Tuesday 27 February 2024

Christmas 2023 booklet with missing barcodes sold over PO counter.

In October last year a postmaster found, in his new stock, a sheet of 2nd class stamps with no datamatrix barcodes, which we reported here

Well before the stamps were due to be issued an image of this sheet was shared on a postmaster chat forum and, although we don't know the full facts, it came to the attention of Royal Mail and it seems that Post Office Ltd arranged for the stamps to be withdrawn. They were apparently never sold over the counter, nor direct to collectors or dealers.

Not so in this case.

Earlier this month I was alerted to another case.  The writer had found the earlier blog post and wrote with details and an image, and this time the error is on a 2nd class booklet

Christmas 2023 2nd class booklet with missing barcode

The writer tells that the booklet was sold at a branch in Surrey.  

This error is previously unreported: nobody has mentioned this or similar errors to me before, nor to the Modern British Philatelic Circle (MBPC), the Great Britain Philatelic Society, and no dealers have reported it, and nor have the three monthly magazines with wide circulation in the UK.

The owner is interested in its value.  As I explained, 

The way they are printed, there must be - unless quality control only let a few out in error - a dozen or more, maybe 50.  The fact that they haven't been reported means that:

- they were spotted after your booklet was sold, reported, and returned to the warehouse;
- they were sold but haven't been used, which would be unlikely for Christmas stamps at Christmas;
- they were sold and people who bought them are holding on to them to see if any others are reported - if everybody does that of course it is down to the first one to blink. 

---- or a combination of these.

UPDATE 3 March

I suppose it is a sign of the times that the first comment on this is that the booklet might be counterfeit, never mind the fact that there would be no point in counterfeiting an error rather than a stamp-as-issued. This reflects the plethora of forgeries on the market now, not only of Machin and KC3 definitives, but also many Christmas stamps and, more latterly, gummed special stamps.

To my mind it is an error, nothing more nothing less.  Let me remind you that these were probably printed in the summer, at a similar time to the sheet stamps with missing barcode which were recalled before they could be issued. 

Christmas stamps are printed well in advance of issue. Other special stamp issues are not printed quite as far in advance of the issue date.  Also issued last summer was the River Wildlife set which included the error of a single phosphor band on the 1st class stamps. 

And in February the King Charles valued definitives were printed in sheet form.  We don't know exactly when the coil stamps for first day covers - produced erronesusly without U-shaped slits - were printed but it would have been well before November.  What seems evident is that all these - River Wildlife, Definitives, Christmas sheets and Christmas booklets - were produced during the first 9 months of 2023. 

Although there were other errors, most notably involving prestige stamp books which had missing or duplicated stamp or interleave panes (or covers), or which had serious miscuts or other misalignments, these types of errors were occurring many times over the life of this blog.  

If you look at the word-cloud in the right-hand column of this page, you will see that 'Error' runs to 127 posts.  This does include pre-release usage, and various Post and Go errors, as well as errors in the design (Wales 1st class font types), the missing P from the source code in PSB stamps (M_IL), and errors of colour the 81p PSB stamp) or make-up/inclusion (The £1.17 stamp included in a PSB after it ceased to pay a postage rate), but it also includes many instances of "these should not have made it to the public"!

So errors of one sort or another have abounded, and they really came to a peak in 2023.  It doesn't seem to be unreasonable that the booklet under discussion is another one in the 2023 errors saga.

I hope that publication here and by the Societies and magazines will come to the attention of anybody else who might have one of these and we will then have a better idea of how many there might be.

If any dealer wishes to suggest a value for my contributor, then I shall be pleased to pass it on.

Friday 23 February 2024

Basic 1st and 2nd class letter prices rise by 10p from 2 April 2024.

As usual at this time of the year Royal Mail have announced that some prices will rise from 25 March and 2 April 2024. 

No details have been announced yet for uses of social mail or small businesses: we can expect the announcement for these on 1 March.

Details for franking machines (meters) have been announced including a 1st class rate of £1.17 and 2nd class of 79p.  

