Friday 2 September 2022

Machin datamatrix forgeries widely available: Royal Mail powerless?

Many people predicted that it wouldn't be long before the regular stamp forgery operations would turn their attention to the ones that would be usable next year, rather than producing more than could not.

While a few stamp dealers people are selling 1st and 1st Large stamps as forgeries for collectors, with proper descriptions and above face value, many more are selling to unsuspecting members of the public - and to some collectors and stamp dealers, though bogus websites with links to China.  This is in line with the forgery of modern US postage stamps where the sellers even declare that they will be shipped from China!

So to the first examples, the 1st class business sheet:

Forged pair of 1st class purple business sheet Machin datamatrix stamps.

If your eyesight is good you will be able to see the giveaway clues from the picture as is; if not click on it to see it larger.  If you can't see it then, use your smartphone's QR-code reader to scan the barcodes, and take a screenshot or copy down the resulting display.

If you scan all four, you will see two different.  The stamps in position 1 are both the same; ditto the stamps in position two (and every other position).  As you should know by now, every genuine stamp is different.

The method is simple: take a high-quality scan of an original sheet, make a new litho plate, and print.  I say litho, because that is cheaper than gravure, although the ones that have been sent to me are still on the way, so I don't know the process used.  

UPDATE 3 September:  I've now received one of the forgeries through the post, and the differences are quite obvious on the 1st class.  The finish is glossy, as with many previous forgeries, and there are no obvious phosphor bands, not that they are easy to see on the genuine stamps. This picture shows the glossiness (forgery above).

At higher magnification the screening on the forgery is very obvious (click on the images to enlarge):

1st class datamatrix Machin definitive - Forgery on the left, genuine on the right.

The perforation teeth on the forgery are more pointed although the elliptical perforation is a good match.

Lastly the barcode is not raised (3D) and glossy as on the genuine, it is flat and exactly the same printing as the stamp. 

Genuine, left, and forged 1st class datamatrix Machin definitive stamp.

Here is a scan I was sent of the 1st class Large.  One is a forgery and one genuine (I'm told).  I think the forgery may be the one with the FSC logo closer to the colour of the stamps, rather than the barcode.

UPDATE 18 October 2022

I have been told that the 2nd and 2nd large sheets of 50 and 2nd and 1st books of eight, exist; these were printed a number of weeks ago. No images are available yet. 

The websites that have been offering [the original] stamps include the following: 

This site shows a contact address as

The address and phone number are genuine - it's Royal Mail's St Albans Delivery Office.

The complaint email address is used on a large number of websites selling everything from stamps to handbags, and kayaks!

Google search results for the email address used.

Note near the end of page 1 of this list, we see Whilst this is not a current URL, is, being the Danish-Swedish combined postal service, Swedish website. But the URL of the site is, and shows much the same as the above images for the bogus Royal Mail site - British stamps.

Another site with the same 'ownership' shows these American stamps.  

Bogus website almost certainly selling forged stamps.

Royal Mail's new barcode scanning equipment is not installed widely, if at all.  I don't know what last year's trial was supposed to establish - nobody ever saw any of the stamps used and the unsold 2nd class blue are now being distributed through Post Office Ltd, which means that the sales of 2nd class green business sheets this year are likely to be low - maybe next year, in which case there shouldn't be a 2023 reprint.

They are aware of these forgeries, but will make no announcement - well, that would be an egg-on-face time, wouldn't it?  Of course there is activity behind the scenes but they didn't stop more than a decade of forgeries of the gold and red security stamps, so how will they do anything now?

So what does this mean for the stamp buyer, and for Royal Mail?

Royal Mail still have a mountain to climb when it comes to getting all the revenue for the post they handle. The barcode has been no deterrent - in fact, I think the forgers see every new variant and anti-forgery measure as a challenge to be overcome!  There are also washed bar-coded stamps for sale on eBay.

The one single thing that would solve most of their problems at a stroke would involve extra work by their underpaid operatives, something which may be difficult to achieve whilst an industrial dispute is ongoing, but which could save enough money to at least contribute to the workers' demands being met.

If Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd managed to properly postmark every stamp that is used, then the chances of reuse would be reduced, and there would have been no need to set up expensive measures to detect reuse by mechanical means.  We know that they don't have time to detect forgeries by visual or current mechanical means, and there is no way they can do it with the new stamps.

