Wednesday 17 August 2022

Something old and new: Transformers - another 'blockbuster' - 1 September 2022.

For the record, this blog post is based on Royal Mail's next stamp issue aimed at fans of modern culture. 

According to the information provided on the justification of this issue:

The Transformers – alien robots who can change into vehicles, machinery and weapons – first appeared in toy shops and on TV screens in 1984. Nearly 40 years on, thanks to the addition of comic books, computer games and movies, the likes of Optimus Prime and Megatron have become pop-culture titans.

And it appears they have, alongside Marvel and other more well-known franchises, although I was totally unaware of their continued popularity, despite knowing about them and seeing them when the toys and tv programme appeared in 1984.

Continuing Royal Mail's justification:

The story of the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons has been told in many different ways, but the core premise is usually the same: a deadly civil war engulfs the distant metal planet of Cybertron and eventually spreads to Earth. Key to the warring mechanoids’ success in the UK and Ireland was Marvel UK’s The Transformers comic, which told an epic seven-year story across 332 issues.

As well as launching the careers of British writers and artists, ‘TFUK’ inspired fans to follow in their footsteps, with James Roberts, Nick Roche and Jack Lawrence going on to help expand the mythos, establish the definitive origin of the Transformers, and reinvent the Robots in Disguise for the 21st century with characters and concepts that endure to this day.

The stamps feature original illustrations created by three established comic artists Andrew Wildman (pencils), Stephen Baskerville (inks) and John-Paul Bove (colours) who have all contributed to The Transformers UK comic series The stamp designs arranged in pairs depict an Autobot and Decepticon locked in a battle, featuring eight characters in retro Generation 1 style from the 1980s.

The stamps 4 x 1st class and 4 x £1.85:

The strongest and wisest Autobot, it was a young and charismatic Optimus Prime who led the fightback against the Decepticons when war broke out. Deeply compassionate, with an unflinching sense of justice, he was originally known as Orion Pax but took a new name when he inherited the Matrix of Leadership.

Highly intelligent, terrifyingly powerful and utterly merciless, the cruel but charismatic Megatron uses a huge, arm-mounted fusion cannon to obliterate his enemies. A Cybertronian supremacist, to realise his dream of galactic conquest he plans to annihilate the Autobots and turn his home planet into a deadly cosmic dreadnought.

Although small and physically weak, Bumblebee’s abilities as a messenger and spy – not to mention his tremendous bravery – have made him one of the most valuable Autobots. Friendly, kind-hearted and
eager to please, his misplaced self-doubt can lead to risk-taking behaviour.

“A missile with a mouth” according to Soundwave, the scheming, traitorous Starscream is not content with being Decepticon Air Commander: he’s determined to usurp Megatron himself. But his arrogant, opportunistic nature does not stop him being a highly skilled, shockingly brutal warrior – especially in the skies.

He may be gruff, belligerent and rebellious, but Grimlock is also protective and fiercely loyal – to his fellow Dinobots, at least. In both robot and T-rex mode, his stubbornness and strength make him all but
unstoppable. He hides his intelligence behind simple speech patterns, associating eloquence with weakness.

An occasional Decepticon leader, Shockwave’s every action is ruled by cold, calculating logic. A master tactician and strategist who despairs of Megatron’s rash impulsivity, this cyclopic space warrior would be considered emotionless were it not for his deep hatred of the Autobots, and the Dinobots in particular.

£1.85: ARCEE
A formidable warrior, Arcee is as deadly with swords as she is with firearms. She has put her life on the line time after time to protect Autobots and humans alike. Behind her no-nonsense attitude is a dry
sense of humour, and while she is slow to trust others, she would do anything for those closest to her.

As the Decepticons’ Communications Officer and spymaster, the stoic and unknowable Soundwave uses his unique mind-reading abilities to extract enemy information and blackmail his rivals. Megatron’s most trusted lieutenant, he shares a special bond with Laserbeak and the other ‘cassette spies’ that he carries in his chest.

The stamps are printed with UV ink which reveals each character’s Autoboot or Decepticon motif and their name coded in the Cybertronian alphabet when shone under UV light.

