Saturday 31 July 2021

Industrial Revolutions, set, MS, and PSB - 12 August 2021.

Royal Mail's eleventh stamp issue of the year (twelfth if you count the Queen retail booklet as a separate issue) brings a well designed set for all it's muted colours.  A set of 6 stamps, a miniature sheet and another weird prestige stamp book are based around the Industrial Revolution, and the Electric Revolution.

Background (provided by Royal Mail)

The first Industrial Revolution, as it is often called, was based around the harnessing of water and steam power, the use of new materials, the expansion of textile manufacturing and the development of canals and railways, among other things. The Electric Revolution built on these advances but focused on the harnessing of electricity, which would bring sweeping changes in communications and daily life. This stamp issue celebrates the ingenuity and pioneering spirit behind some of the most notable inventions and scientific and engineering advances that enabled these ‘Industrial Revolutions’ to take place.  (A remarkable amount of detail has been provided compared with some other issues.)

The stamp set features a selection of 6 striking depictions of some of the ground-breaking inventions that defined the ‘Industrial Revolution'.

Set of six stamps issued 12 August 2021 marking the Industrial Revolution of the 18th/early 19th centuries. (Click on this for an enlargment).

Designs and background

2nd Class: Bessemer Process.  In the mid-19th century, wrought iron, produced by the hand-operated puddling process, was widely used for tools, nails and locks. ‘Steel’ meant carbon steel, made in small quantities and used in weapons and edge tools. Sir Henry Bessemer (1813– 98) discovered that blowing air through molten iron produced a violent exothermic reaction, and that the resultant metal, subsequently called mild steel, had most of the properties of wrought iron and could be produced on a large scale. In 1856, he patented the process in which iron was melted in a pearshaped ‘Bessemer converter’. 

Initially, Bessemer’s process could not be used with iron made from phosphoric ores, and an alternative means of making mild steel, the open-hearth process, developed by Sir William Siemens (1823–83) and Pierre Émile Martin (1824–1915), was patented in 1867. In 1879, Sidney Gilchrist Thomas (1850–85) patented the basic Bessemer process in which steel was made in a converter with basic (usually dolomite) linings. The Bessemer and open-hearth processes were widely used until the 1980s.

2nd Class: Watt’s rotative steam engine.  James Watt (1736–1819) was a Scots polymath best known for his role in the development of the steam engine. He was also a mathematician, a skilled surveyor and the inventor of an effective copying machine. His first contribution to the steam engine was the separate condenser, patented in 1769. John Roebuck (1718–94) of the Carron Ironworks invested in the patent and provided Watt with facilities to pursue his work. In 1774, when Roebuck encountered financial difficulties, Matthew Boulton (1728–1809) of the Soho Manufactory, Birmingham, bought his share of the patent and persuaded Watt to move to the English Midlands.
The partnership between Boulton and Watt to design and commission steam engines was formalised,
and the first engines were completed in 1776. Early engines were used for draining mines, blowing blast furnaces and recycling water to drive waterwheels to power machinery. In 1781, Watt developed an engine that could drive machinery directly using sun-and-planet gearing on the flywheel (later engines had cranks). Steam propelled the piston in both directions in his double-acting engine of 1782, and his parallel motion system of connecting rods between piston and beam was perfected in 1784. The ‘Lap’ engine, which dates from 1788 and is currently in the Science Museum in London, was employed for 70 years at the Soho Manufactory to drive 43 metal polishing (or lapping) machines, and it was the first to be fitted with a centrifugal governor.

1st Class: Penydarren locomotive.   Richard Trevithick (1771–1833) developed the use of high-pressure steam, in addition to being a pioneer in the application of steam power to road vehicles, railway locomotives and boats and designing the Cornish engine that was widely used to pump water for drinking and in mines. The son of a Cornish mine ‘captain’, he worked in Cornish mines from his teenage years and by 1796 was experimenting with high-pressure steam. He demonstrated a steam carriage at Camborne in 1801 and subsequently designed a railway locomotive at Coalbrookdale, which
was certainly constructed but may not have worked.
Trevithick was invited to build another locomotive by Samuel Homfray (1762–1882) of the Penydarren Ironworks near Merthyr. In February 1804, it pulled a load of 10 tons of iron and about 70 men a distance of nine miles (14.5km). While the locomotive was soon adapted as a stationary engine, which was scrapped in the mid-19th century, this was the first documented demonstration that a steam engine could travel on iron rails and pull a load.

If you think this is familiar, it featured on a special postmark for the 2004 Classic Locomotives stamp issue (although there are differences in the illustrations!).

Penydarren locomotive on 2004 special postmark.

