Monday 28 February 2022

Updated version of the Norvic Security Machin Checklist is now available.

I am pleased to announce that the latest version of our long-running and ever-developing Checklist has now been made available for free download.

The main development this time is the inclusion of the new NVI stamps issued at the start of February which incorporate a datamatrix code, and are issued in new colours, the Royal Mail 'brand red' having now been abandoned on stamps.  As the issue of the make-up values (1p-£1, £2-£5) has been announced for early April, these have been incorporated on a provisional basis.

It is likely that a number of new airmail values will be issued at the same time, and news of these should be publicised in March while we are away.  Details will be added to the blog on our return and a new Checklist issued as soon as possible.

Download here, or always download the latest version by clicking on the Link (On desktop computers and tablets this is in the right-hand column; if you are using a smart phone you will probably have to click on 'View Web Version' at the foot of the page and proceed from there.)

As usual, if you spot any errors, do please let me know by email as soon as possible.  Many thanks.


- New 2nd Class Large grey-green business sheet shows MNIL instead of MBI.

- Table on page 3, 2920E and 2921E should be 2921F and 2921F;  colour of 1st Large should read Turquoise-blue.

- page 10, 1st purple book of 4 should be code MFIL rather than MEIL.

- page 12, 2nd Large gre-green should be code MBIL not MNIL (finger slip).

- pp 13, 14,  colour of 1st Large should read Turquoise-blue.

Thursday 24 February 2022

March, North to Scotland

This is advance notice that our office and e-commerce store will be closed for most of March 2022.  We are visiting the far north and, as when we had our long break in 2016, it would not be appropriate to take orders and money up to a month ahead of being able to fulfill the orders.

Please do not telephone during this period as alterations are being made to our telecoms and messages may not be recorded or may be lost after recording.

We will have limited internet coverage in some areas so it is unlikely that emails will receive a response. We may be able to moderate (ie publish) blog comments which will keep discussions going.

Blog posts will be scheduled for some forthcoming stamp issues but we may not be able to provide full information until we return.

Customers who are waiting for responses to emails etc, can rest assured that we will use as much as possible of the next week to finish those tasks and get your stamps to you.  However, some domestic matters will take priority over everything else, so I am sorry but we cannot guarantee a response.

If you have any questions, please email as soon as possible.  Thank you for your patience.

Friday 18 February 2022

Machin cylinder blocks and date blocks - sideways confusion

With the new Datamatrix stamps being laid sideways on the sheet, there is no some confusion about the format for cylinder and date blocks (CBs and DBs).

The Modern British Philatelic Circle has decided to use the conventional format for CBs, with the cylinder/plate numbers in the left margin and so two columns of 3 (sideways) stamps.

However my supplies from Royal Mail philatelic for blocks of 6 and 10 produced two very different formats.  Whilst the cylinder block of 10 was simply a block of 4 included above the conventional 6 (so 2 x 5), the date blocks were supplied thus (in two different orders):

What you collect is a matter for personal preference.  

We may find that the make-up values to be issued in April will be in sheets of 25.  If so and the date is in the same margin as the cylinder number, a CB10 will serve both purposes in 10 stamps instead of 20 (or 12 or 14 depending on how you collected previously).  {edited}

How do you collect?

Thursday 10 February 2022

Thoughts on Royal Mail's Invalidation of Definitive and Christmas stamps - no 1

Royal Mail's invalidation of definitive and Christmas stamps

1990 2nd class dark blue

1. What does it mean for me, and do I do now?

I'm sure these are questions that many collectors and dealers will be asking themselves. I know I am. I don't have all the answers – Royal Mail don't have all the questions yet, let alone the answers!

Where shall we start?

I'm starting from the assumptions that these will be invalidated:

All Machin definitives since 1971, and £1 values before that;

All Christmas stamps after 2005 when definitive-size started;

Commemoratives, Post and Go*, and Country Definitives≠ will not be invalidated.

Those assumptions leave plenty of grey areas, such as the Long To Reign MS which includes one single definitive and four larger commorative stamps, the Wildings both national and regional, and the greetings/smilers definitive-sized stamps sold in booklets of 6. There are many more.

≠We also don't know about the country definitives for sure. 

Update * Another Royal Mail source has told a reader that Post and Go will no longer be produced, which must include the SSK versions.

What will dealers do?

I believe that many dealers will continue as before, but may rationalise their stocks, trading-in the over-stocks for new stamps. But some older dealers who were contemplating retirement and wondering which other dealer would want their stockholdings may use this as a reason to retire sooner, disposing of much of their stock to Royal Mail on trade-in.*

Much depends on Royal Mail's plans and how the grey area stamps are dealt with.

What is the impact for collectors?

Most collectors who have been collecting for many years must have, at some time, thought long-term, and about the eventual disposal of their collections. With nobody in the family interested, they would have been hoping eventually to sell their nest-egg collection, whilst knowing that they would probably not receive as much as they hoped, for anything more than the really choice items, if any. They will now be reassessing their options for the future.

