Tuesday 24 October 2023

New Stamps for 2024 - prizes for good predictions!

Occasionally in the autumn our band of readers starts producing realistic ideas for the next year's stamp programme. (Sometimes it's a spoof!)

So put your thinking caps on, consult some websites, and see if you can come up with a calendar for next year.

I would suggest 15 issues (although you could do more), starting in January and ending with Christmas in early November, unless you can think of anything that really must be issued after the Christmas stamps.

One programme per person, sent to me by email [ian@norphil.co.uk] so as to not give too many ideas to other readers.

There have been some suggestions in comments on other blog posts, and they can be incorporated.  

I don't know what the programme will bring, save that there will be a Music Giants issue again, so look back to the golden age of popular music (or the 90s depending on how old you are!) and see what you can come up with.  

We have no reason to believe that the practice of the last few years - plenty of entertainment subjects with huge licensing fees for fdc producers to avoid - will be changed at all.  So there is your guide. 

I haven't decided on a prize yet because I have only just thought of this having had a firm suggestion about just one of 2024's sets.  

So off you go.  Comments are disabled: if you have any questions, please email.

Calendar 2024 PNGs by Vecteezy

UPDATE:  Only 8 entries so far and some of them are of the spoof variety, so plenty of chance to win prizes yet.


9 entries now received

Quite a lot of commonality among the predictions.

Of the 15 subjects in the outline programme I received today Christmas is a given, and four other subjects have been identified.


UPDATE - with over 20 entries received and much speculation about January's Music Giants issue, which Royal Mail standing order customers know is coming on 11th, this competition is now closed.

If I have time I'll do a write up on the entries for publication on 5 January, but if not it will be before the end of the month.

Thank you for your participation.



Christmas 2023 - Set of 5 and MS - 2 November 2023

Royal Mail's Christmas issue this year is reduced to only five stamps and retail booklets, plus the unnecessary miniature and generic sheets.

The set of five special stamps features brand new illustrations by artist Tom Duxbury, who specialises in the techniques of block printing to depict both vintage and modern scenes. The vibrant designs capture the themes of some of the most popular Christmas carols, including ‘Silent Night’ and ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’.

Great Britain Christmas 2023 2nd and 2nd Large stamps

ValueInfo provided by Royal Mail
Actual title
2nd Class O Holy Night
2nd Class LargeSilent NightO Little Town of Bethlehem
1st ClassAway in a MangerSilent Night
1st Class LargeO Little Town of Bethlehem        
Away in a Manger
£2.20We Three Kings 

I have checked the actual stamps and they are as illustrated above: Royal Mail's information to us was wrong, yet again.

Great Britain 2023 Christmas Miniature Sheet

2023 Christmas 'Collectors sheet'

Technical details

The range was designed by Steers McGillan Eves using illustrations by Tom Duxbury exclusively for Royal Mail ©

The 39 x 30 mm stamps are printed in sheets of 50 by Cartor Security Printers in gravure (ie by Walsall). The Miniature sheet is 179 x 74 mm also printed in gravure.

The Christmas 2023 Collectors Sheet includes a set of 20 stamps (8 x 2nd Class, 8 x 1st, 4 x £2.20) set against a backdrop of a starry ngiht. The Sheet will be printed in Self Adhesive, and is printed in litho.

Retail booklets of 8 will be available for the 1st and 2nd class stamps. The covers are green (2nd) and purple (1st) the same as the definitive stamps. 

Last year, for production reasons, the Booklets did not carry any cylinder numbers.  We think that this may be the same in 2023.

Product range

Set, miniature sheet, retail booklets, collector sheet, first day covers (2), stamp cards (6), presentation pack.

Newsbits - October 2023

As we approach the end of the year (yes, really) and Royal Mail's stamp programme is coming to an end, this post contains a selection of disparate news items.

