Sunday 28 June 2020

We are having to take an extended break

Greetings readers,

As we have mentioned earlier we were planning, before this pandemic business kicked off, to relocate and the time has now come. This means

- all our stock is packed and inaccessible

- nothing can be posted to customers for at least two weeks

- we have no telephone or television, so no news

- our only internet connection is via phone, which is 4G very occasionally, 3G more often, but only outside and very infrequently inside.

- it will take at least 3 weeks to get broadband connected, we’re told

- our telephone number remains the same, and messages can be left. They will be picked up 2-3 times a week. The mobile number is on our home page but only for emergencies please.

- incoming mail is collected from the main offices in Dereham which is only open from 7-9 am!

We will be back to normal ASAP but meanwhile we have a lot of unpacking to do!

The blog will be updated if there is anything important to tell you.

Meanwhile it will be very quiet.

The office is slowly beginning to look like the office in that the desk and computer are in place, but most else is still boxed.  

We have internet but no phone, so I am now able to resume posting here without resorting to the iPad, scanning new material, and using RM publicity photos as necessary.  Emails are received but unless the answer is easy, they will only get acknowledged until I have access to reference material.

More updates will be in new posts.   Thanks for your patience.

Ian, John & Val

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Music Giants IV: Queen mega-pack issued 9 July 2020

Royal Mail make their fourth foray into the British music industry with a massive package celebrating the band Queen, "one of the UK’s greatest music legends on the 50th anniversary of its formation".

As usual the stamp issue consists of a set of stamps, a miniature sheet, a prestige stamp book, a retail booklet, first day covers, stamp cards, press sheet, collector sheet and numerous products framed and otherwise aimed squarely at fans of the group.

The band's lead singer, Freddie Mercury, previously appeared on a 19p stamp in the 1999 Entertainers' Tale set in the Millennium Series (pictured left).

Queen formed in 1970 (though John Deacon didn’t join until 1971) and signed their first recording contract for EMI in 1973, releasing their first album, Queen, the same year. In 1974 they released Queen II and made their first UK headlining tour. They also went on their first US tour the same year and released Sheer Heart Attack in November which was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

The following year the band released A Night At The Opera which was their first platinum album, and which included the single, Bohemian Rhapsody. The latter remained number one in the UK charts for nine weeks and became one of the most popular singles of all time.

As usual the stamp set features album covers, and the miniature sheet shows scenes from live performances.  Unusually this MS also includes a definitive-sized 1st class stamp, which would be ideal for the retail booklet, but it isn't included!

Set of 8 stamps

1st class - Queen II – 1974: Building on its predecessor, Queen II was an assured album that upped the theatrics – and the expectations for the future.
Sheer Heart Attack – 1974: That all-important breakthrough, Sheer Heart Attack refined the band’s earlier sound into something more directly calibrated for the charts.
A Night at the Opera – 1975: The moment where it all came together: ambition, vision and the public’s desire for more.
News of the World – 1977:  The punk movement may have grabbed the headlines, but ‘We Are the Champions’ ensured Queen’s place at rock’s top table.

£1.63 - The Game – 1980:  Using synths for the very first time, The Game kept up with the changing trends of a new decade.
Greatest Hits – 1981: Featuring the band’s biggest hits since its first chart appearance in 1974 including Seven Seas of Rhye, Another One Bites the Dust, Killer Queen and We Will Rock You.
The Works – 1984:  As its title suggests, The Works had it all: modern rock with a pop sensibility, as exemplified in ‘Radio GaGa’.
Innuendo – 1991: The final Queen album released during Freddie Mercury’s lifetime, Innuendo closed with the poignant ballad, ‘The Show Must Go On’.

Minisheet of 5 stamps


1st Class:  Freddie Mercury, Magic Tour, Wembley Stadium 1986; Roger Taylor, Hyde Park 1976;
1st Definitive Queen, 1974;
£1.63:  John Deacon, A Night at the Opera Tour, Hammersmith Odeon 1975; Brian May, Magic Tour, Népstadion, Budapest 1986.

Technical Details
The stamps and miniature sheet are printed by International Security Printers in litho, with PVA gum.
The sheet stamps, designed by Royal Mail Group based on an original design by Studio Dempsey, are 38 x 31 mm in two sheets of 48, se-tenant strips of 4, perforation 14 x 14.
The stamps in the 192 x 74 mm miniature sheet are 35 mm square with perforations 14.5 x 14.5 except for the central stamp which is 20 x 24 mm, and perf 15 x 14 as are most definitives. Design is by Royal Mail Group Ltd and Baxter & Bailey.

Album covers © 2020 Queen Productions Limited, under license from Bravado International Group.
All rights reserved. Photography of vinyl records by Geoff Dann.