As we know most business and meter rates are discounted from the rates for stamps, so we can expect a new first class rate probably close to £1.30 and the second class rate would probably be 80p or more.

Similarly changes new rates apply to Special Delivery and Signed For basic letters. 

Further speculation at this stage is pointless, but I hope to have details to publish here by 2nd March. The 25 March changes will probably only affect business users.

Royal Mail have now issued this press release 1 March 2024

From 2 April 2024, the price of First Class stamps will increase by 10p to £1.35 and the price of Second
Class stamps will increase by 10p to 85p.

Royal Mail has sought to keep price increases as low as possible in the face of increasing cost pressures
and wage increases, declining letter volumes and lack of reform of the Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Letter volumes have fallen from 20 billion in 2004/5 to seven billion a year in 2022/3, while the number of addresses has risen by four million in the same period. The average adult spends less than £7 a year on stamped letters and people now receive on average just two letters per week.

The USO – which requires Royal Mail to deliver letters to all 32 million UK addresses six days a week – is in need of urgent reform. Delivering an ever-decreasing number of letters to an ever-growing number of
households six days a week is increasingly expensive and unsustainable. Postal regulator Ofcom has
recently opened a call for inputs to look at options for reform of the USO given the dramatic reduction in
letter volumes in recent years.

More details to follow.  In the meantime you can download the 'stamps' rates here.








Large Letter – 100g





- 250g





- 500g





- 750g





Small Parcel 2kg





Medium Parcel 2kg





- 10kg





- 20kg





(Correction: the original version of this blog showed the April 2023 figures in the table as a 12 month comparison.  In fact a better comparison is with the current (October 2023) rates which show that some of the 2nd class rates have reverted to lower levels.  Correction made 17.40 1 March)

Special Delivery rates, which for 1pm were unchanged last year, are also increased.  The 100g rate rises by 60p from £7.35 to £7.95, the 500g rate by 80p to £8.95.   There are much higher increases if compensation greater than £750 is required.  The basic £1,000/100g rate rises by 33% from £8.25 to £10.95 and that for £2,500 rises by 73% from £10.35 to £17.95.

Two new services have been introduced for Large Letters and Parcels, which include compensation up to £150.

UK Tracked and UK Tracked and Signed offer 24 hour and 48 hour services:

These products do not replace Signed For.  Rates for Signed For are increased in line with the rises in basic letter rates.  Both 1st and 2nd letter increase by 30p to £3.05 and £2.55 respectively.   Large Letter rates and parcels increase by varying amounts. 

Cost of my Post Office Box increases by 7% from £330 to £353.40 pa.  Redirection costs are up 10%.


From last spring there has been only one price for letters worldwide.  This now increases from £2.20 to £2.50 and a new definitive stamp will be issued at this rate in another insipid colour, the old Gooseberry Green.    

This will not be available until 4 April which will be the first day of issue.  Post Offices have been instructed to use make-up values on 2nd & 3rd April: £2 and 50p seems the obvious way.

2024 tariff airmail stamp, £2.50 Gooseberry Green.


Postcards will also be £2.50

The 100g rates for Large Letters in Europe and Rest of the World remain unchanged at £3.25 and £4.20 respectively, but rates for over 100g increase by around 10%.

Lowest rates for Europe Small Parcels will also increase by around 10%.

Increases for Worldwide Parcels are also pegged at around 10%.

Surface rate outside Europe, known as International Economy will rise from £2 to £2.20 so it makes sense to keep the £2.20 stamp available for those few people who use this service (often finding that the item has been sent by air anyway!).

If I've missed anything, my apologies.  I will be pleased to be told of any errors and will correct them as soon as possible.

Thursday 15 February 2024

Viking Britain set of 8 stamps - 20 February 2024

The second important set of stamps to be issued this year explores the history and impact of the Viking invasion of Britain and also marks 40 years since the Jorvik Centre opened in York.

As my co-blogger WhiteKnight has covered on his Commonwealth Stamps Opinion it appears that Royal Mail have overlooked the Anglo-Saxons, although they don't always issue series in any sort of order.

