Wednesday 31 May 2023

King Charles 1st Large Business Sheet delayed

Back in April Royal Mail announced the production and issue of King Charles III definitive business sheets, and they appeared on their website briefly - although with the caveat that they still had plenty of Machins to sell.

Later in the month I found that although three sheets had been sent to buyers, the 1st Large was still 'at the printers', or so we were told.

Royal Mail Stamps & Collectibles have now announced:

DS1656 - 50 x 1st Class King Charles Definitive Large Letter Business Sheet  will not be printed & made available for the time being

As stated previously, the stock control principles for the change of Monarch is that all stocks of QEII Machin stamps would be used up before reprinting with the new KCIII Definitive version.

Following a review of requirements, and stock held across all our Channels and Outlets, we have the delayed the next* print run of DS1656: 1st Class Large Letter Business Sheet.
A further announcement will be made when stocks of Machins have fallen to a level which requires the new stamps to be printed.

*The use of the word 'next' implies that there has already been a 1st class Large printing - can anybody confirm, please, as I have not bought any new king sheets.

Meanwhile the 1st class purple sheet stamp has been reprinted on 30 March 2023.

Saturday 27 May 2023

Too many, too often, too much!

As a dealer I receive new stamps well ahead of the issue date.  This is to enable me to prepare orders ready to send at the appropriate time and send covers to handstamp centres in time to have them back by or soon after the issue date.

Today I received supplies of the last of the Windrush stamps - which isn't even issued until 22 June - and I haven't yet prepared the Warhammer (8 June) stamps.   I wouldn't be surprised to have the River Wildlife (5 July) very soon.  It's just relentless.

This reminds me of decisions we took 15 years ago, when we stopped producing our own series of limited run first day covers and then, a year later, all Royal Mail covers and (PHQ) stamp cards.

Long-standing readers who were customers may remember that I wrote:

We have been encouraged by the support we have received from many customers in this venture, but changes in our circumstances and the increasing volume of new issues by Royal Mail mean that this can no longer continue.  There is simply not the time to do justice to the product, and it is better to stop - or at least reduce our output - rather than let quality suffer.

In 2003 we produced 39 covers in 30 designs.  In 2004 this increased to 49 covers in 43 designs, 2005 had 50 covers in 36 designs, 2006 shot up to 70 covers in 45 designs and this year we have 73 covers in 49 designs!  And that doesn't include the definitive and country stamps and others which we do only on Royal Mail covers.  

Often we have stacks of three different issues as 'work in progress' waiting for all covers to be returned from the handstamp centres before orders can finally be sent to you. 

Cover production has been difficult when copyright issues got in the way - Lord of the Rings, The Beatles, and Harry Potter were problematic, James Bond also presents difficulties, and we have been told that, for the Rescue at Sea set next March, the RNLI are unwilling to allow any of their lifeboats to appear on covers!   What should be easy is becoming very difficult - this side of the business is no longer as much fun as it was when we started.

 A year later, we pulled the plug on new commemoratives altogether.

However with ever more stamps being issued by Royal Mail, often in close succession, our cut-back did not produce the hoped-for benefits – principally freeing up time to ensure that our e-commerce site kept pace with the new issues, and permitting the addition of more of our older stock of worldwide stamps, postcards, first day covers and postal history, whilst at the same time allowing me to get back to the actual hobby of philately for which the new issues have allowed precious little time over the last few years.

Last year I wrote, “We will continue for all new special stamps and definitives to service Royal Mail first day covers and PHQ cards (stamp cards) with any available postmark” and this we have done. In fact I would have cut back further last year, but our loyal band of customers have supported us over several years and I believe that loyalty works both ways. Some of you are accustomed to deciding at the last minute – once they are published on our site – which postmarks you want on your FDCs or PHQ cards. Some of you don't collect every new issue, so a basic standing order service would not serve your needs. In fact the very flexibility which you value so much is what takes time!   

But with effect from the end of this year, we will not service first day covers or PHQ cards to order.

And we found another cover dealer who could satisfy our customers - or at least those of them who decided to continue, as many had reached similar conclusions and decided to stop.

