Thursday, 15 April 2021

News for Subscribers by email.

I don't know whether this affects any readers/followers of this blog, or if you will receive a separate notification.

Google have announced that the email subscription widget, also known as the FollowByEmail widget, will be turned down in July 2021. Specifically, the email subscription system will no longer work and our subscribers will no longer receive email updates.

I am not even sure that this facility is built into this blog, but as it was a notice from Google, I thought it might be useful to alert readers.

Thanks you for reading; we don't send emails, about updates, so please come back often - bookmark this page.

 

UPDATE:

I am reminded by Alan W that 

"The free version of Visual Ping allows you to monitor up to 2 internet pages per day."and they send an email alert for changes.   

But they do require you to have an account and visit their dashboard at least every 6 months (they send reminders I think), to maintain your account.


Friday, 9 April 2021

It's a fact! Science Fiction is a very popular literary genre; how about the stamps?

According to an article last year in The Guardian, many authors still don't think much of science fiction, a genre which owes its popularity to the 1920s pulp fiction paperbacks.  But what we now include in science fiction goes back to the previous century to the work of Mary Shelley and H G Wells.

Royal Mail reckon that SF includes one of Britain’s best inventions - The Future. 

"The steam engine powered not only the Industrial Revolution but the imagination too. In 1818, Mary Shelley reworked the Gothic romance to address the advances of contemporary science. By the 1890s, this type of story was called the ‘scientific romance’, and in a few short years HG Wells and his generation had formulated the elements of ‘science fiction’. The genre has since spread around the world and has become a key way in which humans think through their possible futures.

"We celebrate classic science fiction on the 75th anniversary of the death of HG Wells and 70th of publication of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids.

"The illustrations feature on the 6 stamps have a unique interpretation of each of the science fiction classics by 6 different artists."

Pair of 1st class stamps: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and The Time Machine by H G Wells

Pair of £1.70 stamps: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Pair of £2.55 stamps - Childhood's End by Arthur C Clarke, and Shikasta by Doris Lessing

Technical details

Designed by Webb & Webb Design Ltd the 35mm se-tenant stamps are printed in litho by International Security Printers (Cartor).

The specially commissioned artwork is
Frankenstein illustration by Sabina Šinko;
The Time Machine illustration by Francisco Rodríguez, reference image of sunrise in the Namib Desert © Magdalena Paluchowska/Alamy Stock Photo;
Brave New World illustration by Thomas Danthony;
The Day of the Triffids illustration by Mick Brownfield;
Childhood’s End illustration by Matt Murphy;
Shikasta illustration by Sarah Jones;   all illustrations © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2021.

Products

Set of 6 stamps, first day cover, presentation pack, stamp cards.

 

I like the subjects and I think the designs are innovative - it is so nice to see new artwork, whether or not you like it, rather than stock/library (or even specially commissioned) photographs.  But I suspect, like science fiction as a genre, it's a Marmite issue - you like it or hate it!  Reading more about the issue in the general media may encourage more people to read the books.


Thursday, 8 April 2021

More new Machin definitive stamps reported

April is a good time to start reporting on new Machin definitives and it often happens that when one comes, the others follow thick and fast.  So it is this year, with a twist.

Hot on the heels of the 1st class retail booklet of 12 reported last week, the similar 2nd class booklet was reported this week.


M21L stamps issued so far:

Business Sheet
2nd class with datamatrix code (MBIL)
1st class without DMX code (MBIL)

Booklets
2nd class from book of 12 (MTIL)
1st class from mixed booklet (MCIL)
1st class from book of 12 (MTIL)

Counter sheets (MAIL)
£1.70 (23 December 2020)
£3.25
£4.20 

Oddball stamps
Not one thing nor another.  Royal Mail have produced a commemorative cover with a block of stamps which looks like a PSB pane, but is neither that nor a miniature sheet. In theory this will only be available used because it is not being made available to collectors, only to dealers for use on covers.  Printed on ordinary gummed paper this is 

1st class M21L MAIL

1st class Machin gummed definitive coded M21L MAIL.

