Friday, 27 March 2020

A little light relief to help the posties

Spotted on the web today



Stay At Home -
Save Lives -
Help the NHS

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Spain postpones all new issues: should Royal Mail follow suit?

The Spanish Post Office has postponed all new stamp issues from and including that due for issue on 30 March until the pandemic affecting that country has been dealt with.

Whilst UK post offices remain open, and the 'philatelic bureau' of RM Stamps & Collectables remains functional, attending the post office branch solely for the purpose of obtaining a new stamp issue is hardly 'essential travel', and with a majority of collectors in the vulnerable groups, they are unlikely to bother.

Royal Mail have indicated that all special handstamp facilities will be open indefinitely, in other words, collectors will be able to send FDCs and cards to be postmarked for some weeks after the issue date.



This is the (modified Google translation of the) statement from Correos in Spain:

COMMERCIAL DIRECTORATE

PHILATELIA SUB-DIRECTORATE


Madrid March 20, 2020

Due to the current state of alarm in which we find ourselves as a consequence of the crisis caused by COVID-19, we regret to inform you that this situation will affect the 2020 stamp emissions schedule.

We can confirm that we have ensured postage stamps throughout the postal network. However, we are obliged to inform you that we can not ensure the circulation and sale of stamps scheduled to be issued from March 30 to the entire postal network. That is why the issues from March 30 included will be postponed and will be put into circulation later to ensure their sale the same day throughout the postal network, which we will advise in due course.

These measures have been agreed with FESOFI (Spanish Federation of Philatelic Societies), ANFIL (National Association of Philately and Numismatic Entrepreneurs), as well as with CFE (State Philatelic Commission), to guarantee fair marketing throughout the postal network, to avoid possible speculations and distortions in the philatelic collecting market.

Finally, we inform you that both the issue schedule planned for 2020, as well as the release of stamps, will be modified and must be adapted when the national situation returns to normal. These decisions have been taken to guarantee, as it was being done, the correct sale and commercialization of stamps.

Likewise, the sale of specific philatelic products may be attended, but we inform you that we do not guarantee delivery times for them, due to the delay that the service is suffering.

We apologize for the inconvenience caused and ask for your understanding regarding the decisions that this anomalous situation has forced us to make. We trust that we will be able to reestablish the service as soon as possible with the usual normality.

Although we will keep you informed, you can continue to contact our Customer Service through 902 197 197 or by e-mail to: atcliente.filatelia@correos.com

Sincerely

PHILATELY DIRECTORATE
(via Google Translate)


Pair of stamps issues by People's Republic of China "United against Corona Virus"



Will Royal Mail be able to maintain their usual service of supplying new issues and responding to ad hoc orders if their staffing levels are affected by Covid19?

If Post Offices - many of them small businesses - have to close how will this affect the availability of new stamps.

If Royal Mail deliveries are affected by shortage of staff, deliveries to collectors will be delayed.

Will cover producers - all small businesses - be able to continue their production of specially deisgned covers for each of the many new issues for the next 12 months?

Maybe not yet, and - if the Prime Minister is correct and we will 'send this virus packing' - maybe never, but I hope that Royal Mail are thinking seriously about the situation and will make a decision soon.  There have already been errors (James Bond PP) and dubious decisions (Penny Black sheet) and if key people are not there to make consistent decisions then chaos will ensue.


Sunday, 22 March 2020

Response to global pandemic


Coronavirus update

You have probably had the greatest number of emails on a single subject ever, over the last two weeks, as your online supermarket, utility providers, banks, mortgage companies, internet service providers, etc, all tell you how you will be affected, either by changes to their services or by allowing payment holidays if you are in financial hardship.

What are we doing? Well, despite some people thinking we have an army of people sending out orders and maintaining website, blog and shop, it is only a family business. And we are all in one or more of the 'vulnerable' categories. So travel is kept to the minimum, our post is delivered, and we will try to get some home deliveries of essential foods. Fortunately we stock up during winter to ensure that if there are any normal seasonal problems we can survive.
(See update below)


About stamps, the blog and the shop.

The Blog: as you will have seen there has been a flurry of activity this week. With the help of contributors, normal reporting will continue while we can.

Stamps and the Shop: In periods of self-isolation, or enforced lockdown, working on your stamp collection is one way to keep yourself occupied – after all you can only watch so many tv programmes in a day.

