Saturday, 25 September 2021

Royal Mail at Autumn Stampex 2021

Stampex starts later this week and as far as I know the announcement below has only appeared in the Postmark Bulletin.  A reader has suggested that I should report it here for the benefit of those other readers who may be going and who don't get the Bulletin.

Return of Stampex
Stampex returns on 29th September 2021, for the first time since Autumn Stampex 2019, and we are looking forward to seeing as many of our regular Stampex customers as possible.

Whilst there are still some challenges caused by Covid, some aspects of our service will be a little bit different for this show:

• There will be Stampex Postmarks, one for each day of the show, and these are published on page 5 of this edition of the Postmark Bulletin. However, we are unable to provide handstamping on site. Instead all items posted at the show will be forwarded to the Special Handstamp Centre for processing and sent to the customers’ address after the show.

There will be no Trade area for this show, thereby providing a larger area for our team to work and socially distance.

• We are planning to bring as broad a range of products as possible, these will be focused predominantly on single products and individual sets i.e. Stamp Books, Prestige Stamp Books, Packs, Generic / Collector Sheets, Sets, Minisheets, Annual Products etc. 

This means we will not be able to offer the full range of bespoke tearing that customers may have been used to at Stampex. This is to reduce the handling, by many members of the team, and also to reduce queueing and serving time on the stand. 

We hope to be able to reintroduce the wide range of bespoke tearing and formats across the full range of Machin Definitve, Country Definitves and Special Stamp Sheets at future shows.

• To avoid excessive queuing around the stand we will provide an order form, available on the Royal Mail stand and at the Stampex Welcome Desk, for customers to order any items from the Royal Mail stand for collection later that day

Customers will also be able to pay for orders on the stand, with free delivery to their home address, for our most popular formats and for any items in our latest Royal Mail Stock List available at the show.

We look forward to seeing our regular customers at Stampex once again

[My emphasis in all cases.]

Given that - if Stampex went ahead at all - these plans were made some time ago, it seems a pity that the details had not been published in the Philatelic Bulletin and the philatelic press.

The absence of a trade stand means that there are less likely to be any announcements of new finds arising from stock at the event - dealers generally have longer to study stock than casual customers.  

As many collectors know, the trade is provided periodically with a list of new counter sheet printings.  At the time of writing the lists provided so far this year have not included any counter sheets for M21L NVIs although we know that they exist.  So if you do find any at Stampex please tell us as soon as possible so that we can make enquiries through our usual channels.

We know that there will be no Post and Go machines at Stampex; I'm told that Royal Mail Post & Go kiosks won’t be at the political party conferences this year either.


Friday, 24 September 2021

Horizon label surprise - FP used in 2021

The last time I showed a Horizon label with code FP was, I think, ten years ago here.  And in 2010 I explained that these should normally have been A but through selecting the wrong on-screen options the branch can produce an FP label, normally only used when an international item has been returned to sender for additional postage to be added.


This one appeared on the Stampboard forum. Posted on 1 September and arrived in Australia on 22nd.  So perhaps one of our Horizon experts can explain how this would be created in 2021?

GB to Australia 1.9.2021 to Australia with £1.70 postage paid by FP Horizon label.

 



Thursday, 16 September 2021

Break(ing) news, mid-September 2021

I apologise that I forgot to include here a message that we would be away from the office for a few days - which meant that an unusually large number of people wrote about the latest postmark slogan (see previous post).

I hope you all received the 'out of office' message from gmail.

Aside from the new slogan postmark not much news has broken in the few days for which we were away.


However I understand from an anonymous source that the Christmas stamps will be the first stamps with barcodes readily available to ordinary users.  If this applies to the stamps in booklets they will be much larger than usual; if it applies to the large letter stamps then the sheets will be much larger than usual!

This is what last years 2nd class might have looked like.

Whether this is just a rumour or a rumour based on fact, only time will tell.


Tuesday, 7 September 2021

September slogan postmarks

This is the place for all new slogans for September, and any other interesting postal markings that I find or which are reported.  August was a totally blank month as far as I am aware - does anybody remember having another such month in the recent past?

