Wednesday 30 September 2020

Virtual Stampex: Post and Go and the (closed) Postal Museum

Virtual Autumn Stampex 2020 (detailed here) opens tomorrow.  To mark the event, the Postal Museum is selling stamps from the museum's Post & Go machine with a special inscription.

A mock-up of the Postal Museum* Virtual Stampex 2020 Post & Go stamp.
(Thanks to Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog.)

We are used to surprise and unnecessary Post & Go stamps from the offshore islands, but this is something new for The Postal Museum.  I can do no better than quote from the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog:

It seems rather surreal to me - stamps costing a lot of money produced by an inaccessible machine to commemorate a philatelic exhibition that has no physical reality. 

The Museum is, of course, closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.  Their Post & Go machine A001 is inaccessible. Nobody can physically buy these stamps which are only available from 1-3 October.  

This item made up of Machin Head stamps with the MA13 code apparently with the additional inscription ’The Postal Museum/Virtual Stampex 2020’ is therefore only obtainable by mail order from the Postal Museum at a price of £10.11p plus an additional £3.50p post and packing.

Of course the Museum is missing its visitors and therefore income is well down.  Of course collectors have always supported the Museum through funding efforts (but remember the discarded 'Friends of the BPMA'?).  

But I can't help thinking they could have provided some online subscription services and made more available for a fee for the wider range of collectors instead of producing something that the 'must have one of everything' brigade of collectors will feel that they ought to have to avoid gaps in their collection.

Incidentally at the time of writing, I can't find this on the Museum website.

UPDATE 1 October

The stamps are now on the Postal Museum website where it states that they are on MA14 stock.  

*The first (MA13) image is from the IAR website (IAR produce the machines and control the software - in the past changes to inscriptions or 'overprints' have been under the company's control).  I suspect that the MA13 images are either mock-ups or trials done in IAR's development machine in September (B9) - as you can see from the main illustration here the machine code is B003, whereas the Postal Museum machine is A001.

So it probably safe to say that the stamps actually sold by the Postal Museum will be MA14, unless they exhaust supplies of that stock and use something else, unlikely in three days even with bulk orders from the continental dealers.

UPDATE 10 October

As mentioned above, the mock-up or test printing, illustrated is from IAR.  Pictured below, courtesy of JG is the real deal, on the yellow version of MA14, with the correct data string, B0 (for RM Series II, October), GB20 for 2020, and machine number A001.  Incidentally the receipts are dated 05/10/2020!

Royal Mail Paints Special Postboxes for Black History Month

Royal Mail Press Release 30 September 2020

As Black History Month begins, Royal Mail unveils four special edition postboxes in each UK nation. The beautifully decorated postboxes honour black Britons both past and present to mark this special month.

The postboxes are located in special sites in London (close to the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton), Glasgow (close to Glasgow University), Cardiff (close to Cardiff City Hall) and Belfast (close to Belfast City Hall). The Belfast box is a parcel postbox.

The social media-activated postboxes are painted black with a striking gold trim, and each feature a figure of significance to the British black community, who has also appeared on a special stamp. The postboxes highlight the prominence and nationwide success of all the Black Britons featured. 

A full list* of black Britons who have appeared on Special Stamps over the years can be found by scanning a QR code on the boxes, which link through to a dedicated online gallery on the Royal Mail website.

* On the webpage, the heading reads: "This gallery charts some of the black Britons who have featured on our Special Stamp over the years."  

I haven't studied the catalogue in detail to see who might have been omitted.  However, I can think of at least one stamp missing if Black History Month embraces people of Asian as well as African and American ethnicity, buut this is the subject of some debate. 

Peter De Norville, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Royal Mail said: “Black History Month is a great opportunity to celebrate the contributions that black people have made to this country over many generations. We are also using it as an opportunity to celebrate the vital work that our black employees do throughout the nation, from the mail bag to the meeting room.”  

Artist Yinka Shonibare, CBE, who created the painting that features on the London box, said: “It was a pleasure to work with Royal Mail on a national postage stamp in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy. As a citizen of the commonwealth, it was particularly important to me to be making a visible contribution in a historic public space.”

