Tuesday 25 October 2022

You missed out on a prize! Blog visits = 5,500,000

No, this isn't an invitation to a scam!

I intended to offer a prize to anybody who could send a genuine timed screen grab of when the blog visitors count reached 5,500,000 - but it all happened too quickly for me to set it up.

First post on the blog, just over 14 years ago.


Thank you all for visiting over the years: we got off to a good start during the London Olympics in 2012, and despite, for example, very little news about Post and Go and other changes, the number of visitors keeps rising.


Look out for 5,555,555 - there will be a prize and I will try to prepare readers for this event!

PS: For readers who still see a low number (JH), you may need to refresh the page.  I have just opened the computer and it showed 5,500,096 but when I refreshed the page it jumped to 5,500,148.

See update here.

Datamaatrix NVI forgeries shipped direct from China!

Users of GMail and other Google applications will be familiar with promoted advertisements appearing in various places - indeed if you are using a desk-top device then you will see Google produced ads on this blog.  It's a relatively unobtrusive way for us to generate some micro-pennies of income!

As some readers will know, in addition to the norphil email address I also use a gmail one.  I read my mail on my phone or my desk-top, in the latter case through a web browser, in my case Firefox.  Adverts are displayed at the head of some categories of email lists - usually the tab headed 'Promotions'.  Last week - and again today - I saw this:

I don't usually click on these but it seemed likely to be interesting, and so it turned out.  This website 'stampssaleonline.shop' uses the Royal Mail logo, and images, and offers new stamps at half-price.

A separate source says that stamps like these, and booklets, are now being shipped to customers direct from China* - here are images of the stamps he received - 1st class and 2nd class booklets of 8, 2nd class and 2nd class Large business sheets of 50.

*I've since been told that these were sent to the Yodel warehouse in the NW and delivered to customers from there.

I don't have precise evidence that the stamps shown came from the website shown, but that has been inferred to me.

Friday 21 October 2022

Christmas 2022 - 3 November 2022

This year's Christmas stamps on the religious theme will be issued on 3 November and again the issue date is the embargo date.  However I have been told that the stamps and booklets are appearing on Royal Mail's shop website - even earlier than I would have accepted given the cover producers' embargo date of 25 October.

UPDATE 26 October:  Readers are leaving comments about the fact that this is a religious stamp rather than secular, as if this is a break from the norm. The Christmas stamps for 2019, 2020, and 2021 have all been religious.  I raised this with Royal Mail in 2020 and was told:

I wouldn’t say there is a change as such more a practical recognition of the feedback we receive on Christmas stamps.

Check your collections - if you still buy them - or your catalogues or even this blog and you will see that the people have spoken!  Maybe not very many of them, but the vocal minority told Royal Mail that they welcomed religious stamps.  

I think we would probably agree, though, that we don't want them to follow the lead of other multi-cultural societies (USA, Canada) and produce stamps for Kwanzaa, Diwali, Hannukah, etc

Whilst I would like to see more recognition of this country as a multicultural society, if Royal Mail did follow this path they would not issue a single stamp as these are, but a set of 4-6!

So, to get back to the current Christmas stamps - I'll post the pictures and other details shortly.


I'll put full details of the stamp set, miniature sheet, presentation pack, stamp cards, first day covers, and Generic collector sheet will be shown here in due course.

The Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog, now has them here.

UPDATE 24 October 2022

No news on Winter Post and Go stamps yet, although Manchester already has Winter Greenery in one machine - see comments on the P&G News post https://blog.norphil.co.uk/2022/01/post-and-go-news-in-2022.html That is the most likely place to see Post and Go News now.

Wednesday 19 October 2022

What's the cost of 1st & 2nd class mail? It depends who you are.

We all know that a basic 2nd class letter costs 68p to post whilst 1st class is 95p - the biggest difference there has ever been, a margin easily made up by using an old 27p stamp.  But it isn't the same price for everybody and your incoming mail can make an interesting postal history collection.

Large business users can get big discounts for bulk mailing, more for pre-sorting, more for having a sorting barcode built into the address.  We'll never know the rate paid for most direct mail that comes through our door because most of it is handled by another company with Royal Mail only involved for the final delivery.

