Friday 29 May 2020

New Issues update - the beginning of the end for FDCs?

Details of the next new stamp issue, Roman Britain (18 June), will doubtless soon appear on the websites of cover producers as today is the product embargo date.  Details of the stamps cannot be released until 9 June or whatever date Royal Mail's webteam decided to drop them into their shop for pre-ordering.

Buckingham Covers already have their cover on their website here.  From this you can see that the subjects are
2nd Class Dover Lighthouse; & Bignor Mosiac
1st Class Amphitheatre at Isca Fortress, Caerleon; & Ribchester Helmet
£1.63 Bridgeness Distance Slab; & Warrior God Statuette, Cambridgeshire
£1.68 Gorgon's Head, Bath; & Hadrian's Wall.
Their special postmark is shown below, from the latest Royal Mail Postmark Bulletin together with the one sponsored by the Association of Great Britain First Day Cover Collectors.

These two are the only sponsored handstamps for this issue.  So aside from the two pictorial First Day of Issue postmarks used by Royal Mail (one for Tallents House and one for Colchester which doesn't feature on a stamp) there are just these two.  Maybe Benham and others will come along later, or maybe not.  All the producers have regular standing order customers.  If they are only using the Royal Mail handstamps, then this marks a seismic change.

'Official' FDCs, as defined and used in the UK, refers not to those produced by Royal Mail, but by organisations which design their own cover and sponsor (= pay Royal Mail for the non-exclusive use of) a special pictorial postmark which compliments both the cover and the stamps.  Anything else is considered by serious collectors to be less desirable.  The covers are always priced at about twice the face value of the stamps (includes VAT), but if a producer thinks charging that just for a pictorial envelope and a Royal Mail FDoI postmark is justified then customers may indicate otherwise.

The rest of the year
We now have details of the stamp issues for the rest of the year, and although we cannot tell you anything I can say that there are no surprises.  The issues we suspected would be 'entertainment' related are just that.   These are the issue dates and the embargo dates for the next four issues.  We'll publish details when we can.

Roman Britain
The Palace of Westminster

Thursday 28 May 2020

Royal Mail Stamps & Collectbiles Stock List

Over the years the Royal Mail website has changed many times, often for the better though sometimes for the worse, depending on what you want to use it for.

The new shop layout is very useful for many purposes but not so good for others, such as finding our just what is available and for how long.

This information can be found in the Stock List which used to be published in time for Stampex, ie generally January/February and August/September.  This isn't easy to find on their website from many of the pages that you might land on if you are looking for special stamps.

But if you drop to the foot of most pages, to the large black navigation/links area, you will find a 'Stamps' heading.  If you click on this it takes you to the programme of special stamps for the year, and a further link to download the stock list.

Here you can see how much longer the Elton John stamps (for instance) are on sale (September 2022), and which have no definite end date (WSL = While Stocks Last).

The latest version was published in January, so includes only two of this year's issues, and of course some changes may have been made in the light of the current situation so it is always as well to contact them to confirm details.

Checklist update, and new SG Concise due soon

The last update to the Norvic Machin Security stamps checklist (v2.2.4) was published just after news of the first two new reprints this year, the 1st class Large Signed For, and the Special Delivery 500g, which had not then been received.

A new version 2.2.5 is now available incorporating these two new stamps and the 2nd class business sheet for M20L.  You can download the pdf here, and of course it remains free of charge!

The 2020 edition of Stanley Gibbons' Great Britain Concise catalogue will be published on 18 June.  Despite Gibbons' very limited trade discounts now, you may be able to buy this from your favourite stamp dealer, but the current situation means that that won't be at a stamp fair, and retail shops may not be open.   But Gibbons have it listed for pre-order on their website, with free shipping within the UK.  I'll be checking out their new catalogue compared with our own as soon as possible after our copy is received.

But - if you do buy from Gibbons direct this year, do remember your stamp dealers for future years, when we all get back to socialising at stamp fairs!

Friday 22 May 2020

Subpostmasters & Horizon Litigation etc - updates

From freelance reporter Nick Wallis
Work has been continuing apace to finish the ten-part documentary I am making with Whistledown Productions for BBC Radio 4. It is a landmark series (Whistledown only do landmark series) and I hope it has some effect.