The location and design of the postboxes is as follows:

  • London: Acre Lane, Brixton
    • The postbox was chosen for its proximity to the Black Cultural Archives, as a leading museum for the British black community.
    • The box features the image Queuing at the RA by Yinka Shonibare (CBE). Shonibare was one of six artists commissioned by Royal Mail to produce original artworks for a set of Special Stamps issued to mark the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy.


    £1.55 stamp marking the 250th Anniversary of the Royal Academy of Arts showing 'Queuing at the RA' by Yinka Shonibare

  • Glasgow: Byres Road, Glasgow
    • This postbox was chosen for its central location within the city.
    • The box features an image of Walter Tull, who had signed on to become the first black player for Rangers, before being tragically killed in action in his post within the British Army (where he was the first black officer to command troops in a regular unit). He featured in a set of stamps released in 2018, to mark the end of the First World War.


    2nd Lieut Walter Tull featured on a 1st class stamp in 2018 marking the end of World War I

  • Cardiff: King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff
    • This postbox was chosen for its proximity to Cardiff City Hall, and central location within the city.
    • The box features nurse and businesswoman Mary Seacole. She featured on a set of stamps released in 2006 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the National Portrait Gallery. Seacole nursed wounded British soldiers back to health during the Crimean War (1853-1856) and built a dedicated place for them to recuperate known as the British Hotel.


    2006 1st class stamp featuring a painting of Mary Seacole in the National Portrait Gallery  


  • Belfast: Bedford Street, Belfast
    • This parcel postbox was chosen for its proximity to Belfast City Hall, and central location within the city.
    • The box features an image of Sir Lenny Henry CBE. Stand-up comedian, actor, singer, writer and television presenter, known for co-founding the charity Comic Relief, Henry appeared in the Comedy Greats Special Stamps, released in 2015.


2015 Comedy Greats 1st class stamp featuring Sir Lenny Henry

Royal Mail postbox in Acre Lane, Brixton being decorated for 2020 Black History Month.


Friday 25 September 2020

Intermittent Computer Problems

In addition to the previously announced reasons for delays in replying, the 11-year-old iMac is now getting temperamental, so some additional delays will occasionally occur.

Where possible emails and blog comments will be handled with other devices but new posts and edits will be delayed.  Apologies for this, we'll have it fixed soon!

Sunday 20 September 2020

Machins 2020 - 2nd Large booklet now in circulation

My thanks to DL for reporting and sending the picture of the latest booklet stamp for 2020 to be in circulation.  This was on sale at a Royal Mail sorting office, and others are reported to have appeared on eBay.

This is the penultimate booklet, with the booklet of 6 x 1st class still to appear.  The stamp will be 2933.20 in the Norvic checklist, and Stanley Gibbons U3032.

Counter sheets

I can also now show the 1p & 5p from counter sheets.  Thanks to RP.

UPDATE 23 September
Two more new M20L counter sheet stamps have been issued, the 1st Royal Mail Signed For (RMSF) printed on 14/05/20 and 100g Special Delivery (printed on 15/05/20).

Also reprinted are the 1st Large RMSF and Special Delivery 500g both on 15/05/20.  This is surprising as, although they weren't printed in 2019 there was a February printing of both this year, which suggests that those were emergency short-run printings to satisfy immediate stock needs while Walsall were printing the new tariff definitives.    

Pictures to follow when the stamps are received.

Another Post and Go Change - Zones 1 & 3

As reported by various readers and added to the earlier 'availability' blog, Museum machines which were not in use on 1 September are now being brought into use.

Both the Shakespeare Visitor Centre at Stratford-upon-Avon and the GWR STeam Museum in Swindon restarted on 17 September, with Shakespeare using Machin MA14 and Flowers MA17.  

We can now show pictures of these thanks to  As you will see, the inscription for these (A009 & A010 respectively) IAR machines' Zone 1 and 3 stamp is the same as on the stamps printed from Post Office Self-Service Kiosks (SSKs)., ie Zone 1-3.

However, it is now reported - and verified on eBay - that these machines have already changed to show the more accurate Zone 1 & 3  (Thanks to Chris for sending this image.)

