Saturday 13 July 2024

New Crown should mean new booklets, business sheets, eventually.

From a BBC news report:

Royal Mail has announced a change in its brand logo, which is known as the cruciform.

The Cruciform is comprised of the words ‘Royal Mail’ (or ‘Post Brenhinol’ for Wales) in yellow double line lettering below St Edward’s Crown and is used on the company’s vehicle livery, building logos, online branding and stationery.

The Cruciform will now feature the Tudor Crown, used by King Charles, and will be seen on assets as the business begins the transition to using the new logo. In line with guidance from the Royal Household, the new cruciform will be applied to new and replacement signage, stationery and vehicles to avoid unnecessary expenditure or waste.



The Royal Cypher on postboxes in Scotland
The King’s cypher will not be applied to new postboxes in Scotland. Since 1955 Scottish postboxes have been distinguished by the St Andrews crown rather than the monarch’s cypher. There will be no change of policy on future postboxes in Scotland.

In theory this would mean a change to the covers of all retail booklets and business sheets.


Thursday 11 July 2024

Gamers alert: Dungeons and Dragons stamp issue 25 July 2024

These stamps mark the 50th anniversary of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS®, the iconic fantasy roleplaying game that has become a cultural phenomenon. 

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2024, brought a bold new type of game to tabletops all over the world, one in which players collaborate by telling an open-ended story guided by books, dice and their own imaginations. By inviting participants to imagine themselves as wizards, warriors and other adventurers in exciting and treacherous fantasy worlds, the game opened doors to whole new universes of creativity for generations of players.

From its Midwestern roots as a niche pastime, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS has grown into a global phenomenon, with an estimated 64 million fans worldwide since its debut in 1974.

If you think that doesn't read like Royal Mail's usual style it is because that is the blurb from the United States Postal Service, which issues its own commemoration on 1 August.

Back to Royal Mail (edited for typos)

D&D role-playing game involves storytelling in worlds of swords and sorcery, driven by imagination. Unlike a game of make-believe, D&D gives structure to the stories to determine the consequences of the adventurers’ actions. Players roll polyhedral dice to resolve whether their attacks hit or miss or what actions their adventurers can complete next. The game has no real end, when one story or quest wraps up, another can begin. 

Both the stamps and the miniature sheet have been illustrated by British artist Wayne Reynolds. Reynolds has worked on various D&D games, handbooks and guides over the years. When shining an ultra-violet light over the stamps, a mystical surprise will be revealed.

The Stamps

Set of 8 Dungeons and Dragons stamps (4 x 1st, 4 x £2.50) issued 25 July 2024.



D&D icons revealed by ultra-violet light, in the same order as above.

1st class:
Red Dragon: A breed of chromatic dragon, evil creatures who are fearsome and cruel.
Owlbear: A monstrous cross between a giant owl and a bear, aggressive and ferocious in nature.
Vecna: A powerful wizard turned lich (spellcasters who seek to defy death by magic).
Gelatinous Cube: A ten-foot cube of transparent gelatinous ooze that can absorb and digest organic matter.

£2.50:
Mind Flayer: Also known as illithids, Mind Flayers are humanoid creatures with an octopus-like face and can control the minds of others.
Mimic: A shape-shifting monster that can disguise itself as an inanimate object, commonly a chest.
Displacer Beast: A monstrous cat-like creature who happily lures, traps and toys with a target before turning it into their next meal.
Beholder: A terrifying aberration comprising of a floating body with large-fanged mouth and single eye.

Miniature Sheet

A set of 6 1st class stamps set in an illustration showing some of the choices of characters in the game: Tiefling Rogue, Human Bard, Halfling Cleric, Elf Fighter, Dwarf Paladin and Dragonborn Wizard.

All 1st class: 

Tiefling Rogue: A versatile and powerful character build, descended from devils, a creature of darkness and finesse. 
Human Bard:  A master of song, speech and magic
Halfling Cleric:  A blend of the diminutive yet charismatic Halfling race with the divine healing powers of a Cleric.
Elf Fighter: A super-effective ranged fighter, with intelligence, dark vision and a proficiency in perception.
Dwarf Paladin: Often soldiers who are trained to protect the dwarven clerics from dangers, regarded as priests who focus on martial arts for defending others instead of themselves.
Dragonborn Wizard: Tall, muscular reptiles with the blood of the dragons, who look very much like dragons but lack wings or a tail. They master a particular skill as a lifetime goal.

Technical Details

The 35 x 37 mm stamps were designed by Common Curiosity and Royal Mail Group Ltd, using illustrations by Wayne Reynolds. They are printed in sheets of 48 by Cartor Security Printers in lithography perforated 14½ x 14 on ordinary gummed paper.  

