July 18, 2020

More 20 Codes and a Challenge.

Here's a challenge. Find a Special Delivery stamp in the Royal Mail online shop. I failed. Anyway, here is my own 500g example with the latest M20L code. This ranks as the #1 high value stamp currently available with what I think is a £7.50 value at the time of writing. The service is more expensive if you need more insurance cover and I wonder whether the same stamp gets used in such an instance, in which case it would have an even higher value! Or, now I think about it, maybe if used for the Guaranteed by 9am service, it would be the highest ever, easily exceeding the old £10 definitive.

Next, there are some more 20 codes. I don't seem to have noted the arrival of the 1st and 2nd Class stamps or their Large siblings as M20L MAIL in previous posts. There is also now a 2nd M20L MBIL which I seem to have missed. So here they are now, together with a 10p light tan.

The only other item of interest is a 1st Class from a recent Concrete & Clay book (4+2) which has a quite different and thinner backing which is also very bright when viewed under UV compared to others. It may have appeared before but this is from the Queen edition and is the first I've noticed.

Apologies for the poor quality images in this post. Having already put the stamps away neatly in my albums I was reluctant to undo all my work and risk not being able to remember what should go where so I just used my mobile phone and did not wait for it to focus on some occasions. But you've all seen plenty of 10p stamps and the different codes don't even show on most of them anyway. I should have used old images and no-one would have noticed.

July 13, 2020

End of WWII, Queen and some definitives

 I am rather late returning to this news blog and I shall just publish what I have found lying around and it may be necessary to explain later, add more or delete duplications.

6 April saw the issue of this miniature sheet to celebrate the Declaration of Arbroath. Not Machins but I include the small definitives in my lists and these will all be new being inter alia on gummed paper as well as having [correction, I'd forgotten that these have not made it to self-adhesive world yet!] pretty much the same as sheet issues but with maybe small design differences I have yet to spot. There are sheets with and without a bar code.

£1.63, £1.68 and £2.42 definives with M20L codes have also appeared in my post box. I shall have to conduct an enquiry as to how these differ from the 17 March issues (if at all). I may have to remove these, just bear with me in the meantime as I am a little behind! [Update: these are March 2020 printings and seem to have a slightly deeper shade of Queen's head, although I suspect that there is a more significant difference between the results of my scanning these and the original issues.)

The 1st large Signed For now has an M20L code, first appearing around March - April.

From the End of The War book, issued 8 May we have three new Machins: 5p, 50p and £1.63 by Cartor, all on gummed paper and coded M20L MPIL.

Two more Concrete & Clay books with 1st in quite distinctly different shades of red. Quite how each compares to the 'normal' shade I have yet to investigate but one will match and another won't, for sure. These are all M20L MCIL of course and not necessarily new unless the shade of one or the other is of interest.

Another prestige book, issued 9 July, brings the band Queen to the attention of all those who collect prestige books. This will certainly make searches on Google more complicated than before. The definitive pane would be better referred to as the definitive size pane as it features the lowest ever combined value of Machins in all the history of prestige books. (I think that is true, although I am now wondering about the content of the Cookbook!) Expect a revision of this bit too in due course, with evidence.

What we have here are four 1p purples for no reason at all that I can think of, with four 1st class definitive size stamps with a photograph of the four band members as they were in the 1970s, all surrounding a strange label from one of the album covers.

I shall have to list all this stuff but I would really be quite happy not to see another prestige book. Whereas once I would have been writing to The Times and all and sundry to complain if a prestige book came out without a Machin pane, now I would welcome it. I would neither have to buy nor concern myself with what is a mere money-making item for Royal Mail and of practically no postal use. Yes, we can use the stamps but I have only admiration for those of you who collect just used stamps and who don't cheat by buying two books and sending the contents of one to yourself or good friends!

Not that that would stand that great a chance of a decent postmark anyway. These days it would be more likely to arrive either just as clean as it left you a few days before or with some heavy scrawl across it courtesy of your postman obeying one of many instructions to help prevent re-use of unmarked stamps.

Back in the 1970s my dear old friend Ugo Vincent could be seen making his way slowly from Abbots to Kings Langley in Hertfordshire where the good people behind the counter in Kings Langley Post Office would spend a great deal of time carefully placing round handstamps on the stack of envelopes he prepared for his stamp collecting friends. Yes, my used collection of late 1960s to late 1970s GB issues are very finely used indeed!

