May 25, 2018

Walsall do definitives again. Cartor fail.

[This post should have been published in April. Apologies for the delay]

A slightly more interesting bunch of definitives appearing this time. I'll start with a DLR M17L code 50p grey with security printed background. That first appeared in October 2017.

Then, at this time of year we get the latest requirements of rate increases and this year that brings us four new stamps and values. Not that we'll see many on envelopes as my own Post Office knew nothing of them at all and had hardly any real stamps either. They just stick those white 'Horizon' labels on everything now.

At the same time, and appearing to be part of the same set but it isn't, we have a £1.55 now with security backing print.

The above are all M18L and printed by Walsall (other than the 2017 50p). Also by Walsall is the M18L MCIL 1st Class red from the RAF Concrete and Clay book. The different shade of 2nd Class deeper brighter blue is M17L MTIL.

A new printing of the Special Delivery 100g stamp with an M17L code and security backing paper is also now to be found. This is from De La Rue.

For some reason, OK, to generate more income, we have had to purchase complete sets of the four regionals from each country once more, even though the 1st and 2nd Class are NVIs! We're told that it was considered necessary to make all the typefaces the same across the four sets. They had previously been a bit of an odd mixture, admittedly, but the new typeface seems even more difficult to decipher on many, especially the 2nd Class from England and the face value of the Northern Ireland basket weave, or whatever it is, is really difficult to figure.

So these are all new issues. Strangely, they are still gummed and not self-adhesive and I have to say that, with the grey or white now also replacing any silver ink, if it weren't for the fact that the designs themselves hadn't changed the set could easily have been a new issue from the Tokeleau Islands or somewhere similar, hardly ever to be used but generating some useful island revenue.

Just wait until we have a new extension to this set featuring scenes from each nation, changing every other month!

From Cartor we have the RAF Prestige book definitives, a 2p green, 5p brown and £1.17 orange. The standard of Cartor's printing is not particularly brilliant and they have almost failed to represent the security codes on these stamps. they should be M18L MPIL but that is not at all easy to see. Not that this matters a great deal. I am sure the only place you'll find them is in the booklet.

There's quite a lot here and you may well need several new pages in the album.

Paler shades and more 18 codes

Quite a few to add to the collection this month (or earlier if you had spotted some of them already!)

From a Philatelic Burea distribution this week we have some Walsall reprints of a few items. All are on security backing paper, not obvious from these images. They are all also 18 codes.

Next we have some Walsall printings of more self-adhesive issues from March 2018 but showing a distinctly paler shade to before. I have included the £1.25 in both printings to make the difference clear. The head is the obvious paler element. Not all are as clear, though.

There is a 2nd Class blue from a business sheet now and a pale head on a 1st red from the Red Arrows Concrete and Clay book.


January 24, 2018

Watch 'Royal Mail'- an HBO series coming soon.

What on Earth is going on these days at the Ministry of We Decide What Goes On Stamps? After a mass of Star Wars promotion we now get a Game of Thrones promotion with almost every philatelic item being thrown into the mix. A little old lady was quite perplexed when Counter staff gave her a book of 1st Class stamps recently that bore a completely different image to one of the Queen as she had expected. Now she will have to figure out what something that looks like a wheatsheaf is doing on there.

Remarkable as the HBO Series may be, is this really a suitable topic for a British stamp issue? I suppose we have had several authors depicted, some even having their own series, and Pink Floyd, David Bowie and several others have been there, representing today's music industry so the devotion of an issue and many extras to another successful piece of art has to be seen as being consistent in some respects.

My feeling is, however, that issues that depict such recent, indeed current in this instance, work are more promotional material, for which one presumes Royal Mail receive hefty chunks of money which defrays the cost of production and, when taken with what one assumes will be good sales across the world to fans of the product, the coffers remain adequate for the provision of tedious stuff like delivering letters to us here in Britain.

I ceased collecting what used to be called Commemorative issues way back in the 1980s when the frequency and size of issues seemed to increase and I began to think that some issues were being released purely for collectors to collect. Even in those days you would see few used on envelopes or parcels and the 'prestige' books remain unopened (and largely unread) to this day.