1st Class: Spinning jenny.   James Hargreaves (c.1720–78), a native of Oswaldstwistle, in Lancashire, settled in the village of Stanhill near Accrington. He was a handloom weaver by trade but had carpentry skills. In the mid-1760s, he devised a spinning machine with a carriage that was moved outwards by the spinner, drawing and twisting the roving before moving back to wind the spun yarn on to rotating spindles. The machine came to be known as a spinning ‘jenny’, probably derived from a dialect pronunciation of the word ‘engine’, a term that commonly meant machine. Hargreaves built a jenny for his own use and subsequently sold several to his neighbours before gaining a patent in 1770.
There were 8 spindles on the first model, 16 on the version that he patented, and machines with up to
120 were built subsequently. Spinning jennies could be worked by hand or by horsepower. In the late 18th century, the textile industry developed by evolutionary as well as by revolutionary means. In Lancashire in particular, large numbers of ‘jenny shops’ were added to farmhouses at the same time that multi-storey, water-powered (and later steam-powered) spinning mills were being constructed. In the development of spinning technology, the jenny was highly significant as the first practical multi-spindle spinning machine, although it was gradually superseded for many purposes by the 1769 water frame of Richard Arkwright (1732–92) and the Samuel Crompton (1753–1827) spinning mule of 1779.
The spinning jenny produced only coarse yarns used as wefts, but it did enable increases in productivity. After encountering opposition to new machinery in Lancashire, Hargreaves settled in Nottingham, where he prospered modestly at a small mill in Hockley until his death but gained no reward for his innovation. In the East Midlands, the jenny was important for producing yarn for hosiery, and it remained significant in some sectors of the textile industry for a century afterwards.

£1.70: Lombe’s silk mill.  Silk manufacturing was the first sector of the textile industry in the United Kingdom to concentrate production in factories. In the early 18th century, the principal centre of silk manufacture was Spitalfields in London, but it was in Derby that Thomas Cotchett (1677–1713), a lawyer, built a three-storey mill housing silk-throwing machines. This 1702 venture proved unsuccessful, but one of his former employees, John Lombe (1693–1722), went to northern Italy around 1716 and after his return in 1718 registered a patent, jointly with his half-brother Sir Thomas Lombe (1685–1739), for a silk-throwing process similar to that he had observed on his travels.
The brothers subsequently built a five-storey mill, 110ft (33.5m) long and 39ft (12m) wide, in which throwing took place on large machines that extended through the lower two floors, while smaller doubling machines worked on the three storeys above. Power was provided by waterwheels driven by the River Derwent. It is often thought that the Derby Mill began work in 1721. It was the first successful water-powered, multi-storey textile factory in the United Kingdom, although there may have been Italian precedents for the building as well as the processes. The Lombes’ patent expired in 1732, and at least seven mills that functioned on the same principles were built in northwest England before 1765, including the enormous five-storey Old Mill at Congleton, which was 240ft (73.1m) long and 24ft (7.3m) wide.
The Derby Mill was celebrated in the 18th century and is described in detail in the journals of travellers who passed through the town on their way to enjoy the scenery of the Peak District. It must certainly have influenced the thinking of Sir Richard Arkwright (1732–92) and the Strutt family, who from the 1770s built pioneering water-powered, multi-storey cotton mills further upstream on the River Derwent at Cromford, Belper and Milford. The Derby Mill was destroyed by fire in 1910. It was rebuilt on the original foundation arches but with three storeys instead of five and now accommodates a museum.

£1.70: Portland Cement.   During the 19th century, builders used lime in their mortar, but by the 1890s they were more likely to employ a new material, invented in 1824 by Joseph Aspdin (1778–1855) and named Portland cement because of its resemblance to Portland stone. Portland cement is made from clay and some form of calcium carbonate, normally limestone or chalk; materials are mixed and ground, then fired up to 1,450 C in a kiln, where the lime, alumina and silica combine to form a clinker, which is cooled, mixed with gypsum to stabilise the cementitious compounds and pulverised in ball mills.
Rotary kilns, patented in the 1880s, increased the size of cement works. The development of the cement industry owed much to William Aspdin (1815–64), Joseph’s son, who in the mid-1840s established a works at Northfleet, Kent. The nearby Medway Valley became a major centre of cement manufacture. Portland cement was used by Marc (1769–1849) and Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806–59) in the Thames Tunnel, completed in 1843, and by Sir Joseph Bazalgette (1819–91), the builder of London’s network of sewers, who was convinced that it was essential if the sewers were to work efficiently and be long-lasting. Concrete made with Portland cement became one of the characteristic building materials of the 20th century.

The Miniature Sheet
Electric Revolution miniature sheet issued by Royal Mail 12/8/21.

2nd Class: Faraday generates electricity.   The British experimenter who contributed most to our understanding of electricity was Michael Faraday (1791–1867). In August 1831, Faraday demonstrated electromagnetic induction using lengths of copper wire insulated in cotton wrapped around an iron ring.

1st Class: Transatlantic cable.  An early use of electricity was in telegraphs, routed along railway lines from the 1830s. William Fothergill Cooke (1806–79) and Charles Wheatstone (1802–75) devised the system. Wheatstone designed instruments for land telegraphy and later for undersea use, but deep-water cables did not work successfully in the 1850s. The first transatlantic cable, laid in 1858, soon failed. The committee established to investigate the failure found that the cable used was of poor and variable quality.   With new procedures in place, the first successful transatlantic cable was laid in 1866. The original failure also prompted two of the Atlantic Telegraph Company’s electrical engineers, Latimer Clark (1822–98) and Charles Bright (1832–88), to call for the establishment of common electrical units of measurement, starting with a common unit of electrical resistance, which was eventually established in 1881

£1.70: Deptford Power Station.  Britain’s first alternating current, ‘central’ power station – that is, one supplying customers at a distance –was built at Deptford in London in 1888–89 by Sebastian de Ferranti (1864–1930). Its two generators and two 1,500-horsepower steam engines were subsequently replaced by turbines of the kind developed by Sir Charles Algernon Parsons (1854–1931).

