Friday, 23 April 2021

Postmasters' convictions to be overturned today by Court of Appeal

News as it happens, full report later on the Horizon Trial 'Post Office Scandal


- "biggest miscarriage of justice in history"


Live streaming on BBC News

And if you are permitted to watch live tv



Thursday, 22 April 2021

Post and Go error news

There really isn't much new to report, with even the news of removals and openings/insatllations slowing down probably as Post Office Ltd looks towards the next generation of SSKs and Horizon.

DP reminds me of the 'lurch to the left' that was reported by several people over two years ago and reported here.  It was reported as far back as 2015, from Bury St Edmunds, Saltash, Tunbridge Wells and Portsmouth.  It was said to "affect all values in the strip bit you only get one shift per strip of six. If you buy 36 stamps in one transaction, you will end up with a shift for each value" though the accuracy of this was disputed in another comment.

Anyway, DP has sent these examples from Hounslow on the Game of Thrones stamps:

Game of Thrones 1st class Post & Go stamps with different 'left-shift' errors on two strips 19/4/21.

Additionally in the left-hand strip the Euro 100g/World 20g designation has a further error - "World 20g omitted"


Now that Museums are re-opening it might be opportune to check out their machines for software updates or lack of them.  Mike C sent this example from Swindon's SteamGWR showing the previous service indicators issued on 12/04/2021 - and charged at £10.11.  Current worth is actually £10.64 I believe!

Post & Go set sold 12/4/21 using late 2020 service indicators (and value) sold at SteamGWR, Swindon.

Latest Direct Mailing PPI examples

We have some more examples of digital stamp postage paid impressions to report, including the rarely seen 1st class Large.

Not all of these are for fund-raising purposes: the 2nd class Machin one from VisionExpress was and individual one reminding me that I should have my eyes tested - probably one of thousands sent to their customers who have kept away during various lockdowns.  (Licence C9 10020)

The other one in the first image is 2020's 2nd class Christmas issue from medicine supplier Healthspan (licence HQ23777).

The other image, supplied by DL, shows a flyer from the Wood Green Animals Charity, and uses the 1st class Large letter stamp, using licence HQ11348.  These are reported very occasionally and if you are adding them to your Machin collection they may be difficult to find.   

1st class Large digital stamp on charity mailing, 2021.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Royal Mail London Special Handstamp Centre 2021

I have mentioned previously the present situation at the London Philatelic Handstamp Centre caused by absences partly due to Covid-19.  

Much of their work is being handled by the Northern SHC at Tallents House Edinburgh, and currently even some of the operational handstamps have been transferred to Edinburgh while London is short-staffed.

Hopefully this situation will improve before too long, but in the meantime we must all be patient while our covers and cards are processed.

Personnel: Many regular users of the Mount Pleasant SHC and visitors to Stampex and Europhilex who have had their items handstamped there, will have met the SHC manager, Mr Pritpal Mann.  

I'm sure many people will be sorry to hear that Mr Mann has joined this year's tranche of managers who have left Royal Mail employment.

As far as I can recall Pritpal was at the SHC from at least 2000 (though I may be wrong) and so has served collectors and dealers alike for around 20 years.  From my point of view, he was invariably courteous and conscientious in all our dealings, whether by telephone or email, and always strove to achieve what the customer wanted.  

When mistakes were made with postcards he tried to source cards locally if they were London (especially Museum) related and was always able to replace covers and stamps. If customer instructions were unclear he would phone rather than guess.  It had to be right.

I'm sure everybody will join me in wishing him well in what I assume is his retirement.  I understand that he will return to the office when conditions allow him to say a proper farewell to his colleagues, so if you wish to send a personal message you can address it to him c/o the London Handstamp Centre usual address.

Revenue Protection & other Royal Mail processes: some you win....

I think most people agree that it is important for Royal Mail to protect its revenue, even if they don't always manage to cancel mail that is machineable and seem to make little effort on parcels which are collected from firms by mail centres.

Sometimes Revenue Protection get it right, sometimes they don't as recently received scans demonstrate.

Here's one where they got it right, although it's difficult to read the cachet from Newcastle Upon Tyne. The boxed rectangular mark reads something like:


17 APR 2021

FULLY PAID..........

I suspect the missing part is something like 'First Class', although at 94p it's well overpaid for 1st class and underpaid for 2nd class Large (it isn't a large letter).

Next two examples where two different Mail Centres got it wrong.