March 18, 2020

UK Postage rates over the years

I have updated the charts I last published in 2017 as we approach the latest increase in UK postage rates. 1st Class rates will start at 76p and 2nd Class 65p from 23 March. You'll see just how good an investment NVI stamps have been, especially those bought in 2006 or thereabouts!

Acknowledgements to http://www.wolfbane.com/rpi.htm for the RPI data. The UK rates I have recorded myself for many years.

2020 New Definitive Values, James Bond and London 2020

The Queen Victoria 1d black, 2d blue and 1d red from 1840/1 return once more in a London 2020 booklet. You will recognise these from a few years ago when the 175th anniversaries were noted in 2105/6. I like the idea but the Queens head and value tablet placing has always jarred slightly with me. Having said that, I can't think of where else they could go. I might have been tempted to replace Victoria with Elizabeth II and change the text to 1ST CLASS and 2ND CLASS. In fact I might try that in my editing program and if it works I'll share the results here just for fun.

We also have a Concrete & Clay booklet and a Prestige booklet marking James Bond films.

The 4+2 booklet features  te 1st Royal Mail red with code M20L MCIL which we have already seen.

The prestige book pane has a strange combination of the Union Flag 1st and the Scottish Saltire 2nd so that's going to upset the Welsh and Northern Ireland people for a while. Then there are 2 very tired looking 2p deep greens and a couple of 2nd Class blues. the Scottish stamps have the later serif-style value tablet but the UK one is the older sans serif type, not that we've had the later type for that stamp. Now might have been a good time to change that although quite why we get this combination is anyone's guess.

This pane, being planned and presumably produced sometime previously, features stamps with the code M19L MPIL. The 2p looks very much like the one in the February 2019 book but the 2nd Class stamp looks, to me, a quite new 'baby blue' shade. It also appeared in the February 2019 book so I'll have to dig that out to compare. It'll probably turn out to be the same as Cartor would, I guess, just bring out the colours from last year in whatever process is used. Not a tube of paint, I know, but some sort of formula that can be readily repeated.

The main event this month is the issue of the new definitives, supposedly to meet demand for the new rates coming into force in a few days. This has become a regular March (or sometimes April) affair and I do look forward to it, albeit with some trepidation now that the combined total is £29.80!!



The official colour names are:
£1.42 garnet red
£1.63 sunset red
£1.68 tarragon green
£2.42 purple heather
£2.97 rose pink
£3.66 harvest gold
£3.82 holly green

I recognise a few of these.




The regionals are all just as we've seen for many years now with just new values. I can't remember seeing the black outline on the Northern Ireland higher value but that's probably my memory rather than anything new. Perhaps that was introduced when the font changed and I didn't notice.

Whilst these designs do reflect the nations well I am surprised they have not been changed since 1999. There are so many items or scenes which could be representing the four nations that could be used and I am also surprised that the designs have remained such that some values are not at all easy to read. I suspect that they are little used and no-one really cares. Those businesses who have sheets of them for particular product postage needs are so used to looking for the yellowy-brown or purple one that I guess staff don't need to bother about the value tablet either. One reason for retaining the designs, I guess.

Right, now to move once more rows of stamps from page t page to make room for all of these unexpected values. I really should have learned my lesson by now and left a lot more room between values.

March 08, 2020

Visions Of The Universe and a £1.55 pale marine turquoise

The £1.55 pale marine turquoise gets dull fluor and a slightly pale shade but is still M19L code.

The other additions arriving a little while ago were the two Machin panes in the Visions of the Universe book, marking the 200th Anniversary of the Royal Astrological Society.

On this pane there are new 1p, 2p and £1.35 stamps from Cartor with the M19L MPIL code.

On this pane there are new 5p and 10p stamps with the M19L MPIL code, each paler than the previous similar code issues in the StarWars and Queen Victoria books.

The England and Wales regionals could be new shades, the English 1st seeming somewhat deeper terracotta and the Welsh dragon looking a bit paler grey. The Northern Ireland and Scotland stamps appear to match those issued in 2018.