The 192 x 74 mm miniature sheet is printed in lithography on self-adhesive paper. The stamps sizes are 27 x 37 mm, except for Dragonborn Wizard (60 x 21 mm), and Dwarf Paladin (50 x 30 mm). Perforations 14, except Dragonbord Wizard (14½ x 14).

Dungeons & Dragons, D&D, and the ampersand logo are © 2024 and trademark Wizards of the Coast LLC and used with permission.

Prestige Stamp Book

Panes 1 & 2 (stamps) are printed in litho and PVA gum. The mixed definitive pane 3, is printed in gravure & self-adhesive. The Minisheet stamp panes 4&5 are printed in litho & self-adhesive, the same as the minisheet. The minisheet stamps will have separate individual catalogue numbers.  




Collector Sheet

A commemorative collectible featuring 10 stamps from the mint stamp set with accompanying labels showing ten of the locations of the game. The sheet includes ten of the Dungeons & Dragons stamps – the eight stamps in the main set with the 1st Class Red Dragon, and the £2.50 Monster; Beholder, repeated.
Note: All stamps and accompanying labels are printed in litho and self-adhesive, making these different from the stamp set which are litho and PVA Gum.

Dungeons and Dragons Collectors Sheet of 10 stamps and labels.

Products

Set of 8 stamps, miniature sheet, first day covers (3), presentation pack, prestige stamp book, limited edition PSB, press sheet of 8 miniature sheets, collectors sheet, medal covers, ingot covers, fan sheets (Owlbear, Vecna), framed products, signed-by-the-illustrator products.


USPS set of 10 Dungeons & Dragons Forever (ie inland letter rate NVI) stamps issued 1 August 2024.

[The stamps are produced in a pane of 20; the description is in the order of the top two rows, whilst the illustration is of the lower tow rows!]

A bronze dragon wearing a necklace glances down at a blue plesiosaur in an illustration that appeared in the 2023 book The Practically Complete Guide to Dragons.

The five-headed Tiamat, queen of evil dragons, appears in an illustration that appeared in the 2021 book Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. Tiamat has been featured in D&D materials since the 1970s and was first encountered by name in the 1977 Monster Manual.

A lone figure lost in a maze, perhaps the victim of a ten-minute “maze” spell, appears in an illustration that appeared in the 2020 book Wizards and Spells: A Young Adventurer’s Guide.

A blue-robed figure casts a “magic missile” spell in artwork that appeared in the 2014 edition of the Player’s Handbook.

The archlich Acererak raises an army of the dead in an illustration that appeared on the cover of the 2014 edition of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Acererak has appeared in D&D materials since 1978, when he debuted in the classic adventure Tomb of Horrors.

Drizzt Do’Urden, the heroic drow ranger featured in dozens of novels and numerous D&D gaming materials since 1988, stands against a wintry backdrop. Drizzt is known for breaking from an evil cult in the Underdark in favor of heroism and friendship on the surface.

A warrior with his back to the viewer fights a massive red dragon in a detail from an illustration that appeared on the box cover of the popular 1983 D&D Basic Set, often known simply as the “red box.” This illustration has since become one of the most recognizable pieces of art in the history of the game.

A character holds a pan of toxic green dragon’s blood over her head, preparing to bathe in it in the hope of gaining magical powers, in an illustration that appeared in the 2021 book Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons.

A death knight rides a nightmare, backed by an army of the undead and a sinister, flame-shrouded castle, in an illustration that appeared in the 2020 book Beasts and Behemoths: A Young Adventurer’s Guide.

A purple worm, a fearsome creature that burrows through the earth and leaves massive tunnels in its wake, rises from the ground and coils, its teeth on display, in an illustration that appeared in the 2014 edition of the Monster Manual.

These stamps (face value $7.30) may be bought from the USPS website - although some collectors have reported difficulties in buying online from outside the USPS. If you cannot buy from your usual dealer, I may be able to help.


Royal Mail has taken the unusual step of reproducing the text of the Presentation Pack "to help with knowledge and context of the Dungeons and Dragons phenomena". (Links added by me.)

Dungeons & Dragons was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in Wisconsin, USA. Their joint design was published in 1974 and was imported to the UK by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson soon after. Since then, through multiple editions and revisions, an estimated 50 million people around the world have rolled dice in what is often cited as the first modern role-playing game.