Aside from corrected errors (and this isn't one), the original may be the Post and Go Faststamp with the shortest availability.  Anybody who found out about the reopening of the Museums and arranged to get the stamps has a Post & Go rarity!
UPDATE: the screen display from the Royal Navy Museum machine A002, thanks to Chris.

Comments about these only here, all other comments and changes on the original post please.

Friday 18 September 2020

London's Virtual Autumn Stampex 1-3 October 2020


It's about this time of the year that collectors would normally be preparing their bags and sandwiches ahead of getting up early to make the trek to London for Autumn Stampex.  This year, of course, it's not going to happen.  

Instead, the Philatelic Traders' Society is organising a Virtual Stampex, online, which will be 'open' 24 hours a day from 08:00 on 1st October, to 07:59 on 4th October.  To take part you need to register, via this webpage.

Over 100 PTS Members and affiliated philatelic organisations and societies available live for you to chat to, in the Booth Hall to buy, sell, learn, chat about stamps.    

Visit the SPINK Auditorium to watch live and recorded webinars including Q&A sessions.

The 2020 Stampex Court of Honour will celebrate some of the leading collections in the world.

[Edit - my thanks to Isobel at PTS for pointing out (very nicely) that I had totally overlooked the navigation bar at the top of the Stampex International page.]

Booth holders* can be found here:

Stampex Talks here:

Stamps in the Attic information is here:

Overview on other activity regarding stampex can be found here. This gets updated as and when people tell us what is happening. 

*In addition to those listed I understand that Royal Mail will be taking part, although when I asked RM earlier this week there was no information on what that participation would involve or offer.

While we don't know what Royal Mail will be offering  we do know (thanks to the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog - to whom thanks for the pictures) that the avaricious postal authorities of Guernsey and Jersey are determined not to miss out on some Post and Go income, with specially inscribed stamps printed back on the islands.

These will be in strips of six as usual but I didn't want to allocate them too much space!

Other matters permitting I shall be dipping in from time to time - I think it will be interesting, and I hope others will also.  

The PTS is to be commended for organising the event even if provision of information is a bit slow.

No Stampex: New Royal Mail September 2020 Stocklist Available Online

Earlier this week we received the autumn Stock List from Royal Mail Stamps & Collectibles (now far more collectibles than stamps).  At the time it hadn't been added to their website, but I am pleased to say that it is now there, so if you previously picked up a copy at Stampex, you can now read it online here.

If you still collect new stamps and haven't been able to get them from your post office during the current situation you will need to be aware of last day of sale dates.  For the 'Stamp Souvenirs' these are very short dates, but these are unaddressed FDCs in effect, so you probably got something at the time.

Most stamp products have long dates or WSL = While Stocks Last, but the following are noteworthy, get them now if you want them:

Royal Navy Ships, Cricket World Cup MSs, go off sale on 31.12.2020 


Also of note, if you didn't notice before, and I may not have mentioned it, is the print quantities for Press Sheets of miniature sheets - 

Marvel - 1000

Star Wars and Queen - 500

The Gruffalo and Palace of Westminster - 300

I think demand for these - like most other products - has dropped since they were first produced.

Page 8 has a number of 'Bundles' - groups of products sold at a discount from the original prices.  These nearly always include some premium products for fans, and it's arguable that this provides some indication of which have been worthwhile and which were spurned by fans.

All Machin and country definitives, including booklets are available indefinitely - or at least while stocks last.

Thursday 17 September 2020

Brilliant Bugs: new stamp issue 1 October 2020. Attractive but unnecessary?

Another new stamp issue comes from Royal Mail on 1 October.  Although we have refrained from writing much until the emargbo date (which was supposed to be the issue date), the stamps now appear on Royal Mail's shop website.

Alert readers will note that I have replaced the Brilliant Bugs images with images of similar stamps by the same illustrator, Richard Lewington. 


This is because, despite the Bugs stamps being visible on Royal Mail's shop, as linked here, I have been told that "but these are only found if searched for and the stamps are shown in the context of the products".   (Type the words royal mail brilliant bugs into your favourite search engine to find them.)

The Bugs are also shown (in poor resolution) on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog, but then the author doesn't have an dealer account with Royal Mail, so he will not be sanctioned in the same way. 

