Wednesday 29 April 2020

Special Handstamping Fee - please help fill the gaps!

Many people producing first day covers or collecting special postmarks are familiar with the special handstamps available from Royal Mail and publicised in the British Postmark Bulletin and on Royal Mail's website.

These special one-day or more handstamps are paid for by organisations and businesses (and hence cover producers), but are not exclusive to them and may be obtained on cards and covers by anyone. The Royal Mail ones which include the words 'First Day of Issue' may only be used on new stamps, but all others can be used now on any combination of stamp paying the first class rate* - indeed if there is a 2nd class stamp issue on the day in question, that stamp may also be used. (*or the rate to the destination if intended to be posted to an address outside the UK.)

Nowadays there is no charge for this service, but before the Special Handstamp Centres were set up in 1990, an extra fee was payable to ensure philatelic treatment and (usually) special handling to ensure no further postmarks were applied.

From 1971 a special handstanp fee, initially ½p, was payable in addition to normal postage. Since the Post Office offered enhanced quality in exchange for possible delay in forwarding the items, collectors would normally have affixed stamps to the value of second class postage plus the handstamp fee.

From 16 September 1991, when first and second class postage rates were increased from 22p/17p to 24p/18p, the handstamp fee, then standing at 4p, was abolished, and it became necessary to pay the 1st class rate (again, through any combination of stamps).

Although collectors often use a combination of appropriately themed stamps for a special handstamp, and not infrequently pay more than is necessary to create an attractive cover, this fee does explain why covers were overstamped by odd amounts with often irrelevant stamps, when a special postmark was obtained in the period from 1971 - 1991.

All I have to do now is find out what all the interim fees were.  If any collector of special postmark covers has the opportunity to analyse the postage rates and amounts paid on their covers for this period, I will be very interested in the conclusions.  Remember the basic letter rates from 1988 are included in Stanley Gibbons Concise catalogue, and all periods are available here on the Great Britain Philatelic Society website.

My thanks in advance for your assistance!

1 comment:

  1. This from the British Postmark Bulletin dated 18 May 1987 (Volume 16 Issue No. 25) -
    "Items for reposting should bear 3p in addition to the appropriate rate of postage and should be sent to the address of the District Postmaster given at the finish of each advertised handstamp."


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