More will be added as reported.  The Norvic Machin Checklist will be updated within the next two weeks.


Monday, 5 April 2021

Slogan Postmarks for April 2021 - and other interesting postal marks.

After the mass of slogans in March, April came in with a new one on day 1 - and continuation of an old one!  I'm waiting for more post to arrive after the holiday weekend so that there will be more reports to back these up.  Remember this is the only place where April slogans will be shown, so check back to the beginning of the month before taking time to scan and report.  Also, the Action for Children slogan is the default, should there be any days without new slogans.

The World Autism Awareness Week was used on 29 March, followed by an Easter message on 30 March. But the former was used again at Exeter Mail Centre on 1 April. (Reported by BM)

World Autism
Awareness Week
29/03 - 04/04/2021

World Autism Awareness Week slogan postmark used 1 April at Exeter


The other slogan reported for 1 April marks the fact that Robert Walpole was the first UK Prime Minister 300 years ago this week.  This is reported by CH used at Jubilee Mail Centre 01-04-2021. It was also used on 3 April but I don;t have any examples.

Robert Walpole enters office
as first UK Prime Minister
300 years ago
4 April 1721

Robert Walpole first UK Prime Minister slogan postmark 1 April at Jubilee Mail Centre.

UPDATE 14 April My thanks to John E for reminding me that although there were no letter deliveries on Good Friday (2 April) and no collections in England, Wales and N Ireland, there were collections in Scotland - although this isn't a very good example from Edinburgh Mail Centre, but it does show the 5-line layout (on an envelope that shouldn't have been postmarked anyway!).

 

Robert Walpole PM slogan Edinburgh 2 April 2021
 

The slogan thus exists only in this format on 2 April, as Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness only have iLSMs - no IMPs, with the 'logo' version.


UPDATE 7 APRIL:  My thanks to KD for providing two examples of the second new slogan marking World Health Day.  This is a World Health Organisation initiative - "a new campaign to build a fairer, healthier world."  The slogan is shown used at Swindon and Aberdeen Mail Centres on 06-04-202.

World Health Day
7 April 2021
#worldhealthday


World Health Day 7 April slogans used at Aberdeen and Swindon 06-04-2021.




Reports of new ink supplies at Exeter Mail Centre appear to be premature - 6 April:

Poor example of a no-slogan format from Exeter 06-04-2021 with very little ink.


 



As usual, this is the place for you to record slogan and other interesting postmarks for other collectors and for long-term recording by the British Postmark Society.


Saturday, 3 April 2021

Belatedly marking the (Heroes of the ) Pandemic, Royal Mail stamp issue for 2022.

 Royal Mail Press Release

Heroes of the pandemic

Competition to design set of Special Stamps begins

We’re marking the important role played by key and frontline workers – such as ourselves – through the coronavirus pandemic, with a competition for UK schoolchildren to design a set of Special Stamps.

Launched today by Royal Mail and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Heroes of the Pandemic gives children, aged 4 to 14, the chance to design official stamps to make up a final set of eight to be announced in the autumn. 

The closing date for entries is Friday 28 May, after which 120 regional finalists will be selected before a shortlist of 24 are chosen. A select panel of judges will pick the winning eight. The winning stamps will be available in the spring of 2022 where they will appear on millions of items of mail across the UK.

Only four times in our history have designs created by children been used in stamps – in 1966, 1981, 2013 and for our 2017 Christmas stamps.

‘We are so excited to launch this competition and give eight UK schoolchildren the opportunity to use their own creative flair to celebrate the heroes who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic,’ said CEO Simon Thompson.

‘Over the past year there have been so many wonderful examples of people who, despite much uncertainty and fear, have continued about their work with such admirable determination and pride.

‘They have helped us cope during what has been an extremely testing time. I look forward to seeing the winning stamp designs.’

The Prime Minister added: ‘The last year has been one of the most difficult any of us can remember, but throughout it all our Covid heroes have been there for us, inspired us and done so much for others.

‘From our family members, teachers, doctors and nurses to our vaccine scientists and fundraisers, we want to recognise and remember them.

