Thursday 27 August 2020

Palace of Westminster & Big Ben Maximum Cards

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

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

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

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


Wednesday 26 August 2020

Frequently asked questions on British postmarks and postal markings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why are there blue dots on my stamp?

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

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

Monday 24 August 2020

Rupert Bear 50th anniversary - 3 September 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 17 August 2020

Our amazing readers - thank you!

Most posts on this blog are read by just over 400 or so regular readers, and many by several hundred more.  Some people have written that it is the first place they look every day - sorry if things were a little sparse last month!

Then there are the regular commenters who alert everybody to new stamps, or Post Office branch changes.  Others send information by email, and often when I am busy within or outside the office several people will write about the same eBay discovery.  Thanks to you all: often these are not individually acknowledged but I like to think that previous contacts and mentions reassure all contributors that their information is part of the foundation of the blog, and much appreciated by us and other readers as well.

As always there are what are known on internet forums as 'lurkers' - those who read and absorb but rarely have any news to contribute.  Sometimes these are our customers, sometimes they buy from post offices or Royal Mail, we don't know. Maybe they are not adding to the collections, but just like to read about stamps.

And then, out of the blue, there are letters, from people we don't know.

This letter came today from a reader who - as far as I have been able to find - last wrote to us in August 2012 about availability of Olympic Gold Medal sheets in Lincolnshire.

Eight years on, a wonderful piece of Lincolnshire postal history - these may be available for many years, or maybe only a few months.  Nice to have, so thank you JLB of Lincoln.

This letter was posted from the Mobile Post Office, serving sleaford which uses a self-inking-datestamp inscribed MORTON MOBILE.

The post office in the market town of Sleaford, population 17,500, at Greenhills convenience store in Southgate closed in February when, according to Post Office Ltd, "the lease expired".  A Post Office spokesperson said: "The lease where Sleaford Post Office is currently based is due to expire in February and the premises, which we do not own, will then be withdrawn for Post Office use."

The onset of the pandemic meant that a quick replacement was not possible, instead a short-term service was been provided from mid-February by the Mobile Post Office from Morton, 15 miles away but only for a few hours on Saturday mornings.

The Morton Mobile also serves small villages in the area, several of them for 4-8 hours on four days a week*.

Meanwhile the hunt for suitable premises and postmasters in Sleaford continues.  In the light of the litigation between past sub-postmasters and Post Office Ltd, known as the Horizon Trial, the quest might continue for some time.

For collectors of Horizon labels, the one from the mobile uses the Branch FAD 110444.

UPDATE 10 September
As noted in the comments, a temporary Sleaford PO has been opened with FAD 214501 at 18 Riverside, Southgate, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, NG34 7PD
My further thanks to JLB who has sent this letter posted on the last day of operation of the Morton Mobile at Sleaford.  It continues to operate at other locations - see comments.

* UPDATE 18 November
We now have more accurate information on villages served:

MORTON (Bourne, Lincolnshire) 

Castle Bytham, Grantham; Buckminster, Grantham; South Witham, Grantham (2 stops); Colsterworth, Grantham; Corby Glen, Grantham; Wymondham (LE14), Melton Mowbray. 

Thursday 13 August 2020

This ship has sailed, so we will get the Enterprise instead: a missed opportunity.

In 2020 Royal Mail will NOT issue a stamp marking the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower.    

The Mayflower set sail on 16th September 1620 from Plymouth, UK, to voyage to America.   Its passengers were in search of a new life – some seeking religious freedom, others a fresh start in a different land. They would go on to be known as the Pilgrims and influence the future of the United States of America and hence the world in ways they could never have imagined.

Arriving in November, they had to survive unprepared through a harsh winter. As a result, only half of the original Pilgrims survived the first winter at Plymouth. Without the help of local Indigenous peoples to teach them food gathering and other survival skills, all of the colonists may have perished. The following winter, they celebrated the colony's first harvest along with the Indigenous people, which became the first Thanksgiving.

