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the full facts, it came to the attention of Royal Mail and it seems that Post Office Ltd arranged for the stamps to be withdrawn.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.


  1. I can't help but think these may be counterfeit. I'm not an expert for sure, but the stamp in the top right hand corner is misaligned, the bottom right one as well but not by as much. The print is also very spotty for lack of a better term, compared to a photo from one on eBay at least (https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/235290798506). The perforation also looks like a mouse was responsible for them. And the booklet itself looks like it's a completely different color.? Mmmmh...

    1. Frank, the arguments against them being counterfeits are the same as for why we haven't seen any others at all. There are far more people looking for forgeries (on eBay) - and none have been seen. Plenty of other new forgeries have been discovered in recent times.

      As you will be aware, these are photographs without flash - they are not scans; the booklet is not flat and the photo has been taken at an angle. Then it has been resized and rotated. I don't think you can draw any conclusions on 'spottiness' and colour from the quality of the picture. But I agree, one stamp has been removed and replaced.

      If you bought several books of stamps and, as you took one from this book, you might just say "Oh, this one is different to the others" and put it back. I don't know that's what happened, but it is quite feasible. I do think a forger would have tried to put it back more precisely.

      Lastly, all the other recent forgeries have been generally better than the originals.

    2. If we have a real booklet side by side perhaps we will see the several things wrong with it! Not being in hand makes authentication difficult, however as with comment one there are several things that appear wrong with it.
      Cover maybe genuine ,stamps appear not to be Chinese but rather the UK fake stamps.

  2. The stamp at top right looks like it was removed and then put back - no doubt the purchaser removed it and then realised what they had. Unfortunately it’ll lower its value but not significantly as the others are aligned properly.

    1. Hi, I am the owner of these stamps bought for our Christmas cards. The stamps were purchased by my husband from Molesey post office so I'm sure they wouldn't have sold forgeries. He actually tried to take them back to get a refund when he realised the barcode was missing but they told him to contact Royal Mail. He started calling and I told him it might be worth hanging on to them. So that's why I'm enquiring as to their value. It could well be that he pulled off the stamp before realising it had no barcode but it is now aligned correctly. I'm happy to provide other photos if need be. Louise

    2. Louise also mentioned to me that at the foot of the Royal Mail logo are the pencilled figures '22' which was the postmaster's counting - people who use POs will know that this often happens and we have to ask them to take one from further down the stock if we want one as a collectable !

  3. The problem with establishing a market value is that we don't know how many are out there. I certainly wouldn't want to put a price on this until we find out if more will show up.

    I remember when the previously undiscovered "Lifetime of Service" business Smiler sheet (BC-332a) first appeared on Ebay, it sold for £676. Whoever paid that must have been gutted when loads more came onto the market & the price levelled out at circa £35 per sheet.

    1. JP,
      You remind me of the Queens 95th birthday mint pane, about £365 for the first one on that well known auction site but dealers had been able to buy plenty of them at face value and they're now about £20.


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