Post & Go Mail by Rail error 1

MC visited The Postal Museum to get the Museum stamps with the new Dressed to Deliver inscription and popped over to the Mail Rail machine just to see what was produced.  Unexpectedly it was the normal stamp, with no additional inscription apart from the Mail Rail, but he was rewarded with this spectacular strip.

He writes:

It happened because the reel printer jammed after printing the first stamp and then, after attention from a staff member, the remainder came out (all attached). The staff member just passed the strip to me as it was, so an interesting error for the files. (The second class reel came out as expected).

Mail Rail Post & Go strip with gaps caused by mechanical problems.

 A nice display item to add to the 'mechanical failures' category.

Post & Go error 2

It's approaching Remembrance Day so the Poppy stamps have been reintroduced (at least at some offices) and RW sent this exaample from Paignton.  

Of course the error should have occurred whatever the stock, but again it's a nice thing to get when you go in to check out the machines. 


Smilers Back in Time

The Business Customised Service was ended by Royal Mail in 2017, followed in 2018 by the Smilers (Personalisation) Service, but Royal Mail continue to provide a Smilers-type sheet at Christmas (although the stamps are not available for personalisation which was the whole point of Smilers Sheets).  

Some of the earliest Business Sheets were produced for Eagle Coaches 75th Anniversary in late 2001. These were catalogued at £1,000 at one time and so few come to market that no reliable value can be placed on them: it is more a case of buyer and seller agreeing and rarely is anything made public.

A reader has sent in a picture of a single which he has.  The stamp is from the top left of the sheet, and the label is damaged, but if anybody is interested in contacting the owner with a view to buying, then do please contact me by email (address at top right) and I will pass your details on.

Single stamp from rare 2001 Eagle Coaches Business Customised Sheet.

Underpayment avoided - Royal Mail being proactive.

Don't guess it, check it!

This isn't recent, as you can tell from the postage rates, but it's a nice piece of postal history, being applied to the back of a letter which came to the UK from the USA in 2002.  

Does anybody know of any other similar labels from the same or different rate periods?

UPDATE 7 November 2023: Many more of these labels exist and we have been sent some images which are on our Postal History blog.


USPS announces part of the 2024  stamp issue programme.

Unlike Royal Mail, the United States Postal Service believes in making people aware of forthcoming stamps well in advance.  Apart from anything else it helps FDC producers, but it also enables people and organisations which have a connection to the new stamps to arrange events around the issue, like unveiling ceremonies and firs day of issue ceremonies.  

“As always, our stamp program features a broad array of subjects and designs. Stamps are miniature works of art and often tell a story that highlights our American culture, our people or an important point in our history,” said Lisa Bobb-Semple, acting Stamp Services director for USPS. 

“Stamps also allow us to show what’s important to us as we carefully select which stamp adorns our mailpieces. The 2024 stamps were designed to offer the American public a broad array of choices for those looking to collect stamps or send a special message.” 

This is a partial list, with more to be revealed in the weeks and months ahead. All stamp designs are preliminary and subject to change.

The US tends to issue a lot more single stamps - although the way they are produced often means that it's difficult to buy just one for a collection.  Some are sold only in books of 20, some - especially a set of 4-10 different designs - only in panes of 20 or 25.  The interlocking die-cuts on sheets make it difficult to get a single mint stamp on its original backing paper without having all the surrounding eight!

Although they use a lot of NVI ('Forever') stamps, they do issue new stamps every year for the Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express services.  The first is provisionally priced at $9.65 and the latter at $28.75 (£23.50) - so they have their bad side too!

Whilst many of their stamps mark what we might describe here as cultural and historic matters, others are even more ridiculous than some of Royal Mail's.

The programme so far includes Lunar New Year, Love (another annual issue), US Flags (new ones every year - booklete & coils), Black Heritage (1), a new range of low value definitives (flowers), 1 ounce and 2 ounce Wedding stamps (another annual issue), Literary Arts (1), 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Shakers (12), Bluegrass music (1), Horses (5), Sea Turtles (6), Autumn colours (10 in a pane of 20) etc. But the one that takes the biscuit for me is a set of 10 Pinback Buttons - or badges as we call them here.

