Thursday 9 December 2021

Modern postal history; what's wrong with this cover?

No prizes, but I would be interested in the observations of readers on this one.  I can think of two things wrong.

I'll add my opinion after reading some of yours!  (A larger image may be visible if you click on this.)

UPDATE 13 December.  Thank you for all your comments and suggestions.

The stamp was supplied by a stamp dealer as discount postage.  It's a perfectly valid pre-Pricing in Proportion 2nd class definitive probably from a booklet, accounting for it's short perforations.

The envelope is c5 size (ie within the size for a normal letter), and if the sender is correct the weight was under 100gr, so the single 2nd class stamp is absolutely correct.

So the problem is that somehow the mail centre Stamp Image Database did not detect it as 'good'.  The letter was posted in the Norwich Mail Centre area, though being 2nd class it may have gone straight to Peterborough Mail Centre.  That is probably where it was flagged as being suspect.

Royal Mail Revenue Protection Officers then decided - probably due to the absence of any post-2008 security features - that it was not 'good' and applied the yellow sticker.  This is the wrong one as it is for a parcel, rather than a letter, but that doesn't matter much because the amount due was not pre-printed.

I don't know whether the policy is not to cancel suspect stamps; certainly the lack of an obliteration makes it easier to prove that it is not invalid.

As to the fee, of course most people outside the hobby/trade would accept it and grumble, but I hope that most collectors would, if they went to the enquiry office to pay and collect, protest that the charge was invalid.  Complaining after you have paid online and had the item delivered is likely to be tortuous but entertaining, judging by reported attempts to convince Royal Mail Customer Service of the validity of older stamps.

It's frustrating, thought, when they happily let through packets with four of these on:

Forged 1st class stamp with ROYAL MAIL printing reversed.

Revenue Protection probably think they are good, and are just another example of security printing that the bosses haven't told them about!


  1. It isn't an Invalid Stamp ?

  2. Guessing... the stamp should have been cancelled in some way even if it was invalid?

  3. That's a parcel "fee to pay" sticker, not the pre-printed letter £2 one.

    The stamp does look dodgy though

    1. How are the fees worked out?

      If your item had insufficient postage or no stamps attached, a flat rate fee will be charged as follows:
      From RM website
      • Letters/Large Letters - no postage paid - £2 flat fee
      • Letters/Large Letters - insufficient postage paid - £1.50 flat fee
      • Small Parcel - underpaid/no postage paid - £3.50 flat fee
      • Medium Parcel and Special Delivery Guaranteed items - underpaid/no postage paid - £1.50 plus incremental postage rounded to the nearest 10 pence

  4. Correct me if I'm wrong please, but that's a valid booklet stamp from the 1990s. Shouldn't it be an underpaid postage fee of £1.50 as it should have sufficient postage for a large letter. I'm not up on what the correct labels look like.

    I hope the recipient put a claim in for their money back.

    1. Steve, you're sort of right. It's not a large letter, it's c5, which is an ordinary letter.

      And yes, it's a valid stamp.

  5. Some of the stamps of the 1990's from booklets especially stamps printed by The House of Questa had very weak phosphor bands and the sorting machinery would often reject letters as no stamp could be detected so an underpaid sticker would be attached to the envelope.

  6. It’s paid - I reckon this has been overruled? Those labels are usually left unannotated aren’t they?

  7. Even if a supposedly invalid stamp shouldn't be cancelled surely a handstamp should have been applied to the envelope for accountability. If the outward Mail Centre isn't identified its Revenue Protection Team can't be informed of errors, in this case not realising that older definitives without modern security features are still valid.
    I've known an envelope of 97g or 98g surcharged as being over 100g.
    I'm familiar with £1.50 and £2 yellow surcharge labels but hadn't seen that parcel one before.
    The simplified charges, with nearly all being £1.50 or £2, probably works well but there's an anomaly, probably very rarely exploited, that Large Letters of 500g to 750g are actually 70p cheaper if a £2 fee is paid by the recipient rather than £2.70 postage by the sender !

  8. Cannot add to the postage as am out of date on that but folding it three times probably didn't do the content much good unless it was just a paper that didn't matter if it was folded or not. OR it was folded so the stamp did not show anyway when first processed the wall thinking :-)

    1. It was folded when it was sent to me, for reporting.

  9. Royal Mails continued inability to honour the carriage of mail by there own stamps should be met with a substantial fine by Trading Standards . This might encourage adequate resourcing and training for staff. If we went back to inspectors marks perhaps those who don't know there job could be highlighted. Wilfully delaying Mail is a criminal offence , customers deserve better .............. SERVICE BEFORE PROFITS


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