To avoid going out, we looked at using courier services which would collect orders from us and found that the minimum costs of sending a basic letter-sized packet (c5, under 500g) would be around £4.50 to UK addresses. We can't go down this avenue.

We could could take paid orders but only go to the post office when it can be combined with other journeys. This would work, but would leave customers uncertain as to when their stamps would arrive, and mean that we had their money for an indefinite period without supplying anything.

We could take unpaid orders, and let customers know when to pay us. So you could still choose and reserve stamps; you could change your mind and we would simply cancel the order – no questions asked; we could then make available everything that is on our product database, and make the hidden categories re-appear.


But ultimately the situation is going to escalate. We don't expect to be going out much at all. What we all thought was a good idea – get fresh air in the country – is not because facilities there are fewer than in the cities and the local population will be vulnerable to visitors from the cities.

So reluctantly we have decided to close the shop indefinitely, until the crisis is over. You've probably got enough stamps to keep you gong for a while, and as we are not selling, everything we have listed will be there when we come back – and maybe there will be more.

Update evening 23 March.
So, as it happens, we were only just ahead of the government on this.  Tonight's announcement by the Prime Minister would have solved the dilemma for us if the decision had not already been taken. For the benefit of those outside the UK, all non-food/banking outlets have to close, and we are prohibited from leaving the house except for brief exercise and then only with members of the household or one other. What I call 'the German' system, as they introduced it just a short while earlier.



Thank you for your continued support, and good wishes, and please do stay safe. We wish you well,

Ian, Val & John Billings

Friday, 20 March 2020

London 2020/22 update - some delayed, some not

From Royal Mail:

London2020 Stamp Products

Following the postponement of the London2020 International Stamp Show in May 2020, we can confirm the status of the following products due to be issued for / or during the show.

• London 2020 Retail Stamp Book – Issued already and will remain on sale
• London 2020 Exhibition Sheet – Issue postponed
• London 2020 Souvenir Sheet - Issue postponed
• London 2020 (Show Exclusive) Souvenir Sheet– Issue postponed





The 180th Anniversary of Penny Black Stamp Sheet will be issued as planned on the 6th May 2020. 

Whilst this was to be issued during the week of London2020 Stamp Show its dual purpose was to commemorate the 180th anniversary of the Penny Black on 6 May 2020. 



And to give you the option of buying this or not, they include the following information:

Penny Black 180 Stamp Sheet of 25  ~~  Price £19.00  ~~  Code AW144

Note: This sheet is not covered by any Regular Order


Let's look at that again.... We dealers won't get these on our standing orders, and regular customers won't get them on their standing orders.  Well, that will avoid the inconvenience of sending them back again.

The other stamp set to be issued during the show is the End of the Second World War, and this will continue as planned, and will be issued on the new public holiday, Friday 8 May.  Details are embargoed until then, with FDC producers allowed to show their products on 24 April - so we can expect to see them in Royal Mail's shop in about a month.

UPDATE 23 MARCH
As you will see from the comments, people who try to order the 1d black sheet have been told by the RM call centre at Doxford that it is cancelled.
Once again I am trying to get a commonsense answer from Royal Mail for their customers so that I can tell you for sure, even if they can't tell their own people.



Romantic Poets - 7 April 2020

On 7 April 2020 Royal Mail will issue a set of 10x 1st class stamps in an issue entitled 'Romantic Poets'.  The stamp issue coincides with the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth, on 7th April 1770.

As is common, the cover producers have started to make their products available online, while those who are not being creative, including journalists and blog-writers, have to wait for the issue date.

But wait, I hear you say, Royal Mail's shop website is showing this issue as available to pre-order.  And all the images are there - although if you click on the £7.60 'stamp set', the next page indicates that the (larger) image is 'coming soon'.   But you can see the designs on the stamp cards image:



Inspiring designs, aren't they?  Although there is more than just text this is yet another issue on an 'arts' subject in boring monochrome (ok, plus the head), and a line of text from the named poet.  I suppose it's difficult to decide what else to do, other than use a pictorial representation of the poets but this follows Shakespeare issues in being dull. These designs were produced by The Chase.

"Lovers of literature will delight in this intricately-designed Presentation Pack, featuring all 10 of The Romantic Poets Special Stamps, alongside fascinating information on the Romantic movement." 
Maybe.  The set depicts quotations from works by Lord Byron, William Blake, John Clare, John Keats, Walter Scott, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Robinson, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Letitia Elizabeth Landon.