1. Royal Mail need to set out clearly to Post Office Ltd what the requirements are for cancelling stamps on mail presented over the counter.  Some branches refuse outright, some will follow the rule (Large letters and parcels), and some will happily cancel stamps on any mail.  Remove the doubt and tell them to cancel all stamps on all mail - especially the expensive special delivery and international premium services.

With the latter being barcoded, it is easy to find out where they were posted. Use that to highlight need to further instruction and/or penalties.  I don't like hitting sub-postmaster's pockets but if they don't contribute to revenue protection how can they expect to receive adequate recompense from Royal Mail?

2. All business collections which include stamps should have those stamps cancelled on arrival at the first mail centre (MC), ie the one arranging the collection.  Yes, it's inconvenient and will slow down processing, but make allowances for that in the targets.  Provide MC staff with adequate metal or polymer handstamps to cancel all the stamps adquately (and possibly neatly).  The few businesses still using stamps on parcel mail must be in the stamp trade and this would produce a lot of goodwill as well. 

Mail Centres receiving parcels with uncancelled stamps should know where they have come from (a return address is a good clue), and omissions should be reported back so that the managers at the errant mail centre are penalised if this is not done.  Targets not met = performance pay not paid.

3. All mail centres must ensure that machineable mail is cancelled.  If it's not machineable then manual cancelling must be done.  Again, set targets, penalise if not met.

And to those who say, "it all takes time' - that doesn't wash.  If you are in a mail centre not cancelling the stamps then it may save you time, but down the line somebody will have to do it, even if it is the bloke with the trolley delivering to the door.  Why should the postie out in the rain and snow have to do it because somebody in a nice warm mail centre didn't?

Consumers face a different problem.  As I have pointed out previously the swap-out scheme means that there will be a lot of unwanted new barcoded stamps on the market at reduced prices.

Anybody trading in a collection and ending up with several thousand 2nd class stamps will need to find an outlet, at a discount.  How does the buyer ensure that what he is buying is genuine and that there is a genuine reason for the discount.

The seller should explain just why he is able (or must) sell at a discount.  2nd class stamps bought for as little as 14p are worth 68p.  A collector selling them for 40p will be able to show the paperwork from Royal Mail, and maybe a photocopy of the stamps sent in.  

Buyers should beware - if you buy two sheets of stamps check that the barcodes are different on the same positioned stamp on both sheets.  If not, you have a wrong'un, but ultimately, buy from trusted sources.  Look at the terms, contact details, etc  If they look wrong, they probably are.  Try these examples:

mailshop1 Terms of Service 

This website is operated by . Throughout the site, the terms “we”, “us” and “our” refer to . offers this website, including all information, tools and services available from this site to you, the user, conditioned upon your acceptance of all terms, conditions, policies and notices stated here.

Privacy statement ends:

Contact Us 

If you have any questions regarding this Privacy Statement or its implementation, here is how you can reach us:

Delivery Information

6. Where we ship to

Ships to almost all countries around the world, covering North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, and more. We use the services of major, trusted international carriers to ensure your package reaches your destination safely and securely. Please see the table below to check if we ship to your country. .

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  1. “Royal Mail still have a mountain to climb when it comes to getting all the revenue for the post they handle” and it’s not just stamped mail, they’re also losing a lot from PPI and DSI mail that gets though unpaid.
    “If you are in a mail centre not cancelling the stamps then it may save you time, but down the line somebody will have to do it, even if it is the bloke with the trolley delivering to the door. Why should the postie out in the rain and snow have to do it because somebody in a nice warm mail centre didn't?” If there’s one certainty it’s that so long as Mail Centres are short staffed, which will probably be for ever, loads of stamped mail WON’T be cancelled by them. And posties out in whatever weather nowadays have such unrealistic workloads that they can’t realistically be expected to even pen cancel their unpostmarked stamps.
    With their false economies, and all the more of them to try to please their shareholders, Royal Mail only have themselves to blame.

  2. I'm curious how Royal Mail will handle mail posted with these forgeries. Let's say the data matrix readers were switched on, and they identified the forgeries, then what happens? Do you charge the person receiving the mail the postage? Do you try to identify the sender? Or do they let it go through as the cost of is much higher than the revenue they will recover?