As with dealers, the older ones may well decide to stop collectiong mint defintives, booklets, etc, trading in their collections to Royal Mail. *

Newer collectors and those for whom this does not represent a threat should be looking to add to and complete their collections as quickly as possible, while the stocks are still there to be bought. Never was “when it's gone, it's gone” truer.

*The dealers who trade in a lot of stock for new barcoded stamps will then posses more of those than they can use and they are likely to sell many as postage, at a discount.

Similarly trading-in collectors will be left with surplus valid stamps which they can't use. The only option is to sell them below face value for postage.

1st class black 1989

Cost and Value

When the first 2nd class blue and 1st class black stamps were released in 1989, they cost 14p & 19p respectively. These are currently 'worth' 66p & 85p in postal value. That (or the new tariff rates) will be what they get back on trade-in – but that will be in stamps of which there will be a surplus.

The other option for dealers is to satisfy the requirements of the continuing collectors by selling these older stamps which may be missing from those collections. Selling below current postal value may not seem attractive, until you realise that they may have to sell their new valid stamps at a discount, for postage (because they aren't dealing any more, or certainly don't need that quantity).

It makes more sense, therefore, to sell older stamps for a smaller profit at a discount to the previous selling price, realising ready cash. Offering a discount for larger purchases and time to pay in instalments could be quite an attractive propostion for both collector and dealer.

Next steps

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 a dealer it is certainly time to stocktake and work out what is most likely to be in demand, to fill those collector gaps.

The stamp trade will be highlighting the grey areas with Royal Mail, to establish the future validity or otherwise of those stamps. When we get clarification it will be reported.

If you are going to carry on collecting, look out for dealer special offers. 


Berlin Airlift book of 4, 1999, with cylinder numbers SG HB17.

More 'thoughts' coming soon - meanwhile this post is closed for comments.  I'll put a post up now that the details have been announced and all comments can go there.  Thank you for your patience.

Christmas comes late for one FDC collector.

We have often seen in the popular press reports of postcards and letters arriving decades after being posted.  For postcards especially this is often attributed to mischievous collectors putting a common and relatively worthless Edwardian card back into the post just to see what the press make of it.  But this is a story with a difference, and I am indebted to CE of Bristol for sending it to me.

As you can see, these are first day covers of the 2012 Christmas set and miniature sheet.  But if you think the postmark doesn't look right, then click on it and you will see that the postmarks were the 2021 versions.

The story is this:  

In 2012 I was buying my First Day covers from the Crown Office in Bristol City Centre.  On the first day of issue I had to be in Bath so decided to buy my stamps from the Crown Office there.  

I seem to remember that the staff did not seem very knowledgeable but I was able to buy what I wanted.  The stamps never arrived at my home so eventually I complained and I was sent a replacement set.  

I then forgot about the whole thing until recently when these turned up.  What amazes me is that a 2012 First Day cover should still have received a stamp from 2021.  I thought First Day covers were always hand stamped, so did not the clerk notice there was something wrong? 

A strange tale indeed!

I think this is probably what happened.

The stamps were placed in a box, or a pouch, at the Bath PO to be sent to the Special Handstamp Centre (SHC), probably in Cardiff but maybe in Edinburgh.  I think by this time HPOs were no longer supplied with FDoI handstamps for local cancelling and return.

I would not have expected these to be the only ones at Bath, but they were either not sent to the SHC, or they were misplaced there on arrival.  By coincidence they were discovered around the time that last year's FDCs were being processed and were included with them without much thought.  Logically somebody should have asked questions, but I'm not sure what I would have done with them in the same circumstances.  Perhaps telephoned the addressee - that might have been a good idea!

So, when the 2021 FDCs were being processed, and these were included, they totally ignored the fact that these were not the current stamps.  And whereas handstamps which do not include the words 'first day of issue' can be applied to any old stamps, these should not have been.  These are fixed date handstamps, and the original 2012 would no longer be available.  


Does anybody have any other suggestions or similar stories?

Monday 7 February 2022

More barcoded definitives on 4 April 2022 - probably.

Following the patchy release of the new NVI definitives with datamatrix codes on 1 February, it is expected that more will follow on or about 4 April.

The date is "provisional and subject to change" according to Royal Mail, but they plan to issue stamps for the low- and high-value make-up stamps with datamatrix codes to replace the existing ones. This means 

1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, £2, £3 and £5.

This will enable them to eliminate all definitives without barcodes from 2023.

There is also an implication that there will be new airmail rates, to replace the £1.70, £3.45 and £4.20 stamps issued for airmail rates on 23 December 2020. These are expected on the same day, with the rates to take effect on 11 April.

An announcement about new postage rates is expected around 3 March.

UPDATE 1 March.

Royal Mail have confirmed in the March Philatelic Bulletin that the above stamps will be issued on 4 April, along with international airmail stamps in values £1.85, £2.55, £3.25 and £4.20.  These are the existing rates, apart from the £1.85 which is an increase from £1.70.