Previous commemorations

In 1920 the United States Post Office issued a set of three stamps to mark the 300th anniversary.  Oddly the Postmaster General at the time asserted that the omission of the name of their country was 'not a mistake'.

In 1970 the General Post Office in this country thought it appropriate to issue a stamp to mark the 350th anniversary.

Now with nothing appearing in this country the United States Postal Service is issuing a single stamp in a pane of 20 (the stamps cannot be sold singly, a common situation in America due to the die-cut peforations, which interlink). 

The watercolor, gouache, and acrylic painting of the Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor was digitally refined to convey a scene of desolate beauty at the end of the Pilgrims‘ harrowing journey to an unfamiliar world. The stamp also features a stylized hawthorn flower printed in intaglio.  Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamp with original art by Greg Harlin.

The stamp will be issued on (Monday) 17 September, the anniversary of the sailing being a Sunday, rather than on a date closer to the arrival in North America.

Had there been an association between the two postal administrations, there might have been a joint issue, with or without identical stamps.   This mock-up of a 1st class stamp incorporates the logo of the United Kingdom Mayflower 400 organisation.

Instead we will have a stamp issue depicting another American creation, the United Space Ship Enterprise, with the Star Trek issue on 13 November, just after the anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower in what became Plymouth Colony.  Have Royal Mail totally lost sight of important events of the UK's past which had such an impact in the world?

Post and Go, Machines and Post Offices

There have been no new Post and Go stamps for almost two years, apart from reprints of existing designs with new year codes.  Consequently I haven't had much to write about, although branch closures, removals and new installations have continued.

If you have been following the blog for some time, you will probably know where the latest news on these is located.   If you are new, and have an interest in these matters, there is a post from last year which has 129 comments on, most of them about operational changes 'in the field' and the latest was just today.

Whilst the system continues to accept more comments I shall leave them there, as it would probably be confusing two have two separate locations for P&G News.

Wednesday 12 August 2020

August slogan postmarks

Almost half-way through August and no new slogan postmarks have been reported.

The last one for July, the Jack Charlton commemoration, was supposed to run until 9 August so if anybody has an August version I will gladly add it here.  Meanwhile, thanks to snail-mail correspondent RM in Swindon who sent this example from Swindon Mail Centre on 23 July 2020.


UPDATE 13 August
Only a few hours after posting this I was sent an example from Dublin Mails Centre dated 10.08.20, thanks to RL:

JG sent an indistinct example from Peterborough, but in the post today a letter from TB which has a superb example from Warrington Mail Centre dated 06-08-2020.

Update 18 August
Thanks to PC in Suffolk, we can now show the alternative layout, this time from Tyneside Mail Centre dated 07/08/2020.


With a significant amount of mail - machineable and non-machineable - not being postmarked these days, handstamps are not seen as often as they used to be.  JF sent this one from NORTHERN IRELAND MAIL CENTRE of 10 AUG 2020, and we received some new stamps posted at Enquiry Office Norwich on 06 AUG 2020, with postcode NR1 1AA.


UPDATE 26 August
This one was given to me by a neighbour recently.  I forgot to ask where it was from, but I think we can agree that (a) it is postmarked!, (b) it is illegible, (c) it is so well inked that the codes on the stamp are impossible to see - but it IS postmarked.  I think it was too thick for the machine, and so - for a change - was properly cancelled, rather than pen-cancelled.

If you have anything new in the way of other mail centre slogans, or other interesting machine or hand-struck postmarks:

This is your space!

Monday 10 August 2020

Another week, another new stamp

Before I have had time to finalise our catalogue, word reaches me today of yet another new Machin definitive stamp.

The latest addition to the stable is the 1st class business sheet which apepared on eBay this morning.  The seller is swanseajax and you can see the listing here.

The sheets were printed on 04/05/20.   The Norvic number is 2914aB.20.

My thanks to several people who reported this.

UPDATE 16 August
The 1st Large booklet stamp is now for sale on eBay from BB Stamps who unfortunately show only a library photo and no packing date.  This is Norvic 2937a.20.

