Sunday 31 July 2022

Country definitive stamps with datamatrix codes - 12 new stamps 11 August 2022.

I now have these new stamps to hand so I am adding images here, but the discussion about them on the original post is extensive, so I have made this a no-comment post, with discussion continuing on the other one.

The stamps are self-adhesive as we have come to expect; there are no security cuts and no iridescent printing so Royal Mail are relying on the datamatrix code and nothing else for these.  It will be interesting to see how much - if at all - they are pushed at the countries' post offices now that they are self-adhesive. One would expect that the Scots and the Welsh, at least, might like to use these in preference to the Machins.

Scotland 2nd class definitive with datamatrix code, block of 10 showing cylinder numbers, colour dots, and printing date.

Scotland 1st, 2nd & £1.85 single stamps with datamatrix code.

England 1st, 2nd & £1.85 single stamps with datamatrix code.

Wales 1st, 2nd & £1.85 single stamps with datamatrix code.

Northern Ireland 1st, 2nd & £1.85 single stamps with datamatrix codes.

These are the first datamatrix-coded British stamps printed by litho in 4-colour process, and they demonstrate that the datamatrix code is printed by a separate unit, not in litho, in a single colour.

So whereas the code on the gravure-printed Machins matches (more or less) the ink colour of the stamps, these show only an approximation of (one of) the colours on the stamp.  

Thus the brown on the England 1st class stamp is probably the same as the brown on the Wales 2nd class.  Similarly the grey on the England 2nd class stamp is very like the colour on the Northern Ireland £1.85.

The plate grid indicates that each of the 12 stamps was printed on a separate plate of 4 panes, rather than any combination on a larger plate.  Whilst this doesn't give any information about the quantities printed, it does mean that a different quantity could have been printed of each of the 12 stamps based on expected demand - fewer for the airmail stamp, fewer for Northern Ireland, etc.

The England stamps show suggested printing printing dates of 25/04/22, the Scotland on 26/04/22, the Wales on 27/04/22, and the Northern Ireland on 28/04/22.  

The interpreted datamatrix code has what appears to be a date, in that the last four digits are 0422.  But the 'dates' are different for each stamp as follows:

120422 - England 1st
130422 - England 2nd
140422 - England £1.85
190422 - Scotland 1st
200422 - Scotland 2nd
210422 - Scotland £1.85
220422 - Wales 1st
250422 - Wales 2nd
260422 - Wales £1.85
270422 - N Ireland 1st
280422 - N Ireland 2nd
290422 - N Ireland £1.85 (if a date, it's after the indicated printing date.)

23 and 24 April were weekend dates.

For those collectors interested in the backing paper direction it is the same on all stamps except the Wales 2nd class.

As usual I will be interested in reports of any other printing or datamatrix code 'dates' and in availability.  As no comments are allowed on this post, please email details to

Reports on availability are also welcome and will be added to the original post.

UPDATE 28 October

My thanks to MM for taking time on his holiday in Scotland to send this set from the Isle of Mull.

Set of 3 Scotland barcoded stamps used October 2022.

Saturday 30 July 2022

Varities and retouches on Machins from booklets.

We don't see them like this any more!  I found a small stash of booklets with varieties which can be added to collections at little cost - except for the missing phosphor!

Some examples:

10p booklet FA3, miscut with 6p at right.

10p booklet FA1, missing shading under necklace

10p booklet FA3 with 'SE Asia' inset on rate table.

10p booklet FA11, Beard flaw on 1p.

See these and more on List 4, download it here.

Orders can be taken from all or any lists and combined.

Thank you for looking.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Postboxes round the UK painted for 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham

In the spring postboxes in some cities were painted yellow for World Book Day. Now a few boxes has been painted for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

According to Royal Mail's Twitter feed, the pink and purple boxes include graphics and encouraging messages to participating teams. The postboxes are located in Birmingham, London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast.

This is the one in Birmingham New Street, outside Superdrug.  Also in two pictures, Nigel Huddleston, local MP and DCMS Minister for Tourism, Sport, Commonwealth Games, Heritage, and Civil Society.

Postbox in New Street, Birmingham, painted for Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

Now, we know that the others are in the capital cities, but Royal Mail haven't identified those locations. If you can locate them please let me know, amd photos will be welcome.