I could mock-up some barcoded versions of these as I did the £1 above (which is why there is no printed perforation) but I'll let you use your own imaginations until the actual images arrive.

The usual presentation pack and first day cover will be produced by Royal Mail, and the stamps will be distributed to their standing order customers as usual.

London 2022: The Stamp Design of David Gentleman miniature sheet - 18/19 February 2022

Royal Mail have chosen to issue a miniature sheet celebrating the stamp art of David Gentleman on the day before the London 2022 International Stamp Exhibition opens.

David Gentleman changed British stamp design for ever when in January 1965 he first wrote to the new Postmaster General, Tony Benn, in response to a general invitation for ideas about stamps. Gentleman recommended much more interesting subject matter than had been featured previously: special themes for stamp issues rather than commemoratives for conferences or festivals.

David Gentleman’s designs have featured on more stamps than any other designer (103 issued stamps) and have become iconic in their own right, and more than 50 years later the impact on the Royal Mail’s stamps programme can still be seen.

For this stamp issue, Royal Mail selected six iconic stamps from working in collaboration with David Gentleman himself to bring you this collectors delight, and homage to the work of an Iconic Designer.

Unfortunately this means that while the individual stamps are good examples of his work, the miniature sheet itself lacks cohesion as a whole.  The original four pre-decimal stamps are all the standard double-definitive size for the period, but the two decimal stamps on the 1st class were taller and are therefore shown out of proportion on this MS.

The Stamp Designs of David Gentleman, miniature sheet issued 18 February 2022

Stamp Designs

2nd Class: 3d National Productivity Year -1962
2nd Class: 9d British Ships, Elizabethan Galleon -1969
1st Class: 9p British Trees, European Oak - 1973
1st Class: 8½p Social Reformers, Thomas Hepburn - 1976
£1.70: 6d 900th Anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, Norman Ship – 1966
£1.70: 4d 25th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Spitfires - 1965

Technical Details

The 192 x 74 mm miniature sheet is printed in litho by Cartor Security Printers.  The 1st class stamps are 50 x 30 mm, the remainder are 60 x 30 mm.  According to Royal Mail, the 1st class stamps are perf 14, the others perf 14½.    (Update 18 Feb, thanks to a reader: there is more to this perforation business than meets the eye; more detail later.)

UPDATE 9 February
.  My thanks to SM for a link to Gentleman on Stamps, an 18 page pdf which can be viewed and downloaded here.


Other products

First Day Cover, Presentation Pack, Stamp Cards (7), Press Sheet of 14 x MS.

London 2022, 19-26 February, Business Design Centre.

The London 2020 International Exhibition, due to take place in May 2020, was postponed due to the worldwide Covid Pandemic. Rescheduling in 2021 was not possible, and the best arrangement was for the international to take the slot already allocated for Spring Stampex in February 2022. 

Royal Mail will be in attendance as expected, and will be selling the usual Exhibition Sheet (aka Smilers) with the Hello Stamp and 20 images of the Mail Rail underground railway operated via The Postal Museum.  This will be supplied by Royal Mail to collectors who have such sheets on standing order.

Royal Mail London 2022 Exhibition sheet with 20 x 1st class Hello stamps and 20 labels depicting the Post Office Underground Railway.

There is no retail booklet to publicise the exhibition.

As has been the practice in recent years Royal Mail will issue a miniature sheet available only at the exhibition.  This year it is the Stamps of David Gentleman sheet with the exhibition logo added at the top left corner.  A limited edition of 10,000 will be available at face value (£6.42).  There is no presentation pack.

London 2022 exhibition variant of the 'Stamps of David Gentleman' miniature sheet.

Both the Exhibition sheet and the variant of the Gentleman sheet will be sold from the first day of the exhibition, 19 February.

UPDATE 15 February:  With many people here and elsewhere criticising the selection of stamps in the MS, AH has sent in this alternative version:

Readers will recall that the range of products available at Royal Mail's Autumn Stampex 2021 stand was very limited.  We have received this reply in response to clarification of the 2022 situation:

 "We are still finalising the actual product and print range that we have available but it is our intention, as normal, to bring the very latest print dates to the show. However, it is worth clarifying that we don’t anticipate that it will be practical to extend this to all print dates back to the last Stampex show in September 2019.  "

Which is good news for those attending, even if a little imprecise at present.

UPDATE 21 February: Our thanks to Doug who sends this report with his experience of the first day of the show.

Opening time was 10am; I was a bit late arriving so no outside queue. Went straight to the Royal Mail stand but only 2 in the queue! I was third at 10.10am. They had not set up the stand fully as the stock only arrived this morning. All hands on deck putting out stocks, cash machines and general setting up. Staff very good keeping us informed and the stand opened at 10.50am but the queue was only about a dozen people.

Stocks looked good. I got the high value Machins date blocks (2021 issue) taken from the full sheets which were being held ‘around the back’. Plenty of the David Gentleman special exhibition overprint. 