Freddie Mercury, Wembley Stadium 1986, photograph © Denis O’Regan/Getty Images;
Roger Taylor, Hyde Park 1976, photograph © 2020 Queen Productions Limited, under license from Bravado International Group. All rights reserved;
Queen, Primrose Hill, London 1974, photograph by Johnny Dewe Mathews © 2020, Queen Productions Limited, under license from Bravado International Group. All rights reserved;
John Deacon, Hammersmith Odeon 1975, photograph © Steve Emberton, Camera Press London;
Brian May, Népstadion, Budapest 1986, photograph © Denis O’Regan/Getty Images.

Retail booklet
The self-adhesive retail booklet contains 4 x 1st class Machin definitives which should be coded M20L MCIL, and self-adhesive versions of the Queen II and A Night at the Opera stamps.


Prestige Stamp Book

This is of most interest to Machin collectors, who will be disappointed by the lack of variety, as the definitive pane contains 4 x 1p Machin definitives and 4 x Queen definitive-sized stamps. The coding is, predictably, MPIL M20L - no missing letters.  But watch this space for a surprising variety when I am able to add it.




The price of the PSB is £19.10. 

The front cover features the band’s crest as designed by Freddie Mercury before the release of their debut album. The crest illustrates the zodiac signs of the four band members as well as a phoenix on the top to represent immortality.  It contains a profile of each member and a feature on the other albums released by the band as well as their iconic videos.  It also touches on Queen’s legacy after the death of Freddie Mercury and the band’s enduring popularity.

Products available
Set of 8 - miniature sheet - presentation pack - first day covers (set, miniature sheet and PSB pane) -
stamp cards - press sheet of 15 MS.

Queen Album Cover Collector Sheet
A self-adhesive A4 sheet containing the album covers set of 10, printed in litho, with attached labels. Product code AT117, price £13.15.

Queen Live Collector Sheet
A self-adhesive A4 sheet containing 10 x copies of the definitive-size stamp from the miniature sheet, printed in litho, with attached labels. Product code AT118, price £8.80.

Fan Sheets featuring Album Art (gummed stamps) 
a. Album cover collection - limited to 5,000 - product code S1014 - £10.20
b. A Night At the Opera - limited to 5,000 - product code S1013 - £7.50

Other products
Coin covers (Uncirculated, silver proof and gold proof) with the miniature sheet.
Souvenir packs containing various stamps.
Framed:  sets, enlargements of the stamps, Covers collectors sheet.

As before, we have stopped stocking these products as they will be readily available from Royal Mail's website.

Sunday 21 June 2020

Blog Comments - apologies!

As regular readers will know, comments on this blog are moderated; that is, to ensure that as little spam and unwelcome messages are posted, I vet them all.  It's a simple proces - the system sends me an email for every comment, and I can mark it as 'Publish / Spam / Delete.  And I can do that from mobile devices as well as desktop.

At least that's how it is supposed to work.  I have just discovered 18 comments awaiting moderation, 17 of which have now been published.  Normally when I publish, I get another email copy of the comment which tells me that it is published.  This is useful because I can then go to the comment and reply, if a reply is called for.

I am getting NO emails for either instance.  So although I have published 17, soem of which deserve a reply, I shall have to use a different avenue to find out which ones I have just had comments on, so as to reply.  I'll do that tomorrow or Tuesday if I can.

2. As you will have seen if you have emailed, we are relocating.  My office is currently echoing the keyboard as there are far fewer boxes on the shelves, and very little on the desk.

From the end of this week for at least a week we will have no internet or telephone connection while we have new lines installed.  Calls to the 0845 number will still trigger an answering machine so please leave a message if urgent; if not email and I will answer as soon as possible.

Thank you for your patience and for the good wishes already received.

Tuesday 16 June 2020

New 2020 Machin Definitives and other new printings

We have been told about the first new Machin counter sheet reprints (aside from the new tariff stamps) for 2020.  There are also some new Country Definitive printings.

Pictures will be provided when we have the stamps, but for now we can tell you that these dates have been reported for the new Machins

- 2nd class  05/05/20  (Norvic 2911.20)
- 1st class   04/05/20  (Norvic 2914a.20)
- 1st Large  07/05/20  (Norvic 2916a.20)

The third printing of the European 20g and worldwide postcard rate £1.42 stamp was made on 11/05/20, after the January original and March top-up printings.

Country Definitives
The Wales and Scotland 2nd class values were reprinted on 16/04/20.  We await supplies to find out if there is another grid layout or shade difference.

All these printings are by Walsall (Machin) or Cartor (Country) stamps.

Monday 15 June 2020

June 2020 slogan postmarks

May was a very quiet month as Royal Mail appear to have found it impossible to send the four UK national governments' messages on the pandemic in any meaningful way.  We had the run-over of Captain Tom's birthday, and a VE75 combined with Covid-19 postmark, before reverting to the Action for Children default.

