Tuesday 20 December 2022

Review of the year 2022

This year has been memorable for two things: the end of traditional Machin definitives, and the passing of Her Majesty the Queen, which in turn meant the end of Machins of any sort.

For the first couple of months of the year collectors were preoccupied with just what Royal Mail had planned for definitive stamps.  The next few months were spent digesting and interpreting - and experiencing - the Swap-Out scheme.  Enough has already been written about this for me not to go into any more detail here, although few people seem to have been intentionally producing combination covers with old and new definitives.

I do think that it is worth putting aside any interesting covers that you get because more and more people are collecting modern postal history, even if at present they are concentrating on finding and using or disposing of their surplus (or all) stamps.  

This arrived last week.  Prepaid at 2nd class it needed to be uprated to 2nd Large - which needs four extra stamps!  (See another fine example lower down.)

2nd class Large letter prepaid with 2nd class, requiring the addition of 20p, 10p, 5p & 2p stamps.

Looking back

In my first end-of-year message, in 2010, I expressed my surprise that 'this blogging thing' turned out to be a success.  Some of the followers from then, and some of the people who supplied information have sadly passed on, but I am grateful to the others and many more who are still providing information on stamps, postmarks, and especially Post and Go, which continues to make this blog the repository of useful information that it is.


Special Stamp Programmes 2022/23

At the start of the year I was able to announce the bones of the 2022 programme, with many gaps, and remarked on the apparent shortage of issues based on US entertainment media.  As it turned out those 'to be announced' issues were British based rather than US, or at least had a strong UK element. 

The Covid Heroes set paid a true tribute to those who worked tirelessly during the pandemic, and the Commonwealth Games issue was a fitting celebration.  The biggest surprise was that Royal Mail celebrated the LGBT+ community with the Pride issue in the summer.  The biggest splash on social media was the Transformers issue which was widely appreciated by the now adult fans of this 80s phenomenon.

The statistics for the year [2021 in brackets]: Special Stamps - 116 including 9 x 2nd class, 63 @ 1st class and 44 airmail [101 total]; Miniature sheets - 9 containing 5 x 2nd class, 19 x 1st class, 17 airmail [10]; Booklets - only 2 for Christmas, mixed booklets having been abandoned [10]; Prestige Stamp Books - 5 [4]; Generic/Collector sheets - 10 [9].   After the first two PSBs the other three included Machin definitives with datamatrix barcodes. 

As we have already seen, 2023 will be once again, more of the same, but with the same emphasis on British talent.

In a year which included many frankly poor stamp issues our attention was grabbed by Royal Mail's errors and mistakes - the MPIL source code was missing from first prestige stamp book with datamatrix definitives; the second such had the right source code but some of the marginal design encroached onto a stamp; and the third such booklet, "issued" on 24 November still hasn't been delivered by 19th December. (And there's another error in the next section.)


Machin and Country definitives

2023 also produced 18 face-different Machin definitives, and another 9 from non-sheet sources, plus 12 country definitives all with datamatrix barcodes.  

There was just one new value and five stamps with that value (£1.85 for £1.70), all the others replacing existing stamps.  

Because the stamps are larger than the ones they replaced, the booklets were larger, the PSBs larger, and some Business Sheets smaller, all apparently because Royal Mail has scanning equipment that needs barcodes of that size rather than the size of the ones that Germany uses which would fit perfectly well on old-style Machins. 

Reminding us that new discoveries are still being made, one of our customers found an undiscovered 2019 printing of the 2nd class Scotland definitive on Skye, and another correspondent alerted us to the unusual design error on the 1st class Wales barcoded definitive used on Royal Mail FDCs only.

It seemed to take no time at all for the Chinese factories to step up to the plate and produce forgeries of the NVI barcoded stamps (right).

As for the definitives of King Charles III we don't know exactly when they will be issued, but expect that it will be in 2023.  Just today, hours before I planned to publish this, the Bank of England has issued pictures of the first banknotes, the Royal Mint having already issued the first 50p coin.  So it seems likely that the stamps will use one of these portraits: I prefer the full face over the profile, where the ear is too prominent, however accurate.


Post and Go

In May we noted the passing of designer and artist (and Norfolk resident) Robert Gilmor, who designed the first (birds) and some subsequent Post and Go designs.   As expected there were no new designs this year, although there were reprints of some of the existing designs.  

Output from the Postal Museum and others continued to delight or frustrate collectors around the country.  I wonder just who buys the stamps from these machines apart from Post and Go collectors, especially outside the main tourist season.  Perhaps our intrepid band of explorers could make enquiries - Malcolm, Trevor and others, I look forward to your 2023 reports.


Postmark slogans and others

By my reckoning there have only been 26 slogan postmarks this year including the Action For Children default, and its replacement about using up old stamps.  The Universal machine made an appearance in February and March as well as December, and a new type of counter date stamp was trialled at Boscombe and some other offices.


The Post Office Horizon IT Scandal

This story made its way slowly to the mainstream media as a result of the wide-ranging Public Inquiry,sessions of which are live-streamed on YouTube and recorded for subsequent viewing. I was pleased by a new trick mentioned by Nick Wallis who was also in catch-up mode, that you can change the play-back speed on YT videos. (Use the settings cog and you can go at 1.25x or 1.5x without much distortion unless the witness speaks very quickly!) 

Sadly the issue of compensation and getting it to the wronged continues even more slowly but it was interesting to hear the evidence of witnesses from Post Office, Fujitsu, and the NFSP & CWU, and  former ministers among the senior politicians. Some of these will be returning for further examination. The Metropolitan Police have still not charged anyone with perjury, though.


