March 11, 2023

More QEII stamps with the Flying Scotsman


The latest prestige book would be a much more pleasant item to have on the top of the pile if it is the final one with QEII content. The content itself, though, with 12 different commemoratives and the now familiar bit still bizarre pane of Machins, is a hotchpotch that rather spoils the overall impression. Plenty of good text and illustrations for the steam train lovers but I don't see why 8 Flying Scotsman stamps were needed as well as a further 4 LNER or associated ones in a different style and format.

As for the Machins, where once there were 12 and then 8 there are now just four and, in this edition, only two denominations. A 20p green and a £2 blue. The head looks slightly paler on the 20p so I would say this is a separate issue for the collection (and, of course, the bar code will indicate its source too) and the £2 is the first from Cartor.

I shall stop collecting these books when King Charles takes over the panels. They are horrendously expensive now and, as I have said on many other occasions, the content is of minimal interest and the stamps merely one-offs which will be listed in catalogues as quite expensive singles but virtually never used as stamps. It will be quite a relief to abandon them. They remind me so much of those advertisements that use to be on the back cover of Sunday Magazines for limited edition sets of pottery, figurines or something. Along similar lines I have complete blue books of the 1977 QEII 25th Anniversary issues with stamps from probably every British Commonwealth country, including the Miniature Sheets and various variations on the theme available at the time. A colleague and I had committed to subscribing to Urch Harris for the whole lot but never anticipated the vast quantities that came our way. We bought the books to store them in, the pages and mounts and the whole thing went on for ever and cost us a fortune. Luckily I had a good income in those days and could afford them in the belief that they would be 'valuable' one day. No chance. I doubt I could sell the books for a tenner each now.

February 04, 2023

X Men and a Barcode issue list

Having just written that there were no P codes for the NVIs, guess what comes along! Apparently this ghastly book was issued a couple of days ago. Oddly, mine has not arrived, although I am sure that the massive cost for the whole thing has been deducted from my card.

I do not look forward to adding this to my collection of mostly lovely Prestige Books from the Cook Book onwards. I wonder whether it could even be the last? Not the best of notes to end but we'll have tow ait and see.

So, yes, you'll have another £1 brown and a 2nd green with 22P code to add to your list.

Whilst the £1 stamp will be very similar to the other book issues, I find there is always a bit of a difference between Cartor issues.

Below is a list I have made so far of the new barcode issues which might be a useful reference. I have yet to check some printers and dates.


Big barcode NVIs from February 2022

 I seem to have forgotten to show the new 1st, 2nd, 1st large and 2nd Large stamps issued in the new format on 1 February 2022

With each also available in business sheets and booklets there are a few different codes.

2nd 22, 22B, 22E
2nd Large 22, 22B 22F
1st 22, 22B 22F 22 E
1st Large 22 22B 22F

I think that's all for now. So far, none have appeared in prestige booklets so no P, Bob.

The Stones, Transformers and Tutankhamun

I haven't written since August and, of course, a lot has happened. We have the end of an era as Machin stamps will finally cease to be produced. When we don't know as it will be some time yet before we have the first King Charles III definitives so I need to keep going a little longer. In a way I do hope Mr Machin didn't knock up a bust of Prince Charles which some bright spark at Royal Mail decides to use! 

With so few stamps being used on envelopes or packages these days, collecting has become a little lacking in soul, we get the new issues from some place or another and dutifully put them in our books. There's no ta great deal of variety these days either with just two main printers and much more careful quality control to stop less well-finished items slipping out into our lucky hands from time to time.

I can't even buy all the denominations currently available from my local Post Office. that says it all. Recently, with the announcement that our old stamps without a bar code would cease to be postally valid by around now, I had stripped all the duplicates from my albums and packed them all up to exchange for shiny new barcode issues. I had been using B Alan to supply me with all the new Machins for years and years but also had supplies from the Philatelic Bureau in Edinburgh. The dealer would only include me on a Machin subscription service if I had the regular new issues too - hence the duplication. Before sending them off I had used a few to make up most of the postage for a parcel but there was a balance of a few pence still due. The chap at the Post Office counter had to take 10p from my credit card as he didn't have any stamps he could use to make up that simple amount!