However, half-way through June, I am pleased to say that MC has sent the first new slogan since then, marking Loneliness Awareness Week (15-21 June) 2020, under the slogan #LetsTalkLoneliness, used at North & West Yorkshire 13/06/2020.

WEEK  2020  


UPDATE 19 June: DB has sent this much better reversed example, from Manchester MC on 16/06/2020 - thanks!

UPDATE 18 June.
My thanks to JE for providing examples of the Manchester IMP slogan 13/06/2020 around the 'right' way - the one above being reversed on a square envelope - and from the iLSM machine in Edinburgh on 18-06-2020.

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

There might have been an earlier Coronation Street commemoration

Aside from the question of whether Coronation Street and other television programmes should have anniversaries in their own right marked by such a large stamp issue, some have asked, "Why 60", so yes, why not 50?

Looking through some old papers I was reminded that Coronation street almost had a stamp during it's 45th anniversary year in 2005, when the 50th anniversary of Independent Television was marked.

Back in January 2005 Royal Mail invited ITV viewers to choose from one of three stamp designs, featuring stills from Emmerdale, Coronation Street and The Bill.  A week later, viewers were told that they had collectively voted for Emmerdale.

This notice, a supplement to Royal Mail's Philatelic Bulletin, is printed in black and white, but I imagine the stamps shown to viewer/voters were all in colour. 


Looking back, I think Emmerdale made the better stamp, with it's bright sunny colours.  But I wonder whether it was just the design that determined the voters' selections.

Here's the full article from the Bulletin supplement.

Tuesday 9 June 2020

From the Archive: FDC collecting has changed in 20 years.

Norvic Philatelics fdc, Sounds of Britain
I've been discussing with others the way that First Day Cover collecting has changed over the years.  

Although Royal Mail continue to produce addressed first day covers for their subscribers, the volume of sales must be lower as costs have increased.  We also know that despite the prices/values shown in the Stanley Gibbons catalogues, the secondary market for those addressed covers is far lower than shown in the Concise.  Anybody who visits Stampex or local stamp fairs can buy covers from the period up to 1990 for as little as 25p, and after that for not much more and certainly less than the original cost.

But 'better' covers have always been more popular with serious FDC collectors.  Some people produced their own covers, others used available covers with any appropriate postmark other than the Royal Mail first day of issue covers.  We even produced our own limited edition covers from 2003 until early 2008.  Some of these were very popular and sold out before the issue date.  Others we still have supplies of!  

The Association of FB FDC Collectors categorises Official covers as those produced by a company, dealer or organisation which have a sponsored handstamp on their own produced cover.  The standard reference work, Bradbury's Collecting British First Day Covers lists over 30 cover producers who, for short or longer periods, produced official covers for most or all stamp issues.  Now that number is down to less than 5.

What brought this home was the Roman Britain stamp issue out today.  As I mentioned last week, apart from the two Royal Mail First Day of Issue postmarks, there are only four sponsored handstamps, plus the Royal Mail permanent handstamps such as that for Bath.

Compare that to this double-page spread from the Postmark Bulletin from 30 August 2002 with handstamps illustrated for the London's Bridges 5-stamp issue.  

Leaving aside the ones not relevant to that stamp issue, there are 28 for that date, including four that are not specifically showing bridges or related designs.

Part of the modern problem in selling new FDCs is the price.  Part of it is the cost of intellectual property, ie the use of copyright symbols or images such as those for Star Wars or Harry Potter.  And part of it is just because people having given up collecting first day covers.

Have you stopped collecting GB first day covers?  What were the reasons?  Comment, or email and let us know.  

UPDATE:  Oh, so no comments.  This might be good news.  When I get my new office sorted out I shall be offering first day covers at bargain prices, so if nobody has stopped collecting, I expect a lot of sales.  On the other hand, it may be that you never colleced fdcs in the first place.

Monday 8 June 2020

The Post Office Horizon Scandal

I hope everybody interested in the British postal network has taken or will take the opportunity to listen to the BBC Radio 4 programmes reporting on what has become known as the Horizon Scandal. (Listen to omnibus episodes 11 & 12.)

If not, you can catch it for nearly a year, here - and this is available around the world.

Tonight the BBC TV Panorama team returns to the story. Most readers outside the UK won't be able to see this due to restrictions on television broadcasting, but for those who can it will put some face to the names. I don't know what else might be revealed but at least it will put the story right back up there in the public eye.

A reminder also that the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance is crowdfunding for an appeal to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.  They have achieved  £27,000 out of the £98,000 they need, and there are 23 days to go.  No money is taken unless the target is achieved - if you believe in justice and can spare just a few pounds, for instance through not having to commute to work during the pandemic, please donate.