Anyway, you can see all the products and pre-order via Royal Mail's Shop here.

WOPA have them listed at this week’s price even though they are not being issued until after the rise!



The stamps are printed in litho by ISP/Cartor, size 41 x 30 mm. The set of 10 is in two se-tenant strips of 5, in sheets of 50.



Thursday, 19 March 2020

Urgent message for Royal Mail customers re James Bond Packs

JAMES BOND: TWO DIFFERENT PRESENTATION PACKS EXIST


My thanks a customer who emailed, and to 'Anonymous' who commented:

Has anyone else been caught out by the different Presentation Pack (code AP472) arrangement for this issue? On my copy at least, rather than plastic pockets to hold the stamps and MiniSheet, the items are stuck directly onto the cardboard of the pack (thus making them no longer Unmounted Mint). 
I rang RM, and was told that it was standard policy for this issue (the nice woman at RM didn't know whether it would hapen for subsequent issues). I've arranged to return the PP for a refund and have bought the set and MiniSheet separately.
When the second such report arrived I check with my contacts at Royal Mail.  Apparently there were two versions of the Presentation Pack AP472 and APR 472.  The latter had the stamps stuck to the card (but not cancelled) and are not, therefore, what most collectors want.  No information about this APR pack was supplied to dealers, nor indeed to the people who handle our orders!

These sound like Retail packs (R for retail) such as those A4 packs retailed apparently exclusively by WHSmith.  But nobody knows anything about them!

The error in sending the APRs to ordinary customers was noticed, but too late to know who had been sent the wrong pack, so they could not be recalled.  If you have not examined your packs yet check them, and if they are wrong, phone or email the usual contacts to arrange for a returns number and a replacement.  It is not necessary, as anonymous unwittingly did, to forgo the normal pack and buy the loose stamps and MS instead.  

I hope RM will include something about this mistake in their Bulletin to alert their customers who are not readers of this blog.

Since adding this to the James Bond Stamps post, another Royal Mail customer has emailed to say that:

"I have spoken to 4 other collectors this afternoon who were unaware of the error, and when they looked at their Presentation Packs found they had been sent the Retail pack instead of the usual pack."


Wednesday, 18 March 2020

London 2022 - this year's international rescheduled

The organising committee for the London 2020 International Exhibition has announced that due to the Coronavirus situation, the show has been rescheduled for 2022.

In a newsletter new dates were announced which will mean that the International will replace Spring Stampex.

19 to 26 February 2022


Clearly in the ever changing circumstances this was the only option.  As far as stamp issues are concerned, the retail booklet issued last week has been issued, and that is a fact.

But the other planned stamp issues - the stamps have probably been printed but have not yet been distributed - will surely now be postponed, unless Royal Mail decide that the 180th anniversary of the Penny Black and the 150th anniversary of the first stamped postcard are worth commemorating in their own right, so that some of their printing costs can be recovered.

I think it would be a cynical move, and a mistake to do this.

Whilst the 182nd and 152nd anniversaries should not be marked, the same stamps and products could be issued in two years' time, and surely few would suggest that the show should not be marked in some way.

Doubtless Royal Mail will tell us in due course how they are changing your plans, and we will report them here as soon as we can.

Update 20 March - see https://blog.norphil.co.uk/2020/03/london-202022-update-some-delayed-some.html

As for other issues, there is no reason not to issue them; Coronation Street is still on its 60th anniversary albeit with a reduced number of episodes per week.


See you in a couple of years!  Stay safe!



Saturday, 14 March 2020

Changes to Royal Mail procedures - infection prevention; London 2020

Royal Mail have announced changes to their delivery procedures and practices to prevent infection.


Public Health England (PHE) has advised that people receiving parcels are not at risk of contracting the coronavirus. From experience with other coronaviruses, we know that these types of viruses don’t survive long on objects, such as letters or parcels. This complements the highly publicised guidance from PHE for people to wash their hands more often than usual using soap and hot water. 
We are actively monitoring this rapidly evolving situation. We take the health and safety of our people very seriously. We have provided guidance to our people, our customers and communities in which we operate, to help prevent the spread of any infection. We are doing so in line with preventative guidance from Public Health England.