Post Office, Royal Mail, Revenue Protection and Invalid Stamps that aren't

Failures by some Post Office branches and Mail Centres to cancel mail that they should is continuing to lead to stamps being cancelled in the final mile with a pen.  (The one shown to Australia has a £1.55 Scotland, 20p Machin barcode, and 2 x 5p Machin: a great mixed franking.)

Revenue Protection have continued to incorrectly flag valid old stamps (which we are being urged to use up) as forgeries which wastes the time of users, recipients, and sometimes delays orders to customers, with consequent recriminations.

At the same time they continue to let through as valid, stamps which are - to many of us - obvious forgeries!

Due to industrial action by members of the Communication Workers Union Royal Mail decided at the last minute that they could not attend autumn Stampex - there's no Spring Stampex in 2023 so hopefully they will return in September for the few people who will still be buying from them.

Another announcement that took many people by surprise (including its editor) was the end of publication of the Philatelic Bulletin. Communication being their raison d'être, they printed the notification letter on the back of the July statement, which many people threw away without turning it over!

Unless they come up with another avenue (social media maybe?), this does mean that the poll of Royal Mail's customers' 'favourite stamp issue/favourite stamp' will not take place this year. 

Our business

The invalidation of older Machin and Country definitives has been an unwelcome distraction but readers asked many questions (some of which we hadn't considered) and it has been useful to investigate.  

But it has also been the trigger-point for decision-making.  I'm not the only dealer who has decided to call it a day on these stamps, and collectors and dealers have been sending their surplus stamps for exchange. 

Collectors who are continuing collections have benefited from some bargain prices being offered which has saved some good collectable stamps from the Royal Mail incinerator.  

There is no end date for the swap, so I will continue to produce (and update existing) sales lists in the hope that people will find something they want, and I will avoid a pile of barcoded stamps!

Our online shop will remain open but will have more mint and used GB, postal history* (UK and foreign), picture postcards and foreign stamps including bulk lots.  I'll also be offering some discounted postage, both commemorative and barcoded Machins.  If you would like me to look out anything please ask and I'll let you know what we have.

* Last year I wrote that I would be starting other blogs on this subject but of course the Swap-Out scheme, along with some domestic issues, has provided big a big distraction. 

The future

Club meetings have resumed with more meetings being shared online to a wider audience than the pre-Covid in-room attendances.  I didn't manage to get to many fairs this year, and even our own local fair has been suspended while the hotel venue has been block-booked by the Home Office for immigrants and asylum-seekers.  

If domestic matters allow, I shall certainly be intending to spend more time on my own collection, but I have to dispose of a great deal of my stock and collection.  And if you have decided to stop collecting new GB stamps, and want something more interesting to study then there is plenty here for you to get your teeth into without spending huge amounts.

We have already seen what the future holds by way of Royal Mail's stamp programme.  If you don't follow it I would urge you to read the blog-post from my fellow blogger White Knight on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion.

It is quite likely that some people will start collecting the stamps of King Charles III. That is a worthy start to a collection, but I hope that they are not marketed by Royal Mail as an investment.  And I hope that people who think they will buy a subscription from Royal Mail will read widely before doing so. 

I will continue to provide details of all new stamp issues as provided by Royal Mail, to their required timetable, but that's all.  You'll get the pictures, you'll get the detail, and you'll get comments from me and from readers.  


We hope all our readers have a Merry Christmas whatever religion you follow (if any).  Thank you for your cards and seasonal good wishes.
Last year I urged you to remember those who are less fortunate than you; with even more people in fuel poverty this year I can do no better than to repeat that messsage.


Wednesday 14 December 2022

December 2022 Postmark Slogans and other interesting postal markings

All slogan postmarks used in December will be shown here; please check for latest updates before spending your time scanning, but if you have something new or another format, then please do send it in for publication.  And look out for anything from machines brought out of reserve instead of from an ink-jet machine!

As a reminder to anybody who is new to the subject, this type of slogan is generally known as the Universal type although over the years other machines have produced similar impressions.  

November 2019 Lancashire & South 6 Lakes Postcode slogan from Universal-type machine.

These are often pressed into service around the country at peak times but they may be few and far between this year.

New slogans

For much of December the current default 'Use your old stamps' slogan has been in use, and continues with the original 31 January date.

But as a result of the current industrial dispute making mail processing days before Christmas fewer than normal, the last dates for posting have been advanced. That for 2nd class mail was 12 December.

A new slogan advertises the 1st class deadline of 16 December - interestingly the date is shown in an unusual format for the UK. Used at Norwich Mail Centre 12-12-2022.

Post early
for Christmas
1st Class deadline
December 16 2022
Post Early slogan for 1st class mail, Norwich Mail Centre 12-12-2022.

UPDATE 16 December. My thanks to JE for this image of the IMP format from Preston (Lancashire and South Lakes also on 12/12/2022.  JE says that this slogan was to run from 12 to 15 December, but with strikes on 14 & 15 Dec. the later dates will be scarcer.

Post Early slogan for 1st class mail, Lancashire and South Lakes (Preston Mail Centre) 12/12/2022.

UPDATE 17 December. And because Exeter always get such a bad write-up, here's the same from there sent in by RW.

Post Early slogan for 1st class mail, Exeter Mail Centre 13-12-2022.

UPDATE 20 December. Despite the strikes reducing collections from mailboxes I know that some managers collected from some Post Offices and maybe some businesses.  Thus even on strike days the mail centres were working and postmarks do exist on those dates.