If you're not already an avid Radio 4 listener, now is the time to start switching over as the station trails (adverts) for The Great Post Office Trial start going out today.

The series begins on Monday 25 May at 1.45 (Episode 1 is called "The Imaginary Heist") and continues at the same time each day for the next 10 working days. Please tell your friends.
Although TV is restricted to domestic viewers, radio is available worldwide so everybody ought to be able to hear this on this link when it is broadcast.   (Remember Monday is a public holiday in the UK).

You don't have to listen daily, in fact I may wait until Friday to listen to the first week's programmes. The BBC Sounds App (on smart devices and desktops) defaults to autoplay series. But many broadcasts are only available for 7 days. This seems silly for a 10 day programme, but a warning in case that applies here.

The episode guide shows 12 episodes, but 11 & 12 are 57 minutes and are omnibus editions broadcast on Fridays, which will be shorter to listen to and avoid all the headers and footers that often accompanies these programmes.


Private Eye Special Report free pdf download

That Lord Gnome is a public-spirited proprietor after all. He has made the Private Eye Special Report, "Justice Lost in the Post" available for you to download here as a free pdf!

What a man.

Profound thanks to Eye staffer Richard Brooks who was first among equals on this project. I've been working with Richard on the Post Office story since 2011 and his nose for the telling detail and killer fact is second to none. It would be less than half the piece it is without him and the brilliant designers who made it look so good on the page.


Historical Shortfall Scheme announced

Have you seen this advertisement in your local newspaper?

Post Office Ltd has launched its Historical Shortfall Scheme for "current and former postmasters who believe they have experienced shortfalls related to previous versions of its computer system Horizon."

This is apparently a great leap forward, until you see the eligibility criteria, of which number 6 reads:
6. You must not have been part of the group litigation against Post Office that settled in December 2019.The settlement reached by the parties was full and final. You must also not have entered into a settlement agreement with Post Office other than as part of the Initial Complaint Review and Mediation Scheme commenced in 2013 or as a result of Network Transformation or other scheme.
So the scheme, which Post Office Ltd is only now compelled to introduce by so much publicity as a result of the litigation means that people not involved in that litigation will be well compensated (maybe not 'adequately' but time will tell).

But this could not have happened without the actions and effort of the litigants, who will get no more - and the most any of them has had appears to be about £20,000 - to cover all the payments wrongly taken from them, as well as any damages.

Meanwhile the government has had things to consider other than a judicial enquiry to the 'greatest miscarriage of justice' ever seen.


Thanks to Chris, I am reminded that the BBC tv Panorama programme on this scandal has been rescheduled.  Readers outside the UK are unlikely to be able to watch it.  Nick Wallis writes:
The "lost" Panorama: Scandal at the Post Office, has been rescheduled for 8 June, 7.30pm, BBC 1. Given our strange times, that might change. I am very much hoping it doesn't. This is what the BBC says about it:
"Hundreds of sub-postmasters were jailed or financially ruined after computers said money was missing from their branches, but the Post Office has admitted that its Horizon system can make mistakes. But when did senior managers find this out, and did they continue to prosecute postmasters for stealing when they knew technology could be to blame? Reporter Nick Wallis investigates what could be Britain's biggest-ever miscarriage of justice scandal and uncovers evidence of a cover-up at the Post Office."

The JFSA fights back!
Again, from Nick Wallis - 
The Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance has launched a crowdfunding campaign with a view to making a complaint to the parliamentary ombudsman about the behaviour of the government in essentially letting the Post Office go rogue for the last two decades.
In a circular to JFSA members, founder Alan Bates says:

"As you know, due to the terms of the Settlement Agreement we are not able to take further civil litigation action against the Post Office; however our focus presently is on the Post Office's only shareholder, the Government."
Bates says the JFSA got advice from a "specialist QC" about taking the government to court:
"His advice was that it might be possible, but it would be very expensive and we would be looking at years again, so realistically that wasn’t looking to be a practicable option.  However... he suggested that there might be a better, quicker and cheaper route to follow, a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman."
The Parliamentary Ombudsman was established by an act of parliament in 1967. S/he can investigate complaints from members of the public who believe that they have suffered "injustice" because of "maladministration" by government departments or certain public bodies.