The first example has four of the horizontal self-adhesive 1st class stamps (SG 1789) issued on a trial basis in the Newcastle upon Tyne area in 1993.  But despite these being accepted at a Post Office (no real guarantee, we know), South Midlands Mail Centre decided they were counterfeit.  Now, I ask you, why would the current crop of forgers produce a stamp in this format when they are so good at doing them properly?

4 x 1st class 1933 stamps held to be counterfeit by South Midlands Mail Centre, 2021.

The second example sent to a dealer has a block of 9 of the same - still on the backing paper as they are now almost impossible to remove with the gum intact - again, accepted (but not cancelled) for special delivery.  This could have been at a post office or a company collection - 9 x 1st class exactly matches is another rate, in this case the 500g Special Delivery rate. This time tracking shows that it was processed at Home Counties North Mail Centre.

9 x 1st class 1933 stamps held to be counterfeit by Home Counties North Mail Centre, 2021.

I used Royal Mail's Twitter channel to show them these covers and the original booklet and they said the addressees should claim for a refund via their website.

20 x 1st class self-adhesive booklet 19 October 1993, SG MG1.


UPDATE 22 April:  DP has sent this even more bizarre example of an incorrect assessment of 'Invalid Stamps' (you can just see that endorsement on the yellow label).  A 2nd class from a booklet with imperforate lower edge, and two pairs of 8½p and 6½p stamps from a booklet, all perfectly valid.  I think I might need to make up a reference page for Revenue Protection to print off!

Incorrectly surcharged packet with valid but old stamps assessed as Invalid by Royal Mail Revenue Protection.


Lastly this time, an example of misdirection, which somebody has described as a sad indictment on the state of geographical knowledge in the 21st century, and not only in the UK.  

What's the address, and where did it go? (Click on image to see it larger before scrolling down.)

Misdirected cover.

Whether or not you look at the larger image, you can probably see that this is addressed to Tristan da Cunha, South Atlantic.  The postage, one £1.60 Ashes Victory stamp and a 10p makes the £1.70 rate which was correct when this was sent in the latter part of 2020 (and is so now).

You may need to check the enlargement to see what has been scrubbed out at the foot (it took me some effort even after I had looked at the pink label).  The pink label is inscribed in FOUR languages, and there is a big clue.  There's English (Return) and French (Retour), plus RETURNERAS (which is Swedish) - and the other country which uses Swedish apart from Sweden is Finland - PALAUTETAAN.

And indeed at the foot of the envelope, the word FINLAND has been added in a different hand and later scrubbed out.  So it seems that somebody in Swindon Mail Centre (where it was postmarked) or the Heathrow International Mail Centre did not know where Tristan da Cunha (nor apparently the South Atlantic) are.  What could they have interpreted as suggesting Finland?  

And then in Helsinki, where there is a good command of the English spoken language, they seem to have been unable to interpret the original address and send it on it's way to that volcanic island in the south, marking it both Unknown and Insufficient address.

Edit: I forgot to say that I count this as a WIN.  True the person who sent the letter to the Tristan Postmaster didn't get his reply, but this is an excellent piece of modern Postal History!

And a member on Stampboards has suggested that what I thought was '6B' is actually 'GB' indicating a return to the UK.  Yes, much easier to see from the Machin than the cricket stamp!

I don't think they get any odder than that - but if you have an odd modern example, I'll be pleased to record it here.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Royal Mail marks the 534th - 566th Anniversary of the Wars of the Roses - 4 May 2021

The latest stamp issue coincides with the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Tewksbury, said to be one of the defining battles of the Wars of the Roses.

Choosing how to mark a significant series of events in a country's history is difficult.  Different historians will have their own thoughts on which was the most significant battle - if the Lord Protector of Henry VI, Richard Duke of York, hadn't led an attack on London which resulted in the Battle of St Albans in 1455 then things might have turned out differently, but once that started it was downhill all the way.

History Hit records Five Key Battles, with the second one being the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 where Richard was killed, but what happened between the two?  And Tudor Times records 17 in total!

As Commonwealth Stamps Opinion summarised it when the issue was announced:

Wars of the Roses, 550th anniversary of the Battles of Barnet (14 April 1471) at which Warwick The Kingmaker was killed, and Tewkesbury (4 May 1471) at which Edward IV crushed the Lancastrians and killed Edward Prince of Wales and other important Lancastrians, hence securing his rule until his death in 1483.

Following the various accounts is sometimes confusing.  The name 'Edward' for instance occurs on both sides as you will see in the preceding paragraph, so by reading on isolated battles it is not always easy to know who is fighting whom and for what.