‘That’s why we’re launching a special competition with Royal Mail for children across the country to design a new stamp collection featuring their Covid heroes – so we can honour their tremendous work.’

Schools, and parents/guardians of home-schooled children, can sign-up to the competition online or by returning the application form in a pack sent to them by iChild, the online educational resource centre, in association with Royal Mail. 

Applications for the 6,000 available resource packs will be sent out on a first-come, first served basis.

[End]

Well there's something to look forward to for all the collectors who have formed Covid-related thematic collections.  I don't suppose it will be the last stamp issue on the subject but it will come two years after the first, which was issued by Iran in March 2020.  

Iran Coronavirus Stamp March 2020

 

"And don't forget to include a postman in your heroes, children", seems to be the line one message.  Nobody can deny that postal workers have been at the forefront, whether delivering our messages or our online shopping parcels, or handling all the NHS test kits and appointment letters, but ..... was this just in case anybody forgot?  If the same suggestion is included in the resource pack then there are bound to be a lot of designs depicting the postie - I wonder how many will have the current uniform and how many will look like Postman Pat?

No indication as to whether this will be a set of 2nd class, 1st class, or mixed - surely they will all be the same value?

Wouldn't this have been a good project to have during home-/remote-learning last year?  

Update: I checked with a collector in the North Toronto SC, who I know has made a detailed thematic collection, and she replied as follows:

By my count, there have been 67 "official" Covid-19 issues up to the Zimbabwe and Jordan issues, meaning the postal agencies intended it to be a Covid-19 issue (through messaging, donation, etc). I have counted each set as a single issue.

There have also been about a dozen more "tangential" issues where the issue is commemorating another occasion but has pandemic-related imaging, e.g. the Philippines Christmas and Valentines Day stamps, Saudi Hajj and World Post Day issues, etc.

So, there are plenty to choose from if you do want to make a collection, but some of the earlier issues might be difficult to find. 


Thursday, 1 April 2021

New definitive stamps reported.

Thank you to the readers who have mentioned the existence on a well-known auction site of the 1st class book of 12 (MTIL) with year code M21L.  This is in the same format as usual: no barcodes on this one.  

M21L stamps issued so far:

Business Sheet
2nd class with datamatrix code
1st class without DMX code (MBIL - I thought I had seen this online but couldn't see any when I checked).

Booklets
1st class from mixed booklet (MCIL)
1st class from book of 12 (MTIL)

Counter sheets
£1.70 (23 December 2020)
£3.25
£4.20

1st class book of 12 M21L MTIL with red cylinder W7 (above)
Single from booklet (below)




Our checklist will be updated in due course.  But we are waiting on clarification from Royal Mail on a souvenir cover they advertised on their website today, yes 1 April.  But this looks realistsic, and would they make up a Royal spoof when they know they will get pre-orders for it?

Launched 1 April and to be issued on 21 April, the 95th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen, this cover has a pane of stamps bearing all the hallmarks of a prestige stamp book pane.  (We've only had one so far this year.)

A limited edition Coin Cover featuring the new £5 coin released by The Royal Mint, plus a unique pane of eight Definitive and Country Definitive stamps.


Pane of 4 x 1st class Machin definitive and 1st class country definitives from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all with revised font.

If this is genuine and a new pane, then it could well have a year code of M21L. So how do we get it in mint condition?

If, on the other hand, this is an April Fool's joke (a) it isn't very practical as jokes go, and (b) it is still available to order well into the night, and such japes normally end at noon.  Oh, and it costs £20.

Thanks to DH for reminding me of something which I have previously mentioned.  The earliest draft programme sent to dealers included a TBA in June.  The Queen's official birthday is in June, Prince Philips 100th birthday is two days earlier on 10th.

UPDATE 7 April.  Royal Mail have confirmed that this is a cover produced in collaboration with The Royal Mint.  As there are (for Royal Mail) no new stamps, and to keep the cost of new mint stamps to collectors down, this will not made available to collectors, although it may be made available to any other cover producers who wish to mark the occasion with this pane of stamps.