£2.55: Light Bulb.  Arc lights provided spectacular demonstrations on such occasions as Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, when a 16,000-candlepower electric beacon illuminated Titterstone Clee Hill in Shropshire. The incandescent light bulb was developed in Britain by Joseph Wilson Swan (1828–1914), who was granted a patent in 1880 and opened a factory in Newcastle-upon- Tyne to make
bulbs that soon afterwards lit up the Savoy Theatre in London. Electric lighting systems were installed at stately homes, and from the 1880s electricity was used for street lighting and tramways.

Technical details

The 60 x 30 mm stamps are printed in se-tenant pairs in sheets of 30/60 by ISP in lithography with PVA gum.  1 phosphor bar on the 2nd class, two on the others.   Design is by Common Curiosity.  Acknowledgements and picture credits to follow.

The 115 x 89 mm miniature sheet contains stamps 41 x 30mm, with phosphor bands as above, printed in litho with PVA gum by ISP.  Also designed by Common Curiosity.  Picture credits as follows:

Faraday generates electricity – drawing of Michael Faraday’s demonstration © Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images;
transatlantic cable - woodcut symbolising the first transatlantic telegraphic message between the United States and Great Britain © Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo;
incandescent light bulb – drawing of Joseph Swan’s first commercial bulb © Science History Images/Alamy Stock Photo;
Ferranti’s AC dynamo – drawing of the alternating current dynamo by Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti © Granger Historical Picture Archive/Alamy Stock Photo.

Prestige Stamp Book

The PSB is another 'front and back' book continuing the theme of two revolutions, the industrial and the electrical.   The front cover shows the smokestacks of the Black Country, which is followed by three pages of text, separated by two panes of sheet stamps.  The other front cover (with the barcode) shows Joseph Swann's electrical workshop in Newcastle, followed by three pages of text, separated by a stamp pane which replicates the miniature sheet block, and a pane of Machin definitives.  Sadly to avoid increasing the price even more while providing a variety of stamps there is only one set, with four spare, but these are low value.  The Machins are 5p x2, 10px3, 20px2 and £1.70.  The 10p has already appeared in the Music Giants V PSB, and the 5p is a quite different shade to any previous 5p stamps, most closely resembling the one with inverted perforations included in the Merchant Navy PSB printed by Enschedé in 2013.

Industrial Revolutions PSB front cover.
Industrial Revolutions PSB back cover.

Industrial Revolutions PSB pane 1, 2 each 1st class & £1.70.
Industrial Revolutions PSB pane 2, 2 each 1st class & 2nd class.

Industrial Revolutions PSB 'miniaure sheet' pane.
Industrial Revolutions PSB definitive pane.

UPDATE 9 August: From Holland (thank you HR), reports of yet another PSB error, this time omitting the definitive pane entirely.  This was in a single book in a pack of 20, but others ought to exist.

Normal PSB (below), and one with a missing definitive pane.

All the products

Set of 6, miniature sheet, first day covers (2), presentation pack, stamp cards (11), prestige stamp book.

Because of the way the sheet stamps are printed, Tallents House will take orders for each individual stamp in multiples of 5.   Product codes should be:

2nd Bessemer AS7500D
2nd Watt AS7500E
1st Penydarren AS7500F
1st Spinning Jenny AS7500G
Silk Mill AS7500H
Cement AS7500J

Friday 23 July 2021

News in brief - updates to earlier blog posts.

When updates are made to earlier blog posts a link will be provided here.  Once more blog posts have been made when there is more news to report, this post will be deleted.  

No comments are allowed here; comments (if any) on the original posts, please.


23 July:  Royal Mail Signed For and Special Delivery stamps to be withdrawn.

26 July: 2p counter sheet picture added here

27 July: An article about the printing presses etc for the printing by ISP Walsall of datamatrix stamps is linked to the original blog post here

               Wild Coasts - update to supply and availability arrangements locally.

31 July:  Industrial Revolutions stamps and MS are now being shown on some cover producers' websites and are also on Royal Mail's 'Latest Selections' page, which links to this rather ridiculous one.  Why let the page go live?

Industrial Revolutions on RM website.

Monday 19 July 2021

Post and Go: Recent oddity from the home of P&G (with more examples); news from the Navy.

We don't have much Post and Go news because, frankly, there is little to report.  With the lack of use in Museums which were closed and with branch SSKs limited by social distancing there seems little probability of M21L printings being needed any time soon.  But what do I know!

My thanks to JF, therefore, for sending in this picture of a real oddity from Bristol, where it all started.

"it would appear that, for some reason, the first label was guillotined about half way down and the first service impression started correctly positioned relative to the top of the half label.  

Then it detected an inappropriate start for the second impression and had a hiccup to the third complete label to finish its requested job.  

How and why the first label was incorrectly guillotined I do not know.  Another question is what did the previous user obtain if there was one?  It is interesting to note that the ink of the top part of the first 'up to 100g'  has not printed!  The labels are 'CL17S2nd'.

Mis-cut 2nd class Post and Go strip from The Galleries, Bristol 13 July 2021

UPDATE 20 JULY:  my thanks to DP for providing some more examples of this, along with an explanation.