Anyway, there's a book of six 1st Class Game of Thrones stamps which, of course, is nothing to do with Machins but it serves as an introduction to the few new ones that we will feel obliged to acquire from the prestige book.

In there you will find a 5p Ash Pink, 20p green and £1.17 orange with M17L MPIL codes. I do wonder somewhat whether, if I were to start collecting now then I would ignore the prestige booklet Machins. I would have to have one or two of the early ones which people did, actually, buy and use but that is all. The others will forever only be seen in panes like this one or in parts cut out for individual items for supply by dealers. I believe one could, quite simply, delete all of them from collections and it wouldn't matter. If people wished to collect prestige books then that is perfectly fine by me but the Machins in them now leave me slightly cold and a touch annoyed that I have had to spend so much to get them. 

You will also notice a 2nd Northern Ireland Regional in there, by the way. That is the first NI stamp from Cartor.

Now, to the real stamps.

The 2p now gets security printed backing, as does the 10p. Both are MAIL M17L codes by De La Rue.

The security printing may not be at all clear in this illustration but it is there!

We also get a 5p Ash Pink 2 band in quite a darker shade of one of ash or pink than before.

So there are three genuine new Machins for your album, at least.

December 21, 2017

Yet more Star Wars

Star Wars again. Now I am sure that it is a great film series and I do recognise the important British contribution to it but I find the extraordinary output from the Royal Mail to celebrate, promote and generally support what is essentially a commercial venture making profits for someone far away slightly surprising.

I remember the days when there were frowns and threats of dismissal merely for suggesting that someone who might be alive at the time appears on a stamp along with Her Majesty. I suppose these fellows are not alive. All most odd but never mind.

The prestige booklet has the traditional Machin pane which provides us with the three new stamps shown: A 1st Class in (oddly) an old shade of red M17L MPIL, a 2nd Class bright blue M17L MPIL and a £1.40 pale grey M17L MPIL.

Also turning up this month is a 1st Class Royal Mail red with a 16 code! M16L MAIL sheet issue that you might have thought had been issued already but it hasn't.

There is also a 1st Class Royal Mail red M17L MSIL from a Walsall booklet. This is the first with the new type of security printing on the backing paper.

I may have forgotten to mention two other new 1st Class issues recently. A 1st Class Royal Mail red M17L MCIL and another M17L MTIL from the Concrete and Clay Star Wars booklet and Walsall books of 12 respectively.

As I have said before, I shall not be bothering with the variations where the security printing is the other way up. There are limits . . .

Not the most exciting of times, I'm afraid. Although I am not seeking to have a renewal of those crazy inflation rates of the past, the combined effect of NVI issues and few rate changes has led to very few new stamps of late. Remarkably, just yesterday I was in a queue at a Post Office when a lady was saying that she was unable to buy second class stamps anywhere. I suggested that the chap behind the counter make up the amount with whatever he might have in stock by way of definitives. "I don't keep any", he announced. It seems that they do everything that's required now with the Horizon label machine. That explains a lot!

Perhaps now we collectors are not only the sole purchasers of Royal Mail's 'special issue' output but also their good old standard definitives too. It really does feel like the time has come to draw this series to a close.

August 26, 2017

More M17L and that's about it.


There hasn't been much to get excited about in August. Some more 17 codes have emerged, the MBIL and MTIL 2nd Class stamps and an MBIL 1st Class which I thought we'd had earlier but obviously not.

Royal Mail's Signed For service must be proving popular as there has been an M17L version of that now too. Although I use the service almost every day, Towcester and Greens Norton Post Offices just slap on the computer printed labels. I don't mind particularly as I cannot really ask clients to send me back the wrapping!

I believe that there have also been some changes in which way up, or which comes first, in the large and small text on the backing paper. As I have written about previously, this really does not interest me and it seems all too easy for anyone to create their own anyway. That effectively means that the only examples that will be recognised as different in years to come will be those that have other sections of the sheet or booklet attached. So if you think that one of these variations is going to be particularly valuable on account of its short life then you'll need to make sure it has sufficient extra bits to be identified as such.

Anyone searching for Machins in the recent issues of the British Philatelic Bulletin will have been very disappointed. July's Bulletin had no Machin stamps at all and August had just a couple on covers that were not the topic of an article anyway.