Thursday 4 June 2020

Change to booklet backing paper.

After starting a hare running with the upright and inverted versions of SBP2 a while back I don't want to start another collecting trend, but....

As readers of the Philatelic Bulletin will know, the Music Giants IV: Queen issue includes a prestige book and a retail booklet.  My retail booklets arrived today.

Some people say you should never touch mint stamps with your hands - well sometimes it's worth it as a hunch sometimes proves right.  I opened the booklet and immediately felt that the backing paper was 'different'.  It felt smoother, and thinner.

I don't have a micrometer so I can only say it feels thinner;  I compared it with the Coronation Street booklet using the naked eye and the UV lamp.  As you can see above, the newer booklet has whiter paper than the previous one. The stamp appears darker, the reflection of the iridescent printing is quite different between the two.

The cover is a slightly darker shade of red.

The biggest difference is under the UV lamp, where the backing paper on the Queen booklet shows a very bright reaction to the UV, compared with the Coronation Street.  The reaction of the phosphor appears to be duller, but whether this is because of the proximity to the backing paper I don't know.

I'll be interested in any other observations, and news of whether other booklets or business sheets have been printed on this type of paper, by ISP/Walsall.

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Roman Britain stamp issue - 18 June 2020

Ahead of the embargo date, large glossy pictures of the Roman Britain stamps have been published in Royal Mail's Philatelic Bulletin, and so I am providing details here.

In case you think the title of this issue is familiar, there was an earlier set (of 4) with the same title, issued in 1993. That one included sculptures, a mosaic and a carved gemstone, but they had a common theme in that they were all heads/portraits.

In common with so many stamp issues these days, the current set features photographs, this time of landmarks and artifacts.  True there is a variety, and a common theme of Rome in Britain, but nothing in the design links the stamps.

2nd class: Dover Lighthouse; the Goddess Venus Mosaic at Bignor
NOTE: on the actual Dover Lighthouse stamp the caption reads:
"The UK's tallest standing Roman build"
This affects the entire printing and is due to a production error.

1st class: Caerlion Amphitheatre; horseman's helmet from Ribchester

£1.63 Distance slab, Bridgeness Antonine Wall; Statuette of Warrior God, Cambridgeshire.

£1.68 Carving of Gorgon's head, Aquae Sulis, Bath; Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland.

Background (from Royal Mail)
This set is a celebration of Roman life and culture in Britain.

• The Romans successfully invaded in the year 43, and assimilated much of the country into a Roman province introducing their culture and technology, with 10km* of roads linking new towns such as London, and building villas, theatres, bathhouses and even shopping malls. They introduced large scale building with stone, as well as their gods and, later, Christianity. They even gave us the name ‘Britain’.

• Archaeologists can piece together the extent of the Roman impact throughout their occupation. An extraordinary wealth of evidence remains of sites and artefacts, from the large, such as Hadrian’s Wall and remains of amphitheatres and villas, to the smaller including mosaics, and intricate metalwork and statues.

• Royal Mail have worked with the British Museum in the development of an 8-stamp issue which demonstrate the sophistication, technical brilliance and artistry of Roman Britain, through important sites and artefacts.

• Two of the items are preserved by the British Museum, a ceremonial cavalry helmet and a small metal statue of a warrior god. Both will be on show at the British Museum in a special display to mark the stamps.

* According to Wikipedia, the Roman's constructed approximately 3,200km (2,000 miles) of paved roads in Britain.

Technical details & Acknowledgements
The se-tenant pairs of stamps in four values have been designed by Up, and printed by ISP/Cartor in lithography. The stamps are 35 x 37 mm.

Dover Lighthouse © Chris Howes/Wild Places Photography/Alamy Stock Photo; Bignor mosaic © RGB Ventures/SuperStock/Alamy Stock Photo; Caerleon Amphitheatre © Skyscan Photolibrary/Alamy Stock Photo; Ribchester helmet © The Trustees of the British Museum; Bridgeness distance slab © National Museums Scotland; Warrior god, Cambridgeshire © The Trustees of the British Museum; Gorgon’s head, Bath © Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo; Hadrian’s Wall © Roy James Shakespeare/Getty Images

The usual products will be or are available from the Royal Mail webshop - set of stamps, presentation pack, first day cover, stamp cards.

Royal Mail's first day of issue postmarks are for Tallents House (as usual) and Colchester, which is an important Roman garrison town but which doesn't feature on the stamps at all.

As indicated in an earlier post, only two special postmarks have appeared in the latest Postmark Bulletin, but we are now able to show two late announcements which are on the Royal Mail website.

So the places covered are Dover (per the 2nd class stamp), Bath (per the £1.68), Brampton, Cambridgeshire (£1.63), and St Albans and Colchester which don't feature on the stamps.