I also wanted a full set of the booklets with datamatrix codes but with cylinder numbers. Nothing had been sorted so a very helpful lady undid the packaging and searched the packs. A bit time time-consuming but virtually no queue waiting. They couldn’t find the Cylinders on the ‘large’ versions in the booklets. 

But I was advised to come back later as they would set someone to search for them. I went back an hour later, nobody in queue and as promised they had found what I was looking for. Most excellent service despite the challenges. 

Overall not too many visitors. Some stands missing and not set up. Some just setting up as late as 12 noon. The gallery areas looked quite busy but mostly people just browsing. 

Was it worth £10 entrance? Ok for me as I got everything I was expecting. So my collection for 2021 is complete except for the 100 x 2nd Business sheet (not the datamatrix sheets) of any 2021 printing date. No doubt dealers will have vast stocks to get rid of later in the year when these start being traded in!!

Doug later wrote this piece about a new book available from The Postal Museum. I don't do book reviews myself unless I have the book. The book has been mentioned in the philatelic press, and this review is from a reliable source!

I was just having a quick browse and spotted a new book with a Queen Victora cover but no indication what it was about!!  Being curious I had a quick browse and it looked quite good.  £25 so not too bad a price if the content was as indicated.  

Douglas Muir was on hand and the spine of the book reads “Just Large Enough” A Guide to the Postal Museum’s Philatelic Collections.  At first I thought it was just a Guide book but I did manage to digest a few pages.  

About 300 in all , and well illustrated, and printed on quality paper.  Douglas and his team must be fully congratulated on such an excellent publication.  Very well written in concise detail but despite this, it is a fairly easy read.  (To the point I cannot put the book down!) Any serious philatelist should have a copy – they will not be disappointed.  The historical chapters are packed full of facts and it is clear that the Museum has a very large and comprehensive research library (something often forgotten about).ISBN: 978-1-3999-1273-0 first published 2022.


Friday 4 February 2022

February slogans and other interesting postmarks and postal markings

Thank you to everybody who has contributed with images of the latest postmark, which started in January.  Now that the clamour surrounding barcodes has died down it is time to get back to normality (for a while!).

As always, ALL postmark news for the month will be added here, so please check here before you send images which we may have already reported: variations, of course, are always welcome!

And anything else in the postmark and postal markings line, is welcome as well.

Celebrating the Queen's accession in 1952 this will be useful for first day covers.  Thanks to JH for the Jubilee Mail Centre, probably 01-02-2022, RW for North & West Yorkshire reversed on 31/01/2022, and I'm sorry but I can't find who sent the Lancs & S Lakes.  Other readers sent other examples during my silence, thank you!

Accession Day
6th February
70th Anniversary

Accession Day postmark slogan, North & West Yorkshire reversed layout 31/01/2022

Accession Day postmark slogan, Jubilee Mail Centre 03/02/2022

UPDATE 5 February.  With The Queen having safely reached the anniversary of her Accession, Royal Mail moves on.  This is National Apprenticeship Week, with a new slogan.

Apprenticeship Week
7-13 February

Two examples so far from opposite ends of the country.  The four-line version from Aberdeen Mail Centre 04-02-2022 sent by MM, and the five-line version from Plymouth and Cornwall 04/02/2022 from RW.

National Apprenticeship Week slogan from Aberdeen Mail Centre 04-02-2022

National Apprenticeship Week slogan from Plymouth and Cornwall (Mail Centre) 04-02-2022

UPDATE 9 February. It's unusual to have two 'weeks' commemorated in one, and it begs the question just when the above slogan is running, given that another one started on 7 February.  Marking Payroll Giving Week, it will either run in parallel or replace the Apprenticeship one.

Payroll Giving
Week 2022
7th- 13th February

Examples on our own post from Greenford/Windsor Mail Centre 07/02/2022 and the other format from Exeter Mail Centre 08-02-2022 courtesy of JH.

Payroll Giving Week postmark slogans from Greenford/Windsor Mail Centre 07/02/2022 and from Exeter Mail Centre 08-02-2022

UPDATE 11 February: Yet another new slogan this week, now supporting the greetings card industry, this time for Valentine's Day.  Thanks to RW for the Tyneside NE/SR Mail Centre and LT for the clearer one from Nottingham Mail Centre both dated 09/02/22

Send a little love
this ♥︎
Valentine's Day
♥︎ ♥︎ February 14

Valentine's Day slogan postmark, Nottingham Mail Centre 09/02/2022

Valentine's Day slogan postmark, Tyneside NE/SR Mail Centre 09/02/2022

UPDATE 16 February.  Its a while since I was sent a good image of Royal Mail's default slogan, the one that they use when they have no specific campaign to publicise.  So here is 

supporting youth
mental health with

from Nottingham Mail Centre 12/02/2022 (thank you RW).

Supporting youth mental health, Action for Children slogan used 12/02/2022 in Nottingham.