BM sent the Post Early from Cornwall Mail Centre on 15/12/2022, and MM sent a pair,  on a square envelope from Tyneside NE/SR Mail Centre on 14/12/2022 (I think!), and a conventional one from Plymouth and Cornwall Mail Centre on 15/12/2022.

Post Early slogan for 1st class mail, Cornwall Mail Centre 15/12/2022.

Post Early slogan for 1st class mail, Plymouth and Cornwall Mail Centre 15/12/2022.

Post Early slogan for 1st class mail, Tyneside Mail Centre 14/12/2022.

After the last posting day, the current default slogan to Use Up non-barcoded stamps returned to use,and our own mail included two square envelopes with the backward printing - Post Early on 13/12/2022 and Use Up on 17/12/2022 both from Sheffield Mail Centre.

Reversed layout Post Early slogan for 1st class mail, Sheffield Mail Centre 13/12/2022 and Use non-barcoded stamps slogan used at Sheffield Mail Centre 17/12/2022

But MM went one better and had them both on the same envelope.  Apparently Use non-barcoded on 09-12-2022 from South Midlands and Post Early from Tyneside possibly on 12/12/2022. 

Two for one!



My thanks to RL for sending this image of a Universal die usage (on a forged 1st class MA12 stamp!). This is said to have been posted in Southend-on-Sea but the postmark, I believe, is Jubilee Mail Centre (JMC at lower left), with [KT-TW]-GU postcode areas at the top.  No year unfortunately, but I suspect that mail centres don't have a 2022 die for these machines.

Universal postmarking machine usage Jubilee Mail Centre 6-XII (2022)

UPDATE 23 December. A neighbour has given me this with a (very dumb) Peterborough Universal postmark.  No year, but no date.  The stamp is M16L so nothing to prove that it is this year's which is unfortunate.

Universal canceller used at Peterborough, December 2022 but undated.

UPDATE 29 DECEMBER: My thanks to 'Rapido' for providing these images which conclusive prove that the Peterborough Universal -A- has been in use in 2022 - with a year-coded M22L Machin.

Universal canceller used at Peterborough, December 2022 undated but with year proved by M22L coded 2nd class stamp.

UPDATE 9 January - I'm told that STROMNESS used its universal, without a year plug as usual, but as CP didn't use a 2022 stamp there is no proof that what he has is this year's. Update, I now have a picture from 5 December scanned from a photocopy. I'd forgotten that they used the Snowman Happy Christmas Please Post Early slogan.

Stromness Universal machine postmark used 5 December (2022) with Snowman slogan.

Remember, all postmarks appearing in December will be added to this post, so check here before you spend time scanning and emailing.  I'll try to add new ones as quickly as possible.


New Stamps for 2023

Normally by this time I would be hoping that somebody had produced a spoof programme for Royal Mail's stamp issues for the New Year, but instead the Stamp Calendar has been leaked on a discussion forum - and not even a stamp forum!

This is the same as that sent to the Trade.  Publishing this early will give collectors, and producers of first day covers and maximum cards, something to be thinking about.


By my count there are seven media/entertainment related issues some (but not, as far as I know, the first one) of which should have prestige stamp books, two thematic, Christmas, and two commemorative.

If collectors hadn't already decided to stop collecting new issues at the end of the reign of the late Queen, this will certainly aid their decision.

UPDATE:  Editable (and searchable) table.

12th January

Iron Maiden

16th February


9th March

The Flying Scotsman

23rd March


4th April

New Definitives and tariff

13th April

His Majesty King Charles III: A New Reign

17th May


8th June


22nd June

Windrush: 75 Years

13th July

River Wildlife

10th August

Terry Pratchett's Discworld

5th September


21st September

Dame Shirley Bassey

19th October

Harry Potter

2nd November


UPDATE 22 December:  I received the Iron Maiden miniature sheets today.

Monday 12 December 2022

Problems with receiving email

Some people are reporting their emails to the 'norphil' address are bouncing or delivery is failing.

But not all of them we still get plenty, so I don't know what the cause of this is.

If I don't answer in a few days please try wild1952-at-gmail.com

Saturday 26 November 2022

New Checklist, new Sales list, and only one prize.

Yes it is prize time, because the magic 5,555,555 page views has been reached - and well passed, so I think a lot of people must have been looking - bad luck to those who missed it.  More about this at the foot of this report.

New: Checklist version 2.6.5

Now that the last of this year's Machin definitives has appeared - and maybe the last of all - I've prepared a new checklist.  However this won't be the last because of errors in Stanley Gibbons' allocation of numbers for some of the stamps issued in Prestige Books.

It's all explained in detail in the list, and I can't begin to guess what Gibbons might do because they need three new tables or sub-tables in the Barcoded section, the V numbers.  Download or view the latest pdf version here or come back later to the usual link in the right-had 'LINKS' table.

New: Sales list of Country Definitives

We've at last had time to prepare a list of Country Definitive stamps, from the very first with no white borders, up to but excluding the change of typeface issue.  This includes self-adhesive singles from Smilers sheets - and there are three versions of some of those - and singles & panes from Prestige Stamp Books.

Also in the list are national flags and decimal Wildings which are not subject to invalidation under Royal Mail's scheme.  

CORRECTION:  W99 xa is Cartor not DLR.

Quantities are shown in many cases: this is to give you an idea of how quickly you might need to order as for some stamps we have very few in stock.  There are many where we have no singles only cylinder and/or date blocks but if you require these, please include them in your lists and we will break the blocks.  Likewise there are no numbers for the Wildings but they are available. These of course you can delay ordering.

