Thursday 11 April 2024

Did you ever win a Reader's Digest Prize Competition? Examples of their mailings with Machin stamps.

I suspect many readers are old enough to remember Reader's Digest (RD) Prize Competitions. The company and competitions continue, which may explain why it is difficult to find on the world wide web anything other than the stamp coils which were included in their mailings from 1981.

The mailings were always offering either one-offs or series of their products – books, records, etc – with the strapline of 'Your chance to win....' various amounts. RD was criticised in the US for misleading advertising and in the UK the Advertising Standards Authority determined that recipients could be led to believe that purchasing the product offered would increase their chances of winning the prize. I think originally the addressee would have had to pay to return the prize card numbers, or maybe there were Business Reply paid envelopes. 


Item (c) reverse of card: List of prizes available on typical Reader's Digest mailing.

The Post Office had, before decimalisation and afterwards, produced multi-value coils of Machin definitives which were dispensed from vending machines inside and outside Post Office branches, for one-shilling or (decimalised) 5p or 10p. Four different strips were produced for vending machines, with three different stamp combinations for 10p.

In January 1981 the cheapest 2nd class postage rate was increased from 10p to 11½p, rendering coils from the machines insufficient for a single letter, and there were no more coils produced for this purpose.

However a coil containing many strips of 4 stamps valued at 11½p (SG X929l) was made available to Reader's Digest. These strips of stamps were mounted on card (with a non-permanent band of gum) so that addressees had their postage prepaid. Again, the card suggested that the stamps would help to get the responses returned to the company – although even those who did not respond were winners, at least to the value of the 2nd class postage given away!


Item (a): Reader's Digest 'Autumn Windfall' Prize Draw cover and card, 12½p strip SG X924l.

First used in June 1981 the 11½p strip [2½p+3p+3p+3p] was soon noticed by collectors and in September it was made available from the Philatelic Bureau, and later from other Post Offices (Gibbons' Concise). Later multi-value coils were sold from the Philatelic Bureau and Philatelic Counters.

Increased postage rates

As postage rates increased so the value of the stamps provided needed to increase, and this caused a change in the combination of stamps in the strips. 

The 12½p strip is shown above with ½p and 3x4p issued on 30 December 1981

13p [1p + 3x4p] on 14 August 1984
14p [2p + 3x4p] on 5 September 1988
15p [3p* +3x4p] on 10 October 1989
17p [5p + 3x4p] on 27 November 1990
18p [2 each 4p, 5p] on 1 October 1991, and
19p [4p + 3x5p] on 31 January 1995. 

Few of these dates coincided with the rate change: some are earlier for preparing mailings at the new rate, some are later.

* This is the original source of the type II 3p magenta (SG X930c) with narrower figure of value. It appeared in January 1992 in sheets.

These are the cards and covers we had, but all are now sold:
none of the covers has the original letters, offers etc, only the cards with stamps mounted on.  I am confident that these cards are contained within the relevant covers.

a. X924l - 12½p on card in yellow-brown cover for 'Autumn Windfall' prize draw, above, price £1.20

b. X925l - 13p on card in reddish-brown cover for 'Christmas Bonanza' prize draw.

c. X925l - 13p on yellow & blue card for '£165,000 Giveaway'.

d. X933l - 17p on yellow & blue card for '£235,000 Prize Away'

e. X933m - 18p on card in black printed manilla cover for 'Strike it Rich' prize draw.

Item b - reverse of cover - Price £1.20

Item b - addressee side of cover
Item b - stamps on card
SG X925l - 13p strip on card for Reader's Digest 'Christmas Bonanza' prize draw.

Item c - stamps on card - Price £1.20

SG X925l - 13p strip (with separation in a different order) on yellow & blue card for '£165,000 Giveaway'


Item d - the adhesive strip has dried out leaving the stamps unattached to the card (there is residue of the adhesive on the back of the stamps - Price £1.50

SG X933l - 17p strip on yellow & blue card for '£235,000 Prize Away'

Item e - stamps on card in cover - Price £1.50

SG X933m - 18p strip on card in black printed manilla cover for Reader's Digest 'Strike it Rich' prize draw.

If you wish to buy any of these five items, please email as soon as possible so that they can be set aside for you.  Postage will be extra at usual economic rates.
All are now sold!

We're away next week and return to a week in which the diary is already full.  As such, please note that we may not reply and are unlikely to send any of these out until nearly the end of April.


  1. I've got plenty of all eight, but bought from Philatelic Counters rather than free from the Readers Digest.

  2. There are also 1p strips that predate the ‘special’ coils and a 1p ACP horizontal coil from 1987 that you can find fdcs for.

    1. Single-value coils exist for many stamps including the 63p. Whilst this was not for Reader's Digest ir must have been produced specifically for a single customer/user, I think.

      Were the 1p coils produced for RD alone? I recall seeing some machines dispensing 1p stamps, I'm sure.

    2. They were used by RD - the 1p. 2p and 25p are well known. I believe the 25p has a ‘RD’ prefix on the coil leader, so it was produced for RD, but I think the 1p and 2p were more generic.

  3. I have been collecting a set of these multi value strips for a long time as the original ones I had came off the readers digest cards in the 80's (which I now wish I had kept). Does anyone have any idea of the production numbers? I can't find any details on the internet but they must be relatively scarce compared to the normal sheet and booklet stamps.

  4. Not that scarce, sadly, as the coils were also available from philatelic bureaus. I recall the very last coil is a little tricky to find on card - but then I think there were only a couple of cards issued with that coil so it makes sense that it would be hard.


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