D&D’s almost immediate success led to many other tabletop games adopting its conventions and mechanics, such as dice and character sheets, as well as the concept of 'levelling up', effectively reinventing the tabletop gaming industry. Although many prewritten adventures and campaigns are available, lots of D&D players and DMs come up with their own bespoke campaigns, classes and characters, leading to a thriving homegrown community online. The only items that players technically need to participate in a game of D&D are their character sheet, a set of six polyhedral dice and the basic D&D rules and player guide, known as the Player’s Handbook, or PHB. Some campaigns use player models and miniature terrain for visual reference during key set pieces, though this is not strictly necessary – many players and DMs prefer to use their own imagination to picture settings and scenarios; this is known as 'theatre of the mind'.

In 1997, the game was acquired by Wizards of the Coast. Five decades after its creation, D&D has recently enjoyed something of a renaissance. Television shows such as Community and Stranger Things helped challenge negative cultural stereotypes about the game and its players, while online actual play shows – D&D campaigns played as-live on YouTube and Twitch, such as Critical Role and High Rollers – helped demystify the entire process of playing the game, which can seem complex to the uninitiated. People can now watch hundreds of hours of incredibly popular play sessions that showcase the fun, chaos and creativity of a good campaign. Thanks in part to these shows, the new rules and the emergence of online tools to help D&D groups play with each other remotely, an even more vibrant and diverse community has emerged, expanding the world of D&D with cosplay, fan art, animation and countless other endeavours that showcase the limitless imagination role-playing games can inspire in their players. 

At its heart, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is a role-playing game that involves storytelling and improvisation. A group of players imagines the exciting journeys of a party of adventurers, with many key actions and moments dictated by the chance roll of a die. One person in a game takes on the role of the Dungeon Master, or DM, who acts as both a referee and the lead storyteller. While each of the other players gets to create and speak as a single character, the DM fills the role of everyone and anyone else the player characters may encounter on their adventure, while also describing the world and events as they unfold around the party. A play session of D&D can take multiple hours to complete, and adventures that take place over many play sessions are known as campaigns. Different D&D groups get together for campaigns that span weeks, months or even years, although ‘one-shots’ – single games that are just a few hours long – are also popular.

No two sessions of D&D will ever be the same, as much of the excitement, creativity and adventure is driven by the players’ imagination. In a typical D&D session, the DM may set puzzles or traps for the group to work together to solve, engage them in combat against other humanoids or monsters, or simply allow them to explore the world, improvising as the players role-play their character’s interactions with the fantasy world around them. The tone can be as serious or as comical as the group decides. The success of all the interactions is dictated by players’ individual ability scores, skills and attributes, recorded on their character sheets. These vary depending on a given character’s class, level and species, as well as any proficiencies that character may possess and any powers granted through special weapons, spells or potions.

All players have six basic scores: Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, Wisdom, Constitution and Charisma. In addition, different skills are listed on the character sheet; for example, Intimidation and Persuasion for Charisma, and Stealth and Acrobatics for Dexterity. When the DM presents a party with a dilemma – a locked door, for instance – it is then up to the players how to go about tackling the obstacle based on their ingenuity and creativity, as well as their classes and specific skills. A barbarian may choose to try to smash the door down, for example, while a rogue might try to pick the lock. Another player might try to find a different way to progress entirely: a bard might try and sweet-talk someone into unlocking the door for them, while a druid might shapeshift into a spider and crawl under the frame. 

Once the player describes what it is they want to attempt, the DM will have them roll an ability check with a 20-sided dice, or a ‘d20’. The more difficult the proposed action, the higher the player must roll to succeed. If the player rolls higher than that number, they are successful in performing their action. Sometimes, the DM will also have players roll dice to avoid certain outcomes. Other dice, with a different number of sides, are also used in D&D, most often to see what damage is dealt with an attack or spell. 

Combat sees players pitted against all kinds of fantastical monsters, from dragons to iconic D&D creatures such as gelatinous cubes, owlbears, mimics and beholders. How players may attack or defend themselves and their group is largely down to their class: Sorcerers will have many spectacular spellcasting abilities, while a bard can use their innate charisma to inspire their friends to victory. Of course, the group need not fight the monster – perhaps they could befriend it instead? With the right skills or spells and a lucky dice roll, that is certainly possible.

The real fun of D&D comes when players use their abilities and spells in creative ways to overcome obstacles and the DM encourages this spirit of ingenuity to foster an exciting and collaborative atmosphere, where it feels like anything can happen.


Friday 5 July 2024

July Slogan Postmarks and other interesting postal markings.

With the general election campaign in full swing, the Postal Vote slogan continued into July.  Other postmarks which I suggested might appear in June did not, and Dog Awareness Week is marked this month.