However, the downside is that:
If the Ombudsman finds in favour of the complainant, and against a department, the Ombudsman has no executive powers to alter a department’s decision or award compensation." Oh.
Nonetheless the ombudsman can suggest a remedy, which might include financial compensation. In 2009, a former ombudsman, Ann Abraham, published her "principles for remedy", which state:

"our underlying principle is to ensure that the public body restores the complainant to the position they would have been in if the maladministration or poor service had not occurred. If that is not possible, the public body should compensate them appropriately."
But the ombudsman has no power to enforce a remedy and the government can ignore its recommendations. If the government chooses to ignore the ombudsman, the ombudsman has the power to lay a special report before parliament. This the government can also ignore, although backbench MPs would be entitled to jump up and down about it.
And the JFSA has launched a Crownfunding campaign for nigh-on £100,000 because although complaining is free, proper preparation of all the documents by lawyers won't come cheap.  Read more at the link at the head of this section, and if you believe in justice and can afford to, please contribute.

London's Autumn Stampex Postponed - Goes Virtual

From a letter to PTS members

Autumn Stampex postponed and replaced with Virtual Stampex event

The PTS Council met today and voted unanimously to postpone Stampex this Autumn. Members with stands will be offered the option of transferring their booking to 2021, or they can request a refund. The physical show at the BDC will be replaced with a Virtual Stampex event to be held online.

More details are provided below and a follow up communication specific to stand holders will be sent next week. The philatelic press will also be advised of the decision tomorrow.

Rationale for postponement

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to our lives, our businesses and to the hobby in general. We know that getting stamp shows back up and running is important to many of our members, and to our clients.

The decision to postpone the show was not made lightly. A lot of meetings, reports and financial forecasts have allowed us to play out many scenarios, not just for Stampex, but also for the society. Some key considerations:

We have been working with the BDC on what they, and we, would need to do to create an event space which would meet government guidelines on social distancing. Examples include extended booth sizes to allow people to be 2 metres apart, spacing between stands and bays for distancing queues, one way systems, masks on arrival and gloves for handling items, extra signage, a loading bay schedule, the possibility of visitors booking slots to attend etc. The logistics are complex and costly to implement but not impossible.

We have a certain degree of influence over building up confidence about a safe Stampex environment at the BDC but we have no control over this, or on the wider infrastructure such as public transport.

We also have no control over travel and mass gathering restrictions, potential quarantine periods, media or family influence on people’s perception of attending such events etc. We know that building up the confidence of our client base (mostly over 60s) would be particularly challenging.

Irrespective of visitor numbers, we must consider how many stands we will sell in order to make the show financially viable. An optimistic estimate puts stand sales at 70% of target but we are already hearing of stand holders who would prefer to pull out of their booking if they could somehow receive a refund.

We are in a very fortunate position that, thanks to the long term relationship with the BDC and their understanding of our businesses and clients, and their gratitude for the support we provided in helping to reschedule the London2020 International, that the BDC have offered us an option to postpone the Autumn 2020 booking with no penalty fee. This offer expires at the end of this month hence the reason for us assessing event practicalities and running financial forecasts now. 

We hope that this early decision allows our stand holders to plan for the next six months knowing that the next Stampex at the BDC is now scheduled for Spring 2021. We will be working harder than ever to continue to help all of our members through this period.

More details about the Virtual Stampex here later.  From what I have read of the first thoughts, it sounds like a good idea, and will open up the world to new ways of dealing.

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Guest Blog: Open Value Post & Go stamps – overlooked and undervalued?

 I haven't written about Open Value Post and Go stamps for a few years - mid-2016 in fact, when I wrote that
.... to find and accumulate a comprehensive collection of 'used-on-cover' Open Values would be very worthwhile, and would definitely be a challenge.
At the time John Gray commented "I can let you have images of various Open Value stamps - the most widely dispensed stamps from Post Office NCR machines - if you want to see them. These will be the items for postal history collections in the future - and very few people seem to be bothering with them!"

Our long holiday then intervened, and Security Machins and slogan postmarks occupied much of the blog for the next few years, but I recently came across a few examples of the Open Value stamps and decided to explore further.  I then asked John if he would consider writing a guest post on the blog - as he knows so much more about them than I do - which he has kindly agreed to do. 

