Thursday, 31 March 2022

More thoughts on Royal Mail's 'Stamp Swap Out' scheme and invalidation of current definitives.

Royal Mail annunced details of it's 'Swap-Out' scheme, yesterday, 31 March 2022 a year ahead of what was originally said to be the deadline for exchange. That impeccable timing means that the news has been published in the national and local press on 1 April, ie All Fools Day.

My first 'Thoughts' on 10 February made a number of assumptions and posed a number of questions. Reader contributions from sources in Royal Mail and elsewhere were added, and Royal Mail changed some of the earlier decisions, notably on Christmas stamps.

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. 

We now know that, in summary, Machin and Country definitives will be invalidated, along with some special definitives, but that Christmas, Commemorative and Special, and Post and Go stamps will NOT and these will not be accepted for trade-in. More on this below.

Terminology. 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)', which might have been phrased in a better way. Be sure to understand which is which, and if there is any doubt refer to Royal Mail's doscumentation rather than any other.

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 will be a big surplus of these unless RM change!


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]

Stamps will be swapped on a like-for-like basis, that is 1st class Large unbaroced will be swapped for 1st class Large barcoded.

Stamps for which there is no direct equivalent will be swapped for 2nd class barcoded stamps. [2]



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. 

Details of the mechanics

The stamps which can be exchanged for new barcoded stamps are:

- all Machin definitives, NVI and valued.  This includes ALL NVIs, ie Special Delivery, Signed For, Worldwide 20/40g, Europe 20/40g, Worldwide Postcard, and the dark blue 'E' stamps. 

- the double-head (QV & QE) stamps and the Olympic definitives.

All invalidated

- country definitives are also included in the exchange scheme, although there has not yet been any announcement about barcoding these or any other replacements.  For the present the existing pictorial ones will be exchanged for new barcoded Machins.


- Minisheet or Retail Booklets that contain both Specials plus Machins or Country Definitives will be swapped to the face value of the Minisheet or Retail Booklet. [4]

May be swapped in as a booklet, or
split and only the Machins swapped in.

- Full Prestige Stamps Books are not valid in the Swap Scheme, this is because only a small number of stamps in these books will not be valid for postage with effect from 31 January 2023.

- Definitive panes that are removed from PSBs, will be valid for Swap at the face value of the pane.

Individual definitive panes can be swapped.

- Smilers Sheets issued with Country Definitives will be valid for Swap on a like for like basis e.g. 20 x 1st Class English NVI = 20 x 1st Class Barcode stamps. 

Smilers with Country definitives will be invalidated

We think that Smilers with commemorative flags will NOT be invalidated.

- The swap will replace the stamps on a like for like basis and will not compensate for any additional product premium above the face value of the stamps e.g. Presentation Pack & PSB premium.

Stamps which will not be exchanged include all Christmas stamps (reversing the previous statement), all special, commemorative and greetings pictorial stamps whether definitive-size or larger.  

Stamps issued for the Smilers range are special stamps so will remain valid for postage and are not valid for Swap on their own.  (See above regarding Smilers containing Country Definitives.)

Smilers sheet with Greetings stamps remain valid for postage.

Post and Go stamps from Post Office self-serve kiosks remain valid and are not eligible for exchange. [3]

As far as we know all Post & Go stamps remain valid for postage


Update 2 April.  Just to make it clear(er), the stamps listed several paragraphs above as being the ones which will be traded in (or swapped out) are the only ones.  This means that the rest are not eligible and will remain valid for postage.  I realise that this does mean a few grey areas as below, but "if it wasn't a regular Machin definitive sold as such" or one which was part of a miniature sheet (eg Long to Reign) or PSB pane, then it remains valid for postage:

Decimal Wildings remain valid for postage.

Grey Areas

Some grey areas remain.

- 1969 Pre-decimal Machin 10p, 20p, 50p £1

- 1999 Profile on Print large 1st class

- 2017 £5 Accession Machin

- 2017 £1 embossed gold Machin ex PSB & MS (the other stamps in the MS will be invalid)

£1 gold embossed - commemorative and valid, or definitive and invalidated?