The reminder to return Postal Votes early.   A very clear example from Birmingham Mail Centre dated 02/07/2024 has been sent by JG,

Return your
postal vote early
for 4 July election
 

Postal Vote slogan Birmingham Mail Centre 02/07/2024


That was the last day for the voting slogan, and it was replaced the next day with the Dog Awareness Week slogan with the usual circular design, but without the dates, and with the added slogan Protect Your Postie.  Here's one from JG from SE Wales 03/07/2024.

DOG Awareness Week slogan, De Dd Cymru SE Wales 03/07/2024

UPDATE:  Thanks to JE for the other layout of this slogan from Croydon Mail Centre 04-07-2024

DOG Awareness Week slogan, Croydon Mail Centre 04-07-2024

 






OTHER POSTMARKS AND POSTAL MARKINGS


<Nothing to report yet>




If you have any other slogans used this month, or any other interesting postal markings from any period or place, please send them to the email address in the top right of this blog.  Thank you.

Remember, all postmarks appearing in July will be added to this post, so check here before you spend time scanning and emailing. 


Tuesday 2 July 2024

You can use stamps for posting Special Delivery and other premium mail.

You knew that, of course?  We all do - we've been using the postal service for up to 60 years and we know what's what, more or less - until the rules change.

So why raise the point?  Well the problem lies mainly with Business users, but I can see that the misinformation currently being spread by Royal Mail could also start coming from Post Office especially as more and more new people are employed in customer-facing positions.


Just as an aside on this last point, after the stamp alongside was withdrawn from sale in mid-2021, I took some mail to a sub-PO counter in a local Co-op corner shop.  

It weighed more than 100g, so I used one of these stamps and others. The person who served me didn't recognise it, didn't know how much it was worth, so didn't know whether the item was fully paid, and declined to accept it.  I had to take it to the local Crown Office where no such problems exist.

Anyway, I digress.  This (below in red) is what a business user was told by Royal Mail Business Customer Service when he tried to claim on a delayed Special Delivery packet:

that Postage Stamps would not be valid for paying the fee and that the use of barcodes (which we have on rolls of 250/500) could not be used.

That this was being phased out and that customers were advised last January. People using these barcodes and postage stamps as payment would have the item Surcharged.

She said that you have 3 ways to get a Barcode and have it paid for.

1) Online and Pay by credit card

2) Take it to the Post Office and get a computer generated Barcode.

3) Use a Franking Machine

 

Like I said above, misinformation - in the extreme.  So I also phoned Royal Mail Business Customer Service and had a very interesting discussion. 

Being an ex-civil servant and knowing the way bureaucracies work, I declined to accept what I was told (which was much the same).  I pointed out that until recently Royal Mail actually issued stamps which had a Special Delivery inscription for two weights.

I politely suggested that the Customer Service Assistant went and asked someone who had worked in Royal Mail for a long time, as I had - just the previous week - sent some invalidated stamps to the Swapout scheme, using stamps to pay for Special Delivery, and another by International Tracked to Canada.

(It would be nice if Royal Mail changed their 'hold' music from a short loop.  (When I called my car insurance company this week I was treated to a long play list of Beatles hits!)  It doesn't take long for it to become tedious.)

Eventually the point was conceded, but I was reminded that the items must be posted at a Post Office counter, not in a street box.  I should have held back, but replied that, "yes, that is the way that it has been since registration was introduced in the 19th century".   

I have now got written (email) confirmation of the point - although this really only addresses people posting at Post Office, but not businesses who have their mail collected.  I hope to get clarification on that soon.



 

Monday 1 July 2024

Small stock of Regional Machins found - were we sold out when you ordered?

In a stockbook which I though had all used stamps in,  I found a very small stock of later Regional Machin definitives.

All at our usual low prices, there are no more than two of each.  If you ordered before and I told you we were sold out, email again and remind me when you placed the original order. Those people will get priority, but if anyone else needs these, please email very soon. 

I'm listing the SG numbers only, you all have a version of the Concise catalogue don't you?  😁

Northern Ireland: 

39 - 40 - 44 - 47 - 49 - 51 - 55 - 56  - 57 - 58 - 61 - 63 - 65 - 66 - 67 - 68

Scotland:

54 - 55 - 56 - 58 - 60 - 62 - 64 - 66 - 67 - 69 - 70 - 73 - 75 - 77 - 78 - 79 - 80

Wales:

40 - 41 - 45 - 48 - 50 - 52 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59 - 62 - 64 - 66 - 67 - 68 - 69 - 70 - 73 - 76 - 77



Sunday 30 June 2024

More on New Counter Information Technology postage labels - and receipts etc

My thanks to W.U. for sending a couple of letters from the Aldwych New Counter Information Technology (NCIT) trial, and then sending on the receipt and certificate of posting.