Oddball sheet from Israel

I'm always wary when I write about a novelty from another country's postal administration in case Royal Mail think it's a good idea and decide to do something similar.  Nonetheless I thought I would share this with you in case your interests range beyond just British stamps and you ever come across this.

A customer in Israel sent news of a novelty sheet of four stamps and 12 labels that was issued by the Israel Post Office in the spring of 2020.

My correspondent writes:
The nominal value of the stamp (16 shekels*) is the highest-valued stamp ever issued in Israel. The reasoning behind the choice of this value is unfathomable. It doesn't match any postal tariff and, if at all, will only be used in making up the postage on heavy parcels to the United States.  [* £3.53 - not a very high value in global terms.]

As explained on the information sheet supplied (click on them for larger images), the sheet
"contains four stamps on the bottom row and three rows of labels (which are not postage stamps), represents the products of each of the printing plates and the intermediate products obtained as each colour is added on top of the last. 
The top row shows the product of each plate separately inorder to demonstrate the process, but in reality only the black label exists first.  Each of the following rows shows the result after adding the second and third colours (cyan and magenta) and the row of stamps shows the result after the last colour (yellow) is added."


As a demonstration of the effects of the lithography printing process, this is interesting but nothing many of us haven't already seen with 'progressive proofs' being produced by Format International in the 1980s.  Although not expensive relative to the output of Royal Mail, Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar, Australia etc, it isn't exactly a necessary stamp issue.

Retail booklets - a study of the paper thickness

I remarked when describing the Queen Retail Booklet, that the whole thing seemed to be not as
thick as previous booklets.  Later there was confirmation that other booklets were also on thinner paper.

Stuart Leigh, who produces the catalogue of Post and Go stamps, confirmed that there were variants, and set to work with his micrometer.  Stuart kindly shared his findings which are reproduced below: but I would not be surprised if other people come up with different findings for some of the booklets, especially those other than the mixed-content (MCIL) booklets which have reprints.

Thickness of Backing Paper Thickness of Backing Paper + stamp

(ins.) (ins.)

RAF 100 0.0045 0.0085
Red Arrows 0.0045 0.0085
Dad's Army 0.0045 0.009
Hampton Court Palace 0.0045 0.0085
Poppies 0.0045 0.0085
Harry Potter 0.0045 0.009
Harry Potter SBP1 inverted 0.0045 0.0085
MARVEL Super Heroes 0.0045 0.009
Birds of Prey 0.0045 0.0085
D-Day Landings 0.0045 0.0085
Elton John 0.0045 0.0085
Royal Navy Ships 0.0045 0.0085
Star Wars 0.0045 0.0085
Tomb Raider 0.0045 0.009
James Bond 0.0045 0.009
Coronation Street 0.0045 0.009
Queen 0.004 0.008

MFIL M18L - 2nd Class 0.0045 0.0085
MFIL M19L - 2nd Class 0.0045 0.009

MFIL M18L - 1st Class 0.0045 0.0085
MFIL M19L - 1st Class 0.0045 0.009

MTIL M18L - 2nd Class 0.0045 0.0085
MTIL M19L - 2nd Class 0.004 0.008

MTIL M18L - 1st Class 0.0045 0.0085
MTIL M19L - 1st Class

While concentrating on the printing on the backing paper (for instance on the Harry Potter booklet) I didn't notice any change in thickness, but then it wasn't immediately obvious.  The combination of thinner stamp paper and thinner backing paper is what made it more obvious (to me) for the Queen booklet.

What's also interesting is that the findings show that stamp paper thickness has changed, but not in any consistent way.  One might have expected thinner paper for economy purposes, but the M19L Large stamp booklets are actually thicker than the previous one, while the 2nd class booklet of 12 has both backing and stamp paper are thinner.

The backing paper on business sheets and counter sheets is thinner than that used for booklets, but given that Walsall now print all of them, it seems possible that the stamp paper used for these could also vary and may already have done so.