Prepare yourselves for some big expenditure later this month with the new postal rate issues! With each stamp now attempting to cover postage rates of £2 or more life is not cheap in the Machin collectors' world in March. So expensive that my local Post Office almost certainly will not hold any stock of them, preferring instead the pay-as-he-goes Horizon label printer and having less money tied up in stock. I did offer to purchase his entire stock of 1st and 2nd Class stamps in the knowledge that the total would be quite a modest and affordable sum.

January 27, 2020

More about Horizon labels

It has taken a while but I think I now have a reasonably good idea of the development of these labels. Much of the information I gleaned from Postage Labels of the UK, a blog by Brian Sinnott. I would link to it but the text is peppered with links to what look unsavoury products and it looks very much like it has been compromised and I suspect the links might lead to trouble rather than any product. He also stops at the end of September 2017 but, if you can navigate around the bad stuff there is a huge amount of valuable data on labels of various sorts from around 2008.

Some more recent information has come from Norvic Philatelics' blog.

It has all taken quite a bit of finding, though, so here I shall try and set out the basics to date so that, together with the last couple of articles and others to follow, you can find some degree of Chapter & Verse here by searching for Horizon.

The first gold labels were first trialled in Camden Town High Street in June 2009 with the first official issue being to Post Offices in Wales in April 2010. Before that, white labels with similar content had been around for some time. The white labels had no security features and were withdrawn in July 2010. I expect you'll come across white labels dated later where an Office had old stock to use up.

This is one of the early gold labels, with a bold font and the date in dd/mm/yy format.

Some time in 2010 the format changes to dd-mm-yy and the fonts and alignment are tweaked for a better presentation.

The gold labels had a pattern of curved slits - one in each corner and several at the top, bottom and on each side. I have darkened the image below so that these can be seen a little more clearly.

This pattern continued through to some time in December 2011.

In August 2010 an imperforate version was trialled in London and it looks like the first official issue date for what I prefer to call the straight edge labels (as the original 'perforation' was purely a design thing) would be 13 September 2010.

So the first straight edge issues will have the slits at top and bottom centre too.

Shortly after release, at the end of December 2010 there is a change of software that prints the date in dd/mm/yy format again rather than dd-mm-yy

As Post Offices will have had stock of the old perforate-style labels the dd/mm/yy format will be seen on both straight ede and perforated-style labels for some time.

Both De La Rue and Walsall have printed the gold labels. I have not been able to find out when Walsall first came on the scene. I presume, as De La Rue did the trials in 2009, that they have been printing them all the time with Walsall coming in later. When I don't know.

The illustrations below indicate how you can distinguish between the two printings.

The Walsall printing has a background of what appear to be mostly continuous lines running slightly down to the left. There is a clearly discernible gap in the two sections of the corner slits.

The De La Rue printing has a much less clearly defined background, one person describing it more as a stream of morse code running, as Walsall's, slightly at an angle top to bottom. The gap between the two sections is very small and, indeed, the corner slit looks to me to be one section.

In October 2011 accounting codes are added to the data displayed.

As far as I can tell each service indicator has a different accounting code. So all 1Ls will have .b and I am not too concerned with what they may or may not mean.

Life seems to be fairly peaceful for a while now and it is not until May 2015 that we hear about the new 'white label. Officially it appears to go live in September 2015 and looks a little bit odd.

Slits remain at the right corners and down the right side only. There is a 'postmark' at the bottom right corner. I suspect that this element was designed by the same person who thought a perforation-style edge might make people regard it with the same respect they had for stamps.

Yes, there was a reason for the large white empty space; QR codes were added from November 2015, although clearly not in software at the Post Office in the illustration above!

A major redesign of the layout of data is now evident, with various code numbers or letters being placed in the postmark area too for reasons I have yet to understand.

At some point around September 2016 an adjustment is made to drop the Royal Mail text from the Signed For labels.

That would seem to bring things up to date, with these labels still being used at the time of writing and I have not seen or heard of any imminent changes.

The only other item is the similar looking Self Service labels that are now being produced by machines at some Post Offices. This was trialled in September 2016 and I have referred to this in my previous articles. Indeed it was this oddity arriving on a package that made me look again at the box full of Horizon labels that had remained more or less untouched for ten years. It is, though, a separate thing.