The new sheets arrived and, just in case I later discover that these are different in some way to the initial stamps supplied to me by B Alan or the Burau, I have kept one of each different denomination just in case! I did start to use them and then stopped as I am sure that there will be a substantial increase in April so I'll get more value from them by waiting until then. Indeed, I may well be tempted to put them away for another year or two if savings rates stay at the very low rates we have at the time of writing. When people talked about stamps being a good investment, that wasn't what they meant but these NVI issues may well be. Those with a set denomination will, of course, get used. I had about £400's worth in total from duplicates going back to 2000 or so. I do still have duplicates going way back to the 1960s but I think most of them are worth more than their face value so they can stay where they are and my children can decide what to do about them as and when my own era ends.

Getting back to bringing things up-to-date here, I missed the Rolling Stones Prestige Book which had the traditional Machin pane and would have been the penultimate one of those, issued 20 January 2022.

The stamps are all M21L MPIL codes from Cartor

The Queen's Platinum Jubilee I included previously, featuring 2p, 10, 50p and £1.50 values with M21L MPIL coding too.

From here on it's all the new bar code types which really do ot suit the Prestige Book format at all. But we have to keep buying them.

You do have to despair of Royal Mail's website people - and the managers responsible too, for that matter - as I wanted to check the issue dayes and thought their web site would be a good place to go. Firstly, whilst you can buy issues you get no information as to when they were issued. Secondly, when you do find a list of new issues for 2022, this is what appears!

To be announced may have been suitable in January 2022 but, hey guys, we're now in February 2023!!
 Yes, I know I am rather behind the times and rapidly trying to get my data back up-to-date but at least I am (a) making an effort and (b) apologising to people for being slow.

I eventually discover that the Transformers Prestige book was issued on 1 September 2022 and has the same 50p and £1 bar code stamps as the Unsung Heroes issue but these have M22L MPIL codes, Cator now having found the P for its background overlay printing machine.

The last book I have is the 24 November book for Tutankhamun. This has 10p, 20p values and a strange £1.85 denomination for your collection, each with M22L MPIL codes.

All these are quite distinct from the sheet issues.

For good measure, here's what we can expect in 2023:

Just the one "to be announced" this year! Which will have Prestige Books I don't yet know but no doubt one of my readers will. I ought to do a bit more research but this catching-up business is pretty time-consuming so any help appreciated!

August 11, 2022

New Regionals with codes


Here are the new Regionals, following the changes made for definitives and NVIs. I am quite surprised that the opportunity was not taken to bring in some fresh designs for these four nations. They were pleasantly different and original way back in 1999 but whilst some still work well others have not stood the test of time so well.

The Northern Ireland 1st Class has never seemed right, stretching the Emerald Isle idea to the limit with some fields which I would not be at all surprised to discover were a graphic designer's choice from generic stock photos and may well be an aerial view not far from me here in sunny Northamptonshire!

For what is now the top value we have an oak tree, a thistle, a leek and some embroidery instead of a potato or whatever we should associate with Northern Ireland. Had I been on the committee at the time I am sure I would have voted against the decidedly grimy looking leek as being rather sad for the Welsh and the NI stamp on the grounds that the value tablet is invariably most unclear. Adopting four plants, a rose, a thistle, a daffodil and a shamrock (?), or some variations on the theme, would surely have been more attractive and consistent.

I shall stop moaning now and let you enjoy these new issues with their false perforation lines and codes. You can also have fun trying to figure out where in the main image you can find the code section colour used! Just for fun I have removed that perforation line from the English 2nd Class and I am not sure it isn't actually a better looking stamp. With the gap now evident closed a little that would, in my opinion, be an improvement. That line strikes me as a failure of design. You really should not have to draw perforation lines and the ellipses jar rather.