When the roll reaches its end, it loses tension and the printer feed had problems in judging the pre-set distance between labels. It can also occur of a part roll which has been left for a while as he correct wound tension is lost.


It occurs on all three labels, 1st 2nd, Large Labels.


I attach scams from Richmond (the receipts are the wrong way round), Emsworth and Windsor, with the correct FAD and the Dummy Office Fad


At a guess the previous customer would have been presented with a label like the one under the Mail by Rail from Richmond or the second one from Emsworth.


News from the Navy.

My thanks to CN for pointing out some news from the IAR website.  There was a time when Royal Mail warned us off posting any news from here, until it had been offically announced on their Post and Go webpage.  As they have stopped maintaining that, we're back to IAR.


On 31 July 1970, sailors in the Royal Navy were issued with their final daily ration of rum (the daily tot), ending a tradition of more than 300 years. This day became known as ‘Black Tot Day.’

Some sailors wore black armbands, tots were ‘buried at sea’ and in one naval training base, there was a mock funeral procession complete with black coffin and accompanying drummers and piper.

The National Museums of the Royal Navy Royal Mail kiosks, A002, A003, A004, A006 and A007 will celebrate this event with an overprint. ‘Black Tot Day 31st July 1970’ on both Union and Machin stamps.

The overprint will rum from Saturday 31st July 2021 to Saturday? 31st August 2021.*

(*MC has pointed out that 31 August is a Tuesday, which I should have checked, so I don't know when this ends.  It may well include the Monday 30th bank holiday.)

A002 has been captured by Pirates!

The A002 kiosk at the NMRN in Portsmouth has moved from the Visitor Centre to the Pirates Exhibition. This is due to the Visitor Centre currently undergoing a refit.

Collectors are still welcome to visit the Pirate Shop without a museum ticket. The Pirates Exhibition is just opposite of the Visitor Centre, the first building on your right as you enter the site.


UPDATE 9 August 2021: Thanks to CN for images of the Black Tot Day strips. The Machins are to be MA13 (Royal Navy), MA15 (RN Submarine) and the flags are undated.  

Post and Go strips from Royal Navy Museum and Royal Navy Submarine Museums with Black Tot Day 31 July 1970 inscription.

UPDATE 11 August:  Thanks to JG for further images.  They are the Machin MA13 strip from the Fleet Air Arm Museum and a Machin MA15 strip from the Explosion! Museum. The latter strip has the Royal Navy inscription but is on a different Machin stock to that from the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

It's a pity that on the Fleet Air Arm and Submarine stamps the logos were not reduced as they were on the others; it would be better than overlapping the date.

Friday 16 July 2021

Two more Machin definitive reprints

News reached us last week of another two new printings for 2021, the £1.70 printed on 22/03/21 and the £4.20 printed on 23/03/21.  The £3.25 was also reprinted on 23/03/21.


I did not immediately remember that these are not additions to our reference collection or checklist because the original stamps printed in October last year had M21L coding.  And the backing paper has the same orientation as the originals, so nothing new for those who collect both types, unlike 2018 when almost every printing was different to the one before.

I have a sheet of each of the two shown, which I shall return to Tallents House unless anybody contacts me quickly for a date block, for example. 

UPDATE 19 July.  Thanks to MD for providing these pictures of the 1st class from books of 6, MSIL which has the small text above the large both upright.  Some people call this the inverted setting for some reason.

1st class MSIL with year code M21L

UPDATE 23 August.  John F reports that when he visited a local Post Office requesting the £2·55 value with the "21" date he was told that they had recently had a new supply of the value but that it was dated 2017.  Sure enough it was a De La Rue printing!

Wednesday 14 July 2021

More phosphor variations found on Queen's 95th birthday pane

When we first had sight of the non-standard pane produced by Royal Mail for its joint-venture with the Royal Mint every mint pane and all covers has the phosphor bands shifted upwards, as shown here.

Pane produced to mark the 95h Birthday of Queen Elizabeth II with upward shift of phosphor.

This produced two 1st class Machins with short bands at the foot, the England and Northern Ireland country definitives likewise, and the Scotland and Wales stamps with a shoulder at the foot where the wide band on the country stamps has narrow bands at the foot.  Similarly two more 1st class Machins have a shoulder at the foot where the phosphor is wider than it ought to be.

Now evidence has emerged that a far smaller number of the phosphor just about as it should be in register with the colours, and a similar number have the phosphor shifted downwards producing the reverse effect to that described above.  The images show two panes, one at each extreme.

Above: phosphor shifted upwards clear of the perforations;
Below: phosphor shifted downwards, not even reaching the edge of the stamp printing.

Panes Reversed:
Above: phosphor shifted downwards;
Below: phosphor shifted upwards, both showing the phosphor extending onto the selvedge.


We would be interested in any reports of the new variants appearing on the official covers.

Tuesday 13 July 2021

Most expensive Machin definitives being phased out?

I have been informed that all four* of the special purpose non-value indicator stamps are being phased out.


According to a reliable source, 

Post Office branches are no longer able to order using stock code, the Special Delivery100 gram has been out of stock for four weeks.  There will be no more printed according to the PO horizon system and both the Special Delivery and Royal Mail Signed For stamps; they will be withdrawn from general sale in POs from 31st October 2021.

