Friday, 18 September 2020

London's Virtual Autumn Stampex 1-3 October 2020


It's about this time of the year that collectors would normally be preparing their bags and sandwiches ahead of getting up early to make the trek to London for Autumn Stampex.  This year, of course, it's not going to happen.  

Instead, the Philatelic Traders' Society is organising a Virtual Stampex, online, which will be 'open' 24 hours a day from 08:00 on 1st October, to 07:59 on 4th October.  To take part you need to register, via this webpage.

Over 100 PTS Members and affiliated philatelic organisations and societies available live for you to chat to, in the Booth Hall to buy, sell, learn, chat about stamps.    

Visit the SPINK Auditorium to watch live and recorded webinars including Q&A sessions.

The 2020 Stampex Court of Honour will celebrate some of the leading collections in the world.

[Edit - my thanks to Isobel at PTS for pointing out (very nicely) that I had totally overlooked the navigation bar at the top of the Stampex International page.]

Booth holders* can be found here:

Stampex Talks here:

Stamps in the Attic information is here:

Overview on other activity regarding stampex can be found here. This gets updated as and when people tell us what is happening. 

*In addition to those listed I understand that Royal Mail will be taking part, although when I asked RM earlier this week there was no information on what that participation would involve or offer.

While we don't know what Royal Mail will be offering  we do know (thanks to the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog - to whom thanks for the pictures) that the avaricious postal authorities of Guernsey and Jersey are determined not to miss out on some Post and Go income, with specially inscribed stamps printed back on the islands.

These will be in strips of six as usual but I didn't want to allocate them too much space!

Other matters permitting I shall be dipping in from time to time - I think it will be interesting, and I hope others will also.  

The PTS is to be commended for organising the event even if provision of information is a bit slow.

No Stampex: New Royal Mail September 2020 Stocklist Available Online

Earlier this week we received the autumn Stock List from Royal Mail Stamps & Collectibles (now far more collectibles than stamps).  At the time it hadn't been added to their website, but I am pleased to say that it is now there, so if you previously picked up a copy at Stampex, you can now read it online here.

If you still collect new stamps and haven't been able to get them from your post office during the current situation you will need to be aware of last day of sale dates.  For the 'Stamp Souvenirs' these are very short dates, but these are unaddressed FDCs in effect, so you probably got something at the time.

Most stamp products have long dates or WSL = While Stocks Last, but the following are noteworthy, get them now if you want them:

Royal Navy Ships, Cricket World Cup MSs, go off sale on 31.12.2020 


Also of note, if you didn't notice before, and I may not have mentioned it, is the print quantities for Press Sheets of miniature sheets - 

Marvel - 1000

Star Wars and Queen - 500

The Gruffalo and Palace of Westminster - 300

I think demand for these - like most other products - has dropped since they were first produced.

Page 8 has a number of 'Bundles' - groups of products sold at a discount from the original prices.  These nearly always include some premium products for fans, and it's arguable that this provides some indication of which have been worthwhile and which were spurned by fans.

All Machin and country definitives, including booklets are available indefinitely - or at least while stocks last.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Brilliant Bugs: new stamp issue 1 October 2020. Attractive but unnecessary?

Another new stamp issue comes from Royal Mail on 1 October.  Although we have refrained from writing much until the emargbo date (which was supposed to be the issue date), the stamps now appear on Royal Mail's shop website.

But why?  What's the event?

Of course the short answer is that there isn't one.  As we in the northern hemisphere enter autumn - although the last week has been unseasonably warm even for an Indian Summer in September - the bees, butterflies and other insects are starting to disappear.  Certainly there weren't too many around a couple of weeks ago!   So this is what Royal Mail have to say:

To celebrate the enormous diversity, intrigue and importance of pollinating insects in the UK, Royal Mail is pleased to issue stamps that celebrate pollinators found in the UK and explore the range, beyond bees and butterflies, and include other often overlooked important pollinators like moths, beetles, hoverflies and wasps.

It is estimated that there are more than 5 million insect species on Earth. These ‘brilliant bugs’ contribute to essential natural processes in varied and diverse ways. Some ensure the functioning of ecosystems through decomposition – efficiently recycling dead and decaying matter. Others feed on pest insects and so protect plants, including the crops we rely on for food.

