February 28, 2013

Re distribution!

I have sung the praises of B Alan Ltd. before and it was a pleasure to re-enrol on their distribution service. They talk about Machins in my language - losing me sometimes on some delicate detail about some printing but for the most part explaining where new items come from and most I would have missed. I am also pleased to have the account number H111 which is particularly appropriate!

The first distribution arrived a little while ago and, as well as duplicating Royal Mail's standard bits and pieces had some interesting additions.

First up is the Christmas 1st class that is issued to staff as a 'thank you' for their extra work over the period. This year some will have received sheets with the matrix still present and without rouletting on the reverse. Not Machin, I know, but I am coming to the view that the small Christmas issues are definitive and will be adding them to my catalogue as B Alan have done.

They make a distinction between Post and Gos and Post and Gos with overprints, making the reasonable point that the overprints effectively turn these into 'commemoratives'. I am happy to go along with that and may well stop bothering with even the declared low number of overprints to be authorised. Another change to my catalogue in a category I'd only just created!

The Machin Post and Gos are also now coming with the new font, making another six to acquire if you are collecting each denomination.

The Christmas issue, using the Robin is from an earlier Birds issue but reprinted so it is a separate collectable item for Post and Gos, in particular as it has the new type 3a font with the left alignment and stronger face. This has the BPMA overprint. I need one without that.

Birds III Worldwide 40g (scarce)

1st Robin with different font spacing and alignment?

Robin with blank denomination

There have also been found some Birds 1 Post and Gos with the Worldwide 40g denomination - offices believed to have had an old roll left over when by all rights they should have been used up well before the new rate was introduced! These are very scarce and, at £215 for the set of six designs, not a cheap item.

For Machin proper definitives there is, of course, the following - look for the different codes if you'd thought several were all the same!

DLR with date code 12:

1p maroon 2B
2p dark green 2B
5p ash pink 2B
10p light tan 2B
20p light green 2B
50p slate grey 2B
£1 wood brown 2B


1st Large red 2B
1st red 2B

Enschede NVI

1st red 2B code R and 12


1st red 2B code C and 12
1st red 2B code T and 12
1st red 2B code S and 12

1st Large red 2B code F and 12

1st Large red 2B code B and 12 with short bands at bottom
1st red 2B code B and 12

Specialist items

A 19p Harrison in deep yellowish-olive CB has been found in strips of 5 from a coil. That means an extra space being required in 1993 issues!

DLR 87p orange 2B code 12 with short phosphor bands at the bottom
This is from a 30/3/13 printing and scarce.

Wal 1st red 2B code 12+C with short iridescent overprint at top
Wal 1st red 2B code 12+C with inset right phosphor band


Lastly, like me, they include the pictorial regionals as definitives and we have:
England 1st lion 2B with a grey head, not silver, printed by Cartor
Wales 2nd leek CB by Cartor

Coil strips

Enschede 1st red 2B + inkjet number
coil strip of the Harrison 19p deep yellowish olive

Quite a lot to sort through and, by now, there should be variations of many appearing with date code 13! Just in case you had thought of settling down for a while!

February 16, 2013

On the Horizons

Although it's very big and 'parcely' and only comes in used form* the gold Horizon label that appeared in 2009 deserves a place in a Machin collection. It has taken a while but I think I have worked out which types are which and why now.

Type 1
Perforated style edge
Thick font
Slits all around
Date style //
no VAT .code
Type 1a
Perforated style edge
Thin font
Date style - -
no VAT .code
Type 1b
Perforated style edge
Thin font
Date style //
with  VAT .code
Type 2
Straight edges
Thin font
Date style - -
no VAT .code
Type 2b
Straight edges
Thin font
Date style //
with VAT .code
 Types 1 and 2 have slits all around. Type 2a and 3 have slits just down the sides.
Type 2a
same as Type 2b but with slits just left and right
Type 3
Printed by Walsall. I am still trying to find an easy way to tell Walsall Type 3 apart from DLR Type 2a!
My site listing has 8 entries but I am not sure one of them exists. That's the Type 1a with // date style. I have a feeling that you will only get the // date style with the later VAT .code types. When the change from fat font to thin font was made the // date style changed to - - and only reappeared when the set-up was changed to add a VAT .code.