* Two are illustrated because I find that pictures help to catch the readers' eyes, better than plain text.


Royal Mail have been approached for comment. 

UPDATE 23 July

No comment has been received but according to the Telegraph (in a paywalled story repeated in The Sun)

Simon Thompson, a former executive at Ocado and Apple, has launched a review of Royal Mail’s "whole product suite and offering", The Telegraph reports. 

The six-month review aimed at cost-cutting will examine if customers want expensive tracked, signed-for and special deliveries.

It comes after customers appear to be increasingly happy for parcels to be left in a safe place or with a neighbour.

Royal Mail chairman Keith Williams has already suggested Saturday deliveries could be axed amid a decline in letters.

A final decision is set to be made next year. 

These potential major reductions in services would require the Government to change the law requiring Royal Mail to provide a universal service.


As readers will recall there is already (Since 2016) a 'delivery scanned' facility in Horizon and SSK parcel labels which led to Royal Mail removing the need to have such items carry the orange Signed For label

Update 27 July: The story has appeared in several other news outlets, but twisting the story to lead with:

"Royal Mail is planning to scrap Saturday letter deliveries and signed-for parcels under a major shake-up of services.

Any decision to scrap Saturday letter deliveries and signed-for parcels would need changes to the law.

With letter volumes in decline, bosses argue this requirement is outdated and leaves Royal Mail at a disadvantage versus rivals such as DHL and Amazon.

Despite this, Royal Mail bosses are said to want to scrap signed-for parcels because they are expensive to deliver, with many customers happy for packages to be left in a safe place if they are not home, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Ofcom, the communications regulator, has already backed the proposal to scrap Saturday letter deliveries in principle."


UPDATE 7 October.  I have asked my Royal Mail contacts several times about the truth behind this, most recently when I was told by the Post Office Ltd social media team that the reason they intended to stop selling them was because Royal Mail were going to stop printing them!  I have approached the Royal Mail media centre (aka Press Office) over a week ago and have not had any reply.

Thursday 8 July 2021

A new detailed catalogue and a forgery checklist.

Whilst at Midpex I picked up a copy of the new 'Complete Machin Stamp Catalogue - A specialised Guide to the Machin Definitive Series 1967-2021 by G J Burgess.

What, another new catalogue, you say?  Yes, in addition to the very specialised Deegam, the reasonably specialised Gibbons Concise, the freely-downloadable Stoneham, the out-of-date Connoisseur, the Machin Collectors Club catalogue, and our own detailed Checklist of the security stamps, is there a need for another?

The Complete Machin Stamp Catalogue - Burgess.


Well each of these catalogues has its own features, little extras, and omissions.  Whilst many will rely on the Gibbons product because that is what very many dealers use for their price lists, as a reference book it can be quite difficult to use, with no illustrations of booklet panes, and constant references back and forth to establish (often by type number rather than catalogue number) the actual contents of a booklet. (Try booklets QA1-4, for starters!)

The well illustrated Stoneham GB Catalogue, which usefully shows every PSB pane, has an arrangement for the Machins which assumes you know where you are starting from, with the first decimal Machins arranged according to paper/gum type, in over 20 different lists in 17 pages, and that's just the pre-elliptical stamps.  The pattern is repeated for the elliptical.  And as if an afterthought, all the self-adhesive stamps are in a separate section after the Booklets listing, over 110 pages after the gummed NVIs.


The new book

The first and most obvious thing about the Burgess catalogue is that it is A4 not A5.  It's on better quality paper than the Concise with its 250+ pages coming in at two-thirds of the thickness of the Concise's 566. 

It's also clear - all pages are in a single column, compared with the 2-column style of many of the others.  This aids clarity, with a sans-serif typeface. While some prefer Times New Roman, the serifs make it harder, not to read, but to study.   And the tabular system, with lines separating the rows means that even with the wider page, it is easy to use:

Burgess Machin catalogue 'value' stamps with elliptical perforations, page 61

The observant will notice that the Courvoisier trial stamps and the 2002 official 'RNIB' trial booklet stamps are also listed, the latter priced considerably higher than the much-publicised recent discoveries.

When it comes to the 2009> security stamps the detail is staggering.  The listing of each of the stamps with it's year code and source code (counting absence of a year code as 2009 in the same table as all the stamps with actual year codes), means 10 pages for the NVIs, and more for the special purpose stamps, the Diamond Jubilee and Long to Reign, with booklet contents being shown, rather than just the cover as Gibbons does.

NVI Security stamps listing in Burgess Machin catalogue.

Other pages show all the colour tabs for each of the stamps for each year, making it easy - if you have your collection arranged by year - to identify anything missing.  Equally it's easy to see which stamps don't exist in a particular year - no 1p, 2p or 5p counter sheet stamps in 2013 and no 1p stamp in 2014, for example.  Always useful if you have convinced yourself that a gap means that you are missing a stamp - you're not, Royal Mail did!

The section on gummed security stamps clearly shows which prestige book each appeared in.  No issue dates, they really aren't relevant expect for first day covers, and the first of any year always use the previous year's year code.

If you hark back to the Wildings, for which the (Gibbons) catalogues often showed all the printing dates and cylinders, well this book shows all the printing dates for the counter sheets, from 1p to 500g Special Delivery.

Counter sheet printing dates - Burgess Machin catalogue.