Already we have had two new slogans, and two of the illustrations have added twists!

Pride Month revisited. For some reason Preston's Lancashire and South Lakes Mail Centre started off the month going back in time to June when Pride Month 2021 was celebrated. This is one twist, and the example from DP showing its use on 02/09/2021 had the added twist of using a forged 1st class Large Signed For stamp. (Apparently this was not scanned at the PO - so probably dropped in a box - but scanned on delivery.)  Note this doesn't have the 'Delivered by Royal Mail' segment.

June 2021 Pride Month slogan reused 02/09/2021 at Preston Mail Centre (Lancashire and South Lakes).

I believe the last line of the postmark indicates machine 131, whereas this one, also from DP later the same day is from machine 151.  This is the correct 'supporting child mental health with Action for Children' default.  This Christmas stamp is a forgery.

Default 'Action for Children' slogan used 02/09/2021 at Preston Mail Centre (Lancashire and South Lakes).

Update 9 September:  My thanks to John Enfield for reminding me yet again about the numbering system on these machines, now corrected above.  "The first 3 digits of the bottom line of Integrated Mail Processor cancellations show the machine number. IMPs are numbered in a national series, and Preston has 131, 144 and 151. (The next 2 digits denote the half-hour period of the day in which the item was processed, and the last 5 are a unique item identifier). 

"Intelligent Letter Sorting Machines (iLSMs) are numbered locally, and thus the 'Dorset & S W Hants' slogan [below] came from Poole's iLSM 2.  (Again the next 2 digits denote the half-hour period, and the last 5 are a unique identifier)."


Another new slogan was announced by Royal Mail on social media (specifically Twitter) but they didn't indicate how long it would be in use for.  This one marks the success of TeamGB and Paralympics GB at the Tokyo 2020 event.  [They won't be painting any postboxes, just as they didn't for Rio 2016.]

This reads

Congratulations
to all our
Team GB and
ParalympicsGB
athletes
Tokyo 2020

From DP again at Preston's Lancashire and South Lakes Mail Centre and from MM who provides one from Southampton Portsmouth & IOW both 06/09/2021.  DP's Christmas stamp is also a forgery.

Congratulations Tokyo 2020 slogan used 06/09/2021 at Preston Mail Centre (Lancashire and South Lakes).

Congratulations Tokyo 2020 slogan used 06/09/2021 at Southampton Mail Centre.

[Update] Royal Mail's publicity for this showed the wrong format for the Southampton Mail Centre (and missing the time):


Update 8 September: Thanks to KD we now know that the slogan is in use for longer than just one day, as he has sent this other layout from Dorset & S.W. Hants mail centre on 07-09-2021.

Congratulations Tokyo 2020 slogan used 07/09/2021 at Dorset & S.W. Hants Mail Centre.

UPDATE 16 September - we now know that the Olympics slogan was in use until 10 September, when the system reverted to the default, as shown here from North West Midlands Mail Centre on 11 September.

'Action for Children' slogan used 1109/2021 at North West Midlands Mail Centre


Nothing more was expected, save perhaps for something promoting the DC-Comics stamps, but then events in New York brought a rethink, as Emma Raducanu won the Women's US Open Tennis title.  The last time there was a British winner of a major a sheet of stamps was issued:

Miniature sheet of 4 stamps issued to mark Andy Murray winning the Wimbledon Men's title, 2013.

 

No news yet from Royal Mail about a similar commemoration for Britain's new champion (would it make as much money as popular American comics?) but at least they rushed out a special slogan postmark which ran from 13-16 September.

Congratulations
Emma Raducanu
2021 US Open
Women's Chamption
A First class performance!