Update 5 October - the new stamps are shown here

But why?  What's the event?

Of course the short answer is that there isn't one.  As we in the northern hemisphere enter autumn - although the last week has been unseasonably warm even for an Indian Summer in September - the bees, butterflies and other insects are starting to disappear.  Certainly there weren't too many around a couple of weeks ago!   So this is what Royal Mail have to say:

To celebrate the enormous diversity, intrigue and importance of pollinating insects in the UK, Royal Mail is pleased to issue stamps that celebrate pollinators found in the UK and explore the range, beyond bees and butterflies, and include other often overlooked important pollinators like moths, beetles, hoverflies and wasps.

It is estimated that there are more than 5 million insect species on Earth. These ‘brilliant bugs’ contribute to essential natural processes in varied and diverse ways. Some ensure the functioning of ecosystems through decomposition – efficiently recycling dead and decaying matter. Others feed on pest insects and so protect plants, including the crops we rely on for food.

These pollinators are responsible for pollination of vast quantities of food crops for humans and farm animals and the pollination of wild plants including flowers and some trees. (In Europe 4 out of 5 crops and wild flowers rely, at least in part, on insects to pollinate and hence reproduce). Sadly, there is evidence the numbers of insects are declining and we are proud to highlight this important area of conservation through this stamp issue.

UPDATE 5 October

The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology wrote on Twitter: "The choice of plant for each species was important because we wanted to represent the diversity & context of the flowers visited by insects - from crop & garden plants to wild flowers."  See their press release here.


The stamps in detail

The set consists of three se-tenant pairs including a pair of 1st class, and two pairs at the new airmail rates of £1.45 and £1.70.

Details of actual stamps (corrected: Painted Lady & Marmalade Hoverfly, which designs were switched by RM from the description they provided.)

1st Class Common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum)
This relatively widespread bumblebee feeds on flowers such as large blue pea.

1st Class Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui )
Thistles are a common source of nectar for these migratory butterflies in Britain.

£1.45 Longhorn beetle (Rutpela maculata)
This wasp-mimicking beetle is a common visitor of hawthorn flowers in summer.

£1.45 Elephant hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor)
Honeysuckle is a favoured source of nectar for this striking species. Ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita agg.)

£1.70 Marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)
Often seen in gardens, this is also an important pollinator of crops like oilseed rape.

£1.70 Ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita agg.)
The adult ruby-tailed wasp feeds on nectar from flowers such as angelica.

Technical details

The 37 x 35 mm stamps were designed in-house using illustrations by Richard Lewington (who was involved with previous similar wildlife issues in 2013 and 2015) and printed by International Security Printers in lithography.  Although our briefing notes were a bit short on detail, the FDC insert fills the gaps (so to speak): perforations are 14x14½ and in sheets of 30/60.  (See below for more details.)

Products available

Set of stamps, stamp cards, presentation pack, first day cover, and framed stamp set, also available in an edition of 100 signed by the illustrator.

Wednesday 16 September 2020

International Mis-sorts show the importance of correct addressing

A correspondent in Ukraine has sent examples of three recent covers received from UK eBay sellers that went the wrong way round.  They are a great example of modern postal history and serve to emphasise the importance of correct addressing to ensure proper and timely delivery.

These aren't all recent: the first is from 2014, and is properly paid at 97p - the value of the 1st class is 62p.  The address doesn't include the country name but the international abbreviation UA.  This is wrong at any time but in December it's a risky time!

Note there are no instructional marks on this, the stamps were uncancelled in Britain, and have received Buffalo NY ink-jet machine (Bambi) and handstruck postmarks.  (Incidentally these show that US postmarks don't produce good collectable stamps either!)

The second was sent from Tyneside in January 2017 and is 1p overpaid at £1.06.  Again the UA element of the address saw it sent to the USA, where it receives a 'Return to sender' mark with the inscription



The most recent one is from March 2020 just before the pandemic put a stop or delay to so much international post.  This is paid at £1.60 the Europe up to 100g rate, and has been properly cancelled in North & West Yorkshire mail centre.  But again the address lacks the name of the country and it has been sent across the atlantic.  There it again ended up in Buffalo NY and receives a red mis-sort mark, and the manuscript endorsements 'Foreign' and 'Ukraine'.  It's not possible to say whether the 'Ukraine' was added by Royal Mail if it was returned to the UK, or whether it was sent direct to Ukraine when somebody in the USPS worked out where it should be.