May 25, 2022

White spots before your eyes. Distinguishing the new 50p and £1.


You will see straightaway that the QR codes on the Prestige book stamps are quite different from the sheets issues. For a moment, I thought this would enable us to distinguish one from the other. But no, of course, as each individual stamp will have a different QR code and that will not help after all!

I suppose it is feasible that part of the design might remain constant to reflect the common source but I would need someone to advise me on that one. There will be something in the long string of characters that will be produced but identifying that amongst the mass of white squares is not something I am going to attempt without guidance!

The slight difference in size of the issues here is purely down to my inconsistent cropping of the later images. Apologies. The colour difference should also be ignored.


Update 16 June 2022

I am grateful to Lew Paterson for looking at the QR codes for these (and some other) issues. Here are his findings.

The 4 codes for these illustrations are:

JGB S19981017031001847760010025012201 F6B51D5D00FE2D5801

JGB S19941017031004573840010012012201 7A2413CCC098BDEB01

JGB S19981017031000997760005024012201 53FAA4B2899ACD6801

JGB S19941017031005321590005011012201 D1E0328AE6EDE24501

Possibly the first of each pair, has S1998 while the second has S1994 - could these be different source codes? Yep, just tried my own - S1998 is the Prestige sheet while S1994 is the counter sheets

Looking further, the counter, Book of 8, book of 4 and business stamps use S11 for normal stamps and S12 for large stamps with the last 2 digits in the 20s for 2nd class and in the 10s for 1st class.

First and last prestige book panes

I wondered out loud what might appear in Prestige books and here we have one. The Unsung Heroes Women Of World War II has what may be the face of panes to come.

Just five of the new style definitives with a slightly incongruous looking label. Now I am sure that the label is the same size as the stamps but it looks odd to me. Maybe the need for a label has gone, now that the pane is self-adhesive and not a sort of miniature sheet like we have had in the past.

The stamps are just two denominations, reducing the excitement still further - the 50p and £1 in what appears to be a pretty similar colour to the stamps we've seen already. Clearly, or maybe I should not say clearly as it is not at all clear without a QR code reader, the chunk of code on the right will distinguish these as issues from the Prestige Book but that would seem to be all.

Whereas the normal Machins of old had the MPIL part of the code after the year element M21L or whatever, these stamps have only M22L. MAIL appears to remain as MAIL across the stamps as far as I can see.

It is a little curious and could make used examples difficult to identify. Having said that, just how many used examples of these particular 50p and £1 stamps do we seriously think we will ever see? Apart from those that dealers post to themselves, my guess is zero. So let's not worry about that. 'Used Machins' is a subject for another day when I have a spare few hours to type and you have a spare few minutes to read.

I have not studied these in great depth and maybe we'll discover some difference in printing as I suspect that these come from Cartor and the others are from Walsall. I don't wish to offend the good folk at Cartor but, so far, I have found their end products rather lower in quality and impression than brothers Walsall and the masterful De La Rue, of whom we hear little nowadays. These seem rather better than previous ware - as I said, I cannot quickly detect a difference but I expect it will be a quality or finish matter that does distinguish these.

Presumably the last Machin pane in traditional style is, suitably, contained in the Platinum Jubilee Prestige book. This emerged in February but I forgot to write about it then.

Here we have some repeats in a 2p, 10p and 50p with M21L MPIL codes but a new £1.50 with this code. Indeed, this is the first time a £1.50 stamp has appeared in anything other than a sheet. It looks quite a bright issue to me and that might distinguish stamps from this pane from others if you encounter singles.

April 04, 2022

The new definitives


Following the release of 1st and 2nd stamps in the new larger size with barcodes, April sees 14 new stamps with specific values. These come in two styles  - similar to the 1st and 2nd Class stamps, the four new standard rates for various services have a strong-coloured background. The second type is an interesting development, with a white background and the inks just applied to a rectangle border for the stamp and the head and value tablet and barcode, of course.