Everything unsold will be traded in to Royal Mail for a quantity of barcoded stamps which we shall find difficult to use, so discounts are available for large orders, and we're open to suggestions on prices for quantity purchases.  And remember if you buy at under current face you now have until 31 July 2023 to use them for postage!

Prize Time - 5 is a magic number.

Congratulations to CB of Solihull who successfully captured the roll-over to 5,555,555 page views on the blog, and send it at 2.16 am, and commiserations to everybody else who thought they could wake up at a sensible time and claim the prize!

Click on the image to see it full-size.

Your prize will be on its way during next week and with luck you will get it before Christmas. Thanks for taking part.

Wednesday 23 November 2022

Swap-out error

I didn't intend to write again so soon about the Swap scheme, but this is worthy of a post by itself.

I have read about such cases: I know some were on social media, I can't remember whether anybody commenting here has had the same problems.   

"Thousands of customers .... have mistakenly told they weren't received.  In a major blunder almost 3,000 customers received a letter last week incorrectly stating that there were no stamps enclosed with their Swap Out form."

It defies belief really, but good to see that RM have put their hands up and acknowledged - and corrected - their error.

From Daily Mail, mid-November 2022

Comments on the main post please. 

Sunday 20 November 2022

Invalidating non-barcoded definitives: a summary consolidation

Despite an update on this blog a few days ago, there are still comments being added to the earlier posts drawing attention to something which has since been reported.  This is as much my fault for not linking those blogposts together, so I am doing so now.

Please read through carefully before asking questions either by email or in comments.  Any comments/questions which are clearly answered here will not be posted or answered. If you don't get an answer from me, then please read it again.  If I have misunderstood, email me again.  I just don't have time to do a stand-in job for Royal Mail's team.

 It is quite possible I have made errors, although I try not to. I hope nobody suffers a loss due to anything they rely on here, but this is purely my interpretation of what has been published by Royal Mail and the stated experience of others and I can accept no liability for any errors.


1. To repeat the latest news:

Official statement from Royal Mail's Matthew Parkes, Managing Director Stamps and Collectibles :


[1a] Royal Mail is transitioning to digital, barcoded stamps in order to provide new and innovative future services for our customers. In order to give our customers even more time to use up any remaining non-barcoded stamps, we have decided to introduce a six month grace period starting from the original deadline of January 31 2023 where non-barcoded definitive stamps will still be delivered as normal. 


[1b] To make things even easier for our customers, we have also agreed with Post Office to include swap out forms alongside Freepost envelopes in Post Office branches. This means that customers will be able to fill out a form, insert it into a freepost envelope with any remaining non-barcoded stamps and hand it over for posting in a Post Office branch.


AS CONTEXT for editors


[1c] Royal Mail first announced the transition to barcoded stamps in February 2022. Under the original scheme, Royal Mail had planned to stop accepting letters bearing non-barcoded stamps into its network from January 31.


[1d] Customers will not be out of pocket as there is no end date as to when customers should swap their non-barcoded stamps by. Customers will still be able to access the “Swap out” option after 31 January 2023. The process of swapping out is free and we are sending a leaflet and a swap out form to all 31 million UK addresses to make this even easier.

2. This is said to be not an extension of the deadline, but a 'grace period' during which Royal Mail will not surcharge items which are partly or wholly prepaid in 'invalidated' stamps.  Do not expect a further change to the Terms and Conditions.  Effectively it means everybody has until 31 July 2023 to use their old stamps.  There is still no end-date for swapping any that you have.


Volumes and delays.

3. It seem that Royal Mail can no longer meet their initial promise of turning round Swap-Out forms within 7 days.  I understand that many people have experienced longer delays but this might be expected from the volume of applications - which Royal Mail probably grossly underestimated.  Recent press comment - although it mainly referred to people not being aware due to a lack of publicity - will have contributed to that increased volume.

So I don't think anybody should get worried about a delay of 2-3 weeks.   

What's in and What's out.

4. In describing the stamps which will or will not be invalidated Royal Mail have used the terms 'valid (for) postage' and 'valid for swap(-out)': I will try to avoid such confusion.

4a. Will be invalidated

(i) All unbarcoded national Machin definitives, large and small, from the 10p cerise through to date, including the large format Parcel Post high values, Profile in Print PSB, embossed £1 gold, and £5 Accession Anniversary stamps.  

(ii) All country definitives, with Machin profile and national emblem, and the pictorial ones with the small cameo head.

(iii) All substitute definitives: Queen Victoria/Queen Elizabeth double-heads, the original and the later 20p and 1st class; both Olympic definitives (1st class and airmail).

(iv) Smilers/Generic sheets containing country definitives, excluding those with the St George's flag, the Welsh Dragon flag, and the Scottish Saltire. 

4b What will not be invalidated

(i)  Frama stamps, Post and Go stamps of any kind;

(ii) Decimal Wildings; Decimal Wilding Regionals; Wilding Castles (I think the pre-decimal £1 will be OK because Royal Mail won't see it as old);

(iii) Definitive-sized commemoratives: Dr Who, Game of Thrones, Poppy, Union Flag, Dragon, Saltire and St George's flags, Music Giants - Queen, Greetings/Smilers excluding country definitives in 4a(ii) above.

(iv) Christmas stamps of any sort and size from 1971 to date.

(v) Commemorative/Special/Greetings stamps from 1971 to date. 

(vi) Smilers/Generic sheets containing the St George's flag, the Welsh Dragon flag, the Scottish Saltire, Poppy, and any small-size greetings stamps.