The labels on the envelopes are as before, and the receipt is similar to those which are dispensed from Horizon, although Horizon receipts have a longer entry for each barcoded item - basically each one might produce an individual receipt which doubles as the certificate of posting.

Horizon Certificate of Posting for ordinary item of mail (left), and for Special Delivery mail (right)

From NCIT the receipt is much as usual, but the Certificate of Posting is quite different, using a different typeface but also with details of expected delivery timescale.

NCIT Financial receipt for three labels (left), and new-style Certificate of Posting (right).

Covers and label

1st class Signed For letter with NCIT generated barcode and (L) at lower left (as on Horizon)

2nd class Large Letter with QR-type code for confirmation of delivery, as on Horizon labels.




Thursday 27 June 2024

Glasgow Prestwick Airport to be Royal Mail's intl e-commerce hub in UK

Reported in the STAT Trade Times Glasgow Prestwick Airport is to be Royal Mail’s newest international e-commerce hub in the United Kingdom (U.K.).

Prestwick was selected by Royal Mail due to the numerous benefits it offers over alternative airports throughout the U.K. including offering up to half of the cost of landing at some U.K. hubs, says a release from Prestwick. 

“We are confident that our new fast and efficient e-commerce solution will offer customers real cost savings against other U.K. air cargo hubs while also ensuring they meet their customer delivery-time promise,” says Nico Le Roux, Development Director, Glasgow Prestwick Airport. 

Florrie Kuang (left), Senior Business Manager – China Office, Royal Mail Group, and Jules Matteoni (right), Operations Director, Glasgow Prestwick Airport. (Photo: Glasgow Prestwick Airport)

"We are a full in-house operation, from ground handling and warehouse handling, to fire services, and air traffic control, which allows us to offer greater flexibility. Carriers only need to make one call to our operations line, and we take care of everything. This streamlined process is a significant advantage.” 

Jules Matteoni, Operations Director, Glasgow Prestwick Airport adds: “This joint solution with Royal Mail allows us to provide full visibility with traceability from touchdown to customer delivery and the potential to save on lead times through simplified processes. This is great news for our cargo customers, the airport, and the region.” 

“We are excited to be working with Glasgow Prestwick Airport to offer a cost-effective and efficient international e-commerce solution," says Vivian Davies, Director, Global Imports, Royal Mail. "Prestwick has no flight restrictions, congestion or curfews on both inbound and outbound flights, offering round-the-clock availability, which is key for the fast turnaround needed in the e-commerce sector. By partnering with Prestwick, we are confident we can offer our existing and new international e-commerce customers an unbeatable service on both delivery time and cost.”

We won't see Royal Mail's Titan Aiways Boeing (pictured here at Exeter) at Prestwick as they stopped using it in 2013.


Christmas 2021 forgery may be from a different producer to most

I was shown a new forgery this week which does not have all the hallmarks of the usual Chinese forgery productions.

It was far glossier than most, and the perforations were not up to the usual high (matching) standard.  It's the 2021 1st class Large Christmas stamp.  Now forgeries of the Machins were already better than this, so it's not a case of all the older forgeries not being of high standard.

This isn't a great photo but it was the best I could manage in a church hall!

Forged 1st class large Christmas 2021 stamp

Has anybody seen any others like this?


Wednesday 19 June 2024

Post Office betrays postmasters yet again: Fury as bungling Post Office publishes names and addresses of SPMs.

I'm not writing much about the Post Office Horizon Scandal these days.  The Inquiry is progressing, but if you tired (as I did) of watching the corporate amnesia rife at the top of Post Office Ltd, affecting directors, Chief Counsel, other lawyers, and other senior managers, take a look at the evidence yesterday of Second Sight's Ron Warmington and Ian Henderson.

But today's news online today and in print tomorrow I should think, is from Sam Greenhill at the Daily Mail.  

 

In the latest example of staggering incompetence when all eyes are on them, Post Office Ltd has published on its website a very private 'Confidential Settlement Deed' - with unredacted details of 592 former sub-postmasters including full names and addresses of people who are shortly (or not so shortly) likely to receive substantial sums of money.

The article in full (my highlighting).

The bungling Post Office has published the names and home addresses of the postmasters it persecuted during the Horizon scandal.

In what appears to be a staggering data breach, 'cavalier' workers printed their private details on its website for anyone to see, the Mail can reveal.