NIXIE DESK              


The postcode in Ukraine written on the letters is 14005.  In the USA this is a location about 50 miles from Buffalo which I assume is the main processing centre.

Nixie desk - a 'Nixie' is an undeliverable item, which would have been diverted to a special office for investigation and forwarding or return.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

1 September 2020 rate change; Post and Go availability.

The 1st September rate changes produced new Post and Go stamps as detailed here.  This posted, which will be updated with contributions from readers, will attempt to record which base stamps are available with these new rate stamps.
Update 16th, many thanks to Trevor for scouring eBay - a wide range of strips.  
Update 22nd: I have only included the locations although the comments often say which stamps are in which machine at multi-machine branches.  Check there for more detail, but remember that all this is only valid at the time the information was supplied to me.  It could have changed minutes later!

Machin R20YAL
Knightsbridge (London), Croydon, Horsham, Plymouth,

Machin R19YAL
Richmond (Sy), Old Street, Brixton & Broadway (London), Harrow, Exeter, Ashton Under Lyme, Croydon,  Horsham,

Machin R18YAL
Richmond (Sy), Old Street & (London), Exeter, Exmouth, Broadway, Lower Regent St, Strand, Ecclestone St, Edinburgh Waverley Mall, Croydon, Paignton, Crawley, Stevenage, Peterborough,

Machin R17YAL
Lower Regents St, Kennington Park, Moorgate & Strand (London), Banbury, Crawley, Oakham, St Albans,
Machin MA16
Ashton under Lyme, Banbury, Eastleigh, Brixton (London), Redhill, Crawley, Ilford, Milton Keynes, Plymouth, & unknown eBay

Machin MA15
Albion St Leeds, unknown eBay

Machin MA14
Stevenage (yellow shade)
Machin MA13
unknown, on eBay

Machin undated
Machin 2nd class CL17S
eBay - unknown

Poppy R18YAL  Broadway (London), Exmouth, Milton Keynes
Poppy R17YAL unknown - on eBay
Poppy MA16  unknown - on eBay  

Robin MA12   unknown - on eBay
Robin MA13 - unknown, on eBay
Robin date unknown - Leighton Buzzard

Mail by Bike  Knightsbridge (London), Redhill, Harpenden,

Mail by Air currently on Ebay unknown office link

Mail by Rail currently on Ebay unknown office link

Mail by Sea currently on Ebay unknown office link

Game of Thrones, Chorley (Lancashire), Aylesbury,
Union Flag (undated) - unknown - eBay.
Ladybirds - unknown, eBay

Machin Anniversary currently on Ebay unknown office link , Aberdeen, Paignton, Ilford, Harpenden,
Winter Greenery R19YAL currently on Ebay unknown office link ,  Knightsbridge & Brixton (London)

Hibernating Animals  currently on Ebay unknown office link

Naval Museums and the Fleet Air Arm Museum are open.
The Postal Museum and Shakespeare Centre machines are not in operation.

HMS Trincomalee: Machin MA14 and MA13 - on eBay

GWR Steam Museum Swindon (17 Sept): Machin MA13, Rail by Mail Royal Mail Heritage MA16.
Shakespeare Centre now open (17 Sept): Machin MA14, and Flowers MA17.§

That's a total of 25 plus six from museums - so far.
§ If I recall correctly this is a printing which was made for the centre and not available elsewhere or unoverprinted.

Trevor notes that "You will note that for some of the unidentified offices there is a close correlation between session numbers and kiosk numbers which may be purely coincidental.

When this was first announced one or two people raised the prospect of 'obsolete stock' suddenly reappearing, not necessarily legitimately.  
Some of the more unusual ones above are from the same sellers who have obscured the FAD code so that nobody can see whether or not they all came from the same post office branch.  If they had, then that would certainly be suspicious: if the Birds or Farm Animals appear I would certainly suspect the involvement of somebody who has a supply of unused rolls.  Not that I am suggesting any malfeasance on the part of these sellers on this occasion as the evidence is not visible.