USPS 2024 Pinback Buttons - 10 circular basic letter rate self-adhesive stamps (pane of 20).
USPS 2024 Horses (2 of 5) issued as a pane of 20)

The illustrated list with more descriptions is on the USPS website here.

RW reminds me that Hong Kong post has also published their programme, illustrated; you can see the stamps on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog here.  This is useful because it means that WhiteKnight already has the images when it comes to the actual issue date!

GB Christmas - 2 November 2023

I'm told that these are now visible on Royal Mail's website: my blog post will be scheduled for the issue date, 3 November, in accordance with my contract.  You can see them now on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion Blog.

As Royal Mail not only have all the stamps on their website but have sent the First illustrated newsletter to the subscribers I have published here.

No more news for now, so I'll end the post with this older US stamp!


Monday 9 October 2023

Museum Post and Go machines are in the final throes but not dead yet.

Press Release

The Postal Museum is set to mark the opening of the new temporary exhibition Dressed to Deliver with Post & Go stamps from 18th October 2023. 

The new “The Postal Museum/Dressed to Deliver” overprint will appear on the “Mail by Bike” stamps originally released in February 2016. These six designs celebrate the use of innovative modes of transport from the Pentacycle in 1882 to Quad Bikes in 2002. 

They also depict the riders wearing a variety of uniforms making them an appropriate way to celebrate the launch of our new exhibition. The overprint will be live from 18th October 2023.

London Postal Museum Post & Go stamps with Dressed to Deliver imprint, presentation pack of six stamps.

In addition to Post & Go stamps, there will be a range of products available including a First Day Cover. This limited edition of 200 First Day Covers will feature each of the six designs as first-class stamps with the “Dressed to Deliver” overprint. They will be cancelled with the official handstamp for The Postal Museum and are individually numbered. This product is sold exclusively by The Postal Museum.

Also available for purchase will be a limited number of 100 Presentation Packs. These will include a collectors’ strip consisting of all values of the “Mail by Bike” stamps with the “Dressed to Deliver” overprint, enclosed in a fold-out card with information about the exhibition.

The cover and pack will be available in the museum’s shops from 18th October 2023 and for pre-order online from 11th October 2023.

Update on Post & Go:
Following Royal Mail’s announcement on 1st September 2023, the Post & Go Kiosks will close at 5pm on 31st December 2023. Therefore, these will be the last First Day Covers and Presentation Packs that The Postal Museum will produce with overprints from our Post & Go machines. The stamps will be available until 31st December at the A001 Post & Go machine in the TPM welcome space, subject to availability.

The Presentation Packs and First Day Covers will be available on site and online at shop.postalmuseum.org from 18th October until September 2024, subject to availability. Pre-order online from 11th October 2023, delivery from 17th October 2023 onwards.

Further information:
Please note, there will be no new overprint in the Mail Rail Post & Go machine (A013). The image of the First Day Cover is a mock-up of the final product which will be cancelled with the official handstamp for The Postal Museum.

Two Post & Go machines are available at The Postal Museum throughout the museum’s opening hours. Every purchase helps support The Postal Museum.


Update: Prices will be £20 for the first day covers and £35 for the presentation pack- plus postage if ordering by mail order.

Thursday 5 October 2023

October 2023 slogan postmarks and other interesting postal markings.

Moving on from Royal Mail's special stamp programme to more philatelic matters....

Slogan postmarks used in October 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.

The month has continued the September use of the default British Heart Foundation support slogan in most places, but is off to a great start with a late use of the June Windrush slogan at Gatwick Mail Centre! My thanks to HH for sending this extremely clear example used on 2 October.

Empire Windrush slogan used late at Gatwick Mail Centre on 02/10/2023.