At the same time Royal Mail decided to introduce security features to their definitives, which filled the gap and took up time that I was hoping to use for other matters, and we all know how complex that got - but very interesting.  Real hunting some times!

But I do wonder how long the current Royal Mail policy will continue. 

The customer base must have fallen a long way - who now can afford to buy everything that is produced?  Royal Mail is not making it economically worthwhile for Post Office Ltd to sell stamps.  Large users, including dealers and auction houses whose mail is collected by the mail centre (rather than being posted at a post office) are being told that they can only use signed for and special delivery services if they buy postage online - which means that they cannot use the stamps that they got back from the swapout scheme.

At the same time Royal Mail has produced £2 and other commemoratives to encourage use on parcels - but they won't be properly postmarked unless they are taken to a post office (and even that is hit and miss).

The invalidation of older definitives has meant big changes to collector and dealer habits.  Dealers are reporting that trade in newer issues is way down, and interest in earlier periods is picking up, but not enough to fill the void.  

The average age of dealers marches along with the age of collectors.  Expect to see more retiring (to some extent) when they have finished with the swap-out process and managed to find someone to take on their stock. 

Philately is not dead

There are still plenty of stamps - old and new - to be studied, and some very interesting things to find. But times are a-changing.

Thursday 25 May 2023

Another collecting interest - Printers' Packing Notes.

Those of us who buy stock from Royal Mail that requires careful packing often find that that packing is cut from larger sheets of card which the printers have used to pack sheets of stamps for delivery.

Here is one from the Aardman set 

Printer's packing note for £1.85 Aardman stamps, Timmy + Morph & Chas (see below).

Whilst this sort of thing is not uncommon, sometimes it brings a surprise, such as this one.  From the limited information available this appears to be for the Warhammer miniature sheet - but the COIL version which is used by Royal Mail for first day covers.

Printer's packing note for coil version (used for FDCs) of 2023 Warhammer Miniature Sheet.

If you find any of these, I do know of people who collect them - and if you decide you want to keep it, then an image such as above would be most welcome.


Tuesday 23 May 2023

Make-up errors in Prestige Stamp Books.

It's some time since we reported on errors in Prestige Stamp Books, although at one time they were very common.

Mark Botting of Eric Arthur Stally Stamp Books has sent some examples which he hasn't seen before. Some of these predate not only our blog but the website, but one would have been included had we been aware of it.

First is the 1990 London Life (SG DX11) with text page L4 duplicated:

1990 London Life PSB with text page duplicated.

Second is the next book, Agatha Christie (DX12) with interleaf L3 misplaced after pane 3.

1991 Agatha Christie PSB with misplaced text page.

Lastly, the issue which we did cover on the website, RAF Uniforms with stamp pane 3 (Spitfire & Red Arrows) omitted.

2008 RAF Uniforms PSB with stamp pane 3 omitted.

If you find any other PSB - or stamp - errors, we will be pleased to report them.

Friday 12 May 2023

Royal Mail's cunning plan - Blackadder stamps and other products - 17 May 2023

Launched in 1983 by writer Richard Curtis and star Rowan Atkinson – with the vital assistance of BBC producer John Lloyd and co-author Ben Elton – the series is regularly named among the finest sitcoms of all time, while its scheming, amoral hero has become one of the UK's most adored TV characters.

From the mists of medieval England to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, from the glamour of the Georgian era to the grim trenches of the First World War.  As the superlative sitcom Blackadder celebrates its 40th anniversary, Royal Mail pay tribute to one of the pillars of British comedy, with a set of eight stamps showing iconic and memorable scenes.

The Blackadder stamp collection is completed with a minisheet celebrating the main character Edmund Blackadder, played by Rowan Atkinson, in all of his guises over each of the four series of the classic sitcom.

Set of 8 stamps.

Featuring some of the best-loved supporting characters played by familiar names including Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson and Brian Blessed. Four horizontal se-tenant pairs for, one for each of the four series.

Set of 8 Blackadder stamps illustrated by two stills from each series.

2nd Class - Blackadder The Third Episode 3 – Nob & Nobility: Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Rowan Atkinson; Episode 6 – Duel & Duality: Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry.

