Thursday 18 January 2024

"Can we still use Queen Elizabeth stamps?" - information and misinformation

This question continues to be asked in social media platforms, and I have had reports of friends not wanting to buy collectors' surplus of Queen Elizabeh stamps arising from the Swap Out scheme.

The invalidation of old-style Machin definitives caused a lot of confusion which will, it seems, continue for some time.  After all, unless you are aged over 75 you have probably never used a stamp from a previous reign (unless you are/were a collector).

Not Valid

Both these types remain valid for postal use

Given that Royal Mail, retail outlets, and Post Office branches, are still selling barcoded Machin definitives, and they are still being supplied in the Swap Out it is very unlikely that they will be invalidated soon.

Whilst no regular definitives were issued after the end of the reign, some were included in subsequent prestige book panes, as were many set of special stamps.

Previous reigns

King Edward VII definitives were printed in two distinct series, by De La Rue and Harrison and Sons. ALL the Harrison printings were issued after the King died.  It wasn't until 1913 that the last stamps of the first long set of King George V definitives were issued.

King George V died in January 1936 and three values of the last (photogravure) definitives were issued in the February, the 5d, 10d & 1s.

The first definitive stamps of the reign of King George VI were issued just before the Coronation in May 1937. Some values were not available until 1939 - all values above 5d, so the stamps of the previous reign continued to be issued.

After the Accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952 the first deinitives were issued in time for Christmas, but the remaining values were spread over the next two years and some booklets in the new reign included stamps of both reigns.

With modern high-speed printing the stamps of King Charles III have had only two issue dates, with NVIs being issued ahead of the (plentiful Machin) make-up values.


  1. I have an Edward VIII stamp. They must have been issued very quickly after his accession in January 1936.

  2. Will / when will the Post Office end the Swap Out Scheme? This morning, my postman delivered my 47th Swap Out return from Tallents House. That's a lot of Machins cleared off the market, even if that market was only ever going to be for postage.

    I've struggled over items like a cylinder folded booklet that one dealer is advertising for sale at £70, consisting of 10 x 7p stamps, so I would get 70p in barcode stamps returned, which I could then sell at around 45% to a postage reseller and thus receive, after much work and time, 32p. But there is no way that any dealer wants to buy it and it's not worth the trouble to put it into auction (assuming that the top GB QE II auction houses would want to include it). So, off to Tallents House.

    I've been collecting, off and on for over 50 years. I remember the boom time in the 60s and 70s when people could make money from new issues if there was a scarcity. But I still find it hard to understand what motivated collectors to buy in such vast quantities. At the SG auction last December, I bought around 10 archive boxes full of definatives and commemoratives, all in large quantities: cylinder and traffic light blocks, gutter pairs and sheets. There was next to nothing 'special' that I would want to keep for my collection. Yes, I'll easily cover the money it cost me but it was lots and lots of work to send in definatives to Tallents House and to resell the commoratives to the postage resellers.

    When / if the Post Office ends the Swap Out scheme, I would expect a tremendous drop in auction prices for mixed lots or for Machin lots. I do wonder if GB QEII collectors realise what the 'value' of their collections are and how much of the little they will make in auctions is made up of the postage resale value - which when the scheme ends, will be nothing.

    1. I too have recently bought a stock book with many machins and comems, unfortunately where they used mounts there is a seam mark on the gum making them useless for a serious collector. I have changed the machins out using the swap scheme, but I would have thought because of this scheme they could actually become scarcer and more valuable. Having bought at approx 30% of face value, I now use them for normal postage making my postage costs considerably cheaper

  3. Thankyou for your very informative blog which I am enjoying reading.
    I recently had a small gamble by buying some Machin booklets at a price of about 30% of face value.
    I'm hoping that the swap out scheme runs for a very long time and that, when it eventually ends, there will be a long notice period. Maybe something like 3 years.

  4. I wonder with the recent rapid rises in postage, and the suggestion of more to come, there will come a point when Royal Mail decide to re-design the NVIs and declare previous ones no longer valid.

  5. Interesting...I wonder how long the current commemoratives without bar codes will be allowed for postage. The invalidation of the old Machins was wastefully absurd as they wold have got used up in the end: without a panic rush and all the bother of the swap scheme. But the new Blackadder &c stamps still have phosphor bands on them and the cfc machines needed to process them will wear out soon and are taking up valuable space better used for parcels in sorting offices. I reckon there will be invalidation of anything without barcodes in about two years' time.

  6. Lars,
    Yes, invalidating anything without a barcode or the King's head wouldn't be a surprise.
    There'd be money to be made then from the swap out with all the Elizabeth commemoratives now going at well below face value.

    1. But surely the Post Office has realised from the definative-only Swap Out of the kind of stocks of stamps that collectors / dealers have as opposed to the general public?

      I always send my Swap Out packages by Special Delivery and so get a photograph of its receipt at Tallents House - or rather a cage jammed packed with letters and pacels of all sizes, amongst which will be mine (I hope).

      I am waiting for one more return from Tallents House: it will be the 50th Swap Out return and as I try to make up parcels of up to £2,500 value each time, that's over £100,000 worth of stamps. And I'm not a dealer or a particularly large auction buyer. Yes, most of that amount were NVIs which have gone up so much over the years but without Swap Out, I doubt I would have turned my attention to these stamps: it was always a job for next week, when I get time, etc, etc.

      As for making money, yes but once you take into account the time it takes to remove stamps from presentation packs or hingeless albums, sort them into values and then put them into packs of 100, making money is a laugh. Last December, I sold a parcel of 84,879 commemorative stamps from 2p - 1.90p in value, sorted into packets of 100. The FV was £34,493.75 and I received £15,986.80 or 46% of FV. But the hours of work...

      Having said that, I'd love commems being part of the Swap Out scheme as I would make 'more' money sending in commems and then selling the barcode definatives I would recieve in return but the amount of work would be the same...


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