These are reminiscent of the 2000 issue. Values follow the sensible 1-2-5 principle with a £3 intruder. These are attractive and, with less ink splashing around perhaps they will be even less likely to have mistakes. I'll be looking out for breaks in the border where a pixel or two might be more noticeable than it would have been on a full colour background.

It remains to be seen whether future denominations, and the NVIs, will stay with full colour backgrounds or follow the new series. Whilst these are still Machins, it is a new section in the Machin collection and a welcome opportunity to take a breather and finally re-arrange those that have gone before! I wonder what prestige books will contain? If they also follow the new styles then I need not worry any more about how much space to leave between £1 and £2 denominations!

May 12, 2021

The Big Stamp with a Barcode


Just as you may have thought that there wouldn't be much more of interest in Machins, along comes the Big 2nd. It's big because it is 38mm x 30mm including perforations. the 'stamp' part, excluding perforations is 22½mm x 28mm compared to 18mm x 22mm for the familiar size stamp area.

Separated by a rather bizarre printed 'perforation' line is a panel containing what I believe is now referred to as a 2D barcode. I still call these things, whether square or rectangular, QR codes and the app on my phone is a QR reader but, whatever you wish to call it, this is a big new addition.

Each of these panels contains a set of characters which will be unique for each label. The one illustrated above and below have these sets of characters:

JGBS1123101703 114139229 00066 231120 01 D7F8DD75094BEF1 501
JGBS1123101703 123311783 00066 040121 01 140D0D76722095E 501

Messrs. B Alan Ltd have made some intelligent guesses as to the translation of some of these and you will be able to identify a date and a value fairly easily. One was printed on 23/11/2020 and the other 04/01/21, both having a denomination at the time of 66p.

There are other educated guesses they make regarding the position of the label on a sheet of labels but that's about as far as anyone can go. 

This label I can envisage having several purposes as well as the obvious security function. It will prevent the label being used twice without penalty when scanned by new reading devices at sorting offices. I am sure this happens a lot at the moment with very few of my stamps ever being franked or marked. The security slits do make them difficult to take off an envelope but I have seen plenty of instances where the stamp and backing have just been cut out and stuck on another envelope. You may think this is an obvious ruse but how do we know that someone simply needed to use a different envelope and the transfer is entirely innocent? So that's one purpose.

Another could be to enable us to track items to which this label has been applied. I can see an app being launched in time to come which will let us see where our post may or may not be

Something no-one has mentioned so far that I have seen is the possible effect of including a denomination. For many years we have been able to hoard piles of NVI stamps and defer payment of new higher rates. When a particularly large increase is announced in advance then there is a great incentive to go and buy as many as you can as the stock will be worth considerably more a few weeks later. I am sure people have done this and even sold sheets at a price to businesses that still represents a discount on the new rate but gives the seller a worthwhile profit. This new code will, however, specify an amount - 66p in this case - and I can well imagine that this could determine the 'value' of the label when used in part-payment of postage and, more significantly, in future when 2nd Class postage may increase to, say, 70p and we'll be asked for another 4p, or whatever the difference happens to be at the time.

It is suggested that the Big size is not a permanent thing and that the stamp area may reduce to normal size, with a proportionately smaller label to the side, and that this concept may be spread across some other denominations. 

I can imagine that there was much debate about whether to include the wavy line to imitate perforation and those promoting this won. Here's what a 1st Class might look like without it!

The second printing that I have of the 2nd Class issue has a slightly different shade and a much more reflective ink for the background. This does not show in these scanned images, however, but is most noticeble in daylight at an angle.

Both issues bear the normal code M21L MBIL.

Back down to normal size, there is a 21 code 1st Class Business sheet issue. M21L MBIL.

The 10p light tan has a bright fluor. Still M20L MAIL code.

A noticeably brighter shade of bright blue for this 2nd Class issue, from business sheets.