More likely, actually, now I think about it, might be a Type 2 straight edge with a fat font if someone had the new supply of blanks but hadn't updated the printing machine software. That's pretty unlikely too, though.

So I reckon there are just 7 types to look for at the moment which means you should have a good chance of getting this part of your collection 'complete' quite easily. That is assuming, of course, that you're not looking to get every service indicator. There are about 20 of them so you'll need 140 items which I guess exist but some will be hard to find! I quite like the fact that you can't just buy these over the counter, take them home and put them in an album. Well, you could send some packages to yourself I suppose but you won't know what type of label they'll affix unless you get a chance to peer over a friendly PO Counter staff's shoulder, I suppose.

This brings collecting right back to our earliest days (well, my earliest days - you may have been lucky and had someone who bought you all the new issues) when it was just those on envelopes that we had. It's a pity they're so damn big but, apart from that, I am happy to include them and have realised that they're there before prices start to rise. You should be able to get most label types for under a £1 and it may well be worthwhile buying a big bag or two to see what variations you can find. I may well have to extend that list when I get mine. No-one really knows what to charge at the moment. The postage value isn't terribly relevant so it's just down to rarity and only time will tell in that respect. At present the most expensive are the Type 2s with codes at about £2. I would have thought it would have been the older Type 1s with codes but they're just £1.

It is, though, very early days and there's not much interest yet so much depends upon whether others like me decide they're collectable or not.

*You can buy blanks from some dealers. I'm not sure how they got hold of them and they're not actually stamps at all without the overprint but are attractive and informative background additions for a collection and, not having been through the rigours of being attached to soft bendy packages, thrown around sorting rooms and vans, may display more clearly some of the differences between 1, 2a and 3.

February 13, 2013

New code on 1st red - already!

Norvic Philatelics report that the 1st red in books of 6 is now appearing with a M13L code in place of the M12L code on release. Check your copies and look out for the revised one as this is unlikely to be supplied by the Bureau. You may need to take a magnifying glass to some local retailers!

Definitely definitive?

One of the fundamentals about collecting stamps is the desire to gather complete sets of issues. We can argue about the depths of desire involved - the extent to which we are prepared to overlook minor changes - but that completeness is a key feature. Whilst my main interest is Machins, I have also regarded what used to be clearly definitive issues as a vital part of my collection and the occasional forays the Post Office made into non-Machin designs were essential additions.

The 1d black anniversary issues, therefore, required no second thought - even though they commemorated something, they were the same size and, of course, what they commemorated was indeed the ultimate definitive itself! They were also Machins in my view, and most others', from the start anyway so that was a simple decision.

The Greetings stamps that first appeared in 1989 were fun and didn't commemorate anything but then neither had Birds or a host of preceding theme-like issues so in my mind at the time they were a separate and non-definitive group. Similarly, Christmas stamps didn't bother me in the slightest. Until the flag one appeared.

First there was this one:

and later this one:

The first flag came with a similarly sized sunflower, Hello, Love, Teddy and the robin in a letter box. I was just about able to dismiss those as 'Greetings' or 'Christmas' and safely non-definitive but the flag bothered me, especially as it was the right size.

Definitives had also, almost exclusively, been that small standard size so something else appearing in those dimensions triggered 'definitive' in my brain in late 2005 and has been firing queries ever since. I was, however, I now recall, quite happy to dismiss the bigger horizontal format flag issues as not definitive so I think I have finally satisfied that portion of my mind that was asking questions at inconvenient moments and worrying me about that completeness thing.

Douglas Myall, the Lord of all that is Machin, wrote in the September 2012 Philatelic Bulletin on this subject and, whilst he made excellent points there, he concluded with "In my view, an important feature of a definitive is that the main element of the design must be a portrait of the monarch". I have trouble with that conclusion as it would imply that the Castles High Values, from 2/6 to the £5 in 1988 and later reproduced as a miniature sheet in 2005 were not definitives whereas I would never have thought they could be anything but definitive.

My logic for that statement further helps my sorting out my brain too; if you needed a 10/- stamp in those earlier days then the blue Castle 10/- was what the Post Office gave you. There wasn't anything else. So it was the definitive 10/- stamp. If you are in Northern Ireland and wander into a Post Office and ask for a 1st Class stamp then the chances are that you'll be handed a small standard size green stamp with fields on. There hasn't been any other Northern Ireland 1st Class stamp since 1998 (ignoring the one-off Design book in 2000 which produced a unique 1st NI Machin!). So I would call that pretty definitive. Maybe that's a good name: Pretty definitives!