4c What may be swapped (although some in 4b above).

(i)  Mixed content retail booklets for the whole value.

(ii) Mixed Prestige Book panes, ie those with a mix of Machin or Country definitives and others.

(iii) Some complete Prestige Books (ie those not containing special stamps): 

all up to and including DX10 1989 Scots Connection
DX14 Tolkien
DX22 Profile on Print
DX24 Special by Design
DX39 Machin Anniversary
DY21 Machin 50th Anniversary

(iv) Miniature sheets which contain any Machin or country definitive even if they contain other stamps will be exchanged for the complete value, or the invalidated stamps may be extracted from them. Examples (this list is not complete): Lest We Forget, Diamond Jubilee, Long To Reign Over Us, Robert Burns (2009), Celebrating England, Scotland, Northern Ireland & Wales.


4d. What may be swapped but we think will still be valid for postage.

(i)  Castles definitives

(ii) £10 Britannia definitive 

(iii) Special stamps contained in miniature sheets if sent in complete (see 4c (iv) above).


4e. What will not be accepted for swapping despite containing stamps in section 4a

(i) Some whole Prestige Books: 

DX11 London Life
DX13 Wales
DX15 Agatha Christie
DX16 Northern Ireland
DX17 National Trust
DX18 Euro96
...and all later unless mentioned above in 4c(iii)

The Process and a warning about Post Offices

5. Two forms are available from Royal Mail, one for sendings of under £200 and one for over £200. (see details in original post below.)  

6. There is a short Freepost address which has caused problems for some users at some Post Offices which have refused to provide a certificate of posting.  This makes it difficult to make a claim if no stamps are returned from the Swap-Out.  We recommend that you use this address:

Royal Mail Swap Out
Tallents House
21 South Gyle Crescent
EH12 9GT

You can also copy & save the image to print it onto an envelope.

7.  Following distribution of a leaflet to all/most households in the summer, Royal Mail allowed stamps to be sent in on plain paper accompanied by the complete leaflet or a copy of the reverse of it.


What you get back.

8.  Royal Mail originally said that stamps would be replaced on a like-for-like basis, ie send in 5p and 2nd class, get back 5p and 2nd class.  Any stamps with no direct equivalent (E, Worldwide Posctard, 13p, 68p, £1.33 etc) would be aggregated and divided by the value of a 2nd class stamp (rounded up) and replaced with 2nd class stamps, and this is how the scheme worked for the first few months.

9.  This was changed in July to "... we will typically return to you 2nd class barcoded stamps although we may at our discretion return alternative barcoded stamps, including, for example, where the aggregated value of the stamps is lower than the value of a 2nd class stamp." 

10.  So you may get anything - indeed there is a report of a single E stamp being replaced by a £1.85 or others by a £2.55 stamp.  One thing this does mean, is that you might send in a lot of stamps for which there is no barcoded equivalent and get back fewer stamps than you expected.  For instance for mixed £25 worth you might get just over 26 x 1st class stamps instead of 36 x 2nd class stamps.

11.  Royal Mail have indicated to some people that, now that the country definitives have been issued with barcodes, they will be used to replace similar stamps sent in.  I haven't tested this yet.  Country definitives or regionals do NOT including decimal Wildings issued on the 50th anniversary of the originals.

Oops you made a mistake

12.  So, you mistakenly include in your sending a very small percentage of loose stamps listed in 4b above.  If this really is only a few/small percentage it seems that Royal Mail are swapping them rather than wasting time sending them back. (Aside from anything else many of these are gummed and if you've stuck them on their form they can't easily extract them to send them back to you!)   But I have to stress that these are from individual reports and include only a few stamps which are not to be invalidated.

UPDATE 23 November - Oops, THEY made a mistake.

13. I've put this on a separate post as it is so mind-blowing but any comments on it should be here please.


UPDATE 13 December.  My thanks to Tim C who reminded me of something I should have included in this post originally.

Tim points out that (especially after the effect of strikes) postage rates will increase next year, maybe earlier than usual (but not 1 January*).  So if you are using stamps for postage, use the ones with values which have no direct equivalents.  Currently 2 x 34p stamps = 2nd class.  Some time next year, 2 x 34p stamps will be short and you will need to pay more, whereas a 2nd class stamp will be good for 2nd class after the rates rise.

* Royal Mail have to give one month's notice to the Stock Exchange about price rises. That hasn't happened yet so there will be no rates rise until at least 13 January.

UPDATE 17 January.  There have been suggestions that Post Offices will not accept letters and packets with non-barcoded stamps after 31 January 2023.  I asked in my Crown PO today and was told that this was not true: they have been specifically told that they should continue to accept them as normal.

On the other hand the Royal Mail Special Handstamp Centres will not accept items for postmarking with a date after 31 January which have non-barcoded definitives on.

UPDATE 30 JANUARY:   Royal Mail have recently confirmed that they made what they say was a very complicated change to their Swap-Out software/database to ensure that people sending in stamps with the Europe rate (E, Europe 20/40g) would get £1.85 bar-coded replacements.

Tim C (see earlier) has pointed out that whilst this may have solved a problem which we all wish they had addressed before the scheme launched, there is more to come.

a.  If postage rates change as usual this spring, then the system will have to be changed so that the new value of 2nd class letter stamp is used to determine how many new stamps are supplied in exchange for those for which there is no direct equivalent. (This is, in essence, another effect of the point made on 13 December above).

b. However there are four other NVIs at least - 2 x Signed For, 2 x Special Delivery - and the worldwide airmail stamps which will have a new higher value.  This will be important when aggregating the total and these details will have to change in the system as well.  (This would not have been a problem if the usage hadn't been extended to 31 July.)