There is the possibility that the Machin definitive has a year code of M21L, so that would make it new for collectors.  However, I understand that there will be another PSB later in the year which may contain a 1st class Machin so that will be the opportunity for a M21L code printing.

UPDATE 8 April.  GONJ (see comments) has provided these pictures which show that these gummed stamps are coded M21L and MAIL.  


More from Royal Mail next week.  I can see them being available on eBay mint, although they shouldn't be as they will be 'only for covers'.  They could be available used, either as a pane or as singles, but the cost would have to cover the country definitives, and getting them cancelled.  If at an SHC that would mean sending them away. 

How much interest would there be in having a pane or single on that basis instead of with a £5 coin for £20?



Was the Ever Given Suez blockage the reason for shortage of ink at many Mail Centres?

According to reports, quite a number of  collectors tried to obtain clearly cancelled examples of the new second class bar coded stamp on its day of issue.  It seems that many people were disappointed with the results.   

If these two examples are anything to go by, it appears that the Royal Mail has run out of ink – the jet-ink cancellations are totally illegible, to such an extent that not even the slogans can be read never mind the date of the cancellation.


Speculation is rife as to why the Royal Mail seems not to have any ink.  The most plausible one appears to be that during the pandemic Royal Mail has been sending the mail to China for cancellation after which it is returned to the UK - thus resulting in the long delivery delays.  Anyway, the blockage of the Suez Canal by the tanker, “Ever Given”, meant that post could not be sent to China for cancellation, and so local machines had to be brought back into use at short notice, and there was insufficient time to replenish ink supplies from central stores.

Here are some more examples of postmarks applied to recently received letters:






A spokesman for the Post Office denied that there was any shortage but did acknowledge that ink had been 'watered down' as an economy measure.

My thanks to Andrew H for this guest contribution.


Postmark Bulletin Delayed by Stamp Embargo?

To forestall people asking me about the Royal Mail Postmark Bulletin covering April, which would  normally be with you by now, or at least very soon, I will share the latest news from Edinburgh, passed on to me by a customer, who asked Tallents House when he would get his copy.

Apparently instructions have been issued that the Bulletin is not to be sent to subscribers before April 9th.  This is under a week before the Classic Science Fiction stamp issue and is suprising, given that there are several related postmarks already on shown on Royal Mail's website.  These for instance:


We can only surmise that there are more special handstamps as yet unpublished which name some of the authors or titles of some of the books/films that are featured on the stamps, and that Royal Mail don't want you to know what they are until that date.  

As the period for sending covers/cards for handstamping is extended at present, there is no real problem for collectors, however.  

But I suspect that the people at Doxford will be handling more than the usual number of calls unless a message is added into the opening phone menu.

On the other hand, the Bulletin is online here, so I really don't know what the fuss is about!


London SHC -> Edinburgh

No, the whole shebang isn't moving to Tallents House but I am reminded by an Anonymous comment that because of staff shortages in the SHC unit at Mount Pleasant, brought about by Covid-19 much of their work is being sent to Northern SHC in Tallents House.  This accounts for material being sent to London but being returned from Edinburgh.

There may be something about this in the next Bulletin but I don't know.  Collectors will appreciate that you can't just draft anybody into the SHC to handle philatelic material, it has to be done by experienced and knowledgeable people.  

ALL the postmarking for the 2nd class Datamatrix stamp was done in Edinburgh - after all, they had the set-up for the standing order handstamps so it made sense to do everything else there.  That's why the sponsored handstamp (designated for Swindon) was to be sent to Northern rather than London.

I was told by OS&HS Liaison (who anybody can phone - the number is in the Bulletin) that when the Swindon handstamp was unexpectedly announced many people phoned to ask if they could switch covers already sent, to the new handstamp, from one of the FDoIs.  Every effort was made to achieve this.

As for this comment "They treat us woefully quick to take high face then deliver poor service that is totally inappropriate for £5 Billion company set to return to footsie"  do you really think that philatelic trade and collectors should take priority over ordinary mail?  Ireland and Spain halted their programme of new issues last year for a while.  Some small countries have not had any mail for months.  Nepal can't fly anything out because the have a contract with just one airline (Thai) so can't send anything on (for example) China.  In Bermuda the entire foreign mail exchange office has just been put on isolation and so no mail - commercial or social - is leaving the country or arriving.