These pollinators are responsible for pollination of vast quantities of food crops for humans and farm animals and the pollination of wild plants including flowers and some trees. (In Europe 4 out of 5 crops and wild flowers rely, at least in part, on insects to pollinate and hence reproduce). Sadly, there is evidence the numbers of insects are declining and we are proud to highlight this important area of conservation through this stamp issue.

Nothing that those of us who keep an eye on climate change and conservation issues are not already aware.

The set consists of three se-tenant pairs including a pair of 1st class, and two pairs at the new airmail rates of £1.45 and £1.70.

Details of actual stamps (corrected: Painted Lady & Marmalade Hoverfly, which designs were switched by RM from the description they provided.)

1st Class Common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum)
This relatively widespread bumblebee feeds on flowers such as large blue pea.

1st Class Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui )
Thistles are a common source of nectar for these migratory butterflies in Britain.

£1.45 Longhorn beetle (Rutpela maculata)
This wasp-mimicking beetle is a common visitor of hawthorn flowers in summer.

£1.45 Elephant hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor)
Honeysuckle is a favoured source of nectar for this striking species. Ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita agg.)

£1.70 Marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)
Often seen in gardens, this is also an important pollinator of crops like oilseed rape.

£1.70 Ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita agg.)
The adult ruby-tailed wasp feeds on nectar from flowers such as angelica.

Technical details

The 37 x 35 mm stamps were designed in-house using illustrations by Richard Lewington (who was involved with previous similar wildlife issues in 2013 and 2015) and printed by International Security Printers in lithography.  Although our briefing notes were a bit short on detail, the FDC insert fills the gaps (so to speak): perforations are 14x14½ and in sheets of 30/60.  (See below for more details.)

Products available

Set of stamps, stamp cards, presentation pack, first day cover, and framed stamp set, also available in an edition of 100 signed by the illustrator.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

International Mis-sorts show the importance of correct addressing

A correspondent in Ukraine has sent examples of three recent covers received from UK eBay sellers that went the wrong way round.  They are a great example of modern postal history and serve to emphasise the importance of correct addressing to ensure proper and timely delivery.

These aren't all recent: the first is from 2014, and is properly paid at 97p - the value of the 1st class is 62p.  The address doesn't include the country name but the international abbreviation UA.  This is wrong at any time but in December it's a risky time!

Note there are no instructional marks on this, the stamps were uncancelled in Britain, and have received Buffalo NY ink-jet machine (Bambi) and handstruck postmarks.  (Incidentally these show that US postmarks don't produce good collectable stamps either!)

The second was sent from Tyneside in January 2017 and is 1p overpaid at £1.06.  Again the UA element of the address saw it sent to the USA, where it receives a 'Return to sender' mark with the inscription



The most recent one is from March 2020 just before the pandemic put a stop or delay to so much international post.  This is paid at £1.60 the Europe up to 100g rate, and has been properly cancelled in North & West Yorkshire mail centre.  But again the address lacks the name of the country and it has been sent across the atlantic.  There it again ended up in Buffalo NY and receives a red mis-sort mark, and the manuscript endorsements 'Foreign' and 'Ukraine'.  It's not possible to say whether the 'Ukraine' was added by Royal Mail if it was returned to the UK, or whether it was sent direct to Ukraine when somebody in the USPS worked out where it should be.

NIXIE DESK              


The postcode in Ukraine written on the letters is 14005.  In the USA this is a location about 50 miles from Buffalo which I assume is the main processing centre.

Nixie desk - a 'Nixie' is an undeliverable item, which would have been diverted to a special office for investigation and forwarding or return.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

1 September 2020 rate change; Post and Go availability.

The 1st September rate changes produced new Post and Go stamps as detailed here.  This posted, which will be updated with contributions from readers, will attempt to record which base stamps are available with these new rate stamps.
Update 16th, many thanks to Trevor for scouring eBay - a wide range of strips. 

Machin R20YAL
Knightsbridge (London), Croydon,

Machin R19YAL
Richmond (Sy), Old Street, Brixton & Broadway (London), Harrow, Exeter, Ashton Under Lyme, Croydon,  

Machin R18YAL
Richmond (Sy), Old Street & (London), Exeter, Exmouth, Broadway, Lower Regent St, Strand, Ecclestone St, Edinburgh Waverley Mall, Croydon, Paignton, Crawley,

Machin R17YAL
Lower Regents St, Kennington Park, & Strand (London), Banbury, Crawley,
Machin MA16
Ashton under Lyme, Banbury, Eastleigh, Brixton (London), Crawley & unknown eBay