Be that as it may, this is a second successive set which is a credit to the designers, and a set which I might almost have for my collection!

Reason and Inspiration (by Royal Mail)

Between the 8th and 11th centuries, the Vikings – seaborne adventurers from Scandinavia – profoundly transformed Britain. They left a legacy that remains with us to this day.

The Vikings were seaborne adventurers of Scandinavian origin whose activities in the British Isles from the end of the 8th century onwards changed the languages, economy, society and political geography of these islands forever. Early raids targeted Christian monasteries and coastal communities but, by the mid-9th century, these incursions had evolved into large-scale invasions that tore up the traditional patchwork of small independent kingdoms. 

The waves of migration, settlement and conquest that followed transformed Britain; by the early 11th century, kings and earls of Danish and Norwegian heritage ruled the whole of England and large parts of Scotland, and dominated the Irish Sea. And while ultimately the sounding horns of the Viking Age fell silent, the echoes still remain.

The stamps

Viking Britain, set of 8 Great Britain stamps issued 20 February 2024, click for enlargment.

1st class - Iron, silver & copper sword, Temple, London; Olaf Guthfrithsson silver penny, minted in York

£1.00 - Silver penannular brooch, Penrith, Cumbria; Lindisfarne Priory, Northumberland

£2.00 - Norse settlement remains, Jarlshof, Shetland; Antler comb and case, Coppergate, York

£2.20 - Guilded bronze brooch, Pitney, Somerset; Hogback gravestone, Govan Old, Glasgow

Technical details

The 50 x 30 mm stamps were designed Studio Up and printed by Cartor Security Printers in lithography, in sheets of 30 se-tenant pairs (not sure whether that is sheets of "30 se-tenant pairs" or "30, in se-tenant pairs".  Perforation is 14.  


Iron, silver and copper sword (1st class), Silver penny (1st class), Silver penannular brooch (£1) and Gilded bronze brooch (£2.20) © The Trustees of the British Museum;  Lindisfarne Priory(£1) © AJM681/Alamy Stock Photo, featured with kind permission of English Heritage; Norse settlement remains (£2) © Chris Griffiths/Getty Images; Antler comb and case (£2)  © York Archaeological Trust for Excavation and Research Limited; Hogback gravestone (£2.20) © Alan McAteer; featured with kind permission of Govan Old; 

Vintage paper texture © Javarman/Alamy Stock Photo; ‘Time of Viking Invasions’ map, from History of England by George Macaulay Trevelyan. Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd, London, 1926 © The Print Collector/Alamy Stock Photo;  Antique map of Shetland and Orkney Islands  © ilbusca/Getty Images. 

All © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2024

Products available

Set of 8 stamps, presentation pack, first day cover, stamp cards, medal cover (£20, limited to 5,000), framed set (£35).

Congratulations to Studio Up and the Royal Mail team for a great set.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Happy New Year, it's M24L time for the King Charles definitives.

There have been several reports of King Charles definitives being sold from post offices or appearing on mail, and it seems that a reprint of the 1st class sheet stamp has been necessary already this year.

King Charles 1st class sheet definitive with M24L year code, from 17/1/24 printing.

NVI definitives are printed in sheets of 50 with a gutter, whereas the valued stamps are in sheets of 25 allowing for block of 10 to show the cylinder numbers and date.

On the NVI sheets the cylinders are at the top left, and the date at the top right:

Date strip 17/01/24 at top right of sheet.

Cylinder numbers C1 x3 at top left of sheet: colour, iridescent, phosphor.

UPDATE 29 February 2024.   The 2nd class sheet stamp has now become available with a printing date of 18/01/24 and of course the year code is M24L.

King Charles 2nd class sheet definitive with M24L year code, from 18/1/24 printing.

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Cartor Security Printers acquired by banknote authentication technology specialists.

From Cartor's website:

Following the recent acquisition of Cartor by Spectra Systems Corporation, we are now an integral division of Spectra Systems, the US-based global leader in electronic encryption, authentication systems and gaming security software. 