UPDATE:  The Belfast Telegraph has reported on and provided a picture of the one in Donegall Square, Belfast (Photo: SWNS)

Royal Mail postbox in Donegall Square, Belfast, painted in Commonwealth Games 2022 colours. (photo credit SWNS)

FURTHER UPDATE: Thanks to CFN for this photo of the London postbox which is on the junction Southampton Place WC1 / High Holborn. 

Royal Mail postbox in Southampton Place, London WC1, painted in Commonwealth Games 2022 colours.

UPDATE 7 August:  Thanks to MM for these pictures of the Commonwealth Games painted box on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

Royal Mail postbox in Edinburgh, painted in Commonwealth Games 2022 colours.

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Price List - Machin regionals for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I have today added a new list to our sales page today, for Machin country/regional definitives, and updated the booklets list with more stock.

Regional Definitives. Quantities are shown - and plenty show only '1' - so if you need any of these do write soon.  There are some nice more elusive items there.

Update: My apologies that the Regionals list was incomplete, to the extent that our prices were missing from the second half.  This has now been rectified, and sold-out items have been removed.


Wednesday 20 July 2022

Transformers - More than meets the eye! - 1 September 2022

As is now well known, the 'TBA' issue for September is entitled Transformers, and anyone who had youngsters (mainly boys) in the 1980s will remember the 'Robots in Disguise'.

The Transformers began with the 1980s Japanese toy lines Micro Change and Diaclone. They presented robots able to transform into everyday vehicles, electronic items or weapons. (Wikipedia).  

Optimus Prime instruction diagram: Hiroyuki Obara., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Optimus is the leader of the Autobots, a faction of Transformers who are rivals of the Decepticons, another faction. He is defined by his strong moral character and is almost always portrayed as the primary hero of the story, opposing the evil Decepticon leader Megatron.

And there, or thereabouts, it ended for may as boys grew up and children became men. 

But Hasbro bought into the toys, and hired Marvel Comics to create the backstory, a tv series was started and in 1986 the first film.  And of course there were the comics.  You can read more about it all on Wikipedia.  

As with much of what Marvel have been involved in, merchandise was important, as were fan clubs and conventions.  Which brings me to the big unknown - when will you see the stamps?

TFNation 2022 will be taking place from 12th-14th August 2022, at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel, yes, the one in England at the NEC.  And Royal Mail will reveal the stamp images "live on stage" - on Saturday 13th August.  Expect to see some images on the TFNation blog either the same day or the following day, or on social media streams. 

The stamps and numerous other products for die-hard fans will be available to pre-order on Royal Mail's shop on the morning of 13 August.  But images will be embargoed to the national press until Monday 15th August (which date also applies to us).

I can't give any more details now, but you will be able to predict the output given that you have seen Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel Comics, so think 'comic book'-style and remember the special effects department, who are well to the fore with this issue.

UPDATE 30 July:

The final Royal Mail Philatelic Bulletin lists the following products for Transformers:  4 x 1st, 4 x £1.85; miniature sheet 1 x 2nd class, 3 x 1st class, 1 x £1.85±; presentation pack, fdcs, prestige stamp book with 4 x 1st/4 x £1.85/1 x 2nd & 1 x 1st/2 x 1st & 2 x £1.85; Definitive pane 2 each 50p & £1 Machins; press sheet; collectors sheet; postcards (14), and various other items aimed at the Transformer Fanbase.

± Thanks to Chris for pointing out the omission; there are also 'fan sheets', but I count these in my wrap-up at the end.  All will be revealed in due course as there really is more than meets the eye.

Edit: I missed this earlier.  There will be a second chance for RM to sell merchandise, and possibly another special handstamp(?), because the first ever TFN: Mini-Con® will be held in Manchester, UK, on 25th March 2023!

Only 'possibly' a handstamp because at one of the events for a previous issue they sold stamps on cards cancelled with a 'postmark' which was not available anywhere else, so not to us.

Thursday 14 July 2022

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games - 28 July 2022

The 22nd Commonwealth Games, a mass celebration of sport throughout the Commonwealth dating back to 1930, takes place between 28 July and 8 August 2022. Held in Birmingham and the West Midlands for the first time, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games features 19 sports and 8 para sports, with 72 nations and territories coming together to compete in 283 medal events.

Official Games website.

The set of eight stamps have a distinctive design showcasing eight exciting sports including para sports, which are integrated into the main Games rather than a separate Para event afterwards.