There are some links to articles he has published elsewhere, which I shall publish on our website.  I'll have to do some editing to get the images and captions in to this blog, so any errors or omissions will undoubtedly be mine, and I'll get John to have a look very soon after publication.

Please comment as usual - we would both be very interested to know just how many people are taking an interest, and how many collections are building up.

Open Value Post & Go stamps arrived on the philatelic scene on 28 February 2014 when two NCR self-service kiosks were installed at Harpenden Post Office. Subsequently, about 650 NCR kiosks have been distributed among about 230 post offices throughout the UK. 

However, despite the widespread distribution of these kiosks and their apparent accessibility, Open Value stamps remain an enigma. Their use on letters and parcels handled by Royal Mail and Parcelforce must surely greatly exceed the use of commemorative stamps, but the latter have a much stronger collector base than Open Value stamps. Similarly, overprinted Post & Go stamps from Royal Mail kiosks in museums and at exhibitions appear much more popular despite there being about 40-fold fewer kiosks in less accessible locations. So why are Open Value Post & Go stamps not more popular? 
What is the problem?

The problem appears to have started on day 1, with incomplete information on exactly how many different Open Value stamps were available from NCR kiosks. Douglas Myall, the doyen of Machin collectors, admitted it was extremely difficult to compile an accurate list (Deegam report 107) and there was fervent discussion on the Stamp Magazine Forum on-line and on John McCallum’s ATM Reporter (both now defunct). The announcement of the new NCR kiosks on the norphil blog produced many comments, but not a consensus on what to collect.

Fig 1. A recent cover with an Open Value International Standard Airmail stamp and a currently relevant slogan postmark

It took some time to work out exactly what Open Value stamps were available from NCR kiosks [see earlier articles in Gibbons Stamp Monthly Feb 2015 and The MBPC Bookmark Journal April 2020] – and the result didn’t inspire many (any?) to contemplate a complete collection. There were originally 34 different Service Indicators, and this number increased to 45 with changes in postal services (mainly to the classes of International services).

The second off-putting feature was the cost of many of the services, particularly Parcelforce services, for collectors of mint stamps. Currently, the minimum cost of the globalexpress (GX) service is £43.50, for sending a 0.5 kg parcel to the Netherlands, Belgium or Luxembourg (so for a Post & Go issue with 6 designs, the cost of mint GX stamps would be an eye-watering £261!).

Figure 2. A used Open Value stamp for the Parcelforce globalexpress service.

These two features, the complexity and the cost of mint stamps, were I believe the main factors deterring collectors from making comprehensive collections. However, a third factor has undoubtedly contributed to Open Value stamps being ignored, or overlooked, by many collectors: the lack of up-to-date information. Open Value stamps are the orphans of the GB collecting world: there is no catalogue, no specialist web-site or philatelic society providing comprehensive information. Information can be hard to find!

Open Value stamps are not listed in Stanley Gibbons GB Concise catalogues, despite the banner on the cover of the 2019 edition stating ‘Post & Go fully updated”. However, careful reading of the Post & Go section reveals Open Value stamps “are outside the scope of the catalogue”. Open Value stamps were initially listed in Douglas Myall’s Deegam handbook, but information has not been updated since Gerry Fisk and Hanns Fasching were appointed editorial assistants, and they have confirmed that Post & Go stamps will not be included in the fifth edition of the Handbook. 

Stuart Leigh’s Post & Go check-list provides excellent coverage of non-value indicated (NVI) stamps, but does not include Open Value stamps. There appears to be no specialist philatelic society that provides full coverage of Open value stamps. The Modern British Philatelic Circle and the British Postmark Society both provide some information on Post & Go stamps, but coverage of Open Values is incomplete.

Where to start?

If you already collect Open Value Post & go stamps, I presume you may have resolved the problem of what to collect. What aspects of Open Value stamps can be recommended to someone wanting to start a collection? The first consideration is likely to be the budget available; many of the Open Value stamps for international mail and parcels are very expensive in mint condition, much more expensive than Commemorative stamps. 

One option, then, is to collect used stamps, which are available in kiloware and from internet auction sites. This option can still be very challenging for fine used examples. The shiny surface of Post & Go stamps often results in blurred and indistinct postmarks (see the 2L stamp in Figure 3), such that some collectors prefer uncancelled used stamps (please, not unfranked!). A postal history collection of cancelled stamps on cover, as suggested by Ian in 2014, is not an easy option.