Franked (or Meter) Mail does show the price paid.  In the past this was generally the same rate as paying with stamps, and may still be now, but there are still discounts to be had and these produce a range of prices shown below.

2nd class 68p - Letter 51p, Advanced Letter 48p

2nd class letter 51p, 2nd Advanced Letter 48p - September 2022

1st class 95p - Letter 78p, Advanced Letter 75p

1st class letter 78p, 1st Advanced Letter 75p.

 2nd class Large

2nd class 250g letter £1.31 rather than £1.65 for using stamps.


Philatelic Sales in London - 2022

Occasionally we receive emails from collectors - international and from the UK - who are visiting London, and who would like to buy their collectable stamps and other philatelic products from the Post Office at face value. 

There are no philatelic counters at Post Office branches as such, and many branches now carry no stocks - with few exceptions - of special stamps.  Even Crown Offices often have very small supplies sent to them, maybe one sheet of each certainly of the airmail values in a set.

The principal source for collectors is now Broadway Post Office.  The details below were provided in 2018 on the closure of Trafalgar Square PO. I understand that a full range of philatelic material is now available at this branch. The opening hours remain the same.

If you use the Post Office Ltd website branchfinder, and select 'Collectibles' as a category it will show many in central London.   In fact Aldwych was listed as a Philatelic Counter in a Philatelic Bulletin but they have no more stock than an ordinary branch.  

Not included in the results, even if you use its own postcode is The City of London PO at 12 Eastcheap, London, EC3M 1AJ but I am told that this has a limited philatelic service - for example they had all four country definitives not just in presentation packs but in sheets. 

This office is open Monday - Friday until-1800 with opening hours from 0830 (W/Th/F) to 0930 (Tues) and 0900 Monday. 

Update 27 October from Comments:

For Visitors to West London, Leeland Road Post Office in West Ealing stock collectable stamps in all values, I've purchased some stamps of all 2022 issues from here. 


NOTE: If you are making a comment about London or other branches' holdings of philatelic stocks it would be helpful to know where they are.  I realise that this might jeopardise your own purchases(!), but an approximate location (London, Dorset, Gwynedd, etc) would help others nearby to ask questions - and if you do leave a name or pseudonym instead of 'anonymous' it would help separate the comments.

Tuesday 18 October 2022

Wales 1st class FDC error - who else did I promise one to?

I have been juggling so many plates in the air this past couple of months that I am running a bit behind on sending out stamps and covers that we have been waiting for.

So who else did I promise to send examples of the Wales FDC error, cancelled or uncancelled?  Some I have already sent, but if you asked and were promised either one of these covers please email me at the usual address.

My Gmail search throws up so many hits for Wales 1st class FDC that I can't work out who is still waiting.  Sorry for this - you've been very patient but they only arrived last week!

October slogan postmarks and other interesting postal markings

There has been little news so far of new slogan postmarks. I believe the 'Use your old stamps' slogan for the Datamatrix Swap-Out scheme has continued throughout, although with little stamped mail arriving here I rely on examples sent by readers (thank you WU for this one).

Barcoded stamps swap-out slogan, Manchester Mail Centre 04/10/2022

This has now been interrupted by the first new slogan this month, marking World Menopause Awareness Day 18 October which was used yesterday - so examples will probably be scarce and I look forward to our eagle-eyed readers sending examples of the other layout!  My thanks to KD for this example from Sheffield Mail Centre.

World Menopause
Awareness Day
18 October

Menopause can affect
everyone - let's talk and
make a real difference

World Menopause Awareness Day slogan Sheffield Mail Centre 17/10/2022
Thanks to RW for the other layout from Croydon Mail Centre on the same date.
World Menopause Awareness Day slogan Croydon Mail Centre17-10-2022


King Charles III mail.

My thanks to BM for sending this sight of the first postal evidence of the new King.  This is not, of course a postmark as such, it is a postage paid impression (PPI) on mail used at Buckingham Palace under contract W7047.  

It's unusual for a PPI because it combines elements of a postmark of franking machine (meter) mark, and a normal PPI.  Normal franking machines do show the date & place of posting and a different type of indication that postage has been paid (I shall show some this month) and a PPI shows the contract number, the postage service (1st, 2nd etc) but not the date and place of posting.

Where the company logo or return address might be shown, this shows the newly-revealed cypher of King Charles III.