Postage and losses

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

Royal Mail Terms and Conditions include:

If your Swap Out form and/or non-barcoded stamps are lost in transit to us, we will not consider any claim for loss unless you provide proof of posting and a copy of the original Swap Out form. We therefore recommend that you keep the necessary records.

If you use a bulk Swap Out form for a Swap Out of £200 or more, we recommend sending your Swap Out form using a service with adequate compensation cover for the value of the non-barcoded stamps you are sending to us.

When you send your bulk Swap Out form for a Swap Out exceeding £200 using a Royal Mail delivery service, we will compensate you for the cost of that service by returning additional barcoded stamps equal to the value of your postage cost. Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed is likely to be the most appropriate service to use in most cases. (My highlighting - If you send £1000-worth of stamps using £7.65 special delivery you will receive barcoded stamps to the value of £1007.65.)

UPDATE 6 April:  There are reports that some people using the basic 'Freepost Swapout' address have been refused a proof of posting certificate at the Post Office because there is no postcode. (Other POs have said this is not a problem!)

If you ask Royal Mail to send you a form it comes with a preaddressed prepaid envelope.  If you are sending under £200 using the downloaded form locally printed, use this address to send your package and you should get a proof of posting with no problem.  Remember also to keep a copy of the Swap form in case of losses in either direction.

Royal Mail Swap Out Freepost address.

There could have been another way

As already mentioned dealers who have large stocks of postage in the form of Machin and Country definitives (including the Smilers sheets with country definitivess on) will trade those in for new barcoded stamps. They will then hold more of those than they can possibly use even if they ordinarily sell a lot of stamps for postage.

Likewise collectors trading-in their collections: the only option is to sell them below face value for postage. This must reduce Royal Mail's sales income for the next year at least.

Royal Mail's accounts include a liability represented by 'Stamps in the Hands of the Public' (SITHOP), a reflection of the acknowledgement that a service had been paid for at some time in the past that might be realised some time in the future. This ought to include the stamps in the hands of collectors and dealers, the latter frequently selling those old stamps for postage. The liability currently stands at around £250M in their accounts.

The shiny new barcoded stamps received by dealers who trade in their old stocks will continue to be part of the SITHOP figure. In fact if the current figure is based on historic sales of postage and usages, at annual rates not adjusted for higher prices, then the new figure will be considerably higher.

One option which could have benefitted both the trade and Royal Mail would be an exchange for cash. Royal Mail would save a lot of effort sending out new stamps, for those swapped in, if a cash payment was made instead: they would have had to check what was traded in, but they have to do that anyway. As the dealers would not be able sell their large surpluses of barcoded stamps at full face value, there would wisdom in those dealers taking that cash at a discount on face.

Clearly this is something that Royal Mail's accountants would have to consider as it would be a real cash outflow rather than adjusting a liability. But there is no evidence that this has even been considered.

If this option was available, social and business buyers who would normally have bought from dealers will instead buy from Royal Mail at full value, producing a cash inflow.


1. A limit of 50 seems low when stamps were issued in sheets of 100. I don't understand the sentence in brackets.

2. “Stamps for which there is no direct equivalent will be swapped for 2nd class barcoded stamps.” I presume this will be aggregated, ie all the stamps without a direct equivalent will be totalled and the total divided by the then value of the 2nd class stamps. While this might make sense for some values, exchange for 1st class stamps or others would be much more useful.

A dealer trading in a sheet of Special Delivery stamps worth £6.85 each will get around 250 x 2nd class stamps! It would make much more sense to provide sheets of £5 stamps and £1.85 stamps.  As one dealer has said, with these new stamps being larger, it will be difficult to put 10 on a small Special Delivery envelope.

3. As this document is addressed to the general public we must assume that this also includes all those at museums and sold direct from Tallents House or at stamp exhibitions or other events.

4. Swappable miniature sheets containing Machin or Country definitives which will become invalidated, some also containing other stamps, include the 2000 Stamp Show, Diamond Jubilee, Long To Reign, End of WW2, Lest We Forget (x3), 2017 Machin Anniversary, Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament, Wembley, Robert Burns, 2010 Europhilex. {There may be others!)


See also Royal Mail's webpage with the basic details of the scheme & FAQs.

From this page you can see the two forms which will be available, one for up to £200 and the other for bulkier exchanges. 