Please let us know what you find by email or comment, and I will add it to the table above.

Anything unusual we are interested in two strips of single design and maybe full 36 for multi-design.

Saturday 12 September 2020

New edition of our Machin Security Checklist available now.

With apologies for the delay, I am pleased to say that the latest version of our Machin Security Stamps Checklist is now available as a free pdf download.  This is version 2.2.9

You can read it online or download it by clicking on this link, or on the one in the right-hand column below the Covid-19 notice.

This includes the 1p and 5p counter sheet stamps not yet received.

APOLOGETIC UPDATE: The slow process of updating the Checklist meant that I had produced more than one version, and I then updated an old one instead of the later one.  Thus the omission of several stamps and I am grateful for readers pointing out those omissions.  

The link above has now been corrected to download the new version 2.3.0.

Thursday 10 September 2020

September slogan postmarks

A third of the way through the month and there are no new slogan postmarks to report so it is timely to mention the default slogan used by Royal Mail when there is nothing else to commemorate or mention.

A number of people have sent examples, and we received this very clear one from Warrington in today's post.

Royal Mail
supporting youth
mental health with

Any new slogans or other interesting postmarks will be reported here, including handstamps.

IP sent this default slogan (in the other format, reversed with the wavy lines at left) from August but with a handstamp from Sheffield Mail Centre showing postcode S9 2XX.  This is in the Brightside district in the Lower Don Valley

UPDATE 23 September
I saw a slogan today for Brest Cancer Awareness Month. Unfortunately it is so poor that I won't waste time scanning it, and I can't even be sure of the exact wording.  BCAM runs for the whole of October.

Thanks to KD for sending the image below, I can now show the wording on this slogan, here on an example from Chester & N Wales dated 22/09/2020.

Breast Cancer
1-31 October
        + CHECK

Here's another from Southampton, thanks Chris.  RW also sent one in the other format but it isn't very clear so I'll wait for a Norwich/Peterborough one.

UPDATE 29 September 2020

My thanks to BM & KD for sending images of the other format of the Breast Cancer slogan within the last few days.  These are from Jubilee Mail Centre on 28-09-2020 and Mount Pleasant Mail Centre on 26-09-2020.

It seems likely that this will continue into October, so when October examples arrive they will start a new post.  Thanks for all your contributions.
UPDATE 3 October
I was wrong in my assumption because October is also Black History Month, and so Breast Cancer Awareness has given way, at least for now, to a simple slogan for Black History Month 2020.  This was actually used in Norwich Mail Centre 30-09-2020.  It continues in October so further information and examples will be posted there

Black History

PPI to CDS, the range in modern postal history

After a week away I have collected the post from Dereham and thank you to contributors who have sent us material through the post.  There's a great variety in what we received this week, useful for debate and illustration.

Occasional correspondent Robert M writes from Swindon with a couple of Postage Paid Indicator (PPI) stamp items.  We have seen these before and shown them here over the years.  They were originally trialled back in 2015 and were obviously well received by direct mailers, so have been available to them ever since, with new stamp designs (usually Christmas) added from time to time.


Although the addressee will know what is inside in these cases (promotion for Age UK's Weekly Lottery in the Machin, and for Oak Tree Mobility in the White Rabbit) the perception is that the 'junk' mail is more likely to be opened with a stamp, even if it is printed on, than in an unstamped letter:

Also in today's pick up were these two properly stamped:

Commercial or philatelic?  The 2nd class Machin is a pre-security booklet stamp with straight edge at foot; the Roman Britain stamp was issued earlier this year.  With a CDS that certainly looks philatelic, because few POs will do this unless asked.  That one came from an eBay seller (of stamps).  The Machin is obviously valid but at least 15 years old, and that comes from the secretary of a philatelic society.

Rpbert M described the printed stamped PPIs as "almost fakes, but are they better than no stamps at all?"   I think they are better than no stamps at all, but some people who are making detailed studies of these and unstamped PPIs with all the difference licence numbers and users.  It's certainly cheaper than collecting mint stamps and they are easy to acquire - you just fill in a coupon or respond to a mailshot and these come through your door with monotonous regularity!