Some people posted comments to the blog, which I declined as, at the same time, others were sending the actual images, so thanks to the large number of people who wrote about this including PW, MB, KD, MM, JG, CH, JE, JN, JW & RW who remarked that Exeter seem to have found the ink drum again:

Emma Raducanu slogan postmark Exeter Mail Centre 14-09-2021

Emma Raducanu slogan postmark Lancashire and South Lakes (Preston Mail Centre) 13/09/2021

Emma Raducanu slogan postmark Plymouth and Cornwall Mail Centre 15-09-2021


UPDATE 20 September.  I received a poor copy of a new slogan today, which followed straight on from the Tennis one.  This was used at Greenford/Windsor Mail Centre on 17/09/2021 and has a comet logo and the following text.

   Alzheimer's
Research 
UK            

Learn about dementia
and support our work at
alzres.uk/learn


Good copies to come, hopefully - over to you!  My thanks to JH for this less than perfect but much better example from Manchester Mail Centre 18/09/2021

Alzheimer's Research slogan Manchester mail centre 18/09/2021

Thanks also to JE & MM for more Manchester Examples and one from Glasgow - the latter on an uncancelled stamp torn from another envelope and taped onto a new one! So much for revenue protection.
 

Alzheimer's Research slogan Glasgow mail centre 18-09-2021

(The surfeit of Manchester examples is because they handle Preston mail on Saturdays)


If you received one of these postmarks, log it on 'Catch the Comet'


UPDATE 21 September. Well, Alzheimer's Research UK didn't get long, and Royal Mail have now switched their allegiance to the Greetings Card Association and Thinking of You Week.  A letter arrived here at Norvic towers moments ago from Cornwall Mail Centre posted 20/09/2021.  

Send A Card
Deliver A Smile for
Thinking of You Week

20th-26th September 2021

Thinking of You Week slogan, Cornwall Mail Centre 20/09/2021

This one from Dublin is simpler (from KD), and doesn't reveal the 'special' week behind it.

Dublin Ireland Mails Centre 'Send Love; slogan 10.09.21

Update 23 September: Thanks to RW for the alternative layout of the Royal Mail slogan from Medway Mail Centre 20-09-2021

Thinking of You Week slogan, Medway Mail Centre 20/09/2021

 







All other slogans and any interesting postmarks and labels will be shown here.

 

 

Convenient Delivery - Parcelforce

Here's one I found while going through my cupboard.  I don't think I've seen one before or since!  We don't get much from Parcelforce these days with the competition (Amazon, UPS, DHL, etc) so evident. 

This came on a parcel from Stanley Gibbons in 2015, which was delivered to the village post office for collection - possibly because SG used my PO Box (which Parcelforce can't access) instead of the street address.  Note it is Post Office Parcelforce and reference to scanning it in and our on Horizon, so this must have been only for deliveries to branches.  The label number PW991/08 suggests that this was printed in 2008.

Post Office Parcelforce 'Convenient Delivery label PW991/08 used 2015.



Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Be scared! Now it's Batman & friends as Royal Mail take another opportunity to "Extend Beyond Philately" - 17 September 2021

Our apologies that an incomplete version of this post appeared; it was scheduled to publish at midnight, but I was prevented from completing it, which has now been done.

For no apparent reason, other than they have secured a licensing agreement and have reserved a space in the calendar, Royal Mail will issue on 17 September 2021 a set of stamps (plus) celebrating DC Comics Super Heroes and associated Super-Villains.

It was this issue that prompted me to write the '2015 turning point' post here.

Whereas in the case of previous licensed topics Royal Mail have pointed out 'the British connection' in the information they supply to dealers (as part-justification for the inclusion in the stamp programme) no such details are included this time, although there are connections.

Indeed on his Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog, WhiteKnight writes 

"the American philatelic agency IGPC* revealed the designs of the 12 stamps and 1 miniature sheet containing 6 further stamps to be issued on 17 September 2021 by Royal Mail on the subject of characters from the American DC Comics".

 *They didn't, but anybody who reads that blog often will be aware of WK's acerbic comments on IGPC and Stamperija - and Royal Mail, Australia Post, Isle of Man Stamps, Guernsey/Alderney, Jersey, Gibraltar and any other organisations which seem hell-bent on as much money-grabbing as they can from stamp collectors before everybody stops writing letters and using stamps.  Conversely he also highlights those places which produce really interesting stamps of local worth and usage.