The full terms and conditions are here (pdf file)

Friday, 11 March 2022

Heroes of the Covid Pandemic set - 23 March 2022

A competition for young people to design stamps celebrating 'Heroes of the Pandemic' was announced in spring 2020 (see last update).

The eight final designs have now been chosen and will be issued on 23 March 2022.  

Set of 8 x 1st class stamps showing Covid Heroes


The set consists of 8 x 1st class stamps, size 37 x 35 mm printed in litho in sheets of 48 (12 x se-tenant strips of 4) by ISP, perforated 14 x 14½.

Stamp Details:

1. "Medical workers united as one" was designed by Jessica Roberts (14) from, Flintshire, Wales.
2. "Captain Sir Tom Moore" stamp was designed by Shachow Ali (11) from Wales.
3. "NHS hospital cleaners" stamp was designed by Raphael Valle Martin (13) in Kent.
4. Designed by Alfie Craddock (12) from Herefordshire, this stamp shows an "NHS worker", like his mum.
5. "Lab technician" stamp was designed by Logan Pearson (11) from Lancashire.
6. "Delivery drivers" were some of those to be celebrated during the pandemic, and one is shown on this stamp designed by Isabella Grover (7) from Welwyn Garden City.
7. "The NHS" was designed by Connie Stuart (14) of Norfolk.
8. The image of "doctors and nurses" was designed by Ishan Bains (6), from Warwickshire.

I'm slightly disappointed that only two of the designs I originally selected back in September last year made it through the short-listing to the final selection.  However, I based my selection on aesthetics and thought they also had a reasonable mix of subjects.  

In the past there has been a belief that such competitions needed to be not only good designs, but also to fairly represent all age groups and parts of the UK, and I feared that we might get some 'creditable for a 5-year-old' stamps but that doesn't seem to be the case, as we have two from Wales and none from either Scotland nor Northern Ireland. 

The balance of 'heroes' represented does, as others have said, omit many whilst leaving the emphasis with the NHS.  So maybe teachers, postal workers, and care home workers weren't in the same danger as were doctors, nurses, and NHS cleaners, but they rose to the occasion.  At a time when many stamp collectors were unwilling or unable to bend themselves to Zoom meetings once a month, teachers all over the UK somehow managed to teach their 20-30 pupils who were in 20-30 locations, and to keep doing this with other class-groups for long periods every day.

Technical details

The 37 x 35mm stamps were printed by International Security Printers in lithography, perforated 14 x 14½.  The stamps are in two sheets of 48 stamps.


Additional products

First day cover, presentation pack, stamp cards.

UPDATE 29 April.  A little more information recently received, from Royal Mail's press office.

Background on the winners and their designs, in order.

Jessica Roberts, Holywell, Flintshire (Flint High School):
Jess is 14 years old. Her inspiration for her design came from the bravery and heroic actions of the key workers who devoted long hours and vital care for those effected by the Pandemic. Jess also enjoys Tae Kwondo and art.

Sachow Ali, Flint, Flintshire (Flint High School):
Sachow is 11 years old. He loves to draw and sketch, mainly portraits of humans and creatures/animals alike. He was inspired by heroic spirit and always hard-working attitude of Captain Sir Thomas Moore, who was so keen to help others in need despite his health struggles and age. Shachow enjoys playing chess, cycling and loves hiking.

Raphael (Rafi) Valle-Martin, Tunbridge Wells, Kent (Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys):
Rafi is 14. Rafi is very artistic and for his GCSEs he has chosen Art, Graphic Design and Media Studies which enables him to do 3D computer aided graphic design.  He wants to join the family business in jewellery design and 3D technology when he leaves school.  His inspiration behind his stamp design featuring an NHS cleaner was to honour people who fulfilled a very important supporting role during the pandemic but often get forgotten about. 

Alfie Craddock, Hereford, Herefordshire (The Hereford Academy):
Alfie is 12 years old. Alfie’s inspiration behind his design are the things that were/still going on across the world at that moment in time (LGBTQ, Black lives matter movement, NHS as his mum works for the NHS). Alfie’s love of art came from drawing and painting with his grandfather who sadly is no longer with us. Alfie enjoys playing football for two teams (Cheltenham Town & Hereford Lads club), and supporting Coventry City FC. Alfie also enjoys working on and riding his bicycle. 

