Tuesday 20 December 2022

Review of the year 2022

This year has been memorable for two things: the end of traditional Machin definitives, and the passing of Her Majesty the Queen, which in turn meant the end of Machins of any sort.

For the first couple of months of the year collectors were preoccupied with just what Royal Mail had planned for definitive stamps.  The next few months were spent digesting and interpreting - and experiencing - the Swap-Out scheme.  Enough has already been written about this for me not to go into any more detail here, although few people seem to have been intentionally producing combination covers with old and new definitives.

I do think that it is worth putting aside any interesting covers that you get because more and more people are collecting modern postal history, even if at present they are concentrating on finding and using or disposing of their surplus (or all) stamps.  

This arrived last week.  Prepaid at 2nd class it needed to be uprated to 2nd Large - which needs four extra stamps!  (See another fine example lower down.)

2nd class Large letter prepaid with 2nd class, requiring the addition of 20p, 10p, 5p & 2p stamps.

Looking back

In my first end-of-year message, in 2010, I expressed my surprise that 'this blogging thing' turned out to be a success.  Some of the followers from then, and some of the people who supplied information have sadly passed on, but I am grateful to the others and many more who are still providing information on stamps, postmarks, and especially Post and Go, which continues to make this blog the repository of useful information that it is.


Special Stamp Programmes 2022/23

At the start of the year I was able to announce the bones of the 2022 programme, with many gaps, and remarked on the apparent shortage of issues based on US entertainment media.  As it turned out those 'to be announced' issues were British based rather than US, or at least had a strong UK element. 

The Covid Heroes set paid a true tribute to those who worked tirelessly during the pandemic, and the Commonwealth Games issue was a fitting celebration.  The biggest surprise was that Royal Mail celebrated the LGBT+ community with the Pride issue in the summer.  The biggest splash on social media was the Transformers issue which was widely appreciated by the now adult fans of this 80s phenomenon.

The statistics for the year [2021 in brackets]: Special Stamps - 116 including 9 x 2nd class, 63 @ 1st class and 44 airmail [101 total]; Miniature sheets - 9 containing 5 x 2nd class, 19 x 1st class, 17 airmail [10]; Booklets - only 2 for Christmas, mixed booklets having been abandoned [10]; Prestige Stamp Books - 5 [4]; Generic/Collector sheets - 10 [9].   After the first two PSBs the other three included Machin definitives with datamatrix barcodes. 

As we have already seen, 2023 will be once again, more of the same, but with the same emphasis on British talent.

In a year which included many frankly poor stamp issues our attention was grabbed by Royal Mail's errors and mistakes - the MPIL source code was missing from first prestige stamp book with datamatrix definitives; the second such had the right source code but some of the marginal design encroached onto a stamp; and the third such booklet, "issued" on 24 November still hasn't been delivered by 19th December. (And there's another error in the next section.)


Machin and Country definitives

2023 also produced 18 face-different Machin definitives, and another 9 from non-sheet sources, plus 12 country definitives all with datamatrix barcodes.  

There was just one new value and five stamps with that value (£1.85 for £1.70), all the others replacing existing stamps.  

Because the stamps are larger than the ones they replaced, the booklets were larger, the PSBs larger, and some Business Sheets smaller, all apparently because Royal Mail has scanning equipment that needs barcodes of that size rather than the size of the ones that Germany uses which would fit perfectly well on old-style Machins. 

Reminding us that new discoveries are still being made, one of our customers found an undiscovered 2019 printing of the 2nd class Scotland definitive on Skye, and another correspondent alerted us to the unusual design error on the 1st class Wales barcoded definitive used on Royal Mail FDCs only.

It seemed to take no time at all for the Chinese factories to step up to the plate and produce forgeries of the NVI barcoded stamps (right).

As for the definitives of King Charles III we don't know exactly when they will be issued, but expect that it will be in 2023.  Just today, hours before I planned to publish this, the Bank of England has issued pictures of the first banknotes, the Royal Mint having already issued the first 50p coin.  So it seems likely that the stamps will use one of these portraits: I prefer the full face over the profile, where the ear is too prominent, however accurate.


Post and Go

In May we noted the passing of designer and artist (and Norfolk resident) Robert Gilmor, who designed the first (birds) and some subsequent Post and Go designs.   As expected there were no new designs this year, although there were reprints of some of the existing designs.  

Output from the Postal Museum and others continued to delight or frustrate collectors around the country.  I wonder just who buys the stamps from these machines apart from Post and Go collectors, especially outside the main tourist season.  Perhaps our intrepid band of explorers could make enquiries - Malcolm, Trevor and others, I look forward to your 2023 reports.