Buckingham Palace dated Postage Paid Impression with cypher of King Charles III


UPDATE 25 October.

I've had further information about the new-style counter date stamp already in use at Boscombe. At the end of the trial "the go ahead has been given and they are now bing made available for postmaster across the UK to purchase ALONGSIDE the existing Reiner stamp. "  Thanks to Adam at Boscombe for this.  

This is the place where all news about October postmarks - provided by readers or discovered by us - will be posted.  Please check back and refresh the page before sending anything which may have already been sent since you last looked: this will save you time scanning and writing.  Variants on postmarks already shown are also welcome.

Datamatrix stamps - positional blocks and singles.

I wrote in February about the difficulty in deciding how to collect positional blocks of the new definitive stamps with datamatrix barcodes added.  This post expands on that and explains how to obtain the blocks you want.

Previously sheets of 25 or 50 stamps had cylinder numbers on the left and the printing date on the right, sometimes with colour markers.    Thus collectors generally collected cylinder blocks of 6 and date blocks of 8. 

Most* of the new stamp sheets had a different layout with the stamps printed sideways in relation to the most of the marginal markings.

Here the cylinder numbers and the printing date appear in the same (top) margin and the colour blocks in the right.   This suggests that a block of 10 (the top two rows as shown in the Scotland sheet above) would provide all the detail previously collected over 14 stamps, representing a saving to the collector.

* This applies to all the stamps so far issued in counter sheets, other than the four Machin NVIs which are printed in sheets of 50, with the cylinder number on the lower (left-hand) pane, and the date on the upper (right-hand) pane.

Collectors could still collect just a cylinder block of 6; date blocks were more problematic as mentioned in my earlier post.

However, obtaining the stamps in the required formats is not straightforward.  Whilst it is often possible to obtain some or all in post office branches, not all branches have all the stamps - the high value and airmail stamps could be difficult to find, and the country definitives would be especially difficult outside the country concerned.

Royal Mail's Philatelic Bureau has, for some reason, decided not to supply blocks of 10 which would satisfy collector requirements.  Indeed one reader received the blocks of 10 country definitives with the right margin removed, being told that that is how they had been told to supply them!   

I am not sure that if a collector ordered a complete sheet of any of these stamps and then sought to return 15 of them to leave just the required block of 10, that this would be acceptable with a part refund given.

Which means that collectors are forced to ask dealers to obtain them at increased cost. Even then the dealers have to be sure that ad hoc orders are correctly filled: I use a diagram for this purpose attached to orders.   This gets the required block of 10:

Cylinder and date block of 10 marked for clarity.

Of course one could choose other blocks, especially for subsequent printings with the same cylinder number, when only a block showing the date might be required.  This diagram - confusing as it may seem - covers many other positional blocks.

Choose your block position from a menu of 8.

As yet, despite the existence of several new printings (see recent post) none of these is available from Tallents House.  

We can obtain most requirements for any collectors requiring blocks of 10 or others from sheets of 25 or other blocks from sheets of 50.

Friday 14 October 2022

Printing Dates on Datamatrix stamps - check your swap returns!

I am grateful to the Modern British Philatelic Circle (MBPC) members for reporting new printings of some of the Machin definitives, something which we had not been told about by the Philatelic Service in Tallents House.

Collectors will recall that we registered dealers have, in the past, received periodic but irregularly timed lists of available printings on counter sheets stamps.  This enabled us, in many cases, to find new year-codes on security stamps before they were found in post offices.  [In other cases they were found in post offices and never appeared on the lists we received, however!]

This service - which after all enabled them to sell more stamps to people who wanted to buy date blocks - dropped off significantly. After six such lists in 2020, there were only two in 2021, and so far only two in 2022 - one to provide details of the barcoded Machins, and the second to provide details of the barcoded Country definitive stamps.

This is the list of dates from those lists with additional dates in red from the MBPC website.