Regional/Country definitives are also covered of course, but only the Machins.  A detailed study of the pictorial country definitives would show many differences over the years that they have replaced the old 'emblem' stamps.

After the expected stamps come Machin stamps for Gibraltar, independent Guernsey, and a two-page listing for Hong Kong.  This is important and useful; I know of at least one collector who has an impressive collection of Hong Kong Machins used on cover (yes, I'm back to postal history again).

Modern non-Machin stamps are included for completeness, such as the decimal Wildings & Castles, and the 1d black (etc) definitive-sized stamps.  Booklets are shown in detail, although the (non-Machin) greetings stamps only have one illustration for the three different combinations of stamps, so here only marginally better than the Concise.  

There is also a two-page un-illustrated listing of forgeries of the security stamps.

Prestige Stamp Book definitive panes are well illustrated in the Burgess Machin Catalogue. 

With excellent colour matching and quality printing this is an excellent book for the Machin collector even if you have others, which it will supplement.  It is priced at £29.99 and can be obtained from some stamp dealers or direct from the publisher through his eBay listing.   A pdf version is also available, supplied on a USB-stick for £16.99.  

UPDATE 15 July: If you are ordering stamps etc from Arun Stamps, Tony now has stocks of this catalogue which can be included. 


Just before I went off to Midpex, a collector and regular contributor here sent me a digital copy of a listing of Machin and other modern Forgeries he has compiled.  Fully illustrated with not just individual stamps, but complete booklets, 'sheets of 99', business sheets etc, this runs to 140 pages and includes Christmas stamps and country definitives.  

This is another tour de force, and I hope he makes it available to others interested in modern forgeries.

Midpex 2021

Having missed the Stafford Stamp Fair last month, I was pleased to be able to go to the Warwickshire Event Centre, Leamington Spa on Saturday 3 July for Midpex 2021.  For many of us it was the first event apart from a few club events in early 2020 that we had attended since 2019.

The Warwickshire Event Centre has ample free parking, and a shuttle-bus runs from Leamington Spa Railway Station.

Taken in isolation it was business as usual because Midpex only happens in alternate years so meeting up with members of specialist societies was simply a case of meeting two years on, as normal.  Except, of course, that nothing is normal.  

Arriving 15 minutes after opening, I was greeted by a longer queue than is usual because contact details were being taken and checked.  Fortunately those who have the NHS Covid app on their phones were able to bypass this and scan the QR code to record arrival.  There was no temperature scanning.

As is often the case the first table had the programme and floor plan, alongside fair flyers and dealer brochures.  Unfortunately nobody was making sure that the programme was given to everybody, and - partly I suspect because of its Cavendish sponsorship message - it wasn't immediately visible among the already scattered piles of material left by dealers and other fair organisers.

There were slightly fewer dealers and fewer specialist society tables, which meant that there was more space for wandering, and it was easier to see who was where.  It's a pity the floor plan shown on the website isn't the same as on the programme, where it is divided into three images with no indication as to where they adjoin.   

Dealers I spoke to later in the day were pleased with how things were going; as one said at lunchtime, "the place is buzzing!".   Depending on their speciality, some were doing an exceptional of business for most of the day, some seemed quieter but that is often the case.

It was very good to be able to meet up with dealers and collector friends who we hadn't met for some time, and in some cases not before.  It's always nice when contributors to this blog make themselves known: sometimes they are lucky enough to get a cup of coffee!  

All in all, the Midland Philatelic Federation and the location organisers are to be congratulated on another excellent event.


A major acquisition was a newly published 'Complete Machin Catalogue' - A Specialised Guide.   Read more about this in a separate post.

If you're only interested in mint stamps, there is no need to read any further, although I hope you do because I think postal history can be interesting even to those who don't collect it.

I browsed some GB postal history boxes, and found a few pieces including a run of correspondence from London to Czechoslovakia from just after the war through to the 1980s!  

Getting a single high value stamp properly used is always good, even if the registered label has dropped off.  This King George VI 10d issued in 1939 was still in use in December 1953 (the QE2 stamp wasn't issued until February 1954).  It pays the 4d letter rate plus the 6d registration fee.

Solo use of 1939 King George VI definitive to pay 4d letter + 6d registration fee to Czechoslovakia in December 1953.


The 4½d Wilding definitive was issued on 9 February 1959 to pay the 2 ounce (second step) inland letter rate effective from 1957.  But that still wasn't enough for this March 1965 letter which is marked 

More to Pay/Over 2 oz

and has a 3d postage due stamp to cover twice the deficiency. 

Underpaid 1965 inland letter, over two ounces with 3d to pay.

When registration fees change at different times to letter rates, some interesting and short-term combinations can arise.  This 2/3d registered letter includes the 1/6d and 1d definitives and the 1964 8d Geographical Congress stamp.  There were probably a lot more ways to make up 2/3d (1/6d + 9d being the most obvious in the absence of a 2 shilling stamp).  

The 2 ounce letter rate was 6d from 17/5/65 to 16/9/68 and the registration fee was 1/9d from 29/4/63 to 2/10/66.  The date on this is unclear but it is in 1965 and is endorsed 3/7/65.

2/3d rate 2 ounce registered letter July 1965, with postage including the 8d Geographical Congress commemorative.