Currently for 100 x 1st Large Letter stamps the calculation is (100 x 235p) / 68p = 345.58 stamps.

If the rates rise to £2.45 and 70p, then it will be (100 x 245p) / 70p = 350 stamps.

If they fail to change one or the other their calculation might be:

(100 x 245) / 68 = 360.3 stamps or (100 x 235) / 70 = 335 stamps.

Be alert to swaps after the rate change and before 1 August.

Comments are now open for questions not answered here, and your experiences not already mentioned on previous posts.



The earlier post

For the record, here are elements of the earlier blogpost nor repeated above.  I have excluded anything shown or corrected above (I hope),  and if you want to read about the experiences of other readers I suggest you go back to the original here.

31 March 2022

Royal Mail will launch an ongoing nationwide awareness programme, that will run throughout the year, to ensure that everyone who wishes to swap out their stamps will have the opportunity to do so. The campaign will include press and radio advertising and a national door drop leaflet delivered to every household in the UK.


There are two Swap-out forms, one for consignments worth up to £200 and one for bulk swaps.

For consignments under £200, gummed stamps (ie not self-adhesive) must be stuck to the form. Self-adhesive stamps should remain affixed to their original backing paper.

For bulk consignments, gummed stamps must not be stuck to paper and must instead be clearly batched by the stamp value and colour in clear plastic bags of 50 stamps (less than 50 stamps must be collated together in value order). [1]


Some dealers I have spoken to have confirmed that they will trim their Machin stocks according to popularity. It makes sense if you overstocked on some values to liquidate them now, especially if they were purchased at a lower price than the current tariff.

Those dealers who already offer discount postage – and probably some who don't – will offer discounted barcoded stamps after trading-in because they will be hugely overstocked with those.

Another has said that they will consider retiring more quickly and get the benefit of full value for at least the Machin & Country stocks. And that is where life gets difficult – what does he do with £50,000-worth of barcoded 2nd class stamps?


If you are a collector, it is time to sort your collection and check all packets and stock-books for mint duplicates, or for gaps in your collection. If you are going to carry on collecting, look out for dealer special offers. 

Postage and losses

Anybody using the scheme can use the address FREEPOST Swap Out.

[My earlier blogpost included an extract from the Terms and Conditions but these have changed from time to time - the latest was on 7 November 2022.

Many comments on the above were actually answered in the blog itself, and if not, were answered in the comments.  Most have now been realised, but I will mention these:

Post & Go:  On 8 March Royal Mail customer service confirmed (wrongly) that Post and Go stamps would become invalid.  This is not the case at all and it was never intended that they would be. 

'E' & Airmail stamps: some early submissions were processed without these being replaced but I haven't heard of such an instance recently,

Postage refund: similarly some early submissions had returns for the stamps but not the postage.  Nobody has mentioned this in the last few months so things must have settled down.

Tuesday 15 November 2022

Mixed content retail booklets: will there be any more?

A number of collectors - and dealers - have asked if there will be any Mixed Content retail booklets with barcoded definitives - Gibbons' PM series.

Mixed content retail booklet of 6 x 1st class 'RAF Centenary' stamps.


I asked my Royal Mail contacts and the answer is that there has been no formal decision not to have any more.

However, the production process for Mixed Content booklets is more complex than for ordinary retail booklets as not all the matrix is removed and a larger number of cylinders is required than for single-value booklets.  The barcoding adds an extra level of complexity and cost.  

So while these may reappear in the future, I wouldn't expect to see any with Machin definitives, and it's probably unlikely that we will see any more until a good reason is found to produce them.

One of the original reasons for their production was to introduce to stamp users who bought only booklets something other than the definitives, in the hope that this might encourage them to investigate and buy other products in the issue.  

However the stamps and packs are not sold where many people buy their stamps (ie supermarkets) and  fewer post office branches have stocks of special stamps, so this suggestion would depend on people buying their stamps from Royal Mail's online shop, something which was never actually advertised on the booklets!

Monday 14 November 2022

Tutankhamun set, MS & PSB - 24 November 2022 -- full details

Tutankhamun Discovery 1972 stamp

Royal Mail is marking 100 years since the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by British archaeologist Howard Carter with a new set of Special Stamps and a Miniature Sheet.  The remarkable discovery has shaped historians’ understanding of the religion, rituals and culture of ancient Egypt to this day.

UPDATE 12 December:  Royal Mail's website now indicates that the PSB (and year books etc) will be available from 19 December; the definitive pane has been distributed to dealers.

UPDATE 21 December: My PSB was posted special delivery yesterday and arrived today. Ordinary customers should get theirs in January by ordinary mail.

Details from Royal Mail

In early November 1922, a few months after Egypt became independent, the eyes of the world turned to the Valley of the Kings in Luxor with the announcement of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by a team led by Howard Carter and funded by Lord Carnarvon – the first intact royal burial found in Egypt. 

On 26 November 1922, Carter made a small hole in the sealed inner doorway of the tomb and peered in. He later recalled: “At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold – everywhere the glint of gold. When Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, ‘Can you see anything?’ it was all I could do to get out the words, ‘Yes, wonderful things.’.” 