So which would you prefer...

... and what have I not included from the types of material that comes through the post?

UPDATE 11 September
John G reminds me that there are other types of PPI, namely the Customer Access Indicia on mail delivered by Royal Mail but handled initially by independent companies such as UK Mail, TNT Post/whistl, Citipost etc.

John also writes:  Experiments by TNT Post showed that pictorial Customer Access Indicia increased the opening of the letter by 15% in the Netherlands and increased a response to the contents by 5% in the UK, compared to letters with non-pictorial markings. This led to the introduction of self-adhesive ‘stamp-like’ indicia on mail shots by TNT Post in the UK in 2008, and subsequently, following pressure from First Post, to ‘stamp-like’ indicia being printed directly on envelopes.

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Queen: Another startling perforation error.

Back in July I reported on a strange shift of rouletting and iridescent printing on the definitive
pane from the Music Giants IV: Queen prestige stamp book.  No others have been reported, but it would be expected that more exist, so I urge you to check your booklets.

Could anything be more surprising than that?  Well yes, and on a product that many collectors don't pay any attention to.

As well as the two Collector Sheets (aka Smilers or Generic) Royal Mail produced two 'Fan Sheets' one featuring four copies of the 'A Night at the Opera' stamp and the other the 'Album Covers Collection' featuring all eight gummed stamps in one sheet, not se-tenant, but individually separated.

Although not se-tenant, one would expect that these stamps would all be perforated in one strike of the perforator.  Whether web-printed and cut, or sheet-printed, the most efficient way of perforating is to have all the holes punched at once, just as would happen on a miniature sheet of se-tenant stamps.

So how to explain this:

Not immediately obvious from the front, it stands out when the sheet is turned over!  IF the perforations are all struck at once the only way this single error could occur is for the perforations for part of the sheet to be still under the perforator when the second strike occurs.  The perforations for the 'News of the World' stamp (the green one at the top right) would hit the lower left of the sheet - but even then, the perforations for the 'Night at the Opera' stamp to its left would clip the sheet, due to the gap between the stamps being less than the gap between the erroneous perforation and the edge of the sheet.

So has anybody any other suggestions?

This was first reported to me via Twitter, by @BetterPhilately who mostly covers the stamps of India and the USA on the blog   Take a look, and take a wider look on Twitter and other social media.

Although many readers of this blog collect only GB stamps - and many of them seem to collect only Machins - there's a philatelic world out there to explore, and you'd be surprised how much people are willing to share their collections and knowledge.

More fluorescent variations - now Business Sheets.

Regular readers will recall that the counter and business sheets printed by Walsall in 2018 had a wide variety of fluorescence and phosphoresence, but that after that printing seemed to settle down with fewer variants in 2019.

John G has recently sent these pictures of (Walsall-printed) 2nd Large Business Sheets from 2019.  As you can see there is a marked difference in the two printings.

John writes:
The fluorescence from stamps printed on 22 October 2019 (sheet 2960957) is very bright whereas the fluorescence from stamps on the sheet printed on 6 February 2019 (sheet 2783747) is dull. An image of the fluorescence elicited by long-wave UV illumination of two stamps photographed together is shown. (Note also the slightly short bands on the later printing.)
As I wrote in January last year, "these are much more difficult to find because they require the purchase of whole sheets (of 100 small stamps or 50 large letter): if the stamps turn out to be the same then that expenditure - by collector or dealer - is wasted as few people have an outlet for that many spare stamps."

If you are a specialist collector preferring mint then these could be costly or impossible to find.  On the other hand if you don't mind including used stamps in your collection, postally used examples should be easier to find in kiloware.  With the (non-soakable) self-adhesive stamps tending to be collected on paper, the UV reaction won't be affected by soaking.  Although white envelopes show the stamps better in a collection, manilla are better for testing a UV reaction, unless the white paper has no brightener.

NVI Postage Values Updated

Following the recent postage rate changes detailed here it is worth repeating and updating this post from September 2019.  Updates are highlighted in red.