The basic values for UK standard letter services (1L, 1LG, 2L, 2LG) are the easiest, and cheapest, Open Value stamps to collect, mint or used. They are available for all Post & Go issues over a six-year period from February 2014 to now.  It is much more difficult to find Open Value stamps for the early Post & Go issues (Birds of Britain, Farm Animals and Freshwater Life) that were issued for Wincor Nixdorf kiosks, with very few rolls being used in NCR kiosks.

Figure 3. Open Value stamps for the basic UK standard letters services, 2nd, 1st, 2nd Large & 1st Large

The Signed For versions of the 1L, 1LG and 2L stamps have also been available for the full six-year period from February 2014, but are scarcer because of the premium of £1.00-£1.30 over the cost of the UK Standard service. Stamps for the 2LG Signed For service were available for only 30 months from February 2014, being replaced in September/October 2016 by Horizon–type labels.

Figure 4. Open Value stamps for the UK Signed letter services.

Open Value stamps for Royal Mail Standard and Signed For parcel services (1SP, 1MP, 2SP, 2MP and Signed For) were also available for only a 30-month period from February 2014 and are scarcer than Open Value stamps for the Letter and Large Letter services. They were available for all Post & Go issues from Spring Blooms to Ladybirds, with usage on Birds of Britain, Farm Animals and Freshwater Life much more difficult to find.

Figure 5. Open Value stamps for UK Standard Parcel Services, small, large 1st & 2nd
Figure 6. Open Value stamps for UK Signed For Parcel Services

Stamps for the UK Special Delivery Guaranteed by 1pm service (SD1) are probably more numerous than stamps for the Standard Parcel Signed For services, and occur in reasonable numbers in kiloware and on internet auction sites.  However, they also were available for only a 30-month period from February 2014 to autumn 2016. Stamps for SD1 with Saturday Guarantee are scarcer, and stamps for Special Delivery Guaranteed by 9am service (SD9) and its Saturday Guarantee service are even scarcer and very rarely seen in kiloware.

Figure 7.  Open Value stamps for UK Guaranteed (Special Delivery) services

Used Open Value stamps for Royal Mail International services are much scarcer than stamps for UK services, and it is easier to find mint stamps of the Standard Airmail letter service (A Letter) than used stamps. This is because four A Letter stamps are often included in sets of six Open Value stamps matching the corresponding NVI stamps in Collectors Sets. 

Stamps with the A Letter service indicator have been available ever since their introduction on 28 February 2014, so can be found on all the Post & Go issues from Spring Blooms to the 2019 version of Winter Greenery, but much more rarely on Birds of Britain, Farm Animals and Freshwater Life stamps. 

Stamps for the Airmail Small Parcel service (A Sm. Parcl), introduced on the same date, were replaced by Horizon-type labels in autumn 2016, so have a much shorter period on sale. An Airmail Large Letter service (A Lg.Letter) was introduced one year later on 30 March 2015 and is still available on all Post & Go issues since then.

Figure 8. Open Value stamps for International Standard services for letters and small parcels
Royal Mail has offered several International tracked and signed services, in addition to its International Standard services. At the time of the introduction of NCR kiosks, the Airsure service provided a tracked service for letters and small parcels, while the International Signed For service provided a service with a signature taken on delivery of letters and small parcels. 

However, within four weeks, on 28 March 2014, these services were revised and renamed. Airsure became International Tracked (IT), International Signed For became International Signed (IS) and a new International Tracked & Signed (ITS) service was introduced from 31 March 2014. 

Open Value stamps for the Airsure services (AAX Letter and AAX Sm.Parcl) and International Signed For services (A ISF Letter and A ISF Sm.Parcl) were available for a only 4-week period and are among the rarest Open Value stamps. These service indicators are probably available only on Machin head Post & Go stamps.
Figure 9. Open value stamps for International tracked and signed services.
Open Value stamps for the new International services for letters and small parcels, introduced on 31 March 2014, are also very scarce; they were available for only 30 months until they were replaced in NCR kiosks by Horizon-style labels. 