Set of 8 stamps issued by Great Britain 28 July 2022 to mark the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

The stamps

1st Class Aquatics - Diving; Boxing; Para Table Tennis; Para Powerlifting;
£1.85 Gymnastics - Artistic; Cycling - Mountain Bike; Athletics; £1.85 Wheelchair Basketball

Technical details and acknowledgements

The 35 mm square stamps are printed in lithography on gummed paper with phosphor bands by Cartor Security Printers in sheets of 48, se-tenant strips of 4.  Perforations are 14.5.

Designed by Interbang and Illustrated by Charis Tsevis
images © The Birmingham Organising Committee for the 2022 Commonwealth Games Limited; 
Birmingham 2022 and the B device are registered trademarks of The Birmingham Organising Committee for the 2022 Commonwealth Games Limited; 
Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Sport and the Celebration Device are registered trademarks of the Commonwealth Games Federation
Cover design © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2022

Products available from Royal Mail

Stamp set, first day cover, presentation pack, stamp cards; coin covers (various).

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Royal Mail/Royal Mint coin cover.


The last Commonwealth Games to be held in the United Kingdom were in Glasgow in 2014.

Monday 11 July 2022

New Booklet stock in new and updated lists

Being originally a collector and latterly a dealer I am, like many collectors, finding 'things that I didn't know I had' (or at the very least, forgotten about).

And so I have been able to update Booklet List 1 with a range of Folded and Window Booklets (Gibbons F & G numbers).  To make it easier if you have already looked, these additions are printed in blue * .

The list also includes a few illustrations. Some show clipped perforations so that it is clear what is being described, but the other is for the 'Penny Black' booklet FL1, which contains a mix of 14p and 11½p stamps.  The stamps in this booklet show remarkable variations between booklets suggesting multiple cylinders or ink mixes.  This gives collectors the opportunity to buy something not quite the same as that which they already have.

Another point to remember in these booklets is that many of the contain stamps which are 'different'.

In the above booklets, for instance phosphor bands on the 11½p stamps and the pair of 14p stamps at the left are complete, but the remaining 14p stamps have short bands at top and bottom on one side, the continuous bands producing on the bottom row 11½p stamps with left band and right band.

Similarly the FX (Christmas books) with two stamp values in, do not have continuous phosphor bands but what were referred to by collectors and dealers at the time of issue as phosphor bars.  

None of these is separately catalogued in the SG Concise but they are in the Specialised catalogues.

List 2 is a list of Prestige Stamp Books, from the beginning. No premium (DY) books are included and few of the later DX books.  Many of these are one-offs.   All are included including those with few or no Machins.  High prices for a few reflect the number of 2nd class, 1st class or E stamps included.

* IMPORTANT: when I clicked on the link to List 1, and viewed it in Firefox, the text that should have been blue appeared black.  But when I downloaded it the text was blue as it should be.  You may need to do a download rather than read the file in your web-browser.

Tuesday 5 July 2022

July 2022 slogans and other interesting postal markings.

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games slogan has been interrupted by Royal Mail's annual exhortation to dog-owners to keep their hounds under control when the postie is around. 

So we have the same slogan as used in previous years with one layout from Exeter (who RW says have appeared to have found some more ink!), and the other in examples from Manchester from KD, and JE who couples his with a dog stamp - all are dated 2 July.

Week 2022 
Dog Awareness Week 2022 slogan postmark from Exeter Mail Centre 02-07-2022

Dog Awareness Week 2022 slogan postmark from Manchester Mail Centre 02/07/2022

Dog Awareness Week 2022 slogan postmark on dog stamp from Manchester Mail Centre 02/07/2022

UPDATE 13 July. As predicted, the Commonwealth Games slogan continued after the Dog Awareness campaign (see last month).  My thanks to MM for a reverse impression on a square red envelope which I find can best be shown by a lot of digital manipulation to remove the colour and increase the contrast. This is from SE Wales dated 11/07/222

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games slogan, reverse use at SE Wales 11/07/2022

UPDATE 14 July: thanks also to MA for this fine example from Birmingham Mail Centre 13/07/2022 - totally unnecessary as it is on a Machin PPI, but well worth showing here.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games slogan, at Birmingham MC 13/07/2022





Contingency Branch 34
counter date stamp,
Wells, Somerset.
I last mentioned Contingency Branch counter date stamps in February 2021 in connection with the relocated Post Office branch in Wells Somerset.  That same branch is now in the news again, thanks to JF for sending this report. 

It previously relocated temporarily to the Bus Station, and re-opened in "Natural Pets of Wells"; but that postmaster has now resigned and it closed, I believe, after business on 30th June.