Logan Pearson, Bury, Lancashire (Bury CofE High School):
Logan is 11. Logan's inspiration behind his design was the 'science behind the scenes' and the development of the Covid tests and vaccine. He loves Science, at school, with his favourite subject being Chemistry, closely followed by Maths. Outside of school he takes part in weekly Drama classes and enjoys working as a supporting artist in various TV productions. In his spare time he also enjoys playing chess, spending time with his dogs and making short films.

Isabella Grover, Welwyn Garden, Hertfordshire (Creswick Primary School):
Isabella is seven years old, lives in Hertfordshire and has two brothers. She loves drawing and painting and is learning the piano. Isabella absolutely adores the coast and collects sea glass. The inspiration for Isabella's stamp came from our wonderful food delivery driver who, despite losing so much personally, kept on helping others. 

Ishan Bains, Nuneaton, Warwickshire (Abbey CofE Infant School):
Ishan is seven years old. He lives at home with his mum, dad, and two older brothers, and until recently, his late grandmother. Ishan loves drawing. His elder brother encouraged him to enter the competition as Ishan was hesitant at first and very shy His inspiration for the picture was seeing paramedics called many times over the last year for his late grandmother. Every time she was ill, they took her away and brought her back when she was better. Ishan always associates them with making his grandmother well again and is grateful for all their hard work. Ishan enjoys reading and playing videos games.

Connie Stuart, Norfolk (Litcham School):
Connie is 14. Connie has an ambition to get an art degree and have a career as an artist and her other passion is animals and she enjoys spending time with her dogs and guinea pigs.

Friday, 4 March 2022

Specially decorated postboxes for World Book Day 2022

World Book Day slogan postmark.


Press Release

  • To celebrate World Book Day’s 25th anniversary, Royal Mail today unveils four special postboxes across the UK, celebrating authors and illustrators from all four UK nations.
  • The postboxes have their own unique design, celebrating the work of the authors and illustrators featured on each postbox. The postboxes are adorned in lines from books by authors including Greg James and Chris Smith, Nadiya Hussain, Dara McAnulty and Martin Waddell, with artwork from the likes of Harry Potter cover illustrator, Jonny Duddle.
  • The postboxes are located across the UK in Luton (England), Nannerch, Flintshire (Wales), Dundee (Scotland) and Castlewellan (Northern Ireland), close to places of significance to either the writers or their work*. 
  • The specific locations of the postboxes are:
    • England – Luton (George Street)
    • Wales – Nannerch, Flintshire (Village Road)
    • Scotland – Dundee (City Square)
    • Northern Ireland – Castlewellan (Main Street)

Pictures provided by Royal Mail:

Kelly McCaughrain with a postbox in Castlewellan, Northern Ireland.

Pamela Butchart (left) and Michelle Sloan with a postbox in Dundee, Scotland.

Jonny Diddle with a postbox in Nannerch, Flintshire, Wales.
A decorated postbox in Luton, England.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

New Music Giants set?

Reader PY has remarked that all the Music Giants sets so far have featured male artists or bands.  Even the original Album Covers set was predominantly male aristes.  So he has mocked-up these designs for a future issue.

The only problem I can see is that an issue like this would seem to be an add-on concession, a bit like the Womens Cricket World Cup issue tacked on to the England win MS.  All the previous issues had a set of stamps, a MS, a PSB and usually a retail booklet for a single artist or band.   So we have a set of eight different female artists in one set; still it's a start.

PY's chosen eight are Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield, Amy Winehouse, Annie Lennox, Cilla Black, The Spice Girls, Joan Armatrading and Bananarama.

Suggested Music Giants Female artists designs - Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield, Amy Winehouse, Annie Lennox, Cilla Black, The Spice Girls, Joan Armatrading and Bananarama

Tuesday, 1 March 2022

New Airmail and Make up stamps 4 April, with stability in most Airmail rates, Europe splits in 3, & 1st class goes through the roof!

Royal Mail have announced new airmail stamps to be issued on 4 April 2022. suggesting that postage rates will increase on 11 April. In fact the rates will change on the same day.