UPDATE 17 October:  Thanks to RW for the first new slogan of October.  This marks Anti-Slavery Day and, unusually, is from Aberdeen Mail Centre.  

Anti-Slavery Day
18th October


Anti-Slavery Day postmark slogan Aberdeen Mail Centre 14-10-2023

UPDATE 20 October:  A reasonable example of the other format of this slogan from Chester & N Wales / Caer a Gog Cympru Mail Centre today was on a letter we received this morning.

Anti-Slavery Day postmark slogan Chester Mail Centre 17/10/2023

UPDATE 3 NOVEMBER: The last slogan for October carries on to November, but here is one sent by AB making Movember, the cancer awareness campaign, used at Bristol Mail Centre 31/10/2023.

The Moustache is Calling
Raise funds. Save lives.
Sign up now.

Movember slogan used at Bristol Mail Centre 02-11-2023


Other examples are shown in November.

Other postmarks, postal markings etc,

Nothing to report his month

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.

Remember, any other slogans appearing in October 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.

Harry Potter set & MS again - issued 19 October 2023

Having had stamps for 75th and shorter anniversaries, Royal Mail have now plumbed the depths of the entertainment media stamp circus by producing a set marking 20 years of the Harry Potter "wonderful wizarding world".

18 October: Royal Mail have announced yet another "problem with supply": the PSBs will be shipped "after 26th October".  You would have thought that they had ordered these early enough from the printer.  Maybe there were errors in the make up, like with the Shirley Bassey PSB.

The Special Stamps focus on the Battle of Hogwarts and the characters as they appear in the later films - both good and evil. Fan favourites Harry, Hermione, Ron and Lord Voldemort feature, alongside members of Dumbledore’s Army and the Order of the Phoenix, as well as Lord Voldemort’s followers and Death Eaters. Presenting these characters as they appear in the later films, these Special Stamps have a darker tone, which those who have grown up with the franchise will recognise and enjoy. 

All the stamps are 1st class.

The full list of characters featured on these special stamps are: Ron Weasley, The Weasley Twins, Minerva McGonagall, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Harry Potter, Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Hermione Granger, Molly Weasley, Bellatrix Lestrange, Narcissa Malfoy, Fenrir Greyback, Scabior, Lord Voldemort, a Death Eater, Severus Snape, Alecto Carrow, Draco Malfoy and Gregory Goyle.  

Set of 10 x 1st class Harry Potter stamps issued 19 October 2023.

The wizarding world is also full of fascinating creatures and beings – six of whom feature on the issues Miniature Sheet. From Aragog, the Acromantula king, to the big-eared, big-hearted house-elf Dobby, the full set also includes Harry’s beloved owl Hedwig, Fawkes the phoenix, Buckbeak the hippogriff and Hermione’s cat Crookshanks. 

Miniature sheet of six x 1st class Harry Potter 'Creatures and Beings' stamps issued 19 October 2023.

Technical details

The 37 x 35 mm stamps are printed by Cartor Security Printers in litho on gummed paper in 2 sheets of 50, 10 se-tenant strips of 5, perf 14 x 14.5.  Designed by True North. (c) Royal Mail Group Ltd.  The 192 x 74 mm miniature sheet is printed by Cartor Security Printers in litho on self-adhesive paper. Stamp Sizes: Hedwig and Aragog: 60mm x 21mm, landscape (p 14.5); Dobby: 27mm x 37mm, portrait (p 14); Crookshanks and Buckbeak: 41mm x 30mm, landscape (p 14.5 x 14); Fawkes: 35mm x 35mm, square (p 14.5).

Acknowledgements:  WIZARDING WORLD characters, names and related indicia are © & TM Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Publishing Rights © JKR. (s23)

Prestige Stamp Book (£25.25)

The Prestige Stamp Book is a 24-page book on Harry Potter and The Battle of Hogwarts. Inside we explore the seven Horcruxes Harry, Ron and Hermione set out to find and destroy to bring an end to Lord Voldemort’s immortality and destruction, leading ultimately to the final duel with the Dark Lord himself.