Having already ruined many lives by falsely accusing them of stealing, the Post Office's latest betrayal has been branded an insult to injury – and furious victims alerted by the Mail are vowing to 'make them pay'.

On the very day its IT specialists are being grilled at the Horizon inquiry, the alleged data breach marks yet another breathtaking IT failure for the organisation. It published on its corporate website a dossier of 592 wronged postmasters who were involved in suing the Post Office in 2019 - showing their full names and home addresses including postcode, making it easy for anyone to find them. Many are poised to receive significant sums of money in compensation for Britain's biggest ever miscarriage of justice, and told of their anger at their home addresses being exposed.

Humiliatingly, the document containing the details is entitled 'Confidential Settlement Deed' and spells out in black and white that its contents are private. It is even signed by the Post Office's own senior lawyer – and yet it has been posted onto its website in full.

After the Mail informed the Post Office this afternoon, it changed its website to remove the offending list. But former postmasters are 'incandescent'. And the embattled Post Office now potentially faces another investigation, this time by the Information Commissioner who takes breaches of personal data extremely seriously.

Last year the commissioner levied a £1million fine on the Ministry of Defence for losing the data of 245 people.

The 592 former postmasters whose home addresses have been published were among the group involved in bringing High Court class litigation against the Post Office in 2019. Hundreds of innocents were bankrupted, jailed or driven to suicide after being wrongly accused of plundering their own tills between 1999 and 2015, when money appearing to be 'missing' from their branch accounts was really the result of glitches in the company's Horizon computer system.

The list includes those who brought the scandal to life in ITV's acclaimed four-part drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office which triggered national outrage at the way the former pillars of their communities were tormented.

Wendy Buffrey, 64,who ran a branch in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, with her husband Doug until their malfunctioning Horizon terminal invented a £36,000 shortfall and she was prosecuted as a thief, said: 'I'm incandescent. I'm just so angry. We all thought they couldn't do any more to us than they've already done.

'They need to pay for this. It's yet another thing they've done that could potentially destroy one of our lives. They just don't stop, do they?

'People out there in the outside world know that we're all going to get compensation payments - and all our home details are out there? It's absolutely horrendous.'

Nichola Arch, 53, falsely accused of theft at her Chalford Hill post office in Gloucestershire, said: 'They seem to be completely incompetent. Our personal information is out there for anybody, and that is absolutely disgusting. To say it's adding insult to injury is the understatement of the year.

Nichola Arch, 53, was falsely accused of theft at her Chalford Hill post office

'People know that, due to the extent of this scandal, people are going to get compensation. Now if they've got our names and addresses, people know exactly where that money is, and that can bring out all sorts of anxiety to victims because they'll be thinking, 'God is somebody going to break in?' It's horrific.'

Deirdre Connolly, 54, who ran the post office in Killeter, Northern Ireland, with her husband Darius until they were falsely accused of stealing – and was even asked if they had 'taken the money for paramilitaries' - said: 'I can't believe it. My home address is on that website? My home, my family - what the f***?'

Her husband, 53, claimed: 'It's absolute incompetence. The fact that they can't keep people's names and addresses private tells you all you need to know about how they run their computer system.'

Ron Warmington, the forensic investigator whose firm Second Sight was hired to probe the faulty Horizon system in 2013, said: 'As if we needed to see another example of Post Office incompetence! This is an extraordinary breach of the confidentiality undertakings with which Post Office so heavy handedly insisted that we must all - and for all time - comply. It seems that Post Office deploys far greater firepower in protecting its own data than it does in protecting data that names its victims.'

Lord Arbuthnot, the peer who has championed the postmasters for years, told the Mail: 'I long ago stopped expecting much, if anything, from the Post Office, but for them to publicise the personal details of the group litigation claimants is incompetent.

'Amongst so many other criminal offences committed by the Post Office, this alleged data breach is yet a further intrusion into the privacy of sub-postmasters and their ability to put the matter behind them. And it answers the question as to whether the Post Office has learnt and improved: it hasn't.'

The names and home addresses are listed in a 47-page legal agreement, signed on 10 December 2019, which brought the High Court class action to a settlement mid-way through the trial. The Post Office apparently intended to publish on its website a 'redacted' version of the legal agreement, with personal details covered by a censor's black ink. But instead, the document was posted with everyone's personal details on full display.

Raoul Lumb, a partner at law firm SMB who specialises in data protection, said it appeared 'a remarkable breach' of the UK's data protection laws known as GDPR and showed 'a cavalier disregard for the rights of sub-postmasters'.