New barcoded international airmail stamps will be issued with values of £1.85, £2.55, £3.25, and £4.20.  The three higher values are the existing rates, but the £1.85 represents an increase from £1.70 for European letters to 100g, and Worldwide letters and postcards to 20g.

There is no indication that new country definitive stamps will be issued at the £1.85 rates.

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.

UPDATE 4 March 2022.  It is as well that I did not do any mock-ups as you will see: everything has changed!

Airmail stampsAs mentioned above, only the lowest of the four airmail rates for which there are single stamps will be changing.  But the colours of all the stamps will change with four new stamps being issued.

Four new Machin definitives for international postage rates, issued 4 April 2022

£1.85 DS1400A Wood Brown: 100g Letter Europe (zones 1,2,3) & 20g Letter World (zones 1,2,3)
£2.55 DS1400B Sapphire Blue: 100g Letter World (zones 1,2,3)
£3.25 DS1400C Purple: 100g Large Letter Europe (zones 1,2,3)
£4.20 DS1400D Light Green: 250g Large Letter Europe &, 100g Large Letter World (zones 1,2,3)

See details of new rates below.

Other stamps. As announced much earlier, the low and high-value stamps will also be re-issued with the datamatrix bar-codes.  But as with the three top values above, all the colours are changing, and the design has also been changed as well.

"The complete set of seven new barcoded ‘make up’ low value and three high value definitives available from 4th April 2022.  The iconic Machin design has been retained in the new design and the colour scheme has been reversed to depict the effigy in colour against a white background. The barcode is printed in a matching colour alongside, separated by a simulated perforation line.

Seven new low value Machin Definitives, issued 4 April 2022

Three new high-value Machin definitives, issued 4 April 2022 - note all these stamps are the same size.

Colours:   1p sapphire blue, 2p dark green, 5p purple heather, 10p aqua green, 20p light green, 50p slate grey, £1 wood brown, £2 bright blue, £3 purple, £5 spruce green.

Technical details.

The stamps are printed by Cartor Security Printers (the new company name) in gravure, in sheets of 25 on self-adhesive paper.  The size is 39mm x 30mm, and the perforations: 15 x 14½.

The total cost of the 14 stamps is £23.73.

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

UPDATE: I omitted to say that there will be three first day covers and three presentation packs.


Postage rate changes

Press release: statement from Royal Mail

From 4th April 2022, the price of a 1st Class stamp will increase by 10p to 95p and the price of a 2nd Class stamp will increase by 2p to 68p.

Royal Mail has considered these pricing changes very carefully in light of the long term structural decline in letter usage and rising inflation. Letter volumes have declined by more than 60% since their peak in 2004/5, and around 20% since the start of the pandemic.  

Overall, these changes are broadly in line with inflation and are necessary to ensure the one-price-goes-anywhere Universal Service remains sustainable. The Universal Service Obligation (USO) requires Royal Mail to deliver letters to 31 million home and business addresses across the UK six days a week at the same price.

Nick Landon, Chief Commercial Officer at Royal Mail said: “We understand that many companies and households are finding it hard in the current economic environment, and we will always keep our prices as affordable as possible.

“Whilst the number of letters our postmen and women deliver has declined from around 20 billion a year to around 7 billion since 2004/5, the number of addresses they have to deliver to has grown by around 3.5 million in the same period. We need to carefully balance our pricing against declining letter volumes and increasing costs of delivering to a growing number of addresses six days a week.

“As customer needs change and we see a greater shift from letters to parcels, it is vital that the Universal Service adapts to stay relevant and sustainable. These prices changes are necessary to ensure we can continue to maintain and invest in the one-price-goes-anywhere Universal Service for future generations.”


The 1st class letter rate rises from 85p to 95p, an increase of over 11% so well above the rate of inflation. The 2nd class rate rises from 66p to 68p, a regulated increase of 3%.  Increases for Signed For letters are the same (ie the Signed For premium is unchanged).

The rates for 100g Large Letters rise from 96p to £1.05 2nd class and £1.29 to £1.45 1st class, rises of 9.3% and 12.4%.  Again the Signed For premium is unchanged for the basic weight. 

Standard 1pm Special Delivery rates are unchanged at £6.85 for 100g and £7.65 for 500g.