The  PO has now re-located, again as a pop-up PO and again at the bus station  but whereas last time it was  "Contingency Branch 10" it is now "Contingency Branch 34"!  I am not too sure of the opening date although it might have been 5th July. 

The people of Wells are fortunate that the council accommodate the PO in the bus station operating traditional hours of 9-5 (12.30 on Saturday), with a half-hour lunch break.

While the branch was housed in the petshop, a standard SID was used inscribed 'WELLS', with A or B indexes.

(added 13 July)

The problem with monochrome stamps - and minimal postmarks.  

Readers will recall that Royal Mail reduced the number of wavy lines used on their ink-jet postmarks from 7/9 to only three so as not to interfere with the datamatrix code. We assume that this has achieved its objectives as far as definitives are concerned, but how does it work with special stamps, especially if the ink-level is poor or the nozzle jets need cleaning.

These two examples show that delivery staff are having to do more work (if they follow their instructions) to ensure that the stamps cannot be reused. 


My thanks to RM977 for sending these (and the rise to £1.85 was only from the previous £1.70 not £1.45. Rates went up several times all documented here).

Remember, all postmarks in July 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.

Barcoded Country Definitives - why? Who will be able to buy them?

Royal Mail have made it known that the Country Definitives will be invalidated along with the Machins and others, withdrawn, and replaced by new stamps with a datamatrix code.  These are to be issued (according to an earlier blog comment) on 11th August. 


Given the invalidation announcement, this comes as no surprise.  But who actually uses them, and where are they actually available to buy?

Many people have asked, but this is prompted by the latest in a series of emails from one of our readers.  In the latest he writes:

On the Antrim coast, I have tried three post offices today, and not a single regional was to be had. To be fair, they all knew what I was talking about, but had not had them in stock for some time.

Six months ago, he reported from Scotland:

At Aberfeldy post office I was flabbergasted to discover that they had NO regionals in their counter books.

I was told that not only do they not get any, but if they try to order them, they get sent Machins instead. “You’ll have to go to Pitlochry” I was told. So, next time at the shops in Pitlochry I took myself off to the “main” post office (still just a counter in a mini market as far as I’m concerned). There he was able to show me lions and saltires but definitely no tartans or thistles. And this is no accident. The same was true later at Banchory.

He and others have reported similarly in the past and I have had similar experience.

Mock-up of Scotland
1st class stamp
with German-size
datamatrix code.

So I asked the Post Office social media team about availability, and received this reply:

The country definitives are available to all branches in the representative areas to order in.  The issue most of the time with this scenario is that branches stop ordering these stamps regularly, as there is little to no demand for them, and branches can go months, even years, without being asked for them so stop replenishing stock. 

It is, however, easy enough for the branch to order some in if a customer wants them and they don't have any in their stock.

To which I replied:

So basically it is a catch-22 situation. 

If the stamps are out of stock they can't be offered, and so customers don't know about them. They don't know so they don't ask, so there is no demand, so branches don't re-order. So they can't be offered. 

Couple this with the fact that they are gummed rather than self-adhesive (which users prefer, we're told - largely because they buy deifnitives most, and few special stamps either, then there won't be much demand. Despite this they are being replaced with equivalent stamps with datamatrix codes, still on ordinary gum because it's cheaper. 

So my correspondent who says that they are only issued for collectors is correct!

According to my contact within Royal Mail the same process of consultation between the two companies which led to the abolition of the Special Delivery and Signed For stamps last autumn has led to the continuation of country definitives.  

That is to say, Post Office Ltd and/or the branches said that they did not want the premium services stamps (which so many users have said were useful to them) but they do have demand for the Country Definitives. 

We accept that, in any organisation, what users and customers want may not be convenient or economical to any organisation (which is why products disappear from supermarket shelves), but the implication of this is really surprising.

It suggests that somewhere in each (or at least a majority) of the countries there is sufficient demand from social and business users to warrant the product of 12 totally new stamps in (I presume) a new larger size for these users to apply to their mail instead of the ordinary definitive or any other gummed stamp.  I accept that there are probably some patriotic and nationalistic people who want to use traditional symbols for the country (or in Northern Ireland fields rocks and some linen), but I'd like to see some evidence.

If anybody has time and expertise in putting forward a Freedom of Information Act enquiry on where these stamps are sold, I'd be pleased to publish the results.  There's no need to survey the offices - just where the central distribution point sends them.