I'll happily report your findings, although I do not have the equipment to check stocks, and cannot supply variants.

Friday 7 August 2020

List of Machin definitives issued, released, or discovered so far in 2020

Circumstances have prevented my producing as many pictures of new definitives as I normally do.  My thanks, therefore, to RP and NS who have provided pictures of some recent reprints.

5p and 10p counter sheets


1st class booklet of 12

Post and Go
For the record we can report that the R20YAL printing of the Machin head Post and Go stamp is now in circulation. This blank was noted on eBay.

2020 New Machins
I believe this is a complete list of the Machin definitives so far this year.  I have not had to to record, and so have not distinguished between upright and inverted backing paper.  As far as I know the list of printing dates for counter sheets is complete so far.

M19L coded stamps, with Norvic numbers.

1p      MPIL    Visions of the Universe PSB    4001P.9
2p      MPIL    Visions of the Universe PSB    4002P.9
                                            - not as dark as Queen Victoria PSB (4002Pa.9)
2p      MPIL    James Bond PSB                       4002P.9
                                            - same as Visions
5p      MPIL    Visions of the Universe PSB     4005P.9a
                                            - shade, lighter head than Star Wars PSB

10p    MPIL    Visions of the Universe PSB     4010P.9
£1.35 MPIL    Visions of the Universe PSB     4135P

2nd    MPIL    James Bond PSB                       2901P.9

M20L coded stamps

Counter Sheets (MAIL), with printing dates

2nd class     05/05/20           2911.20
1st class      04/05/20           2914a.20
2nd Large   12/05/20           2913.20
1st Large     07/05/20          2916a.20

1st Large Signed For    03/02/20       2992.20
Special Delivery 500g  04/02/20       2986.20

1p       13/05/20                    3001.20
2p       06/05/20                    3002.20
5p       13/05/20                    3005.20
10p     14/05/20                    3010.20
20p     14/05/20                    3020.20

£1.42   08/01/20                   3142           Also 09/03/20, 11/05/20
£1.63   08/01/20                   3163           Also 09/03/20, 12/05/20
£1.68   08/01/20                   3168           Also 09/03/20
£2.42   09/01/20                   3242           Also 09/03/20
£2.97   09/01/20                   3297
£3.66   09/01/20                   3366           Also 10/03/20
£3.82   09/01/20                   3385           Also 10/03/20

2nd class MTIL        2931.20
1st class MTIL         2914a.20
1st class MCIL         29361aC.20   Video Games, James Bond, Coronation Street, Queen, Sherlock

Business Sheets 
2nd class 22/01/20       2911B.20
1st class  04/05/20       2914aB.20

Prestige Stamp Books

1p  Music Giants IV: Queen      4001P.20
5p  End of World War II            4005P.20
50p End of World War II           4050P.20
£1.63 End of World War II        4163P

An updated version of the Norvic Machin Security Stamp Checklist will be produced for download as soon as possible.  [It's a bit too hot to sit in the office for long today.]

As always, thanks to anybody who points out errors and omissions, particularly Stuart this time who reminded me that I had omitted the whole PSB category!

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Closure of Post Office (not Royal Mail!) online shop on 31 August 2020

Post Office Ltd announces the closure of the website shop.

For many years the UK Post Office website has had an arrangement with a third party to sell a variety of packing materials and stationery, and Royal Mail stamps and collectables sometimes long after they have gone off sale with Royal Mail.

Most recently the shop was run by Vow Ltd ,specialists in office supplies. Their catalogue includes Post Office Ltd PostPak (TM) products, but not stamps.

Post Office have now announced that their online shop will close on 31 August.

It's a standard phrase to 'apologise for the inconvenience'.  Crown Post Offices and some located inside the main franchises (like WHSmith) will of course sell office supplies and packing materials, but most small local village shops don't sell as large a range, if any.

To avoid any confusion among readers, especially overseas, who have forgotten about the separation of Royal Mail and Post Office, this does NOT refer to the Royal Mail Philatelic Bureau which continues as normal.