Remember, there's a war on; we must all be patient.  I sent some cards in January for an experiment, but Northern are too busy to assist in this trial, so I must wait until things are easier. 


Wednesday, 31 March 2021

What do Books, Science, Young Carers, Rugby, Autism, and Easter have in common?

... they - and other events - have all been the subject of a slogan postmark in use during March.

As we near the end of the month I have been updating (again) the month's first blog-post.  There may have not been many different stamps to write about, but there have been TEN slogan postmarks so far.  If you don;t get many stamped letters this is what you may have missed:

World Book Day

International Women's Day

British Science Week

Young Carers Action Day

Census 2021

Clocks go Forward

First International Rugby Match

Opening of the Royal Albert Hall

World Autism Awareness Week

Happy Easter.

And it's possible that there may have been time for the default 'Action for Children' slogan running over from February.


Remember, there is only one post per month showing slogan and other interesting postmarks.  The first April post will probably follow in a couple of days.


Monday, 29 March 2021

Classic Science Fiction - 15 April 2021

As usual I can't show you the pictures or tell you anything about these until Royal Mail permit it, but they can't seem to control their retail partner, Post Office Ltd.  And when you have stamps distributed to at least 7,500 retail outlets who have been encouraged to use social media, it is not surprising if pictures are taken as soon as they open their supplies, and their social media accounts are used to advertise them, thus putting them in the public domain.

1995 Science Fiction Set

So it comes to pass that the stamps can currently be seen on the website as my fellow blogger who writes on Commonwealth stamp matters - you can see a link in the blogs list on the lower right of this page.


Thursday, 18 March 2021

Barcode added to 2nd class business sheet stamps: improved facilities for customers, and possible anti-fraud device.

Royal Mail is adding barcodes to a limited number of 2nd Class stamps from March 23rd, as part of the company's extensive modernisation drive. The unique barcodes are poised to pave the way for innovative customer services and benefits in future.

New 2nd class business sheet Machin definitive with datamatrix code.
Click on all images to see enlarged versions
🔎

The initial pilot will see the new-look barcodes appear on around 20 million 2nd Class stamps supplied to UK businesses through the retailer Viking Direct and through Royal Mail online channels.

These first trial stamps will not be available from Post Offices but are being distributed by Royal Mail philatelic.  However as these are a different product not normally supplied, a new arrangement has been made.  All normal category preferences (strip, pair, 2/3, cylinder, gutter) have been combined into a single offer.  Royal Mail recognise that 

customers getting the most simple and basic item will of course say 'I normally get xyz'...but they need to bear in mind this xyz comes from a completely different type of sheet.

Indeed even we dealers are only being supplied with 5 singles or complete business sheets at this stage. 

No coil printing

Both the singles and stamps on first day covers have been cut/peeled from the business sheets.  There has not been a special printing for application to first day covers as there is, for example, with tariff change stamps.

The barcodes, which will match the stamp colour, will sit alongside the main body of the stamp, separated by a simulated perforation line.

According to Royal Mail the move forms part of its ongoing modernisation drive aimed at bringing even greater convenience to its customers. 

But we would be surprised if they missed the opportunity to do more to combat the widespread use of forged stamps with each stamp incorporating a different datamatrix code.

Nick Landon, Chief Commercial Officer at Royal Mail, said: 'This initiative will see Royal Mail become one of the first postal authorities in the world to add unique barcodes to stamps. By doing this, we are looking to transform the humble stamp so that we can offer our customers even more convenient, new services in the future.

Datamatrix codes

The stamps use datamatrix technology which means that every stamp will be different.  The so-called 2D-barcode at the right of the new stamp will be scanned on use, and any reuse could show that the stamp has already been used.  Of course if these stamps too are forged but all have the same code pattern, every one of them should be rejected.  There are no die-cuts where the blue printed 'perforations' appear.