Each of the eight stamps has a unique Augmented Reality animation which brings the stamp to life and includes a clip from the original Transformers TV series. This can be activated by downloading the Royal Mail App and scanning the stamp with a smartphone or tablet.

UPDATE 19 August: The UV ink reacts to Longwave light rather than short wave. Whilst the symbols are readily visible, the names of the characters are only visible on the right-hand stamp of each pair, and then not very clear.

The AR worked, sort of, on my iPhone but the app shows that the iPad does not support AR.  It takes quite a lot of effort to get it to play; the clip from the tv show is no more than a few seconds, followed by the drawing and colourisation of the stamp, ending with the logo - and there is backing music, so sound up (or off depending on your circumstances).


The miniature sheet, 2nd class, 3 x 1st class, £1.85:

Transformers miniature sheet featuring the five Dinobots; Grimlock, Snarl,
Slug, Sludge and Swoop.

The original illustrations have been created exclusively for Royal Mail by established comic artists Andrew Wildman (pencils), Stephen Baskerville (inks) and John-Paul Bove (colours) who worked on The Transformers UK comic books.

Technical details and acknowledgements

The stamps and miniature sheet are designed by The Chase with design and illustrations by Andrew Wildman (pencils), Stephen Baskerville (inks) and John-Paul Bove (colours).  The 50 x 30 mm stamps are printed in litho by Cartor Security Printers in gummed sheets of 60, perforated 14.

In the 190 x 67 mm miniature sheet, the Swoop (2nd) and Sludge (1st) stamps are 27 x 37 mm (perf 14). The Slug (1st) and Snark (£1.85) stamps are 35 mm square (perf 14½); the Grimlock stamp (1st) is 35 x 37 mm (14½ x 14).  The self-adhesive sheets are printed by Cartor Security Printers in litho.

Acknowledgements TRANSFORMERS and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro and
are used with permission. © 2022 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved. Licensed by Hasbro.

Prestige stamp book

Click on the images to enlarge.

Panes 3-5 are self-adhesive, panes 1 & 2 are gummed.  The innovation - or perhaps I should say 'correction' is that the Machin definitives' iridescent printing now has the codes M22L MPIL.  So these stamps are not the same as those in the previous PSB, issued for Women of World War II

Digitally enhanced phone picture of the £1 stamp from the Transformers PSB showing the source code MPIL.
Incidentally Royal Mail's publicity pictures of the PSB pane and its first day cover both show the labels with a printed perforation, as on the stamps.  I suspect this is because each image is actually composed with several layers in a software application such as Photoshop, and the perforations are there on all six positions (you will recall that there were five stamps on the earlier PSB).  This is a scan of the actual pane:
Scan of actual PSB definitive pane.  No printed perforations on the labels.

Products available from Royal Mail

Set of 8 stamps, miniature sheet, presentation pack, postcards, prestige stamp book (PSB), 3 x FDCs, Collector sheet (£12.40), 2 x Fan sheets (£7 each), limited edition PSB (£50), medal covers, silver-plated ingots (£25), framed products etc.

Collector Sheet

Transformers Collectors Sheet containing one of each of the sheet stamps, with attached label.

The Collectors Sheet is self-adhesive so the stamps are different to those in sheets. However as they are only available in this sheet they will not get individual numbers in the main catalogues, but there will be space in some preprinted albums.

Fan sheets

Bumblebee Fan Sheet
Optimus Prime Fan Sheet
UPDATE:  Several people have pointed out that there is a third Fan Sheet for Megatron.  This is not listed on the order form, nor is it illustrated in the news bulletin, nor is it in the collector bulletin First.   So for completeness I have lifted this from the Royal Mail shop.  Thanks everybody!
Megatron Fan Sheet
Further update 18 August:
queried this with my account manager and was told: "
this sheet is an online exclusive so not available to order via the normal Channels.  Apologies in advance for any inconvenience caused."

I find this incredible.  On several previous occasions special covers have been sold at Conventions with 'postmarks' not available for collectors or dealers.  But I don't ever recall a single one of three similar products being produced and ONLY sold online.  If it had been sold only at a post-issue event it would have been wrong, but this is very odd.

Further update 23 August:  From Royal Mail: Megatron sheet is not really online only for ordering purposes, the reference to online only [is that it] will be promoted online only, any customer can order it.