Anyway, I shall reproduce an edited version of what was supplied to us by Royal Mail:

DC Collection

Royal Mail celebrates DC Comics through the ages and the Super Hero genre that it helped create with a bumper 18 stamp set of Super Heroes and Super-Villains including; 12-stamp set of the world-famous Batman, his allies and his foes and a special Justice League Stamp Sheet including the iconic trinity, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.   2021 also marks the 80th anniversary of the first appearance of Wonder Woman, who was among the first-ever female Super Heroes in comics.

Key Product Range Information:

  • Twelve stamps exclusively illustrated by the prestigious Comic artist, Jim Cheung and colourist, Laura Martin, celebrating Batman, his greatest foes and allies.
  • An exclusively commissioned Justice League stamp sheet for the Royal Mail illustrated by the same artists, including characters Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and more.
  • Framed prints showcasing the initial sketches of the stamps, as well as signed versions from the artists.
  • New, exclusive silver-plated and gold-plated medals with exclusive stamp imagery, as well newly packaged silver medals.

Set of 10 x 1st class DC Comics stamps 17 September 2021 (as usual, click on images to enlarge them)

Justice League miniature sheet containing 6 x 1st class stamps 17 September 2021

The sheet stamps depict: Batman, Batwoman, Robin, Batgirl, Alfred, Nightwing;
The Joker, Harley Quinn, The Penguin, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, The Riddler.

The Miniature Sheet is an exclusively illustrated six-stamp miniature sheet celebrating the Justice League; the World’s Greatest Super Heroes joining forces to protect the planet:

Batman, Green Lantern and The Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, Cyborg and Aquaman, Supergirl and Shazam.

Technical details

The 35 mm square stamps are designed by Interbang using artwork by Jimmy Cheung and colourist Laura Martin.  They are printed in sheets of 60 on gummed paper by International Security Printed in lithography.  The miniature sheet is self-adhesive with two stamps 50 x 30 mm, two 35 x 37 mm, one 60 x 23 mm and one 27 x 37 mm.
BATMAN and all related characters and elements © & ™ DC Comics. WB SHIELD: © & ™ WBEI.(s21).  JUSTICE LEAGUE and all related characters and elements © & ™ DC Comics. WB SHIELD: © & ™ WBEI.(s21).  Stamp designs © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2021.

As usual individual stamps can be purchased in multiples of 5 each.

Other products

Two retail booklets the contents of which have already been revealed to Royal Mail's standing order customers by the inclusion of 'BM' and 'WW' on their pre-issue invoices.  These contain 1st class Machin definitives with code MCIL M21L. These stamps are printed in gravure.

Batman and Robin retail booklet 17 September 2021

Wonderwoman retail booklet 17 September 2021

DC Collection - Prestige Stamp Book
The DC PSB takes a brief look into the timeline behind DC Comics and in particular, the key Super Heroes and Villains that contributed to its success. A bumper facts book that explores every character from the official DC Collection Stamp Set and Justice League Stamp Sheet in more detail, the one-off product also delves into the impact of the ‘British invasion’ and the remaining strong ties between DC and the UK today.  (And THAT is the first intimation that there is any connection to the UK, but it doesn't say what it is!)



The 8-stamp Machin definitive pane contains 2 x 1st class stamps, 3 x 2nd and 3 x 20p, which at least means the apparent 'leftovers' are useful values.  But of course we have already had a 1st class stamp in the Music Giants V PSB, and a 20p in the Industrial Revolutions meaning that the 2nd class is the only new stamp with £2.30-worth of stamps spare.

Two of the non-stamp pages describe 'The British Invasion':


"The 1980s saw a host of creators from the United Kingdom joining DC as the company sought out talent in what became known as the 'British Invasion'.  Alan Moore led the way with a genre-defining run on Swamp Thing before collaborating with Dave Gibbons on Watchmen and with Brian Bolland on Batman: The Killing Joke.