    1. To let it go through would defeat the object, Chris, and one object is to encourage people to buy stamps from reliable sources.

      Now it is the addressee who is surcharged but that will get the message to them, and maybe they will take it up with the sender. Last month we received two old 1st red forgeries on birthday card envelopes (one was also reused!). Both senders were told; one works for Amazon and bought from an Amazon 3rd party seller. She will have had a refund from Amazon and hopefully they will have taken action.

      But they don't have the resources or the will to go back up the chain to ask the sender where they bought the stamps - 'on eBay' would be the answer in many cases - and in any case that is a long supply chain with no certainty of finding anything useful by doing so.

  3. I'm probably wrong, but I was under the impression that the matrix would enable the sort/cancel machines to disallow any previously used matrix. This would then attract a surcharge as insufficient postage, to be paid before delivery, thus recouping lost funds. But as pointed out in your article perhaps they do not have the capability to do this on any scale. Will be interesting to see if deliberate use of a forged stamp will be detected.

    1. What happens if the forgery gets used first, and the genuine stamp is picked up as a re-use? The recipient of the item bearing the genuine stamp would then be the one who has to pay the surcharge! I can't see any way in which this is going to help solve the problem.

    2. That is indeed possible, Mike, although it's not certain that the genuine ones are still in the country!

  4. I've had 5 letters delivered this week, all with barcoded stamps. Not one was postmarked or subsequently pen cancelled. Just shows the enormity of the problem within RM

  5. Is there any way to check online, if your barcoded stamps are valid. I thought I saw somewhere that each stamp had an online digital counterpart. Or have I dreamt that 😁

    1. Your second sentence is correct, but that would be to identify any code being used twice. I don't think that would ever be available to the user. The best way to prove forgery is to compare the stamps with genuine.

  6. I buy kiloware from a few charities and have seen a few 2nd class blue with barcode used on paper.Will have to watch any 1st class barcode I get in the future

    1. Michael, given the very few reports anybody has had on the original 2nd class blue being used during the trial period, could you give us an idea - here or by email - of just how prolific their use has been, and any dated examples?

      I know that they have, for some time this year, been distributed to Post Office branches so their use should be noted more often, but I still haven't seen any.

    2. I have a second blue used as I sent it to my sister on her birthday card. However, I have never seen another used example, I am assuming it's going to be the rarest of the set.

    3. You could be right Julian. Most forgeries have been the more lucrative 1st class. Where did you get yours from?

  7. The barcoded stamps are completely pointless, no way RM can check every stamp, the fakes are better quality than the old style fakes, they have phosphor bands just like genuine ones, every barcode is different just like genuine ones, search eBay for large letter stamps and you will find over 200 listing for fake stamps, all at 50%+ discount and every single one of these will go through the system successfully, no one collects sheets of 50 fake stamps, think about it.

    1. I don't think every barcode is different.

      As previously explained, every barcode on a sheet may be different, but every sheet will be the same. I don't believe the forgers have invested in the equipment needed to create unique barcodes on every stamp, and their printing process bears this out.

      See this video, skip to 7 minutes if you're in a hurry, but 7'40" for application of the barcode by a separate printing unit. here

  8. Received a letter with a fake 2nd Class Stamp today. Shocked at how genuine it looks, to the point that before I read this article I'd complained to Royal Mail that it was a Genuine stamp and I wanted my £2.50 fee back. Every aspect of it is perfect except the QR Code which is flat and not raised/Glossy as shown here.

  9. Royal Mail would appear to face an insurmountable task. The new stamps have been widely copied to a reasonably high standard and I doubt if sufficient equipment to detect forgeries has been installed on any meaningful scale. Moreover, relations between staff and management appear to have sunk to an all-time low, with allegations of a toxic and bullying culture. What are the chances of overworked and underpaid employees in a mail centre - quite possibly on poor conditions - going the extra mile to root out rogue stamps? I suspect vast volumes of mail will merely be shoved through. Doesn't make it right, but the company seems to jack up prices every year while serving only the shareholders and directors. A right royal mess!

  10. Maybe if Royal Mail didn't blindly keep increasing the price of their stamps, people would be less willing to counterfeit. The current rate of the rises every 6 months are ridiculous, I have no sympathy for that joke of a company.


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