 1p - 10/01/22
 2p - 10/01/22  04/04/22 (TM email 2/1/23)
 5p - 10/01/22   04/04/22 [machinmaniac comment]
10p - 11/01/22   05/04/22
20p - 11/01/22   05/04/22
50p - 12/01/22   06/04/22 [machinmaniac comment]
£1.00 - 12/01/22  06/04/22 [JF]
£1.85 - 05/01/22
£2.00 - 12/01/22
£2.55 - 05/01/22
£3.00 - 14/01/22
£3.25 - 06/01/22
£4.20 - 06/01/22
£5.00 - 14/01/22

2nd - 01/12/21    11/04/22 [JF & BM]
1st  - 01/12/21     08/04/22 [machinmaniac comment, image below from JF]
2nd L - 06/12/21   12/04/22
1st  L - 06/12/21   12/04/22

Scotland - 26/04/22
Wales  - 27/04/22
N Ireland - 28/04/22
England - 25/04/22

Now these new dates have not been provided by the Tallents House Philatelic Team.  But that does not mean that they are not there somewhere.

Specifically they could be with the Swap-Out team, who must be getting through huge stocks, given the delays that are occurring in responding to forms being sent in.  (It is likely, given the 2nd class stamp which they said at the outset that they would use by default that very large quantities of these were printed, but I would expect that a reprint for this could easily be needed.

So could I ask that everybody checks their swap-out receipts against these dates and lets me know of any new ones received.  And then take good care of anything new as I am likely to be able to provide those to collectors who want them.

Thank you!

Images of new dates



Tuesday 4 October 2022

Royal Mail is now named International Distributions Services

Royal Mail is now named International Distributions Services

That's what the headlines read tonight, but the detail is somewhat different.  As yet there is no press release on the Royal Mail `group website but reading between the lines in the financial and investment press, this is what I have gleaned.

Royal Mail PLC on Tuesday confirmed its name has changed to International Distributions Services PLC.  This was first reported by the Financial Times on 20 July, but takes effect from today.

The company said the change has now taken effect.

In July, Royal Mail Group said the move would reflect the importance of its GLS distribution unit, which the company said it has become ‘increasingly’ reliant on.

‘The board has always maintained that there should be no cross subsidy in the group and recognises the need to address improvements in Royal Mail's performance quickly. In the event that significant change within Royal Mail is not achieved, the board will consider all options to protect the value and prospects of the group, including separation of the two companies,’ the company said in July.

GLS reported revenue growth during the first quarter ended June, while the eponymous Royal Mail unit saw a double-digit decline.

It is that sort of underperformance which may prompt the parent to mull a separation. 


The Royal Mail division is its UK-focused one, delivering letters and parcels, and includes Parcelforce Worldwide. 

GLS* is its international operation, based in Oude Meer, Netherlands and working across the US, Canada and Europe.


UPDATE 13 November 2022 The Royal Mail Group website address has changed to https://www.internationaldistributionsservices.com/en - unfortunately this is currently not working leading to broken links on other websites in the group.



* General Logistics Systems B.V., also known as GLS, is a British-owned logistics company based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The company was known as German Parcel when it was founded in 1989, by Rico Back §. It was subsequently rebranded as GLS and is now a subsidiary of Royal Mail

 § Rico Back (born 1954) is a German businessman. He is a founding member and former CEO of German Parcel (now GLS Group). He was also the CEO of Royal Mail from 2018 to May 2020 until he resigned after annual revenues to April 2020 fell £22 million year on year.


"Royal Mail has been rocked by employee strikes and things are only going to get worse given the timetable for further picket lines throughout October and November.

"It’s no wonder the group is desperate for the market to understand there is more to its business than simply delivering letters and parcels in the UK.

“'Its overseas arm GLS has become increasingly important to the group’s earnings and that’s why the corporate name has changed to International Distributions Services, in the hope that people will stop thinking of the business simply as a fleet of red vans and workers in shorts pushing energy bills through doors. It’s not the snappiest of names and one wonders if Irregular Delivery Services might have been a more appropriate moniker,' said AJ Bell’s Russ Mould."   (London Loves Business)

As this affects only the holding company I expect it to have absolutely no effect on the UK letters and parcels businesses nor on stamps etc.

Monday 3 October 2022

Aardman Classics set & MS 19 October 2022: not such a blockbuster

Readers who keep a look out for new issue information may have noticed that Royal Mail briefly showed their next issue on their shop webpage today (3 October).  I don't know how my readers find them, but this one was gone by the time I looked!