That illustrious group was quickly joined by a legion of talented experts in their craft, such as Jamie Delano, Mark Millar, Peter Milligan, Steve Dillon, Alan Davis, Glenn Farby, and Irish-born Garth Ennis."

The name of Alan Davis is known for the production of the Marvel Comics miniature sheet, but apart from that these are unknown to me.  The only name instantly recognisable further on, is Neil Gaiman, who combined with the late Terry Pratchett in the writing of the Discworld novel Good Omens, and is also known for radio/tv series Neverwhere, and for The Sandman, and for work with Marvel Comics.

The stamps are the same as in the sheets and miniature sheet, ie the Justice League stamps are self-adhesive, which means that all the WonderWoman stamps are self-adhesive - although those in the retail booklet are gravure rather than litho.

UPDATE 20 September.  My thanks to Geoff H for this picture which shows that one of his PSBs delivered from Tallents House has pane 4 missing.  It seems that most PSBs produced recently can be found with an error, usually a missing pane but sometimes with pages inverted.  Cartor's quality control is slipping.



Fluor tricks
Once again spot-fluorescence has been applied to the stamps - though not always successfully.  With my new UV lamp, the effects show up when fully in the spotlight, but only if it is not overwhelmed by the brightness of the lamp.

On the Batman stamp the batlogo in the background is hightlighted, but so is the one on his chest, unfortunately overprinted with black!   Below that, Batgirl doesn't have that problem.  Other areas are he spotlight on the Batwoman stamp, and the bats and cave entrance on Alfred's stamp.

The Nightwing chest logo, and Robin's staff are also highlighted, although the latter is of minimal significance.  


With The Joker, the letters HA are highlighted, although as they are printed in dark orange the fluor doesn't show well.  The window and crystal held by Catwoman, and above that the disk and outlining of the letters are highlighted.


For The Penguin it's his hat, and The Riddler the staff/crook and ? highlighted on his hat.


The miniature sheet also has highlighting though more difficult to show.  The DC logo, Batman's chest logo (again overprinted in black) and belt?, Green Lantern's eye-piece and Flash's.. flashes.



For the rest of the miniature sheet, Aquaman's water splashes, and possibly WonderWoman's rope. It's difficult to see with the Super set; I think the areas highlighted may be too small on these to properly work.

Now if Royal Mail also sold a simple UV lamp with these, even if it is only the special edition PSB, then all the fans would appreciate it as well, rather than just philatelic nerds who have to shine a UV lamp at everything!

The Limited Edition Prestige Stamp Book (limited to 1939 when Batman first appeared in Detective Comics) is priced at £49.99 (a reduction on previous LE PSBs).  As always the stamps are said to be exactly the same as in the regular PSB, so no need for more details here.


Batman Collector Sheet, includes all 12 stamps from the set, alongside what Royal Mail now terms as 'stickers' rather than labels. The sheet is litho self-adhesive printed by ISP, and priced at £11.40, only £1.20 more than the face value of the stamps.


Other products

Three Stamp Character Packs (ie like a presentation pack but just a carrier card): the set, 10 x Batman, 10 x Joker.

Batman and Wonder Woman medal covers, each silver plated (£20) or gold-plated (£25), and silver medal boxes (£100 each).

Batman Art Print Collection which includes 12 high-gloss art prints, card with 12 stamps affixed, and a 10% voucher for use in the Royal Mail shop!  (£25)

Framed products including prints of the 'progressives' of the Batman, Joker, and Justice League sheet with pencil, then ink by Jim Cheung, and then colour by Laura Martin. These exclusive products, at least, are impressive even at £46 each.

I'm sure Matt Parkes will be pleased with this, and that there will be sufficient sales to encourage Royal Mail to do more similar - what else though?  Rolling Stone magazine has a list of the top 50(!) Best Non-Superhero Graphic Novels but many are on subjects which would be unsuitable, some are anime (nothing wrong with that), and none have the fan-base of the superheroes, save perhaps for Tin Tin.  Suprised Asterix didn't make it in there.

Anyway, I don't think that there is anything more that I can write on this.  Only two more issues this year, Rugby Union and Christmas.