Anybody with a smartphone can use a QR-reader app to decode the information in the datamatrix (DM) code on this stamp. For those who don't, the code reads 

JGB S11231017031159975990006623112001   0CC21532C9BBE27301

Some of this data is the same on every stamp, but some strings of characters vary.  

 

UPDATE 23 March (yes, I know it's apparently random, but this is illustrated above!)   Eagle-eyed readers have spotted that the 211120 is probably the printing date of 21 November 2020, and at least the 66 is the current price.  I don't think that is coincidence, but it does make you wonder whether we will find a new price before the new price is announced! 

 

UPDATE 22 March: my thanks to an eBay seller who was 'identifying' the stamps that you would receive, individually.  The datastring includes a sheet number, and a stamp number within the sheet.  The bigger surprise was that these are numbered 1-100, sort of. 

These are the first two stamps on a sheet, on the header.


These are the last two stamps on the next sheet, on pane 5.  On this you can also see the iridescent printing showing the M21L MBIL coding.

Royal Mail 2021 2nd class Datamatrix coded stamps with iridescent codes M21L MBIL

 

These are the datamatrix codes from the first two followed by the last two




Two sets of Royal Mail datamatrix codes showing stamp numbers 01 - 100

Now this may mean that first sheet number 41338 has 01-50 and the second has 51-00, but the last digit of the sheet number increments as well, so maybe there is no sheet number as such and the stamp numbers simply increment from a starting point through to the end.  Obviously whatever the lead characters on the datastring the first will end 01, and the last will therefore be 50, followed by 51-x00.

It will be interesting to see just where the numbers are contstant, and where they change in the strong before the highlighted characters.

Does it matter?  I think the answer must be, "we don't know yet", but assuming this continues into next year, at some point the year code will change to M22L.  I'm guessing that those who study these things intensely will want to find the lowest number stamp for the new year, just as they presently log the lowest and highest sheet number on the back of headers for each printing date.

Similarly if the practice continues to booklets then which other characters will change?  IS there in fact a part of the code we see here that indicates that it is from a business sheet rather than counter sheet or booklet?  

Time will tell.

These stamps are produced in sheets of only 50, rather than 100, so the bar-code for point of sale use is new.  The top panel has two stamps, and is followed by four panes of 12 stamps, in three rows of 4. The whole is narrower than the existing sheets, each panel being 170 x 100 mm.

 

A further surprise is that not only is the stamp wider due to the addition of the DM code, it is taller, as this comparison with a 2017 counter sheet stamp shows.  The dimensions of the design are 34 x 27 mm, the stamp being 38 x 30 mm.

The normal security features remain, with the U-shaped cuts at the foot, and the iridescent printing, although the text and U-cuts are scaled up in line with the size of the stamp and the letters are more or less in the same place as on the smaller stamp.  As expected the source code is MBIL and the year code is M21L.  There is no date or sheet number on the reverse of these first supplies.

As this is likely to be the first of a completely new range of stamps I have decided to start a new range of Norvic numbers.  These have '50' as the first two digits, then follow the same pattern as the stamps they replace. Finally the year code reverts to a single digit. Replacing 2911B.20, the small 2nd class business sheet stamp with year code M20L, this one is 5011B.1.

First Day Covers

We are servicing a few first day covers for this stamp.  If the trial is successful and other values are produced we will add the others so as to produce double-dates covers for as many as we can.

In addition to Royal Mail's usual Windsor and Tallents House First Day of Issue postmarks there is now one for Swindon which is where Royal Mail's engineering and technology development unit is based.  (Thanks to Stuart 'Post & Go' Leigh for noticing this.)

Sponsored handstamp for date of issue of these datamatrix stamps.


Printer etc.

The stamps are printed by ISP/Walsall in gravure, perf 15 x 14½ with backing paper SBP2 with small upright text above Large inverted (suLisiLu).  We don't know what type of machine is used; it might have been sheet-fed for this trial run, or it may be web.

Technical Details (not provided by Royal Mail).

The datamatrix code is printed by a digital ink-jet printer with what seems to be a glossy UV coating (more specifically using a Digital Inkjet Spot UV Coater).  These operate on sheets and at least one company printing in this way uses Artificial Intelligence alignment to make sure the 'varnish' is properly positioned even if the sheet it is being applied to is misaligned or the precise area slightly distorted.