Rather than issue 17 or more stamps Royal Mail has selected 8 battles and portrays them in this set in reverse chronological order, thus ensuring that the Battle of Tewkesbury gets maximum exposure as it is on a 2nd class stamp.  

Additional details about the depictions from the artist's Facebook page below the images.

Wars of the Roses stamps. 2nd class: Bosworth and Tewkesbury.
Wars of the Roses stamps. 1st class: Barnet and Edgecote Moor.

Wars of the Roses stamps. £1.70: Towton and Wakefield.

Wars of the Roses stamps. £2.55: Northampton and St Albans 1.

Artist's notes:

2nd class - Battle of Bosworth. King Richard is shown dressed in gilded armour, befitting a monarch demonstrating his right to wear the crown of England as God's anointed ruler, his surcoat and horse caparison bearing the Royal Arms and his Standard fluttering above him. His trusted companion, Sir Robert Percy, points out Henry Tudor amongst the enemy host, prompting the King to make the decision to lead his household knights and retainers in their thundering charge towards the challenger to his throne.

2nd class - Battle of Tewkesbury.   Having reclaimed the throne of England and defeated the Earl of Warwick at the battle of Barnet, the Yorkist King, Edward IV, marched his forces from London to intercept those of Margaret of Anjou (wife of the Lancastrian Henry VI) and her son, Prince Edward, who had landed at Weymouth and were heading for Wales where supporters awaited them.

Denied entry to Gloucester and it's bridge over the River Severn, Margaret was forced to march her exhausted army to the next crossing point - at Tewkesbury. Here, with the Royal army hard on their heels and insufficient time to cross the river, they turned to confront their pursuers, the two armies meeting on the 4th May 1471.  Following a heavy bombardment from the King's artillery, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, led the Lancastrian right wing through the deep ditches and hedges that intersected the battlefield and attacked the Yorkist left, under the command of Edward's younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. However, the other Lancastrian divisions failed to support the attack and Somerset's men were soon outflanked and routed, the rest of Margaret's army disintegrating in defeat.

1st class -  Battle of Barnet, fought on Easter Sunday, 14th April 1471.  Edward IV leads his army through the fog that enveloped the battlefield and into the thick of the action, his banners flying above him and Knights of the Body beside him. Opposing the King are soldiers wearing the red livery of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, Edward’s one-time great ally, and in the background can be made out the ‘Kingmaker’ himself, along with his brother, John Neville, Marquess of Montagu.
1st class - Battle of Edgecote.  As Sir Richard Herbert cuts his way through the rebel army, his brother, the Earl of Pembroke, nearby, banners bearing the Earl of Warwick’s badges are spotted advancing on the flank. Warwick, often referred to as the ‘Kingmaker’ and once one of the Yorkists’ principal supporters, had now revealed himself as the force behind the rebellion against his one-time great ally, King Edward IV. The battle weary Yorkists assumed these approaching banners to herald the arrival of the vanguard of Warwick’s army (it was not, but rather some local ‘rascals’ rounded up by one of Warwick’s retainers, John Clapham Esquire, as a ruse to give that impression), prompting their collapse and rout, and the two Herbert brothers, Sir William and Sir Richard, were captured and taken to Northampton, where they were summarily beheaded the following day on Warwick’s orders.

£1.70 - Battle of Towton, fought on a bitterly cold 29th March 1461. The Yorkist archers, with the wind and driving snow at their backs, shoot their deadly volleys of arrows into the advancing Lancastrian army, while Edward IV and his knights and men-at-arms move through the ranks to meet their oncoming foe.

£1.70 - Battle of Wakefield.  On December 30th, 1460, the heirs of the Lancastrian Nobles killed at St. Albans found themselves able to avenge their fathers' deaths when their army trapped the Duke of York and Earl of Salisbury in Sandal Castle, near Wakefield. Lured out from the safety of the castle walls and into open battle, York's heavily outnumbered force found themselves surrounded and in the fierce melee that followed, York and many of his followers lost their lives, his son, Edmund, among them. The Earl of Salisbury was captured and taken to Pontefract by the Duke of Somerset where he was summarily executed, his head joining those of the other Yorkist leaders over the gates of York.

£2.55 - Battle of Northampton.  Edward, Earl of March, kneels before Henry VI and proclaims his loyalty, having defeated the Royal army at Northampton on 10th July 1460. The Earl of Warwick and Yorkist troops look on, while one of the guns that failed to fire in the rain stands impotently in the foreground.