1st Class - Blackadder Goes Forth Episode 6 – Goodbyeee: Tim Mcinnerny, Hugh Laurie, Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson;  Episode 6 – Goodbyeee: Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson, Tim Mcinnerny, Tony Robinson.

£2.00 - The Black Adder Episode 2 – Born To Be King: Rowan Atkinson, Brian Blessed; Episode 3 – The Archbishop: Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Rowan Atkinson.

£2.20 - Blackadder II Episode 1 – Bells: Miranda Richardson, Patsy Byrne; Episode 4 – Money: Rowan Atkinson, Tim McInnerny, Tony Robinson.

Miniature Sheet

Miniature sheet showing 4 generations of Edmund Blackadder.

From left to right:

£2.20 - Meet Prince Edmund, aka the self-styled Black Adder: youngest son of the fictitious King Richard IV and accidental murderer of his predecessor, Richard III. Edmund is unpopular at court and constantly overlooked by his father, who barely knows his name. But Edmund is also driven by ambition, constantly dreaming up ways to plant himself upon the throne of England.

1st class - A favourite at the court of the capricious Queen Elizabeth I and owner of the sharpest tongue in all England, Lord Edmund Blackadder is a rakish nobleman with a finely sculpted beard and immaculate dress sense. But whether he’s scheming to have his rivals decapitated or planning a fake oceanic voyage, his crafty and ambitious nature does tend to land him in trouble.

£2.20 - Reduced to the status of a humble head butler in the extravagant 19th century palace of George, the Prince Regent, Mr E Blackadder is still possessed of a wicked wit, a Machiavellian mind and an enterprising nature. Along with his malodorous minion Baldrick, he’ll try everything from highway robbery to romance writing in his efforts to clamber back up the social ladder.

1st class - In the mud-swamped trenches of the First World War, world-weary professional soldier Captain Blackadder tries to keep his head while all those around him are losing theirs, sometimes literally. By now our hero’s only ambition is to stay alive, while that famous dry wit has turned to bitter black humour as with every passing day his chances of survival grow slimmer.

On his Commonwealth Stamps Opinion Blog, WhiteKnight observes that "In a single issue the actor Rowan Atkinson becomes featured on more British stamps than any other non-royal, non-fictional person than I can think of." - a good observation.

Technical details

The stamps and miniature sheet have been designed by True North and printed by Cartor Security Printers in lithography.  The sheet stamps are 41x30 mm printed in sheets of 60 on paper with ordinary gum, perforated 14½ x 14.  The miniature sheet stamps are 27 x 37 mm on self-adhesive paper, perforated 14. 


Blackadder featured with kind permission of Rowan Atkinson, Richard Curtis, Ben Elton and John Lloyd. Blackadder television stills © BBC, used with permission from BBC Motion Gallery/Getty Images.  Miniature sheet background image – gold and red decorative textile pattern © debela/Getty Images; linen fabric background © Katsumi Murouchi/ Getty Images; picture frames © Tomekbudujedomek/Getty Images and © Stockbyte/Getty Images. Stamp images – Blackadder photographs © BBC Photo Library.

Other products

Set of 8, miniature sheet, first day covers (2), postcards, presentation pack, collector sheet, press sheet of 18 ms, platinum miniature sheet*, framed set, miniature sheet or collectors sheet (£34.99 each).

* "A highly collectible edition of the Edmund Blackadder Miniature Sheet finished in platinum. Limited to just 1,000 platinum stamp sheets and presented in a bespoke presentation case with a numbered certificate of authenticity - price £149.99.

Blackadder Platinum Miniature Sheet

Collector Sheet

Blackadder Collector Sheet - 10 stamps with labels showing a memorable
quote or still from the televsion series.


The £2.00 is a new value for special issues and is equivalent to the basic worldwide surface or 'economy' letter rate.

Royal Mail have said, "We have chosen to add the other values to ensure variety and also provide the option for more flexible use of special stamps for parcels.

Time will tell whether this is useful or not, especially on parcels.  I would think they would be more likely to be used on airmail letters supplemented with 20p in definitive stamps.