The stamp itself is gravure printed in a single colour.  Below are some pictures of the datamatrix code area which show that it is printed in 4 colour process, topped with a layer of possibly waterproof varnish.

20x magnification under light, showing how light is reflected from UV varnish.

2400 dpi scan revealing magenta dots misaligned so that some are above the edge of the cyan.


400x magnification showing uneven 'splash' of magenta at random (which shows as darker blue), and more rounded and sharp black dots, possibly regularly spaced (further investigation needed on these).


Use of Datamatrix codes on other countries' stamps

Datamatrix codes in the post are not new despite Royal Mail's claims, although the way that they are going to be used probably is.  In the USA a similar code has been used on machine vended stamps as far back as at least 2001.  

Block of 4 Neopost Online 'stamps', USA, 2001.

La Poste in France introduced stamps with the code in 2015, but the code is the same on all the stamps, and continues on the following design, so possibly only indicates the service being performed - they are used on international mail rather than internal.  Both types of these have been forged (the forgeries are below the genuine.)


Most recently, Deutsche Post in Germany introduced DM codes with the first new stamp being issued in February 2021.  Unlike the French and British ones, the German codes are all to be printed in black.  Consequently German postmarks have been changed from black to blue (as with modern franking machines) to avoid 'interference' of the code reader.

February 2021 Germany stamp with datamatrix code 🔍.

This shows how the code will be incorporated into other sizes of stamps used in Germany.  The familiar flower definitives will be wider by almost 50%.  Note that in the first two examples one is taller after the addition of the code, while the other is shorter.

Click on image to see enlarged version. 🔍
 
New German blue postmark (stamp applied sideways)


One of the new stamps issued by Germany marks the 50th anniversary of a children's television cartoon mouse 'Die Maus'.  What separates this from the others is that the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) channel has produced a programme for children to show how the stamp was produced.


You can see the whole programme, in German, here, for the present.  Whilst the whole programme is interesting, and even more so if you can actually understand German, rather than just getting the gist of the commentary, the key parts for collectors are as follows (all times approximate)

6m 50 - web printing, laying down the colours  - pale orange, then the normal process colours cyan, yellow, magenta and black.  This is followed by 'Maus orange' as a specific colour, rather than being produced by a mix of CMYK.  

8m 30 highlights the Datamatrix code, or absence of it on the stamps so far, and the video then proceeds to show these being applied to the stamps, every one different as with Royal Mails.  The printing machine is, in fact, a web printer, so our research which suggested only sheet printing, missed something!  However, the coverage is very brief so we don't know whether these have the Spot UV Coating which may only be possible on sheets.  

9m 45 shows the die-cutter which enables the stamps to be removed from the backing paper, as the matrix is not removed as it is in the UK.   The roll is then cut into sheets, and stacks of sheets are guillotined into saleable size of 10 stamps (in booklet form).   A smartphone app shows how information about the stamps can be found by scanning the code.

11m 30 shows a sorting machine at the Briefzentrum (Mail Centre) though this is understandably short on footage aimed at a young audience.   That section is the last non-animation, apart from a music segment and a 'clunk-click' safety section near then end.

If anybody can provide a synopsis of the German commentary I would be pleased to include it here.

UPDATE 22 March

My thanks to Larry in the US for drawing my attention to the latest developments of La Poste in France. Known as 'Timbres Suivi' (should that be Suivis?) these stamps (in books of 9!) have unique datamatrix codes.  The important detail of the code is printed on the stamp, and on the booklet matrix, so when the stamp is used the sender retains the code.  As you will see from the left-hand page of the cover, the letter can be posted in a normal box. After which either through the website, or mobile app, or telephone, the sender can check whether the letter has been delivered.  



 

That certainly isn't possible with these Royal Mail stamps unless they get a receipt at the Post Office branch after the stamps are scanned - which means queueing for just that, or if they scan it and make a note of the code - but which part of the 50-odd character string is relevant?  Who knows until more information if made available on how these are to be used?