The combination of Spectra Systems and Cartor will allow for rapid penetration into the banknote polymer substrate market as well as an increased product offering in security printing of tax stamps, labels, and  ID documents.

From Cartor's Press Releases

Security printing group, Cartor Security Printers, has been acquired by Spectra Systems Corporation, a leader in machine-readable high-speed banknote authentication, brand protection technologies and gaming security software. Following completion on 22 December 2023, the acquisition is set to bolster Spectra’s presence in the polymer banknote substrate market and introduce fresh avenues for selling its security products.

Cartor’s existing management structure, comprising Andrew Brigham as managing director, Ian Brigham as chairman and Martin French as finance director, will maintain their respective roles, emphasising the integration of the team as a unified group.

Cartor operates through three wholly-owned subsidiary companies and maintains manufacturing facilities in both the UK and France. It supplies postage stamps to more than 180 administrations worldwide, offering a wide range of products, including conventional and hybrid postage stamps, tax stamps, vouchers, coupons, certificates, and security documents. Additionally, Cartor provides a secure environment for manual assembly and fulfilment. The company stands out from its competitors by employing cutting-edge technology to make it difficult for counterfeiters to operate in industries with valuable products and services.

In collaboration with Spectra over the past two years, Cartor has developed the expertise required to produce Fusion™ substrates, which are undergoing qualification by central banks and leading polymer banknote printers.

Spectra’s acquisition of Cartor will not only enhance its presence in the polymer substrate market, but also enable the integration of advanced security technologies into Cartor’s product portfolio. As a well-established global player in these sectors, Cartor is well-positioned to seamlessly incorporate Spectra’s technologies, develop necessary processes and introduce Spectra’s products to its existing customer base.

Dr. Nabil Lawandy, CEO of Spectra Systems, commented: “The Spectra Board of Directors and I are pleased to announce the acquisition of Cartor, which solidifies our position in the polymer substrate market and broadens our business reach through new sales channels. Our two-year collaboration with the Cartor team has been exceptional and I have great confidence in the group’s leadership.”

Andrew Brigham, managing director of Cartor, added: “The acquisition comes at a pivotal moment for Cartor’s growth and, under Nabil’s leadership, we aim to expedite this growth and unlock new opportunities. The Cartor group intends to harness Spectra’s extensive technical expertise and Cartor’s operational prowess to deliver groundbreaking solutions to both current and future customers.”


What is the impact on stamps?

I don't expect any immediate impact on stamp production, and believe that most of the benefit will be in Cartor's other areas of production.  However, this clip from Cartor's 'stamps' page identifies how they are assisting postal administrations in the fight against forgery:

Postage stamps were in the past less targeted by organised crime, but that is no longer the case. Today, many administrations are losing revenue due to counterfeit stamps, but also due to stamp washing, an illegal activity whereby used stamps are collected in large volumes and cancellation marks are removed chemically thereby enabling their re-use.

Cartor is at the forefront of combatting these activities. A combination of security features including encrypted barcodes enable electronic cancellation and inhibit the possibility to generate counterfeit codes.

With our turnkey solutions, administrations can not only immediately reduce revenue loss but also benefit from additional marketing and track and trace capabilities, made possible by our bespoke camera systems and aggregation software. This means it is possible to record exactly which stamps have been produced, which retailers they are ultimately sold from, and where the stamp is eventually delivered, which will be key information to drive mailing solution optimisation in coming years.

Whilst combating revenue loss remains our primary goal, it is also Cartor’s ambition to provide solutions that meet the high aesthetical and quality standards expected in this sector. Cartor has unique experience of working with innovative substrates and is the only provider in the market that has invested in coloured barcoding solutions.

That said, I don't think barcodes will be extended to commemorative stamps. I believe the numbers of modern stamps is very much lower that it used to be, and the numbers actually used (ie within two years) is very low.  

The definitive Swap-out scheme has been a huge and expensive exercise for Royal Mail (and stamp holders) which has had a significant effect on the stamp market.  The market for discount postage has plummeted according to some sources, though generalisations are not easy to substantiate.  Doing the same for commemoratives would be even more disastrous.