A standard PO Box annual fee increases by £16.50 from £283.50 to £300 - so don't think that stamp dealers and other online sellers are making big money if their costs are increasing by this sort of figure, it's a rise of nearly 6%.


The basic table of letters up to 100g has only one change, the increase from £1.70 to £1.85 for the Europe 100g and Worldwide 20g rate.  The Worldwide 100g rate remains £2.55.

The Large Letter prices are unchanged at all weight steps, the maximum weight being 750 g.

When it comes to anything heavier, that is a Small Parcel, and here things get really complex.  The rates for Worldwide Small Parcels are unchanged.  But Europe is now divided into three Zones, with only Denmark, France, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, and Monaco being in the cheapest.

The cost of a 100g small parcel rises by 5p (Zone 1), 15p (Zone 2) and 50p (Zone 3).  But this is only because the first weight step is now 250g.  For this weight Zone 2 is unchanged, Zone 1 is 10p cheaper, and Zone 3 is up 35p.

Beyond that, the Zone 2 rates are largely in line with existing prices up to 1kg, with Zone 1 rates lower* and Zone 3 rates higher.

After that ut gets more complicated, although the charge for each additional 250g over 2kg is £.140 across the board, which is unchanged.

For full details download the new rate leaflet here.


A rate change was always likely as no changes have been made to rates for non-business account users since January 2021, but the scale of this change to the basic 1st class rate will see many people planning better and using 2nd class - after they have used up all the 1st class stamps they have traded in on the swap scheme and those that they have bought from dealers and collectors who have a surplus!

I rather like the white background on the make-up values.  It is a refreshing change, and reminds me of this label from the 'Gracious Accession' PSB in 2002.

Definitive pane from Gracious Accession prestige stamp book 2002 with Edmund Dulac profile of King George VI on white background.

Just to detail the costs for typical Machin collectors:

Cylinder block of 6 - £142.38, block of 10 - £237.30.

I think it will be not only letter volumes which will be falling, but sales of Machin definitives to collectors.




March slogan and other postmarks

I am pleased that the first slogan for March arrived this morning, albeit used in February.  I hope it continues to be used for a few days in March.  This is going to be a very limited blogpost until we return at the end of the month, when we shall catch up with all your contributions (I hope!).

We start with World Book Day, the 25th anniversary of 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

I'll copy this back into the February blogpost but will welcome March uses in all variants.

UPDATE 2 March.  I'm posting all variants here even though so far all have been used in February.  The other layout from Edinburgh Mail Centre on 28-02-2022, and a strange one from SE Wales also on 28/02/2022 in the reverse layout.  

World Book Day 25th anniversary slogan in 4-line format used at Edinburgh Mail Centre 28-02-2022

World Book Day 25th anniversary slogan used at SE Wales Mail Centre 28/02/2022

This backwards format is normally used on square envelopes processed at a 90º angle, but in this case it is on an A5 envelope.  It appears that the envelope was folded in half - note the position of the orange bar-codes, but if that was the case it begs the question as to how the address was read, because this appears to be on the lower (hidden) half.  I'm seeking clarification on this!

Sideways slogan on machine-processed A5 envelope.

UPDATE 3 March:  Thanks to LT for this World Book Day slogan from Carlisle Mail Centre Cumbria, Dumfries & Galloway 01/03/22 (which is where we shall be on Sunday).

World Book Day 25th anniversary slogan used at Carlisle Mail Centre (Cumbria Dumfries & Galloway) 01/03/22

UPDATE 30 March Thanks to the many people who sent examples of the slogan advertising the Disasters Emergency Committee's Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal which has been widely used since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  


Chronologically we have Medway Mail Centre used on 07-03-2022 from RN and the other format from Tyneside NE/SR Mail Centre on 09/03/2022 from RL.  And RW comes up with a double-postmarked piece showing Croydon Mail Centre on 07-03-2022 and Gatwick Mail Centre on 08/03/2022!

Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal slogan postmark Medway Mail Centre 07-03-2022

Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal slogan postmark Tyneside Mail Centre 09-03-2022

Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal slogan postmarks Croydon Mail Centre 07-03-2022 and Gatwick Mail Centre 08/03/2022

UPDATE 31 March:  My thanks to BM for this reversed example from Gatwick on 14/03/2022 applied in the square envelope format.  

Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal slogan postmark in reverse format from Gatwick Mail Centre 14/03/2022

This time last year a Census was held in the United Kingdom - apart from Scotland.  A postmark was used nationwide for this.  The census was postponed in Scotland due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and it took place this year on 20 March.  

Again it was marked by a postmark slogan.  I've been told that this was used in Integrated Mail Processors (English, Welsh & N Ireland Mail Centres) on letters addressed to Scottish postcodes.  Scottish Mail Centres only have Intelligent Letter Sorting Machines, which cannot discriminate, so the slogan will be applied to all letters processed by Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. 

Scotland's Census
20 March
Shaping our future
A' dealbhadh ar
n-ám ri leachd

The first example is from Inverness Mail Centre 17-03-2022, although posted nearly 100 miles away in the far north-west at Drumbeg.  This was sent to an address in England.

Scotland's Census slogan postmark used at Inverness Mail Centre 17-03-2022

Mail addressed to Scotland from elsewhere in the UK also received the slogan, this one from Preston (Lancashire and South Lakes) mail centre 15/03/2022.

Scotland's Census slogan postmark used at Preston Mail Centre 15/03/2022

Mail processed at Preston for addresses outside Scotland received the current 'Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal' slogan.  This is posted on the same day and was processed by the same machine (see code number at foot).

Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal slogan postmark Preston Mail Centre 15/03/2022


We've discussed elsewhere how Royal Mail's Revenue Protection sometimes makes errors and declares postally valid stamps to be invalid.  At least Exeter Mail Centre's RP team got this one right (thanks to RW for the picture).

Large Revenue Protection Exeter, Devon handstamp in red, used 17 March 2022.

The Universal machine postmark reported last month in use at Jubilee Mail Centre may have continued into March.  Thanks to LT for this (again poor) example dated 17 III 2022, which he said was posted in TW12 postcode area.   However, this has the die upright rather than inverted, and the inscription at the foot is NOT the postcodes of the Jubilee MC area.

Universal machine postmark possibly used at Jubilee Mail Centre on 17-III-2022.

Lastly from my travels in Scotland, a new updated example of the John O'Groats Krag machine slogan on 21 March 2022.  (This is on a DL envelope so as to get both impressions.  It also has an abbreviated Inverness Mail Centre ink-jet postmark.)  

The postmark reads 


- PM -
21 MCH 22

The John O'Groats machine is the last Krag in operational service in the UK, so it was a privilege to be able to see the machine all ready to go.  It's much smaller than I realised and hand-operated, the postmark die cylinder shown by the arrow.

Krag postmarking machine in use at John O'Groats, Scotland, March 2022.

Metal pieces for numbers and months are held nearby in the wooden box to the left, as the date need to be changed daily (except Sunday).

The arrow in the last image indicates where the actual postmarking die is positioned.  This has to be removed daily for the date slugs to be changed.

Pictures of the post office and signage:

John O'Groats post office, store and filling station, March 2022.

"Last filling station in Scotland" - unless you turn left and go to Thurso!

My thanks to postmistress Fiona Harper and Nellie Manson for their assistance in getting covers and cards postmarked, and for allowing me to take these photographs.

Football: 150th Anniversary of the Football Association Challenge Cup - 8 March 2022

What is likely to be one of the most popular of this year's stamp issues is next off the blocks from Royal Mail is issued on 8 March to mark the 150th Anniversary of the FA Cup, properly known as the Football Association Challenge Cup.

Royal Mail's briefing note includes the following:

Royal Mail is marking the 150th anniversary of the first FA Cup with a new set of special stamps celebrating the heritage and tradition of the oldest and most famous domestic football competition in the world.

For 150 years, few other sporting events can have produced as much joy and heartbreak or as many moments of raw emotion. It is a competition in which part-timers can play in the finest stadia in the land and the world’s best players run out in grounds holding only a few thousand people. Just 12 teams took part in the inaugural 1871–72 season, and while they might not have had much else in common with the 729 taking part in 2021–22, they shared the same dream: glory. Like the game itself, aspects of the competition have changed over the course of those years.