Machin MA15
Albion St Leeds, unknown eBay

Machin MA14
Machin MA13
unknown, on eBay

Machin undated
Machin 2nd class CL17S
eBay - unknown

Poppy R18YAL  Broadway (London), Exmouth
Poppy R17YAL unknown - on eBay
Poppy MA16  unknown - on eBay  

Robin MA12   unknown - on eBay
Robin MA13 - unknown, on eBay
Robin date unknown - Leighton Buzzard

Mail by Bike  Knightsbridge, London

Mail by Air currently on Ebay unknown office link

Mail by Rail currently on Ebay unknown office link

Mail by Sea currently on Ebay unknown office link

Game of Thrones, Chorley, Lancashire
Union Flag (undated) - unknown - eBay.
Ladybirds - unknown, eBay

Machin Anniversary currently on Ebay unknown office link , Aberdeen, Paignton
Winter Greenery R19YAL currently on Ebay unknown office link ,  Knightsbridge & Brixton (London)

Hibernating Animals  currently on Ebay unknown office link

Naval Museums and the Fleet Air Arm Museum are open.
The Postal Museum and Shakespeare Centre machines are not in operation.

HMS Trincomalee: Machin MA14 and MA13 - on eBay

GWR Steam Museum Swindon (17 Sept): Machin MA13, Rail by Mail Royal Mail Heritage MA16.
Shakespeare Centre now open (17 Sept): Machin MA14, and Flowers MA17.§

That's a total of 25 plus six from museums - so far.
§ If I recall correctly this is a printing which was made for the centre and not available elsewhere or unoverprinted.

Trevor notes that "You will note that for some of the unidentified offices there is a close correlation between session numbers and kiosk numbers which may be purely coincidental.

When this was first announced one or two people raised the prospect of 'obsolete stock' suddenly reappearing, not necessarily legitimately.  
Some of the more unusual ones above are from the same sellers who have obscured the FAD code so that nobody can see whether or not they all came from the same post office branch.  If they had, then that would certainly be suspicious: if the Birds or Farm Animals appear I would certainly suspect the involvement of somebody who has a supply of unused rolls.  Not that I am suggesting any malfeasance on the part of these sellers on this occasion as the evidence is not visible.

Please let us know what you find by email or comment, and I will add it to the table above.

Anything unusual we are interested in two strips of single design and maybe full 36 for multi-design.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

New edition of our Machin Security Checklist available now.

With apologies for the delay, I am pleased to say that the latest version of our Machin Security Stamps Checklist is now available as a free pdf download.  This is version 2.2.9

You can read it online or download it by clicking on this link, or on the one in the right-hand column below the Covid-19 notice.

This includes the 1p and 5p counter sheet stamps not yet received.

APOLOGETIC UPDATE: The slow process of updating the Checklist meant that I had produced more than one version, and I then updated an old one instead of the later one.  Thus the omission of several stamps and I am grateful for readers pointing out those omissions.  

The link above has now been corrected to download the new version 2.3.0.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

September slogan postmarks

A third of the way through the month and there are no new slogan postmarks to report so it is timely to mention the default slogan used by Royal Mail when there is nothing else to commemorate or mention.

A number of people have sent examples, and we received this very clear one from Warrington in today's post.

Royal Mail
supporting youth
mental health with

Any new slogans or other interesting postmarks will be reported here, including handstamps.

IP sent this default slogan (in the other format, reversed with the wavy lines at left) from August but with a handstamp from Sheffield Mail Centre showing postcode S9 2XX.  This is in the Brightside district in the Lower Don Valley

PPI to CDS, the range in modern postal history

After a week away I have collected the post from Dereham and thank you to contributors who have sent us material through the post.  There's a great variety in what we received this week, useful for debate and illustration.

Occasional correspondent Robert M writes from Swindon with a couple of Postage Paid Indicator (PPI) stamp items.  We have seen these before and shown them here over the years.  They were originally trialled back in 2015 and were obviously well received by direct mailers, so have been available to them ever since, with new stamp designs (usually Christmas) added from time to time.


Although the addressee will know what is inside in these cases (promotion for Age UK's Weekly Lottery in the Machin, and for Oak Tree Mobility in the White Rabbit) the perception is that the 'junk' mail is more likely to be opened with a stamp, even if it is printed on, than in an unstamped letter:

Also in today's pick up were these two properly stamped:

Commercial or philatelic?  The 2nd class Machin is a pre-security booklet stamp with straight edge at foot; the Roman Britain stamp was issued earlier this year.  With a CDS that certainly looks philatelic, because few POs will do this unless asked.  That one came from an eBay seller (of stamps).  The Machin is obviously valid but at least 15 years old, and that comes from the secretary of a philatelic society.