Wednesday 10 May 2023

May slogans and other interesting postal markings

May's slogan postmarks continued from April with the Coronation commemoration, which lasts until 9th May (probably: although Royal mail say 10th they usually mean the delivery date).

May's slogan postmarks will be shown here; please check for latest updates before spending your time scanning, but if you have something new or another format, then please do send it in for publication. 

My thanks to JE who sent this example of the Coronation slogan used on The Day at Manchester.

Coronation slogan postmark Manchester Mail Centre 06/05/2023

UPDATE 17 August

I've been sent several other May examples, most of which are the same layouts as the April ones, but this reverse layout from Birmingham Mail Centre (probably on a square envelope) seems to be from May but it isn't clear.

Coronation slogan postmark, reverse layout, Birmingham Mail Centre 09/05/2023

Coronation slogan postmark Peterborough Mail Centre 09-05-2023

A reader suggested that there might be a Eurovision slogan, but I understand that this will not be the case. It seems a shame, but maybe there are rights issues over the name.

My thanks to a host of readers who sent scans of the next slogan which appeared from 13 May.

Mental Health
Awareness Week
15 - 21 May

Examples from Swindon on 13-05-2023, and in the other format from Nottingham Mail Centre and North & West Yorkshire (Leeds) 13/05/2023, Gatwick Mail Centre 15/05/2023, Cumbria Dumfries & Galloway (Carlisle) and Chester & N Wales 17/05/2023.  Only the better examples are shown here.

Mental Health Awareness Week - Swindon Mail Centre 13-05-2023

Mental Health Awareness Week - Chester & N Wales 17/05/2023

Mental Health Awareness Week - North & West Yorkshire 13/05/2023

Thanks to OT, MM, JE, JH, and RW.

My thanks to RW who has sent this example of the default British Heart Foundation slogan, the first use reported in May.  South East Anglia (Chelmsford Mail Centre) 25/05/2023

BHF slogan from South East Anglia Mail Centre 25/05/2023

Other postmarks, postal markings etc,

On the subject of the Coronation a couple of people have sent pictures of the Postage Paid Impression used by Isle of Man Stamps on some of their recent mailshots.  This features one of the stamps from their Accession set which you can see on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog.  It was issued on 3 April.

Isle of Man Coronation mailshot with printed stamp from the Accession of King Charles III set.

If you have any other interesting postal markings, please send them to one of the email addresses in the top right of this blog.  Thank you.

I was very pleased to find many post office branches in Cornwall last week, especially in small communities.  A big advantage of this is that post is collected at least in the afternoon, often as late as 5pm.  This is very useful if you are writing postcards to friends and relatives.  There is a chance that they may reach the addressee before you get home!

Remember, all postmarks appearing in May will be added to this post, so check here before you spend time scanning and emailing.  I'll add new ones as quickly as possible.

Friday 5 May 2023

No new lists yet, and order processing delayed.

I thought I should write an update on how we are getting on with processing orders and making new lists, as I know some people have been waiting for a while.

I am part way through producing a list of all the NVI Machins, starting with the blue and black, working through to the self-adhesive coils, airmail stamps, up to - but excluding - the security stamps.

Unfortunately family matters and processing orders has put this on hold, and processing of orders has also slowed.  Some readers will have noticed the blog post last month announcing a long weekend away without internet.  This was a break we needed just to relax and calm down after a trying couple of weeks.

Things are improving but some time still has to be devoted to non-business matters, with a succession of birthdays and public holidays meaning that family comes first.  And we have another long weekend now, with variable weather - good weather will mean gardening, bad weather may mean time in the office!

But on Thursday next (11th) we have another week away for another social occasion (this time I will remember to use the 'out of office' response to emails!).  

So everything will be on hold from 11-22 May (and there's another holiday weekend a week later! The Blackadder issue will be blogged on Friday this week.)


And I haven't even sent any more stamps into Royal Mail's Swap-out scheme (although I have been using them up!)

Orders in hand will be actioned as quickly as possible, and if you think you've been forgotten, please remind us.

Have a good weekend!