UPDATE 1 March: the last slogan for February marks the 25th anniversary of World Book Day, which falls on 3 March 2022. 


25th anniversary
3 March 2022

World Book Day 25th anniversary slogan used at Greenford/Windsor Mail Centre 28/02/2022

Other variants of this (though used in February) are shown in the March post.


Greenford/Windsor Mail Centre applied the 'do not recognise the stamp' version of their ink-jet postmark to one of the new Platinum Jubilee stamps this week!

UPDATE Feb 16th: Larry T has sent a picture of a recent use of the wavy-line canceller which was introduced to cancel stamps missed by the machinery.  It looks like an external ink-pad was used, and the whole frame of the device has been pressed into the inkpad, thus producing the frame.

UPDATE February 22nd: A surprise use of a Universal machine has been reported.  Although no year is shown, just 15-II, this die from Jubilee Mail Centre is on one of last year's Rugby Union stamps so it must be 2022.  The lettering at the foot (top) is KT-TW-GU for Kingston-upon-Thames, Twickenham and Guildford.

Universal wavy line postmark with inverted outer ring in date/place unit used 15 II 2022 at Jubilee Mail Centre.

Remember, all postmarks appearing in February 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.

We now move on to March.

Platinum Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II set and PSB - 4 February 2022

As expected Royal Mail will issue a set of stamps and associated products to mark the platinum jubilee of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, an event described not only as unparalleled in British history but also "this will be the only platinum jubilee ever celebrated in this country".

Their write-up continues 

For 70 years The Queen has been the ultimate symbol of the United Kingdom, representing her subjects at home and abroad through times of great joy and sadness too. Her Jubilee is a moment to reflect on a record of duty and service admired and appreciated far beyond these shores. Her Majesty is also Queen of 15 other nations, Head of the Commonwealth and the longest serving Head of State in the world today. 

Celebrations throughout 2022 will mark and celebrate this significant milestone in the life of our monarch and our country. The celebrations will span five months, from the anniversary of her accession on 6th February to the official, celebratory, long bank holiday weekend from 2nd to 5th June 2022.

The anniversary and the activity around the two key moments – in February and June – will help keep the anniversary in the public’s mind, with spikes of special interest and focus in February and again in early Summer.


A set of 8 pictorial stamps - 4 x 1st class, 4 x £1.70 - show, predictably, Her Majesty in various situations and locations over the decades - 1957, 1966, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1999, 2005 and 2020.

1st Class:
Her Majesty The Queen during a visit to the headquarters of MI5, London, February 2020;
Her Majesty The Queen with His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh during a tour of the United States, Washington, October 1957;
Her Majesty The Queen on a walkabout in Worcester, April 1980;
Her Majesty The Queen during Trooping the Colour, London, June 1978;
Her Majesty The Queen after touring the Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, May 2005;
Her Majesty The Queen during the Silver Jubilee celebrations, Camberwell, June 1977
Her Majesty The Queen during a tour of the West Indies, in Victoria Park, St Vincent, February 1966;
Her Majesty The Queen at the Order of the Garter ceremony in Windsor, June 1999.

Set of 8 stamps issued 4 February 2022 for Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee.

Technical and Credits

Design by Kate Stephens.  The 35mm square PVA-gummed stamps are printed by International Security Printers (Cartor) in litho, perf 14½ in two se-tenant strips of four.

Photo acknowledgements in order:
1st class: visit to MI5 HQ, London, 2020 © Victoria Jones/Pool/AFP/Getty Images; United States, Washington, October 1957 © Popperfoto/Getty Images;  Worcester, April 1980 © Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images;  Trooping the Colour, London, June 1978 © Anwar Hussein/Getty Images; 
£1.70: Edmonton, Canada, May 2005 © Jeff McIntosh/ The Canadian Press/PA/Alamy;  Camberwell, June 1977 © Graham Wiltshire/Getty Images;  Victoria Park, St Vincent, February 1966 © Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022;  Windsor, June 1999 © PA/ Alamy

Prestige Stamp Book

Although there is no miniature sheet for this issue, there will of course be a prestige stamp book (the second of the year) which incorporates some previously issued stamps. 

Pane 1: Machin definitives - two each 2p, 10p, 50p, £1.50. These have security codes MPIL M21L and so the £1.50 will be the only new stamp - an odd choice as it is rarely available from Post Office branches in sheet form.  (* see foot of post for another Machin.)

The 2p was included in the Music Giants V book (DY38), the 10p was included in the Music Giants V & VI and Industrial Revolutions books (DY38/39/41), and the 50p stamp was included in the Music Giants V & VI (DY38/41) books.  The £1.50 will be included in our catalogue as 4150P.

Pane 2:  two each 1st class and £1.70 stamps from this issue.

Pane 3:  two 1st class from the 90th Birthday issue (SG 3827/8), and two 1st class stamps from the Diamond Jubilee issue (SG 3319B/20B).  As these are almost certainly* printed by the same process and printer, with the same perforation and phosphor, they will probably not have separate catalogue numbers.  [* Details awaited from Royal Mail].