Postmark slogans and others

By my reckoning there have only been 26 slogan postmarks this year including the Action For Children default, and its replacement about using up old stamps.  The Universal machine made an appearance in February and March as well as December, and a new type of counter date stamp was trialled at Boscombe and some other offices.


The Post Office Horizon IT Scandal

This story made its way slowly to the mainstream media as a result of the wide-ranging Public Inquiry,sessions of which are live-streamed on YouTube and recorded for subsequent viewing. I was pleased by a new trick mentioned by Nick Wallis who was also in catch-up mode, that you can change the play-back speed on YT videos. (Use the settings cog and you can go at 1.25x or 1.5x without much distortion unless the witness speaks very quickly!) 

Sadly the issue of compensation and getting it to the wronged continues even more slowly but it was interesting to hear the evidence of witnesses from Post Office, Fujitsu, and the NFSP & CWU, and  former ministers among the senior politicians. Some of these will be returning for further examination. The Metropolitan Police have still not charged anyone with perjury, though.


Post Office, Royal Mail, Revenue Protection and Invalid Stamps that aren't

Failures by some Post Office branches and Mail Centres to cancel mail that they should is continuing to lead to stamps being cancelled in the final mile with a pen.  (The one shown to Australia has a £1.55 Scotland, 20p Machin barcode, and 2 x 5p Machin: a great mixed franking.)

Revenue Protection have continued to incorrectly flag valid old stamps (which we are being urged to use up) as forgeries which wastes the time of users, recipients, and sometimes delays orders to customers, with consequent recriminations.

At the same time they continue to let through as valid, stamps which are - to many of us - obvious forgeries!

Due to industrial action by members of the Communication Workers Union Royal Mail decided at the last minute that they could not attend autumn Stampex - there's no Spring Stampex in 2023 so hopefully they will return in September for the few people who will still be buying from them.

Another announcement that took many people by surprise (including its editor) was the end of publication of the Philatelic Bulletin. Communication being their raison d'être, they printed the notification letter on the back of the July statement, which many people threw away without turning it over!

Unless they come up with another avenue (social media maybe?), this does mean that the poll of Royal Mail's customers' 'favourite stamp issue/favourite stamp' will not take place this year. 

Our business

The invalidation of older Machin and Country definitives has been an unwelcome distraction but readers asked many questions (some of which we hadn't considered) and it has been useful to investigate.  

But it has also been the trigger-point for decision-making.  I'm not the only dealer who has decided to call it a day on these stamps, and collectors and dealers have been sending their surplus stamps for exchange. 

Collectors who are continuing collections have benefited from some bargain prices being offered which has saved some good collectable stamps from the Royal Mail incinerator.  

There is no end date for the swap, so I will continue to produce (and update existing) sales lists in the hope that people will find something they want, and I will avoid a pile of barcoded stamps!

Our online shop will remain open but will have more mint and used GB, postal history* (UK and foreign), picture postcards and foreign stamps including bulk lots.  I'll also be offering some discounted postage, both commemorative and barcoded Machins.  If you would like me to look out anything please ask and I'll let you know what we have.

* Last year I wrote that I would be starting other blogs on this subject but of course the Swap-Out scheme, along with some domestic issues, has provided big a big distraction. 

The future

Club meetings have resumed with more meetings being shared online to a wider audience than the pre-Covid in-room attendances.  I didn't manage to get to many fairs this year, and even our own local fair has been suspended while the hotel venue has been block-booked by the Home Office for immigrants and asylum-seekers.  

If domestic matters allow, I shall certainly be intending to spend more time on my own collection, but I have to dispose of a great deal of my stock and collection.  And if you have decided to stop collecting new GB stamps, and want something more interesting to study then there is plenty here for you to get your teeth into without spending huge amounts.

We have already seen what the future holds by way of Royal Mail's stamp programme.  If you don't follow it I would urge you to read the blog-post from my fellow blogger White Knight on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion.

It is quite likely that some people will start collecting the stamps of King Charles III. That is a worthy start to a collection, but I hope that they are not marketed by Royal Mail as an investment.  And I hope that people who think they will buy a subscription from Royal Mail will read widely before doing so. 

I will continue to provide details of all new stamp issues as provided by Royal Mail, to their required timetable, but that's all.  You'll get the pictures, you'll get the detail, and you'll get comments from me and from readers.  


We hope all our readers have a Merry Christmas whatever religion you follow (if any).  Thank you for your cards and seasonal good wishes.
Last year I urged you to remember those who are less fortunate than you; with even more people in fuel poverty this year I can do no better than to repeat that messsage.