Post weekend update

a. I'm pleased to say that I was able to clear a few orders, one is awaiting the address to send it to!

b. If you send in email orders based on the many lists here, do please include your address.  Apart from anything else it will help me to calculate the postage if you are not in the UK, and if I complete picking and processing just on the same day that I am going to the post office, I'll be able to post it, rather than waiting for you to reply to an email asking for it, which may mean another week to wait.

c. I don't have any whole sheets of pre-barcoded Machins of any type.  

d. The 'more difficult' X, Y, and U numbers are mostly sold, but note that just because it's in a prestige book that doesn't make it difficult. (Only the ones from the mixed panes).

e. The sales list for NVIs is now on hold until towards the end of this month, although I will have to fit that round a project at home as well.  

f. From the Swap-out I do have good supplies of many of the barcoded stamps so if anybody wants to buy formats not readily available from Tallents House (where they seem to be remarkably inflexible when people want to spend money), please ask and if I have them they can be supplied at very good prices.

g. About four years ago I was writing about Machins on cover for people who wanted examples of modern postal history, especially inland rates for collectors abroad.  This, of course, has been interrupted by the Swap-out, but it is one of many things that I shall want to do - probably next year, at the rate things are going!

Any questions - please ask!

Wednesday 3 May 2023

What values should be used on Royal Mail's special stamps?

For decades Royal Mail has told us that they preferred not to use anything other than 1st class and airmail values for their special stamps, even though this meant that the cost of sets was high, and few were being used on inland mail by people who wanted to send 2nd class mail.

1929 PUC £1
There were always 2nd class stamps in the Christmas set for the obvious public demand reason, but in very few other sets - but things are changing!

I'm highlighting this hear now, although I cannot provide any details yet, but several of the stamp issues projected for the rest of the year have stamps with values other than 2nd, 1st and £2.20.

Royal Mail have said, "We have chosen to add the other values to ensure variety and also provide the option for more flexible use of special stamps for parcels."  

This would, however, mean that some stamps might being issued for which there was no specific postage rate, and therefore no solo use.

Given reports on how stamps are treated on letters and parcels, I can only hope that the Stamps and Collectibles division of Royal Mail had some influence on the Operational areas of Royal Mail, and on their retail partner, Post Office Ltd.  

This might just ensure that the pictorial stamps that they are making available for all users to actually use, might be treated in the mailstream in a way that made it worthwhile for people to use them.

Look out for these in future new issue announcements.

KIng Charles II Coronation: Royal Mail decorates four postboxes, the public decorate others

Press Release 3 May 2023

Ahead of the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla, Royal Mail has unveiled four special postboxes across the UK. The postboxes display the occasion’s official emblem in celebration of The Coronation.

The postboxes are located across the UK in:

  • Westminster, London: Abingdon Street (on the corner of Great College Street), SW1P 3JY
  • Edinburgh: High Street, EH1 1SG
  • Cardiff: St John’s Street, CF10 1GL
  • Royal Hillsborough, County Down: Main Street, BT26 6AE

The Westminster postbox is situated very close to Westminster Abbey, where the Coronation is taking place on Saturday, 6 May.

Government Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “The Coronation of Charles III is going to be a huge historic moment for the UK and one that will be celebrated with a weekend packed with different ways for people to get involved.

"Our postboxes are recognised the world over as an iconic symbol of Britain and these four iconic unique Coronation postboxes will leave a lasting royal legacy in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Royal Hillsborough."

David Gold, Director of External Affairs & Policy at Royal Mail, said: “The Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla is a momentous occasion and one that will be celebrated across UK. We are proud to mark such a historic event and to offer our warmest congratulations to the King and Queen”.

Double postbox in Westminster, London, decorated for the Coronation.

Postbox in Hillsborough, Belfast, decorated for the Coronation.

Postbox in Cardiff decorated for the Coronation.
Uproar over coronation postbox unveiled outside Owain Glyndŵr pub

Unofficial Box toppers made by 'yarn-bombers' around the country

From the top: Chesterfield, Edinburgh, Felixstowe, Gateshead, unknown, Cheadle.

Thanks for the Cheadle picture to AW; all other pictures from Twitter.  I'll not be posting any more as there are limits to just how many images Google will allow to be posted on blogs, and I am at 85% of that!