Pane 4:  two each 1st class and £1.70 stamps from this issue.

Cover of Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee PSB - 4 February 2022
Panes 1* & 2 of Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee PSB - 4 February 2022
 Panes 3 & 4 of Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee PSB - 4 February 2022
I ordered only one PSB and - having checked the stamp panes - quickly sent it on to a Bulletin editor in France.  He sent me this picture today;  I didn't check the other panes or the cover!  He also confirms that there is no text pane between the first two stamp panes, which is unusual.
Platinum Jubilee prestige stamp book with duplicated cover.


Inside pages, pane 1 of Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee PSB - 4 February 2022, and cover of limited edition (1952)

MACHIN definitives.  Following this week's announcement that all Machin definitives would be replaced by stamps with datamatrix codes this is the first PSB since that announcement - and maybe the last ever - to contain Machins. 

If this PSB is sold for a year or more it will cease to be sold on 3 February 2023, three days after the Machins it contains cease to be valid for postage!

Other products

First day covers (set and PSB definitive pane), presentation pack, stamp cards, limited edition PSB (quantity 1952), stamp cards.

Jointly with the Royal Mint £5 coin cover (edition of 15,000) - also available as Silver Proof, Gold Proof and (of course) Platinum priced at £92.50, £2725, and £5495 respectively in editions of 1200, 100 and 20.  

Also, the set of stamps mounted and framed (£29.99), and two platinum stamps (ie coated with 0.1g of the metal) in limited editions of 500 each at £125 each.

Whatever floats your boat, and your pocket can afford!

UPDATE 9 February.  Thanks to the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog, we can show Canada Post's Platinum Jubilee offering, which is another opportunity for Machin collectors.  This design is issued as a self-adhesive stamp issued in booklets of 10 and a sheetlet containing a single, identical gummed stamp.  The 'P' stamps (=permanent) pay the basic inland letter rate.

Stamp issued by Canada Post for HM The Queen's Platinum Jubilee


Tuesday 1 February 2022

Machin Definitives with Datamatrix code: new design for Large Letter counter sheets, booklets & business sheets - 1 & 28 February 2022

As expected Royal Mail is extending the incorporation of Datamatrix barcodes to more definitives in 2022.  In February the 1st & 2nd class and Large booklets, counter sheets and business sheets will make an appearance.  Further details of the purpose and use of these stamps are awaited, and will be published as soon as we have them.

Readers/contributors are finding more and more information and adding it in 'Comments' quicker than I can sensibly edit the blog.  Please look there for additional information including the 4 April issue for tariff change.

1st class purple definitive
issued 1 February 2022
Details were sent to Post Office branches, via Branch Focus, on Christmas eve, not the best time to impart information that you want remembered, I would have thought.  Branches were told that the stamps were being enlarged, resulting in the quantity of stamps in the booklets changing, with more details to follow.  

The colours of all the stamps have been changed.  In part this is to distinguish between the stamps for standard and Large Letters which are now the same size, but we understand there are also (as yet unrevealed) technical reasons for not continuing with the red and blue on the basic letter stamps.

Coinciding with the Platinum Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II the colour of the 1st class stamp is changed to Plum Purple which is, strangely, also the current colour of the £4.20 which pays the 100g Large Letter rate outside Europe. (It was also used for the long-running £2.25 stamp.)

The 2nd class changes to Holly Green (last used for the 2020 £3.82, but also for the £1.28 used from 2012-14);

The 1st Large changes to Marine Turquoise which is also the current colour for the popular £1.70 stamp which pays for letters up to 100g to Europe and up to 20g for the rest of the world; 

The 2nd Large is changed to Dark Pine Green (last used for the 2019 £3.45).

The Large letter stamps continue to use a large(r) figure of denomination, but the word Large is now placed at the left foot of the stamp, sideways reading up.

All images are pre-issue publicity pictures with identical barcodes.

New Retail Booklets and Sheets 1 February 2022

Counter sheets of 50 x 2nd, 1st, 2nd Large and 1st Large stamps will be issued.  ALL the sheets are 193.5 x 467.5 mm, whereas existing sheets are 145 mm wide. This means that the 'Large' stamps will be the same size as the basic stamps, which in turn means a new design.

I think we can also expect to see sheets at counters being folded at random as these new ones are almost certainly too wide for counter books.

Booklets of 8 and 4 will replace booklets of 12 and 6 (which replaced booklets of 10 and 4 way back).  The booklets will be 93.2 x 68.6 mm compared with the existing 79 x 57 mm. They are larger still than the Christmas booklets (88.5 x 65 mm).  Large Letter stamp booklets will continue to be packed in 25's and standard stamp booklets will be in 50s.

Prices will be as shown below:

COUNTER SHEETS of 50: 2nd class, 1st class, 2nd Large, 1st Large.   The security code is M22L with no source code, ie MAIL.