He said: 'The document, which is clearly marked as confidential, exposes the names and addresses of every sub-postmaster who was a claimant in the Alan Bates and others v Post Office litigation.

'It is particularly embarrassing for the Post Office because clause 12 of the document is a clause which explicitly obliges all the parties to 'keep [it] confidential'. Given that, it's difficult to see any justification for the Post Office to have made it public in a completely unredacted form.'

He said the Post Office has a duty to report the breach to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), and added: 'The leaking of it will no doubt cause further distress to sub-postmasters who have already suffered enough. You would expect the ICO to take an extremely dim view of the breach given the clear expectation of confidentiality and the vulnerability of the data subjects named in it. It would not surprise me if the commissioner levied a fine to penalise the Post Office for this seemingly very basic failure to manage its data securely.'

The Post Office said: 'The document in question has been removed from our website. We are investigating as an urgent priority how it came to be published. We are in the process of notifying the Information Commissioner's Office of the incident, in line with our regulatory requirements.'

The ICO said: 'We have not received a data breach report on this matter. Organisations must notify the ICO within 72 hours.'


No words from me are necessary.


60 Seasons of the Red Arrows RAF Aerobatic Display Team - 20 June 2024

Not for the first time Royal Mail is issuing stamps depicting the Red Arrows RAF Aerobatic Display Team. The first, in 2008, was issued coincident with the 60th anniversary of the Farnborough Air show (and centenary of the first flight in a powered aircraft in the UK), and the second (miniature sheet) was issued to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force.

Now the 60th season of the Red Arrows displays is marked with a set of 8 stamps, miniature sheet, prestige stamp book and medal covers.

Previous issues

2008 Air Displays Smilers Sheet with 1st class Red Arrows stamps.

2018 Red Arrows miniature sheet - RAF Centenary.

The new stamps
Set of 8 stamps (4 x 1st, 4 x £2) marking 60th season of Red Arrows displays.

The stamps, in se-tenant pairs, depict:

1st class: Red 1 (1967), Diamond Nine formation (1968), Gnats looping over RAF Kemble (1976), Gnat with Hawks, which replaced Gnats in 1979.

£2: Synchro Pair inverted pass (2003), Vixen Break manoeuvre (2007), last flight with Avro Vulcan XH558 (2015), Coronation flypast (2023).

Miniature sheet of four stamps (2 x 1st class, 2 x £2.50) marking 60th season of Red Arrows displays.

1st class: Red Arrows over Niagara Falls, North America; Red Arrows over Akrotiri coast, Cyprus (training base).

£2.50: Red Arrows over Paris, France; Red Arrows over the Pyramids, Egypt.

Background image: Red Arrows over Greece.

Technical details

The 50 x 30 mm stamps were designed by Interabang, printed on gummed paper in lithography by Cartor Security Printers in sheets of 60 (4 sheets) perforated 14.  The 146 x 74 mm miniature sheet is also gummed and has stamps 41 x 30 mm perforated 14½ x 14.

Acknowledgements: Ray Hanna of the Red Arrows, Red 1, 1967 © Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo; Diamond Nine formation, 1968 © IWM RAF-T 8173; looping over RAF Kemble, 1976 © Richard Cooke/Alamy Stock Photo; Gnat with Hawks © Peter R March; Synchro Pair inverted pass, 2003 © Peter R March; Vixen Break manoeuvre, 2007 © Peter R March; last flight with Vulcan XH558, 2015, image courtesy of UK MOD © Crown copyright 2015, licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0; Coronation flypast, 2023, image courtesy of UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023, licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0
Red Arrows over Niagara Falls, North America © Brian Lawrence/Alamy Stock Photo; Red Arrows over Akrotiri coast, Cyprus © Jamie Hunter, Aviacom; Red Arrows over Paris, France, image courtesy of UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021, licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0; Red Arrows over the Pyramids, Egypt, image courtesy of UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023, licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0; background image of Red Arrows over Greece, image courtesy of UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021, licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

Prestige Stamp Book

A 24-page booklet packed with everything you need to know about the Red Arrows as they celebrate their 60th Display Season in 2024. Written by aviation author, photographer and journalist Peter March, the book traces the beginnings of the ‘Reds’ from their first public display in 1965 and uncovers the fascinating precision and teamwork that goes into every jaw-dropping display.

The stamps and stunning photography in the book tell a story of precision, skill, and sheer exhilaration as the Red Arrows paint the sky with their trademark red, white, and blue trails. Officially licensed by the MOD with a hologram of authenticity on the back cover.




PSB details: Pane 1 contains 4 x 1st class stamps; Pane 2 contains 4 x £2 stamps.