Rpbert M described the printed stamped PPIs as "almost fakes, but are they better than no stamps at all?"   I think they are better than no stamps at all, but some people who are making detailed studies of these and unstamped PPIs with all the difference licence numbers and users.  It's certainly cheaper than collecting mint stamps and they are easy to acquire - you just fill in a coupon or respond to a mailshot and these come through your door with monotonous regularity!

So which would you prefer...

... and what have I not included from the types of material that comes through the post?

UPDATE 11 September
John G reminds me that there are other types of PPI, namely the Customer Access Indicia on mail delivered by Royal Mail but handled initially by independent companies such as UK Mail, TNT Post/whistl, Citipost etc.

John also writes:  Experiments by TNT Post showed that pictorial Customer Access Indicia increased the opening of the letter by 15% in the Netherlands and increased a response to the contents by 5% in the UK, compared to letters with non-pictorial markings. This led to the introduction of self-adhesive ‘stamp-like’ indicia on mail shots by TNT Post in the UK in 2008, and subsequently, following pressure from First Post, to ‘stamp-like’ indicia being printed directly on envelopes.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Queen: Another startling perforation error.

Back in July I reported on a strange shift of rouletting and iridescent printing on the definitive
pane from the Music Giants IV: Queen prestige stamp book.  No others have been reported, but it would be expected that more exist, so I urge you to check your booklets.

Could anything be more surprising than that?  Well yes, and on a product that many collectors don't pay any attention to.

As well as the two Collector Sheets (aka Smilers or Generic) Royal Mail produced two 'Fan Sheets' one featuring four copies of the 'A Night at the Opera' stamp and the other the 'Album Covers Collection' featuring all eight gummed stamps in one sheet, not se-tenant, but individually separated.

Although not se-tenant, one would expect that these stamps would all be perforated in one strike of the perforator.  Whether web-printed and cut, or sheet-printed, the most efficient way of perforating is to have all the holes punched at once, just as would happen on a miniature sheet of se-tenant stamps.

So how to explain this:

Not immediately obvious from the front, it stands out when the sheet is turned over!  IF the perforations are all struck at once the only way this single error could occur is for the perforations for part of the sheet to be still under the perforator when the second strike occurs.  The perforations for the 'News of the World' stamp (the green one at the top right) would hit the lower left of the sheet - but even then, the perforations for the 'Night at the Opera' stamp to its left would clip the sheet, due to the gap between the stamps being less than the gap between the erroneous perforation and the edge of the sheet.

So has anybody any other suggestions?

This was first reported to me via Twitter, by @BetterPhilately who mostly covers the stamps of India and the USA on the blog   Take a look, and take a wider look on Twitter and other social media.

Although many readers of this blog collect only GB stamps - and many of them seem to collect only Machins - there's a philatelic world out there to explore, and you'd be surprised how much people are willing to share their collections and knowledge.

More fluorescent variations - now Business Sheets.

Regular readers will recall that the counter and business sheets printed by Walsall in 2018 had a wide variety of fluorescence and phosphoresence, but that after that printing seemed to settle down with fewer variants in 2019.

John G has recently sent these pictures of (Walsall-printed) 2nd Large Business Sheets from 2019.  As you can see there is a marked difference in the two printings.

John writes:
The fluorescence from stamps printed on 22 October 2019 (sheet 2960957) is very bright whereas the fluorescence from stamps on the sheet printed on 6 February 2019 (sheet 2783747) is dull. An image of the fluorescence elicited by long-wave UV illumination of two stamps photographed together is shown. (Note also the slightly short bands on the later printing.)
As I wrote in January last year, "these are much more difficult to find because they require the purchase of whole sheets (of 100 small stamps or 50 large letter): if the stamps turn out to be the same then that expenditure - by collector or dealer - is wasted as few people have an outlet for that many spare stamps."

If you are a specialist collector preferring mint then these could be costly or impossible to find.  On the other hand if you don't mind including used stamps in your collection, postally used examples should be easier to find in kiloware.  With the (non-soakable) self-adhesive stamps tending to be collected on paper, the UV reaction won't be affected by soaking.  Although white envelopes show the stamps better in a collection, manilla are better for testing a UV reaction, unless the white paper has no brightener.