I have made a list of the different identifiers. View it at this link. (I have used this facility to avoid constantly editing this post). I make it 38, but several of those are replacements for others and not every group of labels will have every code, some being deleted before a change and others not being introduced during the period of another group. I would love to add some dates to when they were first enabled and when they were deleted so that we could make a better job listing what you might find (and save you looking for something that doesn't exist!)

I will keep looking and add data to the sheet as and when I get it.

The labels featured here are, in my view, worthy of collectors' time. At first glance they may seem a bit big and some are downright ugly but there is plenty for collectors to look out for. There is a huge list of service indicators although I am not too concerned with some of them. The BFPO ones, for example, I can happily ignore, and the Shopping Return ones which I guess only people working at the stores will see. I'll be happy to have one of each type by each printer (where both are available) and maybe an example from each year would be nice.

Whatever the case, these do have one big advantage in my book; they're really something used for postage and not merely issued for collectors like porcelain figures and plates in Sunday Magazines and it shouldn't cost the Earth to acquire a lot of them. Well, unless dealers start reading this and realising how few there might be of some types . . . luckily it is all quite complicated and, hopefully for a while, amateur Ebay sellers still won't tell the difference between the common and the good stuff.

January 26, 2020

Even further beyond the pale.

I decided to take a closer look at what was in the box of labels I had collected and, as I had taken pictures of the different labels, I might as well share them here in case anyone is interested. I will add headings for what seem to be distinct groups but I won't bother with any other identification as that's pretty obvious. Apparent duplicates in groups will be for different years in which they were used and/or a Welsh version.

I do seem to recall that there are more types of security slits or cuts and also printing variations which may require some further adjustment of these when I get a chance to look up the differences and then publish them here so others may be able to distinguish between the less obvious gold label groups.

As and when I find some more informed and accepted 'groups' or terminology I'll update this post - so these are just my own basic findings.

Group 1

Perforation-style edge, Security cuts, DD-MM-YY date style


Group 2a

Different date display, DD/MM/YY, bold service font

Group 2b

Similar to Group 2 but normal font weight

Group 3 

As Group 2 but with Royal Mail + dot code

Group 4

Straight edge, No Royal Mail dot code, DD-MM-YY date style

Group 5

Straight edge, No Royal Mail dot code, DD/MM/YY date style

Group 6

As Group 5 but now Royal Mail + dot code

Group 7

White paper, Group 6 style, security slits on right side only

Group 8

QR Code, 'Royal Mail' in title, security slits right side only.

Group 9

QR code, 'Royal Mail' omitted from title, security slits right side only

Group 10

Year code in background, re-arranged and new data, no security slits

From Self Service machines and with slightly smaller dimensions.

This is very much work in progress rather than a definitive guide, more to help me see what I have as it is much simpler to look at these images than sift through the real labels which, being attached to all kind of card or material, are not that easy to handle or file away. The security slits make most of these labels difficult to remove and then they are still sticky on the back or flimsy and prone to damage. So they'll be staying where they were and I'll have to think about storage and display.

Whilst I am only too well aware that many will wonder what on Earth drives me to collect and write about these I can only offer in my defence the fact that these are, at least, all 100% postally used items!! So much of the other new material coming in will never see the front of an envelope or a sorting office.

On that note, I have found in amongst the several hundred Horizon labels (if I can still call the nearly square things that) precisely six Post And Go labels, none of which had any picture or overprint either. I shall collect them - but solely used ones, so I don't expect I shall be needing a massive album for them just yet!

That can never, of course, be a complete collection so it will be something similar to what we used to have when we were young and had a few stamps from different countries. We knew then that we would be extremely unlikely to have all the stamps from any particular set and gradually we lost interest in most of the pages as we decided to specialise in an area where we might hope to have fewer gaps over the years. I'll stick 'em in, using an old 1970s pack of stamp hinges that I've still got. It'll be like old times.

As for these big and quite ugly labels, I feel there is some chance of attaining completeness insofar as types of print, security features and data presentation is concerned, once I can figure out what's missing. Then there is the task of finding the range of the different services. That's trickier as there do seem to be quite a few different 'service' names and abbreviations used even in just 10 years, some of which will be very hard to find. Unlike rare variations of Corgi Toys, however, I am hoping that these things will not yet have become very appealing to many people and I can acquire most at a modest outlay. I mean, seriously, who would want to charge me more than a few shillings for these?!