Pane 3 is self-adhesive and contains 2 x £2 King Charles III definitive stamps coded M24L MPIL.

Pane 4 contains the same stamps as the miniature sheet on ordinary gummed paper, and the same as  those in the actual miniature sheet.  The high values are £2.50, not £2.20 as shown on the pre-issue image.

Products

Set of 8 stamps, miniature sheet, presentation pack, first day covers (2), stamp cards, press sheet of 12 miniature sheets, medal cover (edition of 5000), framed stamp set.



Wednesday 12 June 2024

It's advertised for sale but does not exist: 1st large KC3 business sheet.

When the King Charles III Business Sheets were issued a notable absence was the 1st class Large Letter sheet.

We were told at the time that this "had not yet been printed". 

King Charles III 1st class Large business sheet.

At the time the Royal Mail website warned that:

Please be aware that the stamps you receive may feature an image of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth, rather than King Charles as shown, depending on stock levels and usage.

But in mid-May we were told that all Queen Elizabeth II Datamatrix Machins would be taken off-sale from 1 June 2024.

As several people have pointed out, the caveat on the website remains, but the withdrawal from sale might indicate that the King Charles sheet has now been printed.

Not so!  The end of May withdrawal of the Machins was from philatelic sale: although the information came from the Stamps & Collectibles (S&C) side of Tallents House, it had been assumed that it applied across the board.

But no - the retail side (ie website) continues to sell Queen Elizabeth stamps while they last, in accordance with the wishes of His Majesty (and basic business sense) - to minimise any environmental impact.

I'm advised that the King Charles 1st Large Business Sheet is unlikely to be printed this year, but that it should appear some time in 2025.  

We hope that the S&C team are told early enough to make an official day of issue, so that collectors and dealers can produce first day covers. 

Monday 10 June 2024

News snippets June 2024

This post has a collection of short pieces not really warranting a whole blog post of their own.

Beyond the Definitives

Last year we discussed what products would need to change apart from postage stamps, with Horizon and Post & Go Labels being obvious examples.

Horizon Labels bearing the head of the King have appeared, but not Post and Go - although Royal Mail stopped using Post & Go machines at the end of the year, so no replacement was necessary there. The existing stamps continue in use at Post Office self-service kiosks, although there are trials of a new label which does bear the profile of King Charles.

A couple of readers have reminded me that although there is no postal stationery on sale now other than the prepaid plastic Special Delivery bags.  However the Houses of Parliament, and in particular members, are entitled to use prepaid postal stationery which currently still bears the Machin head. Both 1st (provided by RM) and 2nd class (from RW) are in use.

House of Commons prepaid 2nd class envelope used June 2024.

House of Commons prepaid 1st class envelope used May 2024.

Counterfeit Stamps

Thanks to BB for alerting me to more counterfeit non-definitive stamps being sold on eBay.  The current range now includes the Discworld, Cats, Christmas including miniature sheets, Paddington Bear and Children's TV Classics.  OK, they might be genuine, but it's clear from this photograph that there are no phosphor bands whereas there should be two.

2022 1st class 'Cats' stamps which should have two phosphor bands....

Catalogue Numbers

Thanks to CN who has alerted me to changes of numbers of the King Charles booklets in the Stanley Gibbons Concise Catalogue 2024, as follows:

TB2 - 4x 1st   now    CB1
TC2 - 8x 2nd   now    CC1
TD2 - 8x 1st   now   CD1
TE2 - 4x 2nd L now   CE1
TF2 - 4x 1st L  now    CF1

.............

M24L printings

CN also tells me about the new printing of the booklet of 8 x 2nd class stamps, now with M24L year code.  Here's his picture:

King Charles III 2nd class booklet stamp coded MEIL and M24L, 2024 printing.

JH has provided a good photograph of the whole booklet.

King Charles III 2nd class booklet with stamps coded MEIL and M24L, 2024 printing.


Philatelic Bureau mail

Back in 2014 we reported that Royal Mail was using real stamps (stuck over the PPI) on sendings of bulletins from Tallents House.  Sadly this practice didn't last long.

Set of 2014 Butterfly stamps used on mailings from Royal Mail Tallents House, Edinburgh.

Few philatelic bureaux do use stamps on their sendings (Isle of Man and Greenland do, I think), but Guernsey has made up for not using stamps by advertising them on their envelopes!  My thanks to RM for sending this and other interesting material.

Guernsey Post envelope used in 2024 for sending out stamp orders, illustrated with examples from previous stamp issues.

That's all for now, thanks for reading, and keep sending your news - thanks!