Stamps for the IT, IS and ITS services for large letters were available for an even shorter period; these services were introduced on 30 March 2015 and stamps were replaced by Horizon-style labels about 18 months later. Images of Machin head stamps with all these service indicators can be seen in the BookmarkJournal article.

Open Value stamps for Parcelforce services have been available from 28 February 2014 and can still be obtained from NCR kiosks in post offices. However, they are probably best collected as used stamps, if you can find them, because of the expense of mint stamps. Stamps for the cheapest Parcelforce service, express48, with a 48 service indicator, guaranteeing delivery within 2 days, turn up in small numbers in kiloware. 
Figure 10. Open Value stamps for the Parcelforce express48 service.
However, stamps for the globalvalue (PS), globalpriority (GP), globalexpress (GX), express24 (24), expressAM (AM), express10 (10) and express9 (9) services are much scarcer. Mint examples of Open Value stamps for these Parcelforce services are also shown in the Bookmark Journal article

The irelandexpress (IE) service provides overnight delivery of mail from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland, and stamps with the IE service indicator are not available from NCR kiosks in post offices in Great Britain. A used example on cover is shown below, unfortunately not cancelled, but with the Parcelforce label showing the date of postage. A postal history collection may be an ultimate goal, but it won’t be easy!
Figure 11. Cover with an Open Value stamp for the Parcelforce irelandexpress service from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland.

 John Gray May 2019

Sunday 17 May 2020

Isle of Man Postage Paid and Safe to Fly.

I hope everybody has had a good weekend, even if it isn't much different from the rest of the week.

While doing some clearing out I found a packet from the Isle of Man.  At first I thought that the grey background text had badly faded, but now I realise that it is much like a watermark and is just a background tex.  Despite being over 6 years old the main text, especially the bold value, is still readable.

I hadn't realised previously that this type of Isle of Man postage label is valid for 90 days: I guess most are used on the day of purchase.  Pictorial ones are better, but these are still valid for a collection.
UPDATE 18 May:
My thanks to JM in Germany who writes:
The first kiosks were taken in use in August 2010 and this kind of 90 days valid stamp was available until 2017. Then the kiosks were modified in order to be able to sell the new triskelen post & go stamps.
 (See 2017 Blogpost.)

Also eminently collectable is this circular sticker which is on the same piece.  These will generally applied to packets & parcels rather than letters, so are unlikely to be retained on whole cover.

I don't know whether these are still in use - with postal authorities following airline guidance on what can and can't be carried in the mails, I assume there must be something similar indicating that the contents of the package are 'Safe to Fly'.

Friday 15 May 2020

First new Business Sheet M20L stamp reported

Following hard on the heels of the two new counter sheets from Royal Mail Edinburgh, we can now report a new business sheet printing, thanks to the readers who alerted me to this while I have been away.

On eBay, seller annf1784 has the 2nd class (small) business sheet with a printing date of 22/01/20.  This is Stanley Gibbons U3010 and Norvic 2911B.20.

In normal circumstances and with normal distribution, I would expect new business sheets and booklets to be found in various locations around the country. 

But these are not normal circumstances.  Collectors and dealers who spend time visiting multiple post offices and supermarkets in the hunt for new stamps are staying at home, and maybe only visiting one PO and one supermarket.  So it may be a while before these are widely available - but I am sure they will be. 

As I have suggested earlier, it may well be that the first indication we have of a new stamp is when we find one on an incoming letter!

UPDATE: I have been told that some of these have been found in Wales.

UPDATE 3 June:  These have also been found in Norfolk and I had the first one through the post today, from Warrington Mail Centre, thanks to the

Thursday 14 May 2020

May 2020 Slogan Postmarks

I had expected that we would start May as we started April, with the 'Stay at Home' pandemic slogan.  But in fact despite Captain Tom Moore's birthday being 30 April, the slogan postmark marking the event continued beyond that date.

I've had reports of Captain Tom postmarks on 1st May, 4th May and this less than ideal one from Birmingham Mail Centre dated 06/05/2020.

Several readers also sent examples of a new slogan which combines the original Pandemic slogan with a segment marking the 75th Anniversary of VE Day.

This example from Greenford/Windsor Mail Centre dated 07/05/2020 has been applied incorrectly on an envelope with a postage paid impression 2nd class Machin.  The image is slightly distorted from reproduction.  A second one from Medway Mail Centre on 11-02-2020 is in the other format.

