Wednesday 21 April 2021

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 1993 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 1993 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.


  1. A couple of years ago, whilst attempting to post a Christmas present to a friend in the Isle of Wight from a large South London PO. The package was refused because, to quote. ' It hasn't got a customs declaration attached'.

    1. Dave, I've assigned your comment on TEwkesbury to the WofR post.

  2. Royal Mail should be fully in control of there business . There inability to recognise counterfeit stamps whilst deliberately delaying by returning or otherwise disposing of through Belfast, our mail with fully valid postage needs to investigated. Wilful delay is a criminal offence and incompetence is not an excuse . Royal Mail needs to be made corporately responsible .A suitably punitive fine should be levied against this once great institution whose years of philatelic greed should not be a rewarded.

  3. Totally agree with anonymous if Tesco can be fined 7.5M for some out of date food in Birmingham . 50M+ for not recognising your own product for which you have taken money for to provide a service . As for fake stamps, Royal Mail are complicit in organised crime in partnership with eBay and Amazon etc and the directors of these companies should be personally held to account .
    Anyone thought of a class action for mis-selling of collectables - 'Beautiful Gifts you'll want to keep'!

  4. If the stamps being used are very unusual for instance the shape, then one option is to write the stamp issue date/details in pencil by the stamps so it can be easily checked.

  5. I am wondering how many the SHCs have received recently labelled as under paid. I have been using the horizontal 1st class to send covers recently! Made up to 2nd large with current self adhesive but glued on including backing paper, as you say, impossible to peel off. Everything has come back except for one King Arthur cover which I sent late anyhow.

  6. I have a friend who lives in Redcar, Cleveland and occasionally they have received redirected mail that has firstly been sent to Cleveland, Ohio before being returned to the UK

  7. The horizontal 1st Class stamps from the 1993 book of 20 easily soak of in water.
    Once dried I use a Pritt stick to stick them to envelopes for mailing.

  8. Why would the fee be £2 on a large envelope with counterfeit stamps? Also in the description it should be 1993 and not 1933.

    1. "From today (5 October 2015), Royal Mail will introduce a flat fee only of £1.50 for a letter or large letter where insufficient postage has been paid. Where no postage has been paid, the fee will be £2. A flat fee of £3 will apply to a Small Parcel where insufficient or no postage has been paid."

    2. Thank you.

    3. Thank you - nobody else spotted that caption error

  9. The caption below it also needs changing to 1993.

    1. One was: the fact that I copied and pasted first time is why the other remains. Thank you.


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