It is over six years since we first had to consider the change in letter weight steps and the question of stamps pre-printed with obsolete weights.  A reader asked the question on the latest Revenue Protection post so I've given this important subject it's own entry on the blog.

The question was:
There is another issue, as touched on, in that what postage rate do some of the perfectly legal NVIs and earlier Post & Go stamps now pay. A number of the original rates no longer exist.
I assume an "E" value will probably still pay the Europe rate of up 20g. Where is this set out, either for the public or the Royal Mail staff?
We have Overseas booklet stamps showing Worldwide postcard rate? Originally apparently 43p. What does that pay for today? Ditto Europe up to 40g - no longer a published postage rate. Worldwide up to 40g & 60g likewise both as booklet stamps and/or Post & Go values. Europe up to 60g and so on.
Does anyone know whether the answer set out anywhere or where the contact point is to enquire?
The answer is buried deep in a blogpost of April 2014, so I'll repeat and expand on it here.
UPDATE 10 April 2014
Regarding the future value of obsolete Post and Go stamps Royal Mail have advised:

Existing P&G stamps for WW 10g and WW40g and other previously issued NVI’s for which there is no current postage value e.g. WW Postcard, will continue to be valid for the next applicable weight step up from its stated value i.e. WW 10g stamp will be valid at the WW 20g value and the WW 40g stamp will be valid at the new WW 60g value.
Although they were asked specifically about Post and Go stamps, the reply covers the self-adhesive booklet stamps, including the airmail postcard rate stamp, which is the same rate as the Europe 20g/World 10g. The following year the 60g step was replaced by the 100g step and the same principle applied.  In other words, the stamps showing 40g are now valid for 100g.  The 10g and 20g stamps are still valid for the weights shown, as before.

Users of Stanley Gibbons' Great Britain Concise catalogue will know that the introduction includes some tables of postage rates.  One which was* missing is this table which, apart from indicating the original selling price of some of the stamps, explains why certain definitive stamps were issued and, in the case of the £2.25, re-issued after being replaced.  (Included in the 2020 catalogue.)

Europe 20g
World 10g
World 20g
World 40g
April 2009
April 2010
April 2011
April 2012
April 2013

E20/ W10
Europe 60g
World 20g
World 60g
April 2014

E20/ W10
Europe 100g
World 20g
World 100g
April 2015
April 2016
April 2017
April 2018
April 2019
April 2020
Sept 2020

* With effect from 1 September 2020 a combined Euro 100g/World 20g Post & Go stamp was issued, priced at £1.70.
On the same date the World 100g stamp was replaced by two stamps: World 100g Zone 1-3 is sold for £2.50, and World 100g Zone 3 is £2.55.

Consequently previous Europe 100g and World 20g stamps may be used for £1.70-worth of postage, and World 100g stamps may be used for £2.55, the higher rate.

I hope readers find this useful.  It is probably worth reminding everybody that these are also all valid at the rates shown for inland postage, just as the 2nd, 1st, Large, Signed For, and Special Delivery stamps are all valid for services other than those shown and on inland and international mail.

Update 19 October.
I've compiled this table which I believe to be correct.  Note that some of the rates were in effect before the stamps were issued, and some new stamps were issued at old rates before tariff increases. 

Stamps Issued* or Rates Effective
1st Signed For 100g
1st Large Signed For 100g
100g Special Delivery
500g Special Delivery
17 November 2009 *
6 April 2010
26 October 2010 *

20 April 2011
30 April 2012
2 April 2013 §
31 March 2014
30 March 2015
29 March 2016

27 March 2017

26 March 2018
25 March 2019
23 March 2020

* Royal Mail Signed For stamps were issued 27 March 2013, replacing Recorded Signed For, but were sold at old rates until 2 April.

The latest reply from Royal Mail, forwarded by Rushstamps, stated:
I have been advised the NVI stamps which have the E on can be used for both inland and Europe postings and the value of the stamp would be the current cost of an International Standard to Europe, which at this time would be £1.35.  NVI stamps do not have an expiry date and are valid at the current rate of postage, as long as they are unused stamps.
I believe the issue is that the Post Office Counter staff were not aware of this and is why they were refusing to accept these stamps.