The tomb contained food and wine, clothing, jewellery and furniture – ritual items to enable the king’s journey into the afterlife. Tutankhamun’s body lay protected within a layered arrangement of four gilded shrines, erected around a sarcophagus containing three nested coffins. On 28 October 1925, Carter lifted the innermost coffin’s lid to reveal the king’s wrapped body; covering the head was what is now the most iconic object from the tomb – a gold mask. 

As well as a team of experienced Egyptian excavators, Carter and Carnarvon gathered a group of specialists to record and conserve the tomb’s objects, including the photographer Harry Burton from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, whose images evocatively recorded the undisturbed tomb and captivated international audiences. It would take the team ten years to clear, document and conserve over 5,000 objects packed into the small tomb. The objects are in the Grand Egyptian Museum, Cairo, and the excavation documentation is in the archive of the Griffith Institute, the centre for Egyptology at the University of Oxford.

The stamps

Set of 8 stamps issued 24 November 2022 to mark the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun's Tomb by Howard Carter.

2nd Class - Head Of The King The head of the king emerging from a lotus flower represents part of the ancient Egyptian creation myth when the infant sun-god Re appears from a lotus flower floating on the primordial waters. Tutankhamun, like Re and the sun, would also be born again each day. The head was found in the rubble of the entrance corridor, and its unusual placement may have allowed it to function as a magical portal that enabled the king to leave and return to his tomb each day. Alternatively, it may have been dropped there by robbers, possibly after they had stripped valuable earrings from the pierced ears.

2nd Class -  Inlaid Fan Fans provided cool air and shade. Eight were found in the tomb, all beautifully decorated and originally fitted with ostrich feathers (long since perished). Oval namerings, or ‘cartouches’, were used exclusively for kings’ names, and they decorate many of Tutankhamun’s possessions, including this inlaid fan found placed between two of the shrines in the burial chamber. Two vultures, representing the goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt, Nekhbet and Wadjet, protect the king’s cartouches. The left cartouche, assigned to the king on his accession, reads Nebkheperure (‘The lordly manifestation of Re’), while the right cartouche contains his birth name, Tutankhamun (‘Living image of Amun’).

1st Class - Gold Mask
The mask of Tutankhamun is now the most iconic object from the tomb, revealed in October 1925 when the innermost coffin’s lid was opened. Covering the head, neck and upper chest of the king’s wrapped body, the mask’s face is an idealised portrait of the young Tutankhamun. He wears the striped nemes headdress with the royal insignia of the heads of a cobra and a vulture on his brow, a long plaited false beard (not shown in Harry Burton’s photo, above, as it was temporarily removed for conservation and photographed separately), and a broad collar covering his chest and shoulders. The ancient Egyptians believed that gold was the flesh of the gods; accordingly, the mask is made of pure gold inlaid with blue glass and semi-precious stones.

1st Class - Falcon Pendant
This falcon pendant (or pectoral) portrays the sun-god Re-Harakhty, a merged form of the royal god Horus and the sun-god Re. The king was a living god, who embodied Horus and was also the ‘son of Re’. The falcon is associated with these gods and with kingship. The hovering falcon wears the sun disk on its head and grasps the symbols for ‘eternity’ and ‘life’ in its talons. The pendant was found inside a box in the so-called treasury, and is composed of gold inlaid with semi-precious stones and coloured glass

£1.85 - Lion Couch
When Carter peered into the tomb’s antechamber, the first objects he glimpsed were the “gilded couches in strange forms, lion-headed, Hathor-headed, and beast infernal”. The sides of the three couches or beds are modelled in animal form, including the lion couch with its striking inlaid eyes and nose, made from crystal and blue glass. The couches were used during the funerary rites; they represent the three mother-goddesses present at different stages of the king’s passage towards rebirth. The lion-panther goddess, Set-Mehtet, was responsible for his transformation into a divine being.

£1.85 - Throne
Lord Carnarvon referred to the so-called ‘gold throne’ as “perhaps the most important item among the entire contents of the tomb”. The throne is made from gilded wood with gold sheets applied to the seat and backrest, and is lavishly carved and decorated. On the backrest is an intricately composed scene created from thousands of inlays made from coloured glass, lapis lazuli and other materials. The young king is seated in a pavilion, attended by his wife, Queen Ankhesenamun, who stands before him. He wears a short curly wig and a diadem, topped by an elaborate, tall, plumed crown with pendant cobras.

£2.55 - Boat Model
Found in the fourth chamber, named the annexe, this unique boat model is made from calcite (Egyptian alabaster) and decorated with gold, ivory, faience (ceramic-like material) and coloured pigments. The boat, with ibex-headed prow and stern, is supported on a box-shaped pedestal. Amidships is a papyrus-columned pavilion, in front of which kneels a girl holding a lotus flower, and at the stern stands a female dwarf holding a pole. Although the object’s purpose is uncertain, its design may be connected to the king’s rebirth, the naked female figures and ibex being symbols of fertility and rejuvenation.

£2.55 - Guardian Statue
This imposing life-size statue of Tutankhamun, made of black painted wood with gilded details, shows the king wearing the striped nemes headdress with the uraeus serpent at the front, the symbol of royal authority. The uraeus represents Wadjet, the protector goddess of Lower Egypt, in the form of a cobra. In Egyptian belief, black symbolised regeneration because it was associated with the dark, fertile soil deposited by the Nile during the annual inundation. Often referred to as a ‘guardian statue’, it is one of a pair found in the antechamber, positioned on either side of the burial chamber’s sealed doorway, which Carter described as “facing each other like sentinels”.