  1. "Make-up" values: you need to be posting large just to fit the barcoded stamps on! I'm actually hanging on to some older Machins for make-ups on CL or even DL envelopes in order to leave room for the "signed for" label.

  2. I do not quite know where I would be these days without your timely and detailed blog.

    So, a very big "thank you" and all the best for a Happy Yuletide. (Other mid-winter festivals are available).

  3. Thanks Ian, yet another very useful and informative blog post! One question though, when you say that you expect King Charles III definitive stamps to appear this year, do you mean that you expect these to make an appearance before the end of 2022, or is that written from the perspective that it will soon be 2023 and so 'this year' means 2023? If the former, we don't have long to wait!

    A very happy Christmas to you and all at Norvic (and all your readers too).

  4. As always, thanks for all the information from yourself and fellow collector's. Seasons Greetings to all!

    1. Seconded - this blog continues to be an invaluable source of information. On the Charles III definitives, I hope they appear sooner than mid-2024 as is reported for the banknotes. Best wishes for the New Year to all.

  5. Thank you very much for a new year of informations! Merry Christmas and best wishes to you and your family and friends.

  6. Ian,
    Thanks for all the information you've given us over the year.
    The definitives that lasted for fifty-five years were "after months of extremely hard work by Mr Arnold Machin and the printers" and I don't believe such an effort will be put into the Charles definitives, especially as the coinage head was only done from photographs not sittings. The banknote portrait is though much better than I could have expected and probably wouldn't
    look bad on stamps. Maybe the first Charles III stamps will be in the spring for the new rates to replace £1.85, £2.55, £3.25 and £4.20, four stamps totalling about £13 being more lucrative for the first first day cover than the four NVIs at 'only' about a fiver. Last time there was a ten month wait for the 1½d and 2½d Wildings so maybe we shouldn't be too impatient.

    1. It would not surprise me if this has already been discussed by Royal Mail and the Palace before this year.
      In 1952 the death of the King was a surprise and the Coronation was not until 1953. The passing of a 96-year-old monarch was not as much of a surprise although she could easily have lived past 100 years.

  7. Thank you Ian,
    As one of your new customers who "benefited from some bargain prices being offered which has saved some good collectable stamps from the Royal Mail incinerator" I'd like to say thanks for all the information over the year(s). I'll carry on following your blog as long as you publish it.
    Best wishes for 2023.

  8. Hi Ian, thank you for another great year of blogs and information. I look forward to next year's reading, although I don't collect modern British stamps now, I enjoy keeping up with what's happening.

    A Merry Christmas to all at Norvic Towers.

  9. I wonder whether next years stamp#s will be self adhesive or gummed. The Tutankhamen ones may be the last gummed ones. Eventually special stamps without barcodes will have to be invalidated because the cfc machines to cancel them will have worn out so we shall go thorough the invalidation chaos again. And it will not be easy to design pretty commemorative that we shall want to buy with ugly great barcodes within. Our hobby will shrink away I think. The Flying Scotsman and Blackadder issues look promising though.

    1. Have you already seen images of the Flying Scotsman and Blackadder issues?

    2. No, but the A3 pacifics were handsome engines and ought to look good on the stamps, while the Blackadder characters in costume ought to be suitable images for stamps. Even Baldrick will look better than the Iron Maiden musician...

  10. Lars,
    Are you sure about "Eventually special stamps without barcodes will have to be invalidated because the cfc machines to cancel them will have worn out so we shall go thorough the invalidation chaos again"?
    I understood that when CFC machines have worn out they are replaced by more modern machines that still separate machinable mail, cancel the stamp and face it up for the next machine i.e. still Cull, Face and Cancel. .

    1. Firstly the Tutankhamun are not the last gummed ones, as Iron Maiden are also gummed.
      Secondly the traditional CFC machines were those using 'Universal'-type cancellers; now the ink-jet machines may also have a degree of CFC but they are known as iLSM and IMP machines.
      I don't think we will see barcodes on special stamps for reasons still to be apparent.

    2. Thank you for putting my misconceptions right. I shall be pleased to have more gummed stamps as I am wary that the self adhesive ones will go off like the self adhesive envelopes do. However the most sought after stamps are likely to be the new barcoded country definitives as few will be printed and used before the silhouette is changed on them. If there were price rises in February then the rarest current stamps are likely to be the Ulster £1.85s.

    3. Only the very first self-adhesives 'went off', and they are difficult to get off the backing paper. I did have some later coils which fell off the backing, but I think they had been mistreated!

  11. Thank you Ian for another year of valuable information and insight. All the best for 2023.


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