£2.55 - Battle of St. Albans, the first battle of the Wars of the Roses, the market place still retains the medieval layout and buildings such as the Abbey and clock tower provide fixed points to help locate the events of 1455.  The painting shows the Earl of Warwick (centre) raising his visor to greet the Duke of York, who is indicating towards the Castle Inn where the Duke of Somerset made his last stand.


Technical details

The 50 x 30 mm gummed stamps are in horizontal pairs in sheets of 30/60 and are printed in Litho by ISP (Cartor). The battles have been "re-imagined by Graham Turner, a leading historical artist specialisting in medieval, military and motorsport subjects".  Copyright Royal Mail.

Other products are a First Day Cover, stamp cards, and a presentation pack.

The presentation pack contains a useful explanation and timeline of the battles and key protaganists.

A framed set of stamps is available from Royal Mail for £29.99.

The stamps are available from the Royal Mail website shop from 20th April.

Monday, 19 April 2021

Queen's 95th birthday pane 21 April 2021 - re-written and updated.

Royal Mail have produced, in conjunction with the Royal Mint, a commemorative £5 coin cover marking the 95th Birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  The cover was launched on 1 April, and is dated 21 April 2021.  The cover costs £19.99.

The cover has a pane of stamps which, based on previous form, appears to be from a prestige stamp book pane but it is not.  There is no prestige book.

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.

For Royal Mail, there are no new stamps, so this is not being made available mint for distribution to collectors with any sort of standing order.  A spokesman for Royal Mail said that they were mindful of complaints by both collectors and cover producers that there were too many stamps to collect/produce FDCs for and this cover is aimed squarely at the 'Royal memorabilia' market rather than the philatelic market.

As usual, dealers were able to buy these ahead of the 21 April issue date and GONJ provided these pictures which show that these gummed stamps are coded M21L and MAIL.  

At this stage no detailed information had been provided to registered dealers through normal philatelic channels.  When details were published, it became clear that although they would not be sold to collectors, nor to dealers for mint resale, they would be made available for dealers to put on covers and have cancelled.

Royal Mail also announced in their publicity, on the filler card, and in information sent to dealers, that the pane would be printed in two processes, with the Machin definitives printed in gravure and the country definitives [and the label, we believe] printed in litho.  This is odd, because the last certain information we have on printing by International Security Printers is that the Cartor factory in France only has the capability of printing in litho, while the British factory near Wolverhampton can only print in gravure.

We don't know the printing process for the phosphor bands, but all copies seen so far have the phosphor shifted upwards as noted in the pictures above, and seen even more clearly in this pictures provided by CH (to whom many thanks):

Photograph of Queen 95 pane under ultra-violet light, showing upward shift of phopshor (the lighter areas) producing short bands at the foot on the England and Northern Ireland and 2 x Machin definitives at the foot, and partly inset bands at the foot of the Scotland and Wales stamps and partly wide bands on the other 2 x Machin definitives (at the top). 
(The horizontal line across the label is from the plastic on the carrier.)


This stamp is not on sale through normal channels so it is unlikely to have a full listing in any Gibbons catalogue, but it should be worth a footnote.  We will list it in the Norvic Checklist (number 3702.21) as available used only, as we did for the Sunday Times MA10 2nd class coil.

As this is a unique stamp which some collectors will want despite unavailability of mint copies, we shall provide it used either as a pane or a single stamp.

Please email for details and to reserve yours - limited supplies only, please check back here before sending your email.

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.



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.


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)

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)

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

UPDATED REPORT - we have published a re-written report on this product so no further comments will be posted on this product here.

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

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

UPDATE 20 April.  Following the death of HRH Prince Philip no new slogans were introduced last week.  A new one is reported used on at Cornwall and Greenford/Windsor Mail Centres on 19/04/2021 promoting the Captain Tom Foundation's 100 Challenge.

Everyone is invited to take on a challenge around the number 100 anytime and anywhere over Captain Tom's birthday weekend. It's so simple.

Slogan postmark: Captain Tom 100 30th April - 3rd May, Greenford/Windsor Mail Centre.


UPDATE:  Here's the other layout from Peterborough Mail Centre 20-04-2021.  We also had Bristol in the above format but it's unclear.

Slogan postmark: Captain Tom 100 30th April - 3rd May, Peterborough Mail Centre.

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.


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).

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

Counter sheets
£1.70 (23 December 2020)

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?

UPDATED REPORT - we have published a re-written report on this product so no further comments will be posted on this product here.

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.