Signing for and receiving items

In order to protect both our people and customers as much as possible, we will not be handing over our hand-held devices to customers to capture signatures. Postmen and women will instead log the name of the person accepting the item. This will apply to Special Delivery Guaranteed, Tracked 24/48 with Signature and Signed For services.*
Additionally, for all customers (including those who are self-isolating) where we need to deliver any parcel that won’t fit through your letterbox, we will place your item at your door. We will then step aside to a safe distance while you retrieve it. This will ensure your item is delivered securely rather than being left outside. 
If you are unable to come to the door at all we will issue a ‘Something for You’ card, advising of other ways you can arrange to get your item. For example, by getting a friend or family member to collect the parcel from our local Customer Service Point on your behalf.


Contingency plans

In the event we need to close one of our units, this decision would be made in line with Public Health England guidance. Royal Mail has many years’ experience of contingency planning for a number of different scenarios. We will follow the Government’s advice and work closely with the relevant authorities.
We have extensive experience in being able to quickly deploy business contingency plans so we continue to provide customers with access to our services and their mail.

I had to collect a special delivery package today - this is how it appears on Royal Mail's track-and-trace webpage:


The postman writes COV19 on the pad; the customer does not handle it at all.


International Mail

Details of 'international incidents' and current arrangements for each country can be found here.

For example (today)a:

Delays to deliveries in China
As a result of reduced air capacity and emergency delivery procedures being taken to contain the virus on the ground in China, it is inevitable that customers sending items to China are likely to experience delays to delivery.

Impact to items leaving China for delivery in the UK
We are processing items from China for delivery in the UK as usual, though the transit of mail across and through China is affected. A number of international airlines have suspended flights to mainland China, and some border ports in neighbouring countries are also temporarily closed. China Post will temporarily store affected transit mail (air and surface) and will transport it to the destination countries when these transport options are once again available. Delays should be expected in transport and delivery during this period.

Incident: Deliveries to Italy delayed
Italian Post has advised the whole of the country has now become a Yellow Zone, subject to extraordinary measures, which is effective until 3 April or unless a later date is advised. Human movement and social contact are to be minimised. Commercial transport is permitted with precautionary measures aims at preventing/minimising human contact to preserve personal safety, hence a heavy reduction in work force is applied in the logistic chain within Italian Post with impacts to processing and delivery.

As a result Quality of service is affected on all postal products until the end of the Coronavirus epidemic. Precautionary delivery methods continue with signatures not obtainable from the actual addressee during this period.


While I'm happy to have comments please don't ask me for further updates but refer to the website links shown.  

London2020
The organisers plan to hold the show as scheduled, subject to advice from Public Health England and the Government.  Given that across Europe some countries have banned large gatherings indoors and out, and in the UK many sporting bodies have suspended activities for at least a month it remains possible that the UK may prohibit large indoor gatherings.  Given the demographic of the collecting fraternity, there is greater risk than average for the population.

Update Sunday 15 March: However, the retail booklet that has been issued on 10 March has been issued, so it cannot be withdrawn or unissued.  It is unfortunate that it is probably not in many post offices and that many collectors have not been able to buy it yet.  Obviously there has been nobody at RM to answer questions since this was raised on Friday afternoon, so we will wait until tomorrow, and update you with the answer.

UPDATE: Show now in 2022



Be safe everybody, take care, and follow health authorities' advice in your country.



Tuesday, 10 March 2020

London 2020 retail booklet issued 10 March 2020

As previously reported, Royal Mail are churning out the 1d black and similar stamps for the upcoming international exhibition in London.  We now have the booklet and can show the detail.

UPDATE: Show now in 2022

Earlier versions of the 1d black reproductions have been criticised for being poor - the overall shading for the 2015 edition has a pink tone. The latest version is closer to the original, as it has a yellowish tone - but still with the white border (unlike the Wildings in 2002/3 which had an all-over wash which imitated the off-white colour of the original stamps.)

This is a picture of a (damaged) used original 1d black:


A comparison of the 2015 (top) and latest booklet versions:



As mentioned previously the new booklet contains 1d black, 2d blue and 1d red reproductions as 1st class stamps.


The cover is normal, but of course the purpose of the booklet can be seen by the tab on the extended rear cover.

This is not regarded as a new issue - indeed all the stamps have been issued before in one form or another. The 2d blue version has not been issued in self-adhesive form before, and will therefore have its own place in the catalogues and preprinted album.

As you will see from the pictures, the current booklet is printed with Security Backing paper, unlike the booklet issued in 2015.  So for specialists this booklet produces three new stamps.

