrong machines, as illustrated here by DF.   The surprise is that the explanation given was that the bulk packaging (presumably from the printer, unless PO Stores had repackaged) had the wrong labels on!

2nd class Winter Greenery 2020 Post and Go stock used in 1st class machine.

Meanwhile The Postal Museum have confirmed that, provided London is not under Tier 3 restrictions, they will be open on 1 January 2021 and it will therefore be possible to obtain their version of the Post and Go stamps with the new rates on the first day that they are applicable. 

Doubtless somewhere in the country there will be franchised sub-post offices (or some ex-Crown offices outsourced to WHSmith) with NCR Self-Service Kiosks enabling collectors who want the basic stamps not subject to additional inscriptions in the new set.   I wonder what will crawl out of the woodwork - surely there is not a huge stock of Birds, Fish, and Flowers held illicitly for just such an event?

Wednesday 2 December 2020

December Slogans - and other - Postmarks

The first slogan postmark used in December is the carry-over from November, with Royal Mail's 'Shop Early, Send Early' exhortation, to take the pressure off the postal workers in this most difficult of years.

 Shop Early,
Send Early this

Shop Early, Send Early this Christmas slogan postmarks.

The Gatwick Mail Centre example dated 01/12/2020 was actually received by us this afternoon. My thanks to RW for the Croydon Mail Centre 27-11-2020 example first posted in the November post.  

For some reason South East Anglia failed to recognise this one properly and applied a non-slogan postmark on 5 December - and not a clear one.

Edinburgh Mail Centre 14-12-2020 used both three-line and four-line version of the slogan on similar items:

Reversed layout from Bristol Mail Centre 12/12/2020

UPDATE 7 December.  Royal Mail's social media team have advertised a new slogan to be running 'all this week'.  

We are supporting the Department of Culture Media & Sport "Let's Talk Loneliness" campaign with a special Let's Talk Loneliness postmark. Look out for it on all stamped mail this week

We can all
help each
other stay

Let's Talk Loneliness slogan - template.

My thanks to MC who was quick off the mark with the latest slogan, sending a scan of Sheffield Mail Centre 05/12/2020 and Exeter Mail Centre 04-12-2020

Let's Talk Loneliness slogans from Sheffield and Exeter Mail Centres.

UPDATE 11 December.  My thanks to AH for this 'reversed' version on a square envelope. This from Tyneside NE/SR Mail Centre 08/12/2020

Let's Talk Loneliness slogan postmarked reversed on square envelope from Tyneside Mail Centre.

In a single picture one reader sent four examples, two different sizes of the first layout (Croydon and Peterborough), and both normal and reversed layout from Lancashire and South Lakes.

UPDATE 22 DECEMBER.  UPDATED 11 May 2022, when more examples received.

The Shop Early slogan was reintroduced after the conclusion of the Let's Talk campaign.

Shop Early, Send Early this Christmas: Peterborough Mail Centre 12-12-2020, South East Anglia Mail Centre 12/12/2020, and 15/12/2020 reversed.

In what could be the final campaign before the holiday break Royal Mail optimistically wished us a Merry Christmas!  Examples here from Home Counties North (21 12 2020) and a very clear one from Norwich Mail Centre 18-12-2020

Merry Christmas
from everyone
at Royal Mail!

The other layout, reversed, from Cornwall Mail Centre 21/12/2020

UPDATE 30 December:  Above is the other layout in normal format we received from Bristol (BA BS GL TA) dated 20/12/2020

My thanks to MC who provided this scan of the default Action for Children slogan which evidently came back into use on 24 December at Lancashire & South Lakes.  RM obviously decided it was too late to use 'Merry Christmas' at that stage.

'Action for Children supporting youth mental health' slogan reintroduced on 24 December 2020

UPDATE 14 December.  Thanks to RW for the first Universal this season.  The sender "is from County Durham (Darlington)" but we don't know exactly where it was used, nor exactly when.

Where the circular town/date die should be there is a Census diamond instead.   These hark back to an era before mail centres had machines which could accurately count the mail throughput.  

"The "diamond" mark was used in Universal cancelling machines as a control mark when an annual postal census was taken usually in October or November. This procedure started as early as 1923 and ceased in 1985. The single impression dies were fitted with a counting device and the marking was to indicate that the item had been counted.

The count was normally made of all posted traffic (posted at, received at, forwarded and any counter business), including foreign mail, for one week at a particular office providing a record of the number of items passing through the machine per hour or per day and giving a representative of average weekly postings for the Post Office." 
[Source: Rainer's Sideline collections.]

There is more discussion about this with many examples on the Stampboards forum.  

More Universals

2. Lancashire and South Lakes Remember the Postcode slogan on 9 December, and also with no town die (attributed by the contributor on the basis of the writer).

3. North & West Yorkshire with postcode slogan 10 December

4. Peterborough -A- with wavy lines (centre inverted)  Nov 2020 (but possibly used in December)

5. Peterborough SCM2 (?) with wavy lines all upright also Nov 2020.

6. JE sends this remarkable piece with a variety of postmarks on, described by him thus.

The cover was sent on 8 December from Stromness, Orkney, where it received the local SCM die and the 'Snowman' slogan. It then went to Aberdeen, where it was sorted by an Intelligent Letter Sorting Machine (iLSM), which added the shallow non-slogan version of its inkjet cancel. On arrival in Preston on 10 December it received the well-inked Universal 'Lancashire / South 37 Lakes' die, apparently with no slogan or wavy lines.  There does however appear to be a faint 'Postcode' slogan, with no 'town/date' die, at an angle across the Stromness slogan!  Perhaps some items which went through the machine which produced the 'no die' item already shown were then put through another machine with only the '37' die.

And given the age of the Millennium stamp it's surprising that any ink-jet postmarks were applied. Stromness makes its firs appearance this year - still waiting for Lerwick!

As usual, this is where all interesting postmarks will be recorded for December, and it will be no surprise if there are some Universal machines pressed into service as often happens at this time of year.  While some people are saying that they will send fewer greetings cards because they have been in contstant touch, others are saying that they will send more than usual this year.  No doubt Royal Mail will tell us in due course just how busy they have been.

Any more will be added after the holiday break.  Keep looking!