Tuesday 18 October 2022

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.


  1. I have chosen to collect cylinder strips of five from counter sheets. Mainly because it permits a more compact display. Did not work for the first NVIs but fine for all fixed values. Being in New Zealand means that most of my blocks are obtained from dealers so local non-availability is not a problem.
    My 'Machin First to Last' display will finish with a glorious blaze of Machin colour: 25x1st purple and 25x2nd green, of which I have many sheets from my SwapOut deal. Plus the pane from the Transformers Prestige Book (1 Sept) with the last Machins issued during the Queen's lifetime, just a week before her death.

  2. Why not just buy the whole sheet" I know the cost would be prohibitive — 25 x £5 ia noin-trivial, but it is covers all aspects of what is cited in the post :-)

    1. Well, that is the problem for higher values, which are least likely to be found at branches.


  3. Thanks Ian, I was wondering on the best way to collect them and have now decided the top two rows which covers the cylinder and date block.

  4. Recent trip to Scotland yielded zero barcoded country defins. Glasgow West Nile had some & have sold out, Charing Cross have ordered 1st and 2nd and were expecting them on the 20th, all other offices (I tried approx 15) had none & were surprised they were available when I showed them a picture. Hopefully that's put the seed in someone's mind to order them in. We can but hope....


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