BOOKLETS: 8 x 2nd (5.28), 8 x 1st (6.80), 4 x 1st (£3.40), 4 x 1st Large (£5.16), 4 x 2nd Large (£3.84).  Booklet covers will match the colours of the stamps, that is the red covers will be abandoned. The security code is M22L with MEIL for the books of 8, MFIL for the books of 4 as before.

Phosphor bands.  The 2nd class stamps have a single phosphor band placed centrally over the Machin part of the design.  All the remainder will have two phosphor bands placed on the die-cut perforations to the left, and the printed 'perforation' design, to the right.


All images above are pre-issue publicity images. Coloured highlights show position of phosphor bands, which will be transparent and colourless as usual.  These images show W cylinder numbers.


The 39 x 30 mm self-adhesive stamps are printed in 50-sheet stamps (two panes of 25) in gravure by Cartor Security Printers, the new name for International Security Printers.  Despite this, the booklet have W cylinder numbers.   

The first day cover insert has been changed to reflect the new size of the stamps, etc:

I understand that the stamps will not be available until the day of issue.  Because of this there will be a postmarking extension of 28 days at Special Handstamp Centres. The First Day Cover will be available to order until 1st March 2022.

New Business sheets - 28 February 2022

As with the trial 2nd class business sheet issued on 23 March 2021 the new stamps will all be in sheets of 50 and the same size (171.8 x 100.7 mm) as before.  2nd, 1st, 2nd Large and 1st Large will be available.

UPDATE 21 February 2022.

Here is an image of part of the four business sheet headers.

Parts of top panel for the four new business sheets 2nd, 1st, 2nd Large, 1st Large with the official issue date (we believe) of 28 February 2022.

The interpretation of the datamatrix codes showed these dates:

2nd class 29/11/21; 1st class 26/11/21; 2nd Large 08/11/21; 1st Large 05/11/21 (edited)

As with the 2nd class blue issued last March, there is no printing date or serial number on the reverse.

Philatelic supplies

Official first day covers, booklets, and counter sheet stamps as appropriate will be provided by Royal Mail to their standing order customers, on 1 February only.  Assuming the business sheet stamps have some sort of source coding, then it would be possible to obtain double-dated covers for all eight stamps.  

More details about printing dates etc now that we have samples to hand.

Collector and dealer interpretation of the datamatrix codes using a QR code reader app led us to believe that we had worked out printing dates.  However, examination of these stamps has revealed some oddities.  I'll be interested to know what others find.



Sheet date


2nd class



1st class



2nd Large



1st Large



2nd x 8 booklet


1st x 8 booklet


1st x 4 booklet


2nd Large booklet


1st Large booklet


Scans of actual sheet stamps.

The sheets of 50 are divided into two panes of 25.  Cylinder numbers are W1 x3, showing colour, iridescent, and phosphor reading up.

As with the Christmas stamps, the printing is sideways. As the MBPC is treating this as just a change to the orientation of the stamps, most of the data is in the left margin.

The cylinder numbers are on row 9, the grid on row 8, and one barcode on row 7. A row of coloured squares is on row 6, consisting of one in the stamp colour and three black.  A further barcode is on row 4, with the FSC data on row 2, and the printing date on row 1.  As with Cartor-printed country definitives this is in black rather than in the colour of the stamps.  The lower selvedge is blank.

A further barcode is above column 5, with the product code above column 4, and the colour above column 3, all inverted.  The product code and colour are printed in colour.  Whilst the left and right selvedge are continuous, the information in the top margin is on labels 29.5 x 14 mm with rounded corners.

2nd class green datamatrix counter sheet upper and lower half-sheets.

Preliminary images of security codes
These are not as good as I hope to show later when I have other equipment. Click on the image for a larger view.  The 2nd class is M22L MEIL, and the 1st Large is M22L MFIL.


Thank you for all the comments which were made on this blog readers by people who collected the news announcement in the early hours (eg 2 am while I was asleep).  I appreciate them all but not all have been accepted for publication because of duplication. 

Whilst the mainstream media have focussed on the video and tracking aspects of these stamps one of the most important things for collectors and the trade is this from Royal Mail's website.

Transition to Barcoded Stamps

Following a successful national trial we will now be adding unique barcodes to all our regular ‘everyday’ Definitive and Christmas stamps. Each barcoded stamp will have a digital twin and the two will be connected by the Royal Mail App. The unique barcodes will facilitate operational efficiencies, enable the introduction of added security features and pave the way for innovative services for our customers.

The barcodes match the stamp colour and sit alongside the main body of the stamp, separated by a simulated perforation line. The new barcode is an integral part of the stamp and must remain intact for the stamp to be valid.

Non-barcoded stamps will be phased out but will remain usable until 31 January 2023. Customers are encouraged to use their non-barcoded stamps before this date. Alternatively, non-barcoded stamps can be exchanged for the new barcoded version through Royal Mail’s ‘Swap Out’ scheme. 