NVI Postage Values Updated

Following the recent postage rate changes detailed here it is worth repeating and updating this post from September 2019.  Updates are highlighted in red.

It is over six years since we first had to consider the change in letter weight steps and the question of stamps pre-printed with obsolete weights.  A reader asked the question on the latest Revenue Protection post so I've given this important subject it's own entry on the blog.

The question was:
There is another issue, as touched on, in that what postage rate do some of the perfectly legal NVIs and earlier Post & Go stamps now pay. A number of the original rates no longer exist.
I assume an "E" value will probably still pay the Europe rate of up 20g. Where is this set out, either for the public or the Royal Mail staff?
We have Overseas booklet stamps showing Worldwide postcard rate? Originally apparently 43p. What does that pay for today? Ditto Europe up to 40g - no longer a published postage rate. Worldwide up to 40g & 60g likewise both as booklet stamps and/or Post & Go values. Europe up to 60g and so on.
Does anyone know whether the answer set out anywhere or where the contact point is to enquire?
The answer is buried deep in a blogpost of April 2014, so I'll repeat and expand on it here.
UPDATE 10 April 2014
Regarding the future value of obsolete Post and Go stamps Royal Mail have advised:

Existing P&G stamps for WW 10g and WW40g and other previously issued NVI’s for which there is no current postage value e.g. WW Postcard, will continue to be valid for the next applicable weight step up from its stated value i.e. WW 10g stamp will be valid at the WW 20g value and the WW 40g stamp will be valid at the new WW 60g value.
Although they were asked specifically about Post and Go stamps, the reply covers the self-adhesive booklet stamps, including the airmail postcard rate stamp, which is the same rate as the Europe 20g/World 10g. The following year the 60g step was replaced by the 100g step and the same principle applied.  In other words, the stamps showing 40g are now valid for 100g.  The 10g and 20g stamps are still valid for the weights shown, as before.

Users of Stanley Gibbons' Great Britain Concise catalogue will know that the introduction includes some tables of postage rates.  One which was* missing is this table which, apart from indicating the original selling price of some of the stamps, explains why certain definitive stamps were issued and, in the case of the £2.25, re-issued after being replaced.  (Included in the 2020 catalogue.)

Europe 20g
World 10g
World 20g
World 40g
April 2009
April 2010
April 2011
April 2012
April 2013

E20/ W10
Europe 60g
World 20g
World 60g
April 2014

E20/ W10
Europe 100g
World 20g
World 100g
April 2015
April 2016
April 2017
April 2018
April 2019
April 2020
Sept 2020

* With effect from 1 September 2020 a combined Euro 100g/World 20g Post & Go stamp was issued, priced at £1.70.
On the same date the World 100g stamp was replaced by two stamps: World 100g Zone 1-3 is sold for £2.50, and World 100g Zone 3 is £2.55.

Consequently previous Europe 100g and World 20g stamps may be used for £1.70-worth of postage, and World 100g stamps may be used for £2.55, the higher rate.

I hope readers find this useful.  It is probably worth reminding everybody that these are also all valid at the rates shown for inland postage, just as the 2nd, 1st, Large, Signed For, and Special Delivery stamps are all valid for services other than those shown and on inland and international mail.

Update 19 October.
I've compiled this table which I believe to be correct.  Note that some of the rates were in effect before the stamps were issued, and some new stamps were issued at old rates before tariff increases. 

Stamps Issued* or Rates Effective
1st Signed For 100g
1st Large Signed For 100g
100g Special Delivery
500g Special Delivery
17 November 2009 *
6 April 2010
26 October 2010 *

20 April 2011
30 April 2012
2 April 2013 §
31 March 2014
30 March 2015
29 March 2016

27 March 2017

26 March 2018
25 March 2019
23 March 2020

* Royal Mail Signed For stamps were issued 27 March 2013, replacing Recorded Signed For, but were sold at old rates until 2 April.

The latest reply from Royal Mail, forwarded by Rushstamps, stated:
I have been advised the NVI stamps which have the E on can be used for both inland and Europe postings and the value of the stamp would be the current cost of an International Standard to Europe, which at this time would be £1.35.  NVI stamps do not have an expiry date and are valid at the current rate of postage, as long as they are unused stamps.
I believe the issue is that the Post Office Counter staff were not aware of this and is why they were refusing to accept these stamps.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Post and Go changes and weekend roundup

An interesting long weekend, with torrential rain on Saturday, and a clear but none-to-warm Monday when the village had a yard-sale, so enabling us to move out some of the things that had to be brought with us to the new place because local sale-rooms, charity shops, and the refuse tip were unavailable during lockdown, and even using Facebook and meeting people, or eBay to post things may have presented an unacceptable risk.