Miniature Sheet

Following the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, Howard Carter immediately recognised the size of the task that lay ahead of him and gathered a team of specialists to record and conserve the tomb and its contents. Alongside their immediate circle of Egyptological colleagues, he also depended on a group of skilled and experienced Egyptians who had worked alongside him for many years and were able to meet all the challenges and practical difficulties the excavation presented. 

Miniature sheet issued 24 November 2022 to mark the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun's Tomb by Howard Carter.

Harry Burton was the only photographer permitted to work inside the tomb during the excavation. Burton took two views of each area, one showing all the objects in place and another after numbered cards had been placed beside each object, assigning it a reference number. Burton used glass-plate negatives, and each exposure took several seconds or even minutes. Burton then processed the negatives in a darkroom set up in an adjacent tomb.

  • The Miniature Sheet contains an additional four stamps which capture the discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb through a selection of photographs taken by Burton

  • The background of the Miniature Sheet is a photograph of the entrance to the tomb


1st Class Objects in the antechamber
Harry Burton was a pioneer of archaeological photography, and his view of the objects in the tomb’s antechamber demonstrates his camera and lighting skills. Taken before anything was touched, it illustrates the “wonderful things” first seen by Howard Carter on 26 November 1922.

1st Class Head of the outermost coffin
Taken on 5 February 1925, Burton’s intimate study of the head from the lid of the outermost coffin evokes the stillness of the tomb; the royal insignia, with vulture and cobra on Tutankhamun’s forehead, are still adorned with a tiny garland.

£1.85 Examining the innermost coffin
Some photographs were carefully staged, including one capturing Carter, with an Egyptian colleague, examining the innermost coffin. Carter poses motionless, as the camera focuses on his tool-equipped hand, which investigates the blackened funerary unguents covering the coffin’s lid.

£1.85 Moving small shrine to laboratory
Journalists and tourists headed to the Valley of the Kings to witness the world-famous event, many taking their own cameras. Most of their photographs show the team transporting objects from the tomb to the nearby conservation laboratory.


Technical Details

The 37 x 35 mm stamps were designed by Andy Altmann and printed in litho by Cartor Security Printers in sheets of 60 (in se-tenant pairs) perforated 14x14.5.  Two phosphor bands except the 2nd class which has a single band justified left to avoid it printing over the facial image.  Acknowledgements:objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun by kind permission of The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) Project; photographs © Araldo De Luca.

The miniature sheet is also designed by Andy Altmann and printed in litho by Cartor Security Printers using photographs by Harry Burton © Griffith Institute, University of Oxford. "Moving small shrine' photograph © David Cole/Alamy Stock Photo.   The 146 x 74 mm sheet contains four stamps 41 x 30 mm.  The MS is not printed in 4-colour litho - it appears to be shades of grey/black and shades of olive.

Royal Mail have confirmed:  Black and a gold for the background;  Yellow for the heads, values and captions.   

Prestige Stamp Book

Entitled ‘Finding a Pharaoh’ the Prestige Stamp Book includes a wealth of fascinating insight into the discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb in 1922, compiled with help from Egyptology experts, the Griffith Institute. Packed with illustrations and photography which tell the story of Howard Carter’s career and journey to excavation in the ‘Valley of Kings’ in Egypt. Includes original photographs, sketches, notes and artefacts to tell the story. Includes four stamp panes containing all twelve Tutankhamun stamps plus a pane of definitive stamps unique to the issue

All the stamps are said to be printed in lithography; the special stamps are comventionally gummed and the definitives are self-adhesive.  If true, these will be the first barcoded definitives are printed in lithography rather than gravure.

UPDATE 28 December:  My thanks to petemk for pointing out what I hadn't had time to read, that the definitive pane is printed in gravure - and this is stated in the book itself.  It is distressing that the production department within Royal Mail does not provide full accurate and up to date information to the Stamps & Collectibles department so that dealers and collectors know what they have from the outset - or know what to expect.  Assuming the text in the book itself is correct - why was that not relayed for the dealer news briefing back in October?

Machin definitives: the booklet pane contains two each 10p & 20p, a single £1.85 definitives and a label.  I expect the security coding will be M22L and MPIL - confirmed!

UPDATE 21 November:   Royal Mail's website now indicates that the PSB will be available from 12 December, and the definitive pane FDC from 28 November. 

UPDATE 12 December:   Royal Mail's website now indicates that the PSB (and year books etc) will be available from 19 December; the definitive pane has been distributed to dealers.

UPDATE 21 December: My PSB was posted special delivery yesterday and arrived today. Ordinary customers should get theirs in January by ordinary mail. 

Tutankhamun prestige stamp book cover

UPDATE 15 December.  Now that the actual definitive pane has arrived I can show scans of the pane and stamps.  This pane seems to be very difficult to colour match on my old scanner, taken as a whole.  On the 10p & 20p stamp the appearance of the background, which should be plain white, is affected by both the iridescent ink and the security printing on the backing paper.

Detail of iridescent printing on 10p M22L MPIL

10p barcoded definitive stamp from Tutankhamun prestige stamp book coded M22L MPIL

Detail of iridescent printing on 20p M22L MPIL

20p barcoded definitive stamp from Tutankhamun prestige stamp book coded M22L MPIL

£1.85 barcoded definitive stamp from Tutankhamun prestige stamp book coded M22L MPIL

Scan of actual Tutankhamun prestige stamp book definitive stamp pane coded M22L MPIL



Set of stamps, miniature sheet, prestige stamp book, first day covers (3), presentation pack, postcards, press sheet of 18 miniature sheets, medal cover, framed products.  The press sheet has two columns with barcodes and one without.

As usual we will not be stocking these.