Others will notice that cover producers websites (and their emails) will reveal that the next issue features Aardman Classics.  The full details will not appear here until the embargo is properly lifted on the issue date - crazy isn't it?  However we have received the October Postmark Bulletin which includes handstamps related to this issue.

The reason for this issue, according to Royal Mail:

Royal Mail celebrates stop go animation and the creative genius of Aardman Animations with 8 special stamps. Showcasing some of Aardman’s most celebrated work, the stamps include fan favourites from Chicken Run to Frank the Tortoise. We also pay homage to one of the British public’s favourite duos, Wallace and Gromit, with an exclusive miniature sheet, featuring four of their most iconic moments.

Meanwhile here are some earlier Aardman stamps.

2nd class large Christmas 2010
Classic Children's TV 2014

The stamps & MS
Set of 8 Aardman Classics stamps issued 19 October 2022

UPDATE 5 October.  I have received supplies of these today, Royal Mail are evidently clearing the warehouse as early as possible to make way for Christmas and what should be large stocks of the In Memoriam issue both due early next month.

As you know I confine my interest in the modern special stamps to reporting them and looking briefly at them before passing them on to customers.  So I may be wrong - if so you will doubtless tell me - but I think these may be the first Special Stamps (non-Christmas) to be printed with Security Backing Paper? 

There have been other self-adhesive specials since 2016, which I have handled, but I didn't notice the SBP2.  These are the actual stamps:


Wallace & Gromit celebrate four of their favourite ‘cracking’ moments by displaying them proudly on their wall, in their humble abode at 62 West Wallaby Street. Key moments on the stamps include memories from A Matter of Loaf and Death, The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave and A Grand Day Out.  This is an exclusive miniature sheet created especially for Royal Mail by Aardman.

Aardman Classics miniature sheet issued 19 October 2022

2nd Class - Rocky and Ginger (Chicken Run)
; Feathers McGraw (The Wrong Trousers)

1st Class - Wallace and Gromit; 
Frank (Creature Comforts)

£1.85 - Timmy (Shaun the Sheep, Timmy Time)
; Morph and Chas (The Amazing Adventures of Morph & more) 
£2.55: - Robin (Robin Robin, 2021); Shaun and Blitzer (Shaun the Sheep).

MS 1st class -  A Close Shave; A Matter of Loaf and Death.
MS £1.85 -   The Wrong Trousers; A Grand Day Out.

Technical Details

The stamps and miniature sheet were designed by Studio Up and Royal Mail Group and printed by Cartor Security Printers.  All are self-adhesive, and printed in litho.  

The sheets of 60 are perforated 13.5 x 14.  The sheet stamps are 37 x 27 mm (basic),

The miniature sheet stamps are 27 x 37 mm (A Close Shave) 34 x 24 mm (remainder), all perforated 14.

Collectors Sheet

Aardman Classics Collectors sheet issued 19 October 2022

This is a sheet of only 8 stamps, ie the full set with no duplication.  It's self-adhesive, so the stamps may not be materially different to those in sheets.

Other products

First day covers (2), presentation pack, postcards, press sheet of 12 miniature sheets (edition of only 500, 4 barcoded (on the right), and 8 non-barcoded.   Additionally there is a medal cover and framed set, MS, and collectors sheet.


© and TM Aardman Animations Limited/Wallace & Gromit Limited 2022. All rights reserved. ‘Wallace & Gromit’, ‘Shaun the Sheep’, ‘Timmy Time’, ‘Robin Robin’, ‘Morph’, ‘Creature Comforts’ and ‘Aardman’ (word marks) and the characters ‘Wallace’, ‘Gromit’, ‘Timmy’, ‘Robin’ and ‘Morph’ are trade marks used under licence from Aardman Animations Limited/Wallace & Gromit Limited. www.aardman.com. ‘Robin, Robin’ animated feature © Netflix. ‘Chicken Run’ © DreamWorks Animation LLC, Aardman Chicken Run Limited and Pathé Image.

I'm pleased to see that there is no prestige stamp book for this issue, so not quite the blockbuster that it might have been. 


We will not be stocking the new stamps.

The next issues will be 

3 November - Christmas. These may be on the Royal Mail website on 25 October.

10 November - Queen Elizabeth II In Memoriam

24 November -  Tutankhamun's Treasures (Embargo date not yet announced!)