The 8d was an odd stamp because when it was issued in 1964 it could be used alone to pay (1) the foreign postcard group B airmail rate, (2) the foreign newspaper up to 1 ounce group B airmail rate. By the time this was used it would also pay (3) the 4-6 ounce inland letter rate, and (4) the foreign surface printed paper reduced rate for 8 to 10 ounces.

Collecting stamps is great, as a starter - the interesting task of working out why they were issued and how they were used can be very rewarding as well.

Wednesday 7 July 2021

Wild Coasts - 22 July 2021

WILD COASTS - what does it mean?  What came to mind when you saw this in the programme back in January, when I illustrated it with this stamp from 2002 showing the wild coast of Portrush in County Antrim?  Well, it isn't more of the same, at least not for that issue.

And the subject is not one of these either:


As readers of the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog will know, the subject is closer to these - all coastal wildlife, above and under the surface.

And the stamps - which I am not yet able to show - are already available on eBay, for pre-order.  I suspect this is somebody who works in or owns a franchised sub-post office.  And Royal Mail Stamps & Collectables have no control over them.  (Let's face it RM can't prevent post offices from selling stamps ahead of the issue date as we have seen.)

More details of this set of 10 x 1st class and miniature sheet, issued on 22 July, next week!


UPDATE 13 July

Why are these stamps being issued?  According to Royal Mail:

Nowhere in the UK is more than 70 miles from the coast, and our waters team with incredible marine life. This stamp issue celebrates the beautiful and surprising animals of our coastal seas and shores, with the UK waters and British Isles providing unique habitats for a multitude of species.   The 10 stamps celebrating the UK coastline, including wildlife from all over the UK are accompanied by a 4 stamp miniature sheet focussing on the UK’s marine food web.

I've never before heard of the food chains being described as a web, so we all learn.

The set of 10 x 1st class.

Set of 10 'Wild Coasts' stamps issued 22 July 2021 by Royal Mail (click to enlarge)

The set showcases wildlife across the UK’s coastlines; from mammals (Grey Seal, Bottlenose
Dolphin, Orca), to fish (Long-snouted Seahorse, Cuckoo Wrasse), anemones (Fried-egg Anemone), crustaceans (Spiny Spider Crab), birds (Northern Gannet), molluscs (Common Cuttlefish) and Cold-water Coral Reef.

The 35 mm square stamps are printed by ISP in litho, in two sheets of 50, perf 14.5.  

Design and acknowledgements:  Designed by Steers McGillan Eves. 
Northern Gannet © Tim Slater/Alamy Stock Photo; Common Cuttlefish © Alex Mustard/2020VISION/; Grey Seal © Robin Chittenden/; Bottlenose Dolphin © Graham Eaton/; Spiny Spider Crab © Sue Daly/; Long-snouted Seahorse © Alex Mustard/; Orca © Hugh Harrop; Fried-egg Anemone © Sue Daly/; Cuckoo Wrasse © Scotland: The Big Picture/; Cold-water Coral Reef © Prof J Murray Roberts, University of Edinburgh

The miniature sheet

Marine Food Chain miniature sheet issued by Royal Mail 22 July 2021

In the MS, the two 1st class stamp show Phytoplankton and Zooplankton; the two £1.70 stamps show Atlantic Herring and Harbour Porpoise.

Design and acknowledgements:  Designed by Maïté Franchi, © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2021.  The 192 x 74 mm sheet contains stamps 41 x 30 mm, printed by ISP in litho, on gummed paper.  Perforation is 14.5 x 14.

Retail booklet

Wild Coasts retail booklet including Orca and Grey Seal stamps. Machin definitives will be coded M21L MCIL not as shown in this publiclity image.

As usual the self-adhesive retail booklet is printed by ISP Walsall in gravure which makes this two more new stamps, prey and predator, although apart from the gannet and the dolphin these will be most popular with the stamp-using public.

Collectors sheet  The self-adhesive collectors sheet includes the 10 x 1st class stamps from the main set. Each stamp is presented alongside stickers featuring further photographs of the coastal wildlife in their habitats.

Set of 10 'Wild Coasts' stamps with labels attached, issued 22 July 2021 by Royal Mail (click to enlarge)

Other products:  first day covers (2), presentation pack, stamp cards, framed set, framed collectors sheet.

UPDATE  27 July:   I have often said that special stamps are available at the majority of post offices in the UK (supposedly approximately 7,500 of 11,500).  I found some postcards that would make good maximum cards, but when I visited Dereham's Crown PO to buy some gannets I was told that this 4-counter position office was only supplied with 100 stamps - not 100 sets, 10 sets!  So I ventured to the village I usually use for posting.  

There the stamps (issued Thursday last) had not arrived (although I would have expected them to be delivered 3-4 weeks earlier, and the sub-postmaster told me that as nobody ever asked for special/philatelic stamps and other products he would return them when they did arrive and had asked not to be supplied with any more.


There are some attractive designs, but Royal Mail have steered clear of highlighting the problem of foreign matter such as fishing tackle and microplastics in the food chain.  I suppose they wouldn't make attractive stamps but they would certainly be applauded by Greenpeace in their campaign against plastics.  Here's a different gannet from their website.

It wouldn't make an attractive stamp but it would make people notice, especially in the booklet!

Bits and Pieces - various news snippets.