Further update: as some people still haven't understood the significance of this change the Royal Mail online shop continues as normal at

Strange Machin counter sheet shifts

Minor mis-registration of colour, phosphor or iridescent printing are not uncommon, although few of the phosphor shifts have warranted much attention unless they are totally clear of the perforation hole.  Then they are described as 'short-band' foot, top, left, right as appropriate.

The same attention has not been given to shifts of the iridescent printing on security stamps although it is easier to see, especially if the iridescent ink is tinted and shiny, and shows up on the white margin of the stamps.

Melvyn D has sent some pictures taken with a USB microscope showing some quite spectactular shifts on recent stamps.  My USB 'scope doesn't have UV light, and it doesn't have Mac-compatible software although it can still be used.  But maybe I shall have to investigate some better equipment.

There are two examples of phosphor shifts on the 5p. On the first the phosphor is shifted dramatically up to the foot of the elliptical perforation, giving a 'short-band foot':

With the second, the movement is even greater, which gives only one 'short band foot' on the sheet, with all the others having interrupted phosphor - which is also shifted to the right, meaning that it is inset at left. 

The 10p has phosphor inset at the right, and the 20p at the left. 

What does all this suggest?  All these are ISP/Walsall printings, suggesting that quality control - for the sheets at least - is less stringent?  But similar insets have not been seen on recent Christmas stamps which are also printed by Walsall.  It's clear that Royal Mail are not too concerned about the iridescent printing - after all if these valued stamps are self-adhesive then they are from counter sheet printings, the only others being gummed from prestige stamp books.

But the important thing for phosphor is that there should be two clear bands of decent size.  After the pandemic is over they may get back to separating 1st and 2nd class mail and using the phosphor for segregation.

The other thing that these pictures demonstrate is that with the right equipment you can collect stamp variants that are not immediately obvious to the naked eye, and show them in your collections, exhibits, or in club displays (when they return) with suitable illustrations like these.  

New Great Britain stamps: Sherlock - 18 August 2020

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stamp issued in 2009
Royal Mail's third 'entertainment' issue this year will be issued on 18 August, and celebrates the modern television drama serials Sherlock.  The issue includes a set of six stamps, a miniature sheet, presentation pack, retail booklet and collectors sheet as well as framed products.

Their 'Reason and Inspiration' (or Justification):

Perhaps the most well-known fictional detective of all, Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887 and continued in novels and many short stories until 1927. Screen adaptations occurred almost as soon as movies were invented. In total there have been over 25,000 stage adaptations, films, television productions and publications featuring the detective and the Guinness World Records lists him as the most portrayed literary human character in film and television history.

On the 10th anniversary of the popular BBC TV series ‘Sherlock’ we celebrate both the unique heritage and contemporary adaptations of this most famous of the “consulting detectives”.

In this modernised version of the Conan Doyle characters, using his detective plots, Sherlock Holmes lives in early 21st century London but maintains various elements of the original stories such Dr Watson (who now writes a blog rather than a diary) the Baker Street address and Holmes' adversary Moriarty, whilst still working for private clients as well as Scotland Yard, the London Metropolitan Police service.

Set of Stamps.
As with some previous issues, these have hidden messages revealed by Ultra Violet light.  These occupy more of the stamp than previous issues making them more difficult to photograph.
Set of six stamps issued 18 August 2020 depicting scenes from the TV series Sherlock, picture provided by Royal Mail.
Royal Mail publicity picture showing printing in fluorescent ink

1st class - The Reichenbach Fall depicting Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) - fluorescent ink reads GET SHERLOCK in graffiti style; A Study in Pink depicting Doctor John Watson (Martin Freeman) - fluorescent ink shows one of Holmes' text messages.  (Baker Street come at once if convenient SH.  If not convenient come anyway SH. Could be dangerous SH.)


£1.42 The Great Game depicting James Moriarty (Andrew Scott), with fluorescent ink also revealing a text message: Found. The Bruce-Partington plans.  Please collect.  The Pool. Midnight; The Empty Hearse depicting Mary Morston who later married John Watson (Amanda Abbington). Fluorescent ink repeats the words Cat Lover, Clever, Liar, Disillusioned.