The VE Day element is one of several banners produced for websites: you may have noticed a variant on our Twitter account on Friday last.



UPDATE 19 May.
A friend's birthday has produced a better example of this layout from Norwich Mail Centre on 07-05-2020, but sadly those from Peterborough are very poor. They may be 'normal' and therefore a good example for a collection, but they certainly aren't something that I would want to keep.

It will be interesting to see if this is changed in the light of the government's changed message to 'Stay Alert / Control the Virus/ Save Lives', and what will happen in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where the devolved administrations are continuing to use the original guidance.

More collectors outside the UK have asked me to get examples of the pandemic and Captain Tom postmarked covers.  If you have any to spare I will pass them on for free: I'll probably wait until later in the year for others to appear.  We have three variants already: I expect there to be more.

Today's (14th May) post brought this from Cornwall Mail Centre. Being on a Post and Go stamp the impression is smudged almost beyond recognition but it is obviously this one.

Royal Mail
supporting youth
mental health with

This slogan remind us of Royal Mail's corporate charity for the last year or so, and is the normal default postmark - when there is nothing else to mark.  So I was surprised to see it the day after the Medway dual-purpose one above.  Is this an aberration, or the new normal (to coin an overworked phrase!).

Even if there was no variant to reflect the latest version of the UK Government's lockdown slogan, I would have expected something pandemic-related, even if it was the first one re-used.

What have readers found on their letters this week?

Well, nobody has sent any more slogans, so I presume the Action for Children default continues.  With the different pandemic advice from the four nations, and mixed messages from Downing Street I suppose it would be difficult for Royal Mail to come up with anything logical.

Meanwhile, thanks to JG for sending this very clear example of the Cornwall Universal postmark used this week, 22 May 2020, die 2.  Who knows why?  It can't be due to the volume of letter post but it could be a change in working practices at Plymoouth/Cornwall's Mail Centre for 2 metre distancing.

More slogans, and examples of other interesting postmarks, will be posted here. Thanks to everybody who is sending material to show. We aren't getting much post at all at present.

Next UK stamp issue: 60th Anniversary of TV Soap: 28 May 2020

Due to my absence on domestic duties most people will have seen at least some of the next issue to come from Royal Mail in my absence.  Nonetheless it is important that I catch up!

Royal Mail justifies this stamp issue thus (edited):
Celebrating the nation’s favourite soap, Tony Warren’s hit show was first broadcast through the public’s TV sets in December 1960. 60 years later, the show is an
integral part of British culture and celebrates its success with multi award-winning storylines, showstopping drama, just a little bit of comedy, and ground-breaking and much-loved characters. A show to welcome many firsts, it is loved by both young and old generations alike today with 6 episodes each week still watched by millions of viewers.
As my fellow-blogger WhiteKnight writes on
Coronation Street has established itself over the decades as a notable part of British culture and a philatelic commemoration of the programme is probably long overdue [It missed out on the ITV anniversary issue in 2005]. This is an excellent set and if any 2020 Royal Mail stamp issue is going to capture the attention of the British public (apart perhaps from a COVID-19 frontline workers issue) this is the one.
The stamp set and miniature sheet
The set consists of four se-tenant pairs of 2nd class, 1st class, £1.42 and £1.63 values.  Each depicts two characters from the programme from the very first in monochrome, up to recent times.  The miniature sheet consists of four stamps, two each of 1st class and £1.42 values all depicting barmaids at The Street's pub, the Rovers Return.

Retail Booklet 
The self-adhesive retail booklet contains the two 1st class special stamps and 4 x 1st class Machin definitives coded MCIL M20L.

All pictures shown are as provided by Royal Mail before the stamps are received.

Technical Details
The stamps and miniature sheet were both designed by The Chase, and printed by International Security Printers in lithography with PVA gum.
The stamps are 41mm (w) x 30mm (h), Landscape, and the miniature sheet hass 27mm (w) x 36mm (h) stamps, Portrait in a Sheet Sized 146mm x 74mm.
Acknowledgements: CORONATION ST ® and © ITV Studios Limited 2020. Licensed by ITV
Broadcasting Limited. All rights reserved.

Other Products
First Day Covers, Stamp Cards, Presentation Pack, Press Sheet, various framed products and enlarged and/or signed prints.