Press Sheet

Miniature sheet, press sheet of 12.

Reaction to these on social media has been mixed.   

While again some people have affirmed that enough is enough and that they will not be buying them, some Transformers fans who don't normally collect stamps have reacted positively and will buy them. 

Will they buy other stamps? Unlikely: they are buying Transformers merchandise; the fact that these are stamps is coincidental and of no consequence.

Samples of reaction on Twitter:



As usual, we will not be stocking these, they can all be obtained from Royal Mail's website and some can be bought at some post offices.


  1. RM Website shows 3 Fan sheets can be purchased, yet 'First' just shows the two you have mentioned.

  2. On the scan of the Machin pane, the background design encroaches onto the bottom of the top £1 stamp. Is this a printing error?

    1. No Steve, it's yet another quality control error!

    2. I would have expected any printer, and especially a 'security printer', to spot that encroachment at proof stage and, rather than a "quality control error", could almost believe that it's a deliberate new variety of the barcoded £1 that'll squeeze even more money out of collectors.

    3. Hi Ian, bang on! No quality control nowadays.

    4. I guess this means there are three 'new' definitives in the PSB.

  3. I'm too old to have bothered with the toys, comics etc. as a kid and not being a parent, haven't needed to since. I think the fan sheets are a good design - replicating a comic cover - but that's it.

    I'll say the same as I did for the DC and Marvel editions. If we want to mark the work of British comic/graphic novel artists then that would be interesting - there are plenty of examples that could be chosen from British published work and a much greater variety of art styles.

  4. Thank you, Ian, for the information and pictures. It seemed to me that the height of the PSB panes was less than the last one, and from measurements on you picture of the definitive pane it appears to be 92mm as for all previous booklets. Presumably the stamps have year code M22L, but do they have source code MPIL?

    1. Thanks; and I see you found the MPIL note; I can't edit your comments.
      The PSB panes are 100 mm high.

  5. This comic book dross will arrive in my letter box here in Australia, about a month after issue, via Royal Mail’s subscription service; but only in the interests of GB completeness! My fellow Executive Committee Members on the state’s oldest philatelic society (Est 1893), are distinguished philatelists, having won medals at FIP exhibitions, with classic traditional entries. Meanwhile, I will no doubt feel ashamed again to slip into my stock book, these emissions from a once proud Royal Mail. Is the Queen still required to approve these confetti?

    1. Fulmar,
      Yes, I believe she still does 'approve' them and it's a disgrace.
      I must agree with every word of the comments on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion site.

  6. I see a lot of anger directed at these stamps, and the recent Marvel and DC Comics editions, but if it gets the younger generation interested in stamp collecting, and lets be honest that is who they primarily aimed at, then that has to be a good thing surely.

    1. It depends what you mean by 'younger generation'. Whilst it is true that pictures showed some under-10s at the Convention, these characters were in my son's toybox in 1985. So I leave you to work out the age of the people who originally played with them!

      Yes, they are still 'young' compared with the average GB collector, and they may buy these, but they are not likely to become stamp collectors as a result. And as for under-18s, forget it, unless they are encouraged and follow family members.

    2. Good points but then the last Transformers film was released in 2018, and two new ones are in production as I post, so plenty of potential new young fans out there.

      I suspect that the hobby of stamp collecting is never going to appeal to modern youngsters without the encouragement of family members regardless of what themes are used.

  7. Hi Ian, regarding the 'hidden' data only seen under UV light, could you provide illustrations of them all please. Thanks.

    1. Peter, although the Transfomers badge is there in the centre it is often hidden by dark ink on the pictures. The Cybertronian alphabetic names don't show well enough to photograph.

      I'll try something in the dark, but it is poor at best.

  8. Something I hadn't picked up on until it was pointed out to me: the orientation of the backing paper is rotated 90 degrees in the Transformers PSB compared to the Women of WWII PSB. Interesting to see which (if either!) becomes the standard.

    1. Thank you for pointing that out John. I haven't disassembled any Transformers and of course that is they only way to find out.

    2. Hi Ian, You don't need to disassemble - hold the panes up to the light (or view from the back) and you will be able to see the backing paper orientation.


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