But now the embers of the year are with us - and with the autumn comes chilly mornings at least on the side of the house where the sun is late.  Thus my new office is exactly the same as the old one: breakfast on the patio in t-shirt and shorts, into the office and a change is definitely required!

And 1st September brings new postage rates mentioned at the end of July.  Something overlooked in that post was the effect on Post and Go.  My thanks to Malcolm B (who contributes a lot of Post and Go kiosk information) who alerted me to the impact, last week.  I wrote to Royal Mail seeking clarification:
With the change in postage rates from 1 September, we have two services with a single price, Europe 100g and World Zones 1-3 to 20g.   This doesn't necessarily matter in the short term but if the pattern continues this way it would be useful to know if RM plan to make any changes.

We also have the term 'Worldwide 100g' which is currently £2.42 but from Tuesday it is £2.50 for Zones 1 & 3, and £2.55 for Zone 2.   So naturally the question is, will 'Worldwide 100g' be accepted for both, and what price will it be sold at?   Or will changes be made to replace one of the £1.70 stamps with a £2.55 for Zone 3, changing the description on the £1.70 to something like 'Europe 100g/World 20g' as was done with the Europe 20/World 10g ?

In the meantime Brian has applied the paddles to the long-dormant postagelabelsuk blog, and has allowed me to reproduce the material here.  [And the price of 1st Large should be £1.15 not £1.25 in both columns.]

It is unfortunate that now Royal Mail Philatelic have stopped any new Post and Go designs, and the expansion of machines into any more museums and enquiry offices, there is almost no news provided in advance of events.  Whilst this might be explained by these only being 'operational changes', the fact that the Postal Museum, military museums and others on Royal Mail premises (if there are any now) are affected makes it philatelic news.  And they have let down dealers and collectors alike.

Brian also illustrates the new strip produced as a result of this new change in rate structure.  Personally I believe that the penumltimate one, reading 'Zone 1-3' is misleading: everybody thinks '1-3' means 'one to three' (ie, including two), not 'one and three'.

Post and Go collectors strip available from 1 September 2020 showing new Euro100/World 20, and World 100g zonal stamps.

Three values are no longer required -  “Euro 100g”, “Worldwide 20g”, and “Worldwide 100g” - and the last day of availability was theoretically Monday 31 August 2020 but with that being a public holiday in England, many machines were not available, so the last day was probably Saturday 29th.

Brian told me that "The WW100g stamps are only available via collectors strip*.

Some 'stamp' screen may have the wrong (old) prices but will transact the correct prices.
The postal museums were updated this morning (1 September).
* This is interesting and must mean that anybody posting a letter weighting 21-100g to a destination outside Europe will probably be sold an open value stamp.  Shown here the new £1.70 and £2.50 zones 1/3 stamps:

This is interesting from the collectors point of view.  When multi-design stamps were issued in sets of six, they could be collected in several ways.  The simple ways were 6 x 1st or the collectors strip of 6.

The more expensive ways were sets of 36 being either six x collectors strips with a different combination of stamps, or a strip of six designs in each of six values.  This last arrangement would seem to be no longer possible if Royal Mail choose to issue new multi-design sets.

As before, we are not stocking either Post & Go or Open Value, but Brian has some available via his blog.

UPDATE later the same day - more to come.
As mentioned before, the reason for the introduction of Zone 3 was the UPU changes to terminal dues which allowed countries to set their own rates for handling incoming mail from different countries.  If - for example and I have no information at present - Australia, Canada, China, or Brazil were to do something similar, that might mean similar but different changes to what Royal Mail has to pay.  This in turn could mean that - unless Royal Mail overcharged for some countries to reduce the number of different rates - different Zones for many different countries.

Then at the end of January the formal process of the UK leaving the European Union is complete, which means that VAT would no longer apply to the premium services on which it is currently charged.  Whilst this reduction in rates doesn't affect individual stamps or Post & Go stamps, it will affect Open Values from Post Office SSKs.