For those who think marking a 60th anniversary is maybe a step too far, Australia Post's latest series of special 'MyStamps' includes a set marking the 35th Anniversary of Channel 10 soap, Neighbours. If you think Royal Mail are excessive, on the same day OzPost is also selling similar over-face sets for Bugs Bunny, Cinderella, Princess, How to Train Your Dragon, DC-Comics' The Justice League, The Empire Strikes Back, and football and rugby clubs!

Thursday 7 May 2020

Brief slow-down.....

Good morning readers.

Thanks to everybody who has sent material for new posts or to add on to existing posts with more detail.

I'm busy with domestic matters for the next few days but will get back to blogging very soon.

All is well - enjoy the good weather!

Wednesday 6 May 2020

What Price Revenue Protection? We all pay eventually.

Today I received a package for postcards destine for a collector in China. He buys online and has them delivered to me to consolidate with his maximum cards that I make for him, saving on postage overall.

In this case the seller also saved on the £1.40 postage.  In addition to probably buying his stamps at a deep discount from one of the many dealers selling quantities of these down to 75% or less of face, these aren't even all Royal Mail stamps.

Correct postage in total, but... ?
This isn't the first time I've seen such an example.  A friend in Scotland sent me a picture of a package that he was sent from Surrey where the Post Office counter assistant assured the sender that a mix of Channel Islands & Isle of Man stamps was perfectly ok.

Accepted at a Post Office Counter and at Croydon Mail Centre!
Royal Mail revenue protection is fighting an uphill battle if Post Offices are accepting any old junk.  Even 'my' package got past their team in Peterborough Mail Centre.

Perhaps it is just their own fault for issuing sooo many stamps in so many different designs that nobody can really keep track any more.

I found this scan on my computer; I don't think it is something I received - it was either taken from a picture on a forum or was sent to me by a reader.  It's posted from a sub-office in Rochdale and has a lovely mix of Falkland Islands, St Helena and Jersey and NO British stamps at all.


Monday 4 May 2020

Norvic Machin Security Checklist - Corrected and Updated

Thank you for the readers who took time to contact me regarding what I expected would be some omissions and errors in the previous version which I had some trouble editing.

With time on his hands one stalwart found errors going back to 2016 when some new font booklets were excluded, so those omissions are now corrected - and all are highlighted.

The new version - 2.2.4 - can be downloaded from the link in the right-hand column.   Previous versions remain in place, just change the version number to get an older one if you wish to.

This is the quick and easy link for version 2.2.4.

Don't look back - or rather, do for a new Vision of the Universe

I can only plead that my mind was elsewhere when I looked at the Visions of The Universe stamp issue.  The pictorial stamps were certainly eye-catching and there was much to look at with two definitive panes containing five Machins and four Country definitives.

I'm sure other people have looked at the PSB in detail and noticed what I missed at the time - that the stamp panes, like some others before them, have printing on the reverse - but not on the stamps.

So here, for the record, are images of the front and back of the two definitive panes.  I no longer have a PSB so I cannot show you the reverse of the other panes.

Reverse of Machin definitive pane: A meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1935, with British astronomer James Jeans speaking.

Reverse of Country Definitive pane 'The Geometrial Construction of Solar and Lunar Eclipses'.

UPDATE: Thanks to John H for sending me images of the other panes:





Friday 1 May 2020

First new counter sheet printings of 2020

Although we don't have any, so can't show them yet, I'm pleased to report the first new printings of counter sheet stamps this year.  These will be coded M20L.

This may not be the entirety of what was printed by Walsall Security Printers in early February, but the first two are the 1st class Large Signed For (priced now at £2.45) and the Special Delivery 500g (now £7.50).

These were printed on 03/02/20 and 04/02/20 respectively.

UPDATE 6 May 2020:
We now have copies of these two new stamps and so here are the pictures as promised.

Machin Defnitive Security Stamp 1st Large Signed For M20L reprint 03/02/20
1st Large Signed For Digitally adjusted to better show the M20L code, but only just.
Machin Defnitive Security Stamp Special Delivery 500g M20L reprint 04/02/20
Special Delivery 500g stamp reprinted with M20L code.
Norvic numbers for these are 2992.20 and 2986-20.