The book contains, as usual, the 10 special stamps plus the six stamps from the Miniature Sheet, all perforated as stamp panes within the book. There is also an additional pane of definitive stamps (numberd pane 2 in our documentation), which unique to the Harry Potter Special Issue.  This contains 2 x 20p, 2 x 50p and a £2.20 definitive stamp (£3.60 in total).  It is expected that they will be coded M23L MPIL.

Print: The stamp set panes (1 & 5) are printed in litho and PVA gummed. The minisheet panes (3 & 4) and the mixed definitive pane (2) are printed in litho and are self-adhesive.  

UPDATE 29 NOVEMBER: In a demonstration of just how little interest there is in these on of my customers has - nearly two months after issue - drawn my attention to the image shown of Pane 1 which is missing the King's head and value!  This is the pre-release image provided by Royal Mail and they got it wrong.  Obviously the actual panes do have both features otherwise they could not be used as stamps.  The same wrong image is also used on Royal Mail's website shop pages.

Harry Potter prestige stamp book covers and panes (click on images to enlarge.) The white blocks will accommodate the retail barcode and FSC Certificate.

Scan of actual definitive pane from Harry Potter PSB - click to enlarge.

Collector Sheet

As usual with stamp issues like this there is also a Collector sheet which contains all 10 sheet stamps with labels attached, all printed self-adhesive so making them different to the actual sheet stamps. (Details as above)

Harry Potter self-adhesive collector sheet (£12.50)

Fan Sheets

Again, as is often the case, this issue has fan sheets - as if the whole thing isn't aimed at fans anyway. Three fan sheets priced at £7.50 each in an edition of 5,000.  The Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort sheets are gummed, the Dolby fan sheet is self-adhesive making the stamps the same as issued in the regular form.

Harry Potter Fan Sheets (click to enlarge each image).

Standard Products

Set of 10 stamps, miniature sheet, presentation pack, first day covers x 2, prestige stamp book, collector sheet, fan sheets.

Additional Products

A limited edition prestige stamp book pack (only 5000 at £49.99) includes a set of six 'spells and charms' postcards, which come with features only seen under ultra-violet light.  Six iridescent ink spells and charms are featured on the pages of this limited edition book - I presume this is the text pages, rather than the stamp panes.

A souvenir art print folder (run 5000 at £24.99) contains ten high quality enlarged prints of the Harry Potter Special Stamps, each with its own stamp affixed and unique handstamp*, perfect for displaying. It also features a Creatures and Beings enlarged miniature sheet print and an individually numbered certificate of authenticity.  (* As far as I can see this is a cancellation but not a postmark, and will not be available for first day covers etc.)

Others: medal covers, stamp packs (containing either 10 'good' or 10 'evil' stamps), press sheet of 12 miniature sheets, framed products, Harry Potter 24 carat gold (plated) stamp ingot (£49.99), Harry Potter 24 carat gold (plated) miniature sheet (£149.99).

These products are available on the Royal Mail website.

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Surcharges rise on 30 October 2023 - £7 for unpaid maial? Send it back!

Following the postage rate increases on Monday last, another change has been drawn to my attention.

Royal Mail's charges for unpaid and underpaid mail changes on 30 October as shown below. How the charge is worked out when there are a combination of factors is anybody's guess and worth playing with I guess.

In short:
1. No postage or a counterfeit stamp rises from £2.50 to £5.00

2. Underpayment stays at £1.50

3. Use of non-barcoded stamp rises from the moderate £1.10 (which was the 1st class postage rate until Monday) to £2.50.

For small parcels the 'unpaid or counterfeit' charge rises from £3.50 to £7!

New surcharge rates from 30 October for unpaid and non-barcoded post.