(This image is made from two photos)
£1.68 A Scandal in Belgravia depicting Lara Pulver (Irene Adler) Molly Hooper (Louise Brearly).
(my error) with fluorescent ink reading I AM SHER LOCKED; The Final Problem depicting Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss)  with fluorescent ink reading Seek my room.

Technical Details:
Designed by So Design Consultants the stamps are printed in litho by International Security Printers/ The 60 x 30 mm stamps are in se-tenant pairs. The size of the sheet is not specified but as it is possible to buy individual stamps in multiples of six, it is probably 6 x 6. (Until we hear otherwise!)

‘Sherlock’ television series © Hartswood Films Limited. All rights reserved.
With thanks to the family of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and The Conan Doyle Estate Limited.
The characters and names created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other associated materials are used under licence.
With thanks to Arthur Conan Doyle Characters Limited.

Miniature Sheet
The “Mysteries of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle Minisheet” features four of the author’s favourite mysteries in a style reminiscent of the inter-war years.

Sherlock Holmes miniature sheet - picture supplied by Royal Mail.

1st class - The Adventure of the Speckled Band
1st class - The Red-Hand League (from RM publicity)
                      I'm told that the stamp caption is correct: The Red-Headed League
£1.68 - The Adventure of the Second Stain
£1.68 - The Adventure of the Dancing Men
There is no fluorescent printing on these stamps.

Technical Details
The sheet was designed by NB Studio using illustrations by Lithuanian Karolis Strautniekas.  The 115 x 89 mm sheet containing 27 x 37 mm stamps was printed in litho by International Security Printers.

With thanks to the family of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Conan Doyle Estate Limited and Arthur Conan Doyle Characters Limited.
The characters and names created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other associated materials are used under licence.

Collector Sheet
The problem with having six stamp sets is trying to fit them into a 10-stamp sheet.  Royal Mail have solved this by having one of each of the higher value stamps, 2 x 1st class Dr Watson, and 4 x 1st class Sherlock.

As these are printed on self-adhesive paper they are collectably different.  With a selling price of £11.95 against the face value of £10.76 it is likely that the sheet - but not the individual stamps - will be listed in the Stanley Gibbons GB Concise Catalogue. In other catalogues, however,  the self-adhesive stamps are likely to be individually listed and there may be space in preprinted albums.

Royal Mail have not said whether these also have the fluorescent printing, but it seems likely.  UPDATE: MC has advised that Royal Mail's 'First' leaflet confirms 'each stamp reveals hidden secrets when placed under UV light'.   The ten labels "feature shots from the series".

Picture provided by Royal Mail
Retail booklet
The Sherlock retail booklet contains the two 1st class stamps from the miniature sheet together with 4 x 1st class Machin definitives coded MCIL M20L.  The W1 cylinder numbers are cyan, magenta, yellow, black, (definitive) red, irridescent and phosphor.

The booklet includes ‘The Red-Headed League’ and ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band', two
stories that Conan Doyle said were his favourites when asked by The Strand Magazine in 1927. 
As with all Retail Books it is printed in gravure and the stamps are self-adhesive unlike the
individual stamps from the set. The printer is International Security Printers.
Sherlock retail booklet showing cylinder numbers (Norvic picture)

Other products
Presentation Pack, two first day covers, set of 11 stamp cards.
Framed sets (or mounted only if you don't like the black frames)
Coin covers for both the set and the miniature sheet.  Although these are produced by the Royal Mint and are described as coins they do not have the royal head on. I'm seeking clarification on this, just for the record.

As I am only now able to write about these due to other distractions, I can report that there has been a positive reaction in the press and on social media, though how many of those vowing that they 'must have them' will actually use any on letters remains to be seen.  I suspect very few.

And the airmail postage rates will rise on 1 September, so the £1.42 and £1.68 stamps will have to be supplemented by make-up values after that.