Monday 5 February 2024

February 2024 slogan postmarks and other interesting postal markings.

As expected the current default slogan is for Royal Mail's staff-chosen charity, the British Heart Foundation.  

The slogan is a new variation; it has the BHF logo and web address but also a reference to Learning CPR although the exact wording and new web address await a clearer example.  I've asked Royal Mail for a clearer (publicity) image, but in the meantime I have found out that the new wording includes RevivR.

British Heart

Learn lifesaving CPR with RevivR
Find out more at

Our post included this one from Norwich Mail Centre 02-02-2024, thanks to my car-repairer for another bill!

British Heart Foundation slogan from Norwich Mail Centre 02-02-2024

UPDATE: Thanks to Trevor for a clearer example, and in the other layout, and the text on six lines, from (Bristol) BA, BS, GL, TA Mail Centre 01/02/2024

British Heart Foundation slogan from Bristol Mail Centre 01/02/2024

However, the same post brought the first new slogan of February, which started on Saturday 3rd to arrive today, 5th.

National Apprenticeship Week was last record in March 2018. This year's slogan includes the actual dates unlike the previous one.  This example is from Manchester Mail Centre 03/02/2024. (URL in postmark corrected, thanks NI)

Royal Mail supports
5-11 February


National Apprenticeship Week slogan Manchester Mail Centre 03/02/2024

UPDATE 14 February: I should have posted these sooner, the Valentine's Day slogan which wasn't recorded last year, but which is the same as that from 2022.

Send a little love
this ♥︎
Valentine's Day
♥︎ ♥︎ February 14

Two people sent examples from Sheffield Mail Centre and I'm showing the clearer of these, dates 08/02/2024 (thanks to JH and LF).

Valentine's Day Slogan Sheffield Mail Centre 08/02/2024

Also the other format from a correspondent via Peterborough Mail Centre 10-02-2024.

Valentine's Day Slogan Peterborough Mail Centre 10-02-2024

UPDATE 20 February:  Thanks to JE for a slogan for the Cystic Fybrosis Trust which few will see as it was only used on 16 & 17 February, then replaced by the BHF CPR slogan.

This in turn should be replaced by the 'normal' BHF default slogan from 29 February, he says.

Cystic Fibrosis Trust
Since 1964.
We won't stop
until CF does.

Cystic Fibrosis Trust slogan, Birmingham Mail Centre 16/02/2024



UPDATE  29 February - advance notice for MARCH.

I have heard that an International Women's Day slogan will be used in both formats on 5 & 6 April only, with the aim of 'doormat delivery' (for 1st class letters) on 6 & 7 April, 'the day' being on 8 April.  

From 7 April the 'original' default British Heart Foundation slogan should be used, to appear on deliveries from 8 April.


Time for another post office branch self-inking datestamp - but where is this from?

Wick News B self-inking datestamp 27.JA.24

You might think that there is only one obvious answer, that it is from the far north of Scotland. Where else is there with the town name of Wick?  

Google map showing location of Wick, Scotland.

Well at one time there were post offices in the villages of Wick in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, but it's neither of those.

No, this one is in the Wick district of Littlehampton, Sussex, in the Wick Newsagents.  At one time the courts relied on the postmark as proof of date/time and place of posting. Although Post Office Ltd would probably be able to tell the court where this packet to our Canadian correspondent was posted, how much easier it would be if the place was on the postmark - Wick, Littlehampton would be much better.

Google map & street view, Wick, Littlehampton.

Update: it has been put to me that this might be from the Gloucestershire Wick where there is also a post office in a retailer named Wick News.  Later update: The Gloucestershire Wick closed and reopened as a Drop & Go branch where there are no handstamps and stamps are not sol.

Thanks to JH for this nice clear datestamp from Holmbush. Once again it is necessary (unless you live nearby) to resort to Google to find that this is in the outskirts of St Austell in Cornwall.

Self-inking datestamp, Holmbush index J, 23.FE 24

Holmbush Post Office, Daniel's Lane (Cornwall) - Google street view.

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

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