Indeed, we might see that only Open Values would be generated rather than more Post and Go services, unless Royal Mail adopted the same system as Gibraltar which at one time produced twelve standard values: Gibraltar 50, 100g; UK 20, 30, 40, 50g; Spain 50, 100g; EU 20, 30g; Worldwide 10, 20g (in two collectors strips). 

Whatever happens, it seems sensible for collectors who are still collecting Post and Go Faststamps to get the present arrangement while they can, from as many offices as they need to - and to remember for the rest of the year that the Poppy and whichever design is used for Christmas with whatever year codes - will all generate new strips, or at least new values.

Similarly if you want to collect the Machin definitive stamps, especially as postal history items, do so now!

Thanks to JE for sending the output from Chorley's SSK.  The 'g' in 100g is there on the World rates, but is obscured by the Game of Thrones design.

Game of Thrones Post and Go strip with 1 September 2020 rates.

Other weekend news from readers

Machin Forgeries
My thanks to Igor in Ukraine who sent these images of an old favourite forgery, still being used, and for international mail!  It's clearly a fraudulent use of two forged 1st class stamps to make last week's £1.68 rate to Europe.  But from a collector point of view, there is nothing wrong in owning it, and it makes a nice addition to the postal history collection.

Igor drew particular attention to the elliptical perforations.

A UK reader has sent me this picture of a mint single (and a sheet although that doesn't show up the detail very well).  

Observations from the far north 

Now that it is possible to venture further for holidays in the UK, MM has reported that country definitives in Scotland remain somewhat elusive. 
In the first office the lady knew of the 1st- and 2nd-class stamps. It was a surprise to her to find the thistle stamp and she had never heard of the tartan stamp.

In the second office the lady knew what I was talking about when I asked for the thistle stamp, but it turned out she thought I meant the saltire. It was a surprise to her when she DID find a thistle!

Post-Covid postal system

MM also reports on his recent experiences with the postal system:
After my wife and I came out of lockdown purdah, I posted 10 items at once, late in the afternoon. EIGHT of those arrived the next day! The other two may have done, but the postman failed to provide a signature, even the COVID19 that they are supposed to enter themselves.

Since then, virtually EVERY posting has arrived the next day, including two that made it home from Scotland before I did!

What do you think this might mean? Has 1st-class posting dropped so much in volume that 2nd-class post no longer needs to be held back? Might we see the end of the two-tier system at some point in the future?

Food for thought indeed.  Many think that, with only one delivery a day, the two-tier system which saw 1st class delivered 1st post and 2nd class delivered (on the following day's) second post may no longer be necessary.  I think the regulator may have different ideas though, especially on pricing.

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Palace of Westminster & Big Ben Maximum Cards

It is not easy to create first day covers or maximum cards when the topic of the stamps is surrounded by intellectual property or copyright issues.  Although James Bond cards are available, for example, they can be quite expensive if you have to buy online, and sellers are listing individually.  And with no postcard fairs running through the pandemic period, it's refreshing to have a stamp issue for which you can safely say, "I've got some of those!".

And so although the Palace of Westminster issue wasn't universally popular, at least I had a good number of cards showing either Parliament or Big Ben (the Elizabeth Tower).

Some of these will be listed on the shop when we reopen, so if you are interested in maximum cards, especially those of World Heritage Sites, then look out for our opening announcement here.

These are just some that I produced, all of which use cards which date from the Victorian period to World War 2.  Click on the images to see larger versions.   Both 1st class stamps are represented, the view from the river and the Elizabeth Tower, with two postmarks showing either the clock tower or the face.


Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Frequently asked questions on British postmarks and postal markings

There are some aspects of British 20th century postmarks and postal markings which puzzle collectors in modern times, although when they occurred the purpose or reason was widely known.

These questions are often asked on philatelic forums but not everybody is happy to venture into forums for the first time so if you have a postal marking that puzzles you, please email me, with a picture, and I'll try to answer it here.  These will not be in-depth studies and I may gloss over some aspects, but I'm sure knowledgeable readers will put me right on any errors.

Red postmarks
In the 19th century before postal reform it was common for letters to be sent unpaid, with the recipient being responsible for paying the letter carrier.  Most postal marks were applied in black, although other colours (blue, blue-green, blue-black, yellow) are known but the passage of time has changed some of these colours.  (See also British Postal History pages of E & R Shanahan's website - and explore the rest of it for some fascinating articles!)