It's available on the Royal Mail website.

First Day Covers
Cover producers seem to have overlooked this as there are no sponsored handstamps for this booklet and new stamp, so little opportunity for maximum cards at this stage (there ought to be opportunities when the remainder of the exhibition stamps are issued in May.)  [Postmarks can be found on Royal Mail's website here.]


Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Slogan Postmarks in March 2020



This will be the place for all slogan postmarks used in March, and any other postmark news, which will be in a separate section after all the slogans.

The first March slogan arrived today, though I suspect it was actually used on Saturday 29 February, so I will add it in the February blogpost if I get confirmation and a decent copy to show.

One arrived today which, being local, may well have been posted yesterday. But it is too poor to show.  I even looked at others in the sorting office, to confirm the full text which is all but illegible on mine from Norwich Mail Centre.

The celebration is for World Maths Day (4 March*) and it reads:

"The poetry of logical
ideas" - Albert Einstein
World Maths Day
4 March 2020


Update 4 March - thanks to BM for the Exeter Mail Centre example above, also from 2 March.

Thanks to IB for the alternative layout from South East Anglia Mail Centre on 02/03/2020 - the wording is over five lines:

"The poetry of
logical ideas" -
Albert Einstein
World Maths Day
4 March 2020





* The International Mathematical Union website shows the International Day of Mathematics to be 14 March! See wikipedia for more clarification.



UPDATE 5 MARCH - World Book Day....
.... today was marked by a slogan which was also in use on 2 March on 2nd class post, shown here from Warrington Mail Centre.
Help World Book Day
Share a Million Stories!
Visit worldbookday.com
5 March 2020



Thanks to IB, JE & JG for the alternative formats for World Book Day, this one from Greenford/Windsor Mail Centre on 03/03/2020.

JE writes:
You are right in suggesting that the World Maths Day slogan was used from Saturday 29 Feb.; I have a poor Mt Pleasant iLSM version, on a cover which I posted on Saturday.  International Women's Day is due to feature today and tomorrow [5 & 6 March], with British Science Week being used from Saturday 7 to Friday 13 March!

UPDATE 5 March (ii)
As expected RW came up with the International Women's Day slogan, from Chester & North Wales dated 05/03/2020. (You can find an explanation of the IWD slogan in the link above.)

International
Women's Day
8 March 2020
#EachforEqual


Thanks to IB for this Home Counties North version also on 5 March.



UPDATE 10 March 2020
And so we come to British Science Week, my thanks to KD for sending this in yesterday.  From Manchester Mail Centre on Saturday 07/03/2020

"Science is magic
that works"
- Kurt Vonnegut
British Science Week
6-15 March 2020



Further update: thanks to RW for the other format from Exeter Mail Centre probably on 09-03-2020. As usual this is in the 4-line format.




Update 20 March: Thanks to KD and somebody who sent me a bill, I can show the latest slogan, reminding us that Sunday is Mothering Sunday, and time to send a card - too late for delivery Saturday now of course, unless you see this in the next 20 minutes, but it's the thought that counts.

One from Nottingham Mail Centre on 19/03/2020 and ours from Chester & N Wales with a postmark almost certainly applied in two passes on 17/03/20.


Remember to
send that card!
Mother's Day
22 March 2020



UPDATE 27 March, possibly the last this month
Thanks to KD for another slogan, this one reminding us of the daylight saving change here and in Europe this weekend.  From Nottingham Mail Centre dated 26/03/2020

Don't forget!
Clocks go forward:
Sunday 29 March
2020


 

And in our own post, one from Peterborough Mail Centre for the same date, but in the other format, in three lines.

 


UPDATE Sat 28 March
I suspect Royal Mail have had this in mind for a while; there may have been discussions with government about just what wording they would like used. There may be more than one slogan before the crisis is over.  

Rather than using a # hashtag as they do in many slogans, they have made this one simple.  My thanks to AB for providing these examples from Home Counties North and Swindon Mail Centres dated 27-03-2020


STAY HOME.
PROTECT THE NHS.
SAVE LIVES.
Royal Mail - keeping
communities connected


And our own mail came later, bringing this one from Chester & N Wales also 27/03/2020. These 2nd class items delivered next day suggest that the difference between 1st and 2nd is disappearing as Royal Mail have less business mail to process and more parcels and packets.