To give just one example, the Semi-Finals of the competition, as well as the Final itself, are now played at Wembley Stadium. But one thing hasn’t changed: the FA Cup’s capacity to produce the unexpected, somewhere, and almost every year. From the ‘Matthews’ Final in 1953 – when Blackpool came back from 3–1 down to beat Bolton 4–3, largely thanks to 38-year-old winger Stanley Matthews – to Second Division Sunderland’s defeat of mighty Leeds in 1973 or Keith Houchen’s legendary diving header for Coventry City in the 1987 Final. Think of the FA Cup and, young or old, you think of names, places, matches, moments. The FA Cup has always been a unique competition. For many fans it is about memories, about moments on a football pitch they associate with a time in their lives. Memories matter, they give our lives context. And one thing’s for sure: the FA Cup will keep creating memories for generations to come.

Six new special stamps celebrate some of the themes which make the FA Cup such a prestigious
competition, steeped in heritage and tradition. A mixture of colour and black and white photographs relive some of the moments in the 150 year history of the world’s oldest national football championship.

Set of six stamps to mark the 150th Anniversary of the FA Cup, issued on 8 March 2022.

Stamp designs

1st Class - Lifting the Cup: 90th FA Cup Final, 8 May 1971
1st Class – Wembley Stadium: 48th FA Cup Final, 28 April 1923
£1.70 – A Big Day Out: 87th FA Cup Final, 18 May 1968
£1.70 – Classic Finals: 106th FA Cup Final, 16 May 1987
£2.55 – FA Cup Upsets: FA Cup Fifth Round, 18 February 2017
£2.55 – Royal Patronage: 62nd FA Cup Final, 1 May 1937

I am showing these on a yellow background because of the unusual perforation. A black or white background would not show this well.  As you can see (especially if you click and enlarge the image) the perforation is off-centre; the lower part of each stamp design runs into the perforation.  But this is not just on one value, it is on all three.  And it is not just on the mint stamps, the stamps affixed to the Royal Mail first day cover are exactly the same! [And the picture on the stamp cards is also the same.]

The Miniature Sheet contains an additional four stamps which feature a selection of FA Cup artefacts from the National Football Museum, photographed specially for the stamp issue.

The background to the Miniature Sheet lists all the FA Cup finalists and winning teams since the first competition in 1872 right up to the most recent season in 2021.

Miniature sheet of 4 stamps to mark the 150th Anniversary of the FA Cup, issued on 8 March 2022


1st Class Supporters Memorabilia
1st Class Winners Medal and the original Trophy
£1.70 Official Match Day Shirt and Ball
£1.70 Supporter Souvenirs
Background Supporters at the 1948 Cup Final, photograph.

Technical detail and acknowledgements (as provided by Royal Mail)

The six stamps designed by The Chase, are printed in litho by ISP in 'Olympic landscape' size, 60 x 30 mm, in three sets of se-tenant pairs.  The stamps are perforated 14½.

The FA Cup is an official trade mark of The Football Association Limited. Official FA Cup product. Images: Lifting the Cup – photograph Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images; Wembley Stadium – illustration from Wonderful London, edited by Arthur St John Adcock, Volume I, published by Amalgamated Press (London, 1926–27). Photograph The Print Collector/Getty Images; A big day out –
photograph Gerry Armes/Birmingham Mail/Popperfoto/Getty Images; Classic Finals – photograph   David Cannon/Allsport/Getty Images; FA Cup upsets – photograph Chris Vaughan/CameraSport via Getty Images; Royal patronage – photograph Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo. 

Special thanks to the players, families, clubs, organisations and many others who have supported this
stamp issue.

The 192 x 74 mm miniature sheet, also designed by The Chase, contains four stamps of 41 x 30 mm printed in litho by ISP. Perforations are 14½ x 14.  

The FA Cup is an official trade mark of The Football Association Limited. Official FA Cup product. Background image – supporters at the 1948 Cup Final, photograph Fox Photos/Getty Images; all stamp images National Football Museum, except Leeds pennant – photograph Royal Mail Group Ltd 2022.

Other products

First day covers, presentation pack, stamp cards, press sheet of 12 miniature sheets in an edition of just 150 (PZ060, price £67.30).  Coin cover (choice of £5 UNC, £5 Silver Proof, £5 Gold Proof), mounted and framed set and miniature sheet.