The ‘Swap Out’ scheme will open on 31 March 2022. Forms will be available via a variety of channels, including local Customer Service Points; the Royal Mail website and via our Customer Experience team. Customers will be able to use a Freepost address. Further details will be announced shortly.

Watch our exclusive Shaun the Sheep video

The new barcoded stamps enable you to watch and share an exclusive Shaun the Sheep video via the barcode itself using the Royal Mail App. You or the recipient can watch the video just by scanning the stamp barcode using our App. More videos will be added over the coming months.

FAQ: What happens if I use a non barcoded stamp after 31 January 2023?

If you post an item with a non-barcoded stamp after 31 January 2023 it will be liable to surcharge — as it will be the equivalent of it having no postage. So please either use up any non-barcoded stamps you have — or swap them out.

Post Offices will not be involved.  Swap-out forms will not be available and POs will not do the swapping.  Royal Mail Customer Service Points will handle them, and I suspect they may have a small stock of stamps for exchange.  This is interesting because a lot of CSPs in delivery offices used to sell stamps but they were withdrawn over security issues.
UPDATE 8.30 pm
Again, thank you to everybody who has commented on this dramatic and controversial news.  
I've added a couple of paragraphs to the Royal Mail statement above which clarifies that this only applies to definitive and Christmas stamps.  Special issues, commemoratives, whatever you call them, are unaffected, which means that the older ones from 1971 will remain valid.  
It is unclear whether the exchange scheme will apply only to today's stamps (and those issued in April - see below) or if stamps with a face value are included.  If they are - as they should be - one wonders how the exchange will be facilitated.  It's doubtful if customers will be able to request specific stamps and I suspect that a £1.25 stamp traded-in will be exchanged for three - £1, 20p, 5p.  Similarly all definitives must be included including gummed ones, and NVIs of any colour.  (How many colours of 1st class stamp can you remember?)

The benefits to Royal Mail are enormous - the pallet-loads of forgeries coming in to the country from the east will lose their usability at a stroke, and anybody to exchange them will almost certainly be questioned as to where they obtained them, and told that they will not be accepted.   
Similarly the task of Revenue Protection officers will be eased - no longer will they have to check whether the landscape orange 1st class self-adhesive stamp, or the 1st class black with imperforate edges are genuine.  All these will be removed from postal duty.  [There will undoubtedly be a short period where people continue to use old stamps when they cease to be valid - if only Postage Due stamps were still used that might be worthwhile, but little pf postal history worth will come from this!]
The costs, however, are high.  If they intend to exchange everything sent in by collectors, businesses, and dealers who are holding older stamps for use/sale as postage the manpower involved in checking every application and all the stamps included with the application will be huge.  Rather than sacking 700 middle managers Royal Mail should keep them on as they will need people to deal with this exercise.

However, there is also no clarity on Country Definitives, those 2nd class, 1st class and airmail stamps in designs appropriate to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - by coincidence the order of this listing just about matches the reported availability in the territories concerned. - very sparse in many areas.   As these are printed on gummed paper in litho it seems unlikely that the barcoding will extend to them.  I don't think it will be politically acceptable to deny the smaller countries their own stamps, so I see those continuing, albeit in a small way.

The videos.  What really surprised me when I read about this in the early hours of another night interrupted by my long-running non-Covid cold, was the way the press release was picked up by the popular press, with headlines focusing on the fact that with these stamps you could watch a Shaun the Sheep video.  By now these stories have been overwhelmed by other Google results as the story gains wider traction in regional, national, and specialist newspapers and magazines, and on other websites.

It occurred to me that with so many parts of the country having experienced delivery delays, with mail from before Christmas being delivered 2-3 weeks after posting in many parts of the country, the last thing readers of those newspapers wanted was to know that in future they would be able to watch Shaun the Sheep or other videos when their letters were delivered.  

Not for the first time our readers tell us something that our contacts in Royal Mail Stamps and Collectables have not.  According to the Royal Mail "First" publicity leaflet received today by one or our readers, the roll out plan will be the 4th April for 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, £2. £3, and £5 stamps in sheet format.  Note that it says that the dates are provisional.
Extract from 'First' Royal Mail's new stamps publicity leaflet about barcoded definitives.

If there is to be a tariff change in April, one would expect to see airmail-rate stamps included but the rates for these, and any changes to the basic inland rates are never announced until a month before the change.

Prestige stamp book definitive panes
Logically the inclusion of Machin definitives in PSBs after April would seem unlikely.  The new size makes this difficult.  Of course they could include the unchanged country definitives but the market for these is low, so fewer collectors would feel compelled to buy them.

Whatever, Machin collectors will be divided between those who are pleased that they no longer need to spend around £20 to get between 1 and 4 stamps unavailable elsewhere, and those who feel cheated that there are no longer Machins in PSBs.  I'm thinking most will fall into the first category, especially after the £11.88 (plus airmail stamps) cost of the April issue, following on so closely from today's issue and the business sheets at the end of the month.

This story isn't over yet, so come back from time to time, and remember to check on the latest comments.