UPDATE 14 July.  This morning several readers mentioned that the new stamps were available to pre-order on the Royal Mail website.  Indeed I took a screenshot to show here.    Because I had pointed out earlier that the mock-up picture of the presentation pack appeared to show U-shaped slits on what were said to be gummed stamps (although we were told yesterday that they are self-adhesive) a revised picture of the pack was sent out at 9am - along with a reminder that the embargo date for stamps already available to pre-order was (still) the issue date of 11 August.  It took four hours for a further email to be sent with the 'news' that the embargo was lifted. 

So here is the mock-up image we were sent a while back. 

Barcoded country definitive 2nd class, 1st class and £1.85 stamps for Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England, issued 11 August 2022

As you can see the datamatrix codes have been printed in similar colours to some of the stamps, which all seems a bit of a waste of time and effort.  Whilst black would probably not have worked, some of these are so close to black to be almost indistinguishable at a distance (and at speed).  It remains to be seen what they look like in practice and I shall provide some images in due course.

The sheet layout is the same as the valued Machin stamps, that is sheets of 25, with each stamp 39 x 30 mm.   As you will see from the sheet, the plate/cylinder numbers are 'C' indicating Cartor although the designation we have is the old generic one of ISP. 

Mocked-up sheet of 25 1st class Scotland stamps with datamatrix code.

A single presentation pack with overlapping stamps because they are too big, and four first day covers will also be available.  The latter are illustrated with new photos, representing the first change since country definitive FDCs were introduced*.  (They can be seen on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog.)  *My thanks to Robert who points out that these are not new; looking back I find that the new designs were introduced in 2017.

Akcnowledgments: the designs are the same so you can read the designer details in a cataogue or in older Philatelic Bulletins.   There is no change to any of the first day postmarks which remain as they have been since 1999/2001.

From the changes we have been sent it would seem that there are no U-shaped security die-cuts in these stamps, and it seems likely that there will be no iridescent printing to indicate the year of printing. We haven't seen them yet.

UPDATE 17 August: Answering my own question - who will be able to buy them? - I have been in Wales.  The post office at Church Stoke (just across the Shropshire border) where I posted some of the new Wales stamps, hadn't seen them and didn't know of them.

At Montgomery the post office was closed due to a Covid outbreak, so no luck there.

At Much Wenlock in Shropshire, where the post office is in the Spar mini-market and which is identified as a 'Local', I was told that they did not expect to be getting any England stamps because they didn't get any special stamps.  I protested that they were not 'special' just alternative!  I was told that they were at nearby Broseley.  

The biggest surprise (in the comments below) is that at the 'Philatelic' office in Cambridge city centre, the manager professed not to know of the existence of any of the new country definitives.

Thank you for sharing your stories about availability (or otherwise) of country definitives. Do let us know your experience with the new ones which should, in theory, be available from all post offices in the respective countries.

Friday 1 July 2022

End of the line for Royal Mail's Philatelic Bulletin

Royal Mail has announced that its Philatelic Bulletin will cease at the end of this volume in August, after 59 years of publication.

Citing a declining subscriber base (it costs £22.95 to Europe and £29.50 to the rest of the world) and increasing costs, the editor has announced the end, and the refund of any balance of subscriptions.

The reduction in subscriber numbers must reflect the decline in number of collectors of modern Great Britain, and so is to be expected.

But is this the only real reason?

The July issue received today includes detailed information about the Pride issue released today, but also about the Cats set issued on 9 June information about which was embargoed until the issue date, after the June edition had been posted.  So by the time subscribers get this edition they have already had the cats stamps or at least seen them in blogs, websites, dealers lists, national press, or at the Post Office.  There's no point, then, in advertising first day covers in the Bulletin !

I believe collectors who subscribed to this Bulletin signed up originally because they wanted details about forthcoming stamp issues. The marketing department has had a increasing influence on just when to use the national press for publication, and so the actual news content has declined.

Even ahead of that influence many collectors were able to get information from online sources, with some of us providing information through channels that the PR team weren't using. Eventually they put pressure on us not to publish information as early as we had been, with some ridiculous embargoes.

UPDATE 4 July: I heard from a regular contributor that the contracted editor (not the person whose name appeared in the Bulletin or on the letter) was told at the end of May just before his contract ran out, so it looks as if it was something of a last-minute decision

I understand that they may be considering a pdf alternative, but if they aren't including articles such as provided by the contributor quoted above, then one wonders what will be in it!  If it's just the details about new issues, but more accurately, then it will be welcomed by us all.