This will be a short summary of early July news items which don't necessarily warrant a full-blown blog post in their own right.


Special Postmarks and First Day Covers

Royal Mail's on-off relaxation of normal rules for obtaining special postmarks on first day covers and other items, previously mentioned in July and November last year, will come to an end on 31 July 2021.  This means that the 22 July Wild Coasts stamps (about which more later) can be sent until the end of the month, but the 12 August Industrial Revolutions issue will be subject to regular rules as detailed in the Postmark Bulletin.    The usual concessions will apply to those (especially overseas) who do not receive the stamps or blank covers by the date of issue, and for Bulletin late announcements.  Always include a note to the SHC manager if this applies.   

And now that we only have one handstamp centre covering the whole country bar London and the Wales and West area, it is even more important to ensure that the instructions in the Bulletin are followed especially regarding having an address on the item to be postmarked and providing a return envelope for covers for each handstamp requested.  (Multiple items can still be enclosed in one larger parcel or box, though.)  Guidance and clarfication from the very helpful people at Tallents House on 0345 071 2000 (os&

Doctor Blade is back!

Ok, it never really went away because it is an integral part of the printing process, but on the Dennis & Gnasher post we have a picture of a booklet with two distinct flaws. 

Major break in value on McCartney Machin.

Jim P has sent some pictures of a nice flaw, which I don't think is constant, on the 50p Machin in the McCartney PSB.  I've added it to the Music Giants V post.

Industrial Revolutions

According to the July Philatelic Bulletin this set consists of six stamps (2nd class, 1st class & £1.70 in se-tenant pairs), and a miniature sheet (2 x 1st class & one each £1.70 and £2.55 in a block of 4).  As well as the usual products there is a Prestige Stamp Book the definitive pane of which contains 3 x 10p, 2 x 5p, 2 x 20p and a single £1.70.  Now to make this useful to dealers as well as collectors, one of the 10p could have been another £1.70 so providing two sets.  But that would have been an expensive book which is £18.03 already.  Anyway, any collector buying for the new stamps alone (the 10p isn't new unless it's somehow different) will only have 55p-worth of postage - plus the special stamps, of course, which includes two pairs of the sheet-origin 1st class.

More details towards the end of this month.

Coin Covers

Two Royal Mail/Royal Mint products have been announced and doubtless they will be on the Royal Mail website ere long.

The Duke of Edinburgh in Memoriam cover will be issued on 19 August.  Bearing the miniature sheet with a special handstamp of the same date, the cheapest cover (in an edition of 10,000) will contain a £5 cupro-nickel coin, and is priced at £19.95.  The Silver Proof cover is £92.50 (750 produced) and the Gold £2,650 (50 produced)  

The second cover marks the 75th anniversary of the death of author H.G.Wells.  The Royal Mint bi-coloured £2 coin has already been criticised for inaccuracies (the tripod creatures have four legs) but it stands (pun itended!) there alongside three of the 1st class Time Machine stamps from Royal Mail's Classic Science Fiction set issued earlier his year.  

The stamps are cancelled with a 13 August Bromley handstamp showing Wells' signature.  There are three bi-coloured coins, cupro-nickel at £19.95, sterling silver part plated in gold (£92.50), and yellow gold + red gold (£1,095).  Quantities are the same as the other cover.

Queen's 95th Birthday cover - pane

Regular followers of Machin sales on that well-known auction site will have seen a single 1st class stamp from this pane realising £62 - because it was mint.  A reader commented on the original thread that the panes were on sale mint at the Stafford Stamp Show for £18 (two dealers were selling) and I saw them on sale at Midpex last Saturday for £25.  The ultimate folly today saw a German dealer sell a mint pane for £365.99 with the underbidder £10 less.   

Value Added Tax and the European Union

Collectors in the EU should by now be aware that rules on importation of small-value items changed from 1 July, in much the same way as they changed in the UK from 1 January.  In short this means that business to consumer sendings are now taxable no matter how low the value of the goods.  Royal Mail explain it on their shop website thus:

Any customer that resides within an EU member state and orders any product from the RM Web shop or any other channel that we offer, since 1st January 2021 may have had to pay additional VAT and handling charges to the local post or parcel delivery company before their orders got delivered to them.

Royal Mail is registered for the IOSS (Import One Stop Shop), so from 1st July 2021 whenever the order placed by our customers meets the conditions for using the scheme, Royal Mail pays the VAT due instead of the customer thus ensuring our customers do not have to pay customs charges (although a few of the national posts / parcel operators may charge a very low fee) and suffer potential delays when receiving their goods.

In effect this means that all goods bought from outside the EU are subject to local VAT.  In practice letters containing a few stamps are - as at present - less likely to be examined and charged by local customs authorities who are likely to be concentrating on bigger fry.

For Norvic Philatelics we continue unchanged.  Customs labels will be added to despatches where required (ie not normally for letters or large letters) and customers in the EU will be treated in the same way as those in any country outside the UK.  Local taxes are the responsibility of the customer.

Note that if you (in the EU) buy from UK sellers on eBay, eBay will automatically add your local VAT to the price you pay in most cases.  Collectors in the UK buying from outside the UK on eBay have the same problem.  The one ray of light is that you no longer have to pay the Royal Mail/Border Force £8 examination charge.