If a letter was prepaid, it was marked in red.  With the Uniform Fourpenny Post this could be manuscript '4 pd', or just a red 4.   The same applied with the Penny Post.  When the Penny Black stamp was issued the Maltese Cross postmark was applied in red indicating a paid letter.  But as we know the stamp was soon reissued in red-brown and black postmarks were used.  (For much more detail on postmarks of the British Isles from 1840-76 see the GBPS website.)
Through the 20th century black ink was used to cancel stamps, but for bulk postings when postage was paid for on account or in cash, the letters (etc) received a PAID handstamp or machine mark and this was in red (though there are some exceptions where the PAID handstamp was used to cancel a stamp which had missed regular postmarking.  This was replicated with franking machines (or meters) which were also applied in red until recently.

As with anything there are exceptions.  When Royal Mail marked the 150th anniversary of the 1d black stamp in 1990 with the double-headed 'Victoria/Machin' set, the ink colour was changed to red so that it could be seen on the 1st class and 20p stamps.  Which answers one question sent this week.

What time is it?
Why does the postmark on the 1st class stamp show the time (3.30PM) while that on the 2nd class (15p) stamp does not?

The answer to this lies in the posting/delivery promise, that a high percentage of 1st class post would be delivered the next day.   The time it was postmarked reflect the time it was collected from the postbox or post office.  Although most letters posted late in the day with, say, a 7.30PM postmark would be delivered next day it might the by the second delivery, or on the third day if in a remote location, the delay being explained by the time of posting/processing.

There was less urgency with 2nd class post and so the time was not shown.  The reason for this is so that 2nd class mail could be processed over a long period some time after posting.  It may be sorted in the early hours of day 2, in which case it would logically receive (say) a  4.00 AM postmark but for the day following posting.  This would cause confusion with recipients when the sender was pressed for which day the letter was posted, hence it received a postmark with the date of posting but no time.

Why are there blue dots on my stamp?

These pale blue or white opaque phosphorised dots are part of the address coding to enable mechanised sorting of the mail.  Previously they were transparent or white (and waxy), and later they were replaced with red or red-orange bar-codes as shown below.  They are not uncommon, although most collectors prefer used stamps with postmarks and without these mechanised sorting marks.

That's all for now - any supplementary questions will be answered here, but new questions will be on a separate post.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Rupert Bear 50th anniversary - 3 September 2020

An entertainment subject of a different sort will be the subject of the next stamp issue, which marks the centenary of the first appearance of the Daily Express Rupert Bear comic strip on 8th November 1920.  Rupert Bear is Britain’s longest continually running comic strip.

Of course Royal Mail have to mark this anniversary in August because they don't really want special stamps after the Christmas stamps have been issued - oh wait, there's an issue on 13th November marking Star Trek, the famous US television series.

Although the stated embargo date is 3 September all the products are now on Royal Mail's website so once again I find myself providing information earlier than expected.

These are the eight stamps in se-tenant pairs.  The values are 2nd class, 1st class, £1.45 and £1.70. Original artwork that we saw had old values of £1.42 and £1.63 so it will be interesting to see whether the stamp cards have also been reprinted, because I am fairly certain that the stamp would have been printed before the 1 September price change was decided.

Rupert is a check-trouser wearing young bear who lives with his parents in the country village of
Nutwood. He enjoys magical adventures with his friends (which are humanised animals) and meets other creatures such as elves and giants with each frame of a Rupert story accompanied by lines of verse.

Such was the popularity that even in paper rationing during the Second World War, the government
sanctioned sufficient paper for the annuals to be printed, to help boost the morale of the public.

Royal Mail are pleased to celebrate 100 years of Rupert with the artwork of Alfred Bestall, who wrote and illustrated more than 270 Rupert stories, with his version being widely considered to be the definitive Rupert Bear.

Technical Details
The set consists of four se-tenant pairs of stamps, in sheets of 60 (30 pairs per sheet).  Designed by Rose using Bestall illustrations, the stamps are 35 x 37 mm and printed in litho by International Security Printers (Cartor). 
Acknowledgements: Rupert Bear TM & © Express Newspapers DreamWorks Distribution
Limited. All rights reserved.

A remarkably small number of products being, stamp set, FDC, presentation pack, stamp cards and a mounted framed set.

The framed set is "all eight Rupert Bear stamps mounted and framed within individual apertures, featuring a classic Rupert illustration and text beautifully reproduced in sharp detail on premium photographic stock for an eye-catching finish, in Royal Mail's usual black ash-effect frame with fixtures for hanging".  (Price £39.99, product code N3229.)