I remember writing back in 1999, when there were thoughts that the Machin series might end, that I wouldn't mind seeing sets of new definitives for each country featuring buildings or views so the Northern Ireland issues sat happily as definitives, as did the other non-Machin Regionals. I suppose that if I were to extend that thought further then one would have to consider again anything vaguely 'national' that isn't commemorating anything as definitive. Heavens, that would bring in the 2005 Farm Animal stamps which are even the right size! And those flags.

Well, it might, I say to myself hurriedly, had they been the prime items that would have been supplied to requests for a particular denomination stamp. But they weren't. Even the ubiquitous Hello stamps didn't manage that status, although selling them in booklets did make them pretty popular. But not definitive. The Machins have always been that. That's not to say you can only have the one definitive at a time for any denomination or that it has to be widely available or we'd have trouble with many items that were only available for a short period but were none the less very much definitives.

So, until it looks as though a new series is going to replace the Machins, all these others are also-rans in the Definitive Stakes. Despite Royal Mail calling the Olympic small size 1st and Worldwide stamps 'definitives', they're not. In fact, they don't require any second thoughts - they're celebrating the Olympics and came out to do so and have now gone. Not exactly definitive behaviour so I shall ignore that classification by our friends at Royal Mail and put it down to an alcoholic lunch by the staff at Tallents House one day when they were preparing the literature. As Douglas Myall points out, though, if you had 'special issues' only on your standing order with Tallents House you would not have received those Olympic ones which were, however, distributed to those, like myself, with a 'definitive' standing order!

The National Castles issues that featured pictures of castles as labels with a 1st Class Welsh red and green dragon, English flag and Scotland's saltire are close calls in the definitive debate. (They left Northern Ireland with just the familiar definitive fields.) It's that flag thing again. I may just defer a decision on those, although, as they were not exactly commonly available to the casual purchaser at the Post Office counter, I probably won't have too much trouble assigning them elsewhere, maybe best along with their bigger horizontal format cousins.

That does seem to have cleared my head a great deal, which was the purpose of the article.

It has also greatly reduced my imminent expenditure on necessary catch-ups as I hadn't been getting the Smiler sheets for many years. As all the items I have been debating were also issued in Smiler sheets that would have brought a whole new printer being required to be collected into the frame along with the DLRs or Walsalls for the mainstream versions where they existed. I have spent best part of a day rummaging through dealers' annoyingly badly designed websites trying to get a complete list of all the printings of the all the candidates for my catalogue in this section and that list was growing rapidly, as were the prices of some of the early items I may well have missed. Then, of course, I would need to find the equivalent DLR or Walsall versions and everything seemed to be in sheets or panes when I just wanted singles. So having decided not to include them that is one big relief!

I think, despite some of the logic I appear to have developed, what actually decided me were all those Farm Animal stamps, of which I recall seeing about three in total in use and which I have been extremely reluctant to grant the same status as a good many decent contenders, let alone as genuine definitives. They lacked class, presence, that je ne sais quoi that British definitive stamps should bear. I would have really stuggled with New Baby issues and the seemingly never-ending stream of ruddy sheets from this or that place featuring the Hello stamps. I am really not very concerned that Indonesia is doing something and rather question the need to say Hello to whatever it is. That's the way I feel about most commemoratives - I can take them or leave them, however well designed some may be. So that Smilers list can grow and grow for all I care and Cartor can have special techniques, apps and sheets of all sorts and I can happily ignore them for a while, except for the occasions when they do feature their version of a real definitive, of course.

I was about to relax and finish this when I looked through the lastest material from Royal Mail. Dragonflies take up three pages in the February Bulletin!  These Post and Gos are serious business, and that's not just in terms of income generation for Royal Mail either. Could they be the future definitive? If so, then, by definition, these early examples of the product in development will become definitive in retrospect. I have already included the Machin head and printed rate ones as definitives, as has Douglas Myall. What do I do about the Birds and the Bees, sorry ... dragonflies? If we take my casual person who wanders into Post Offices then he or she may well find they're dispensed one with a pretty picture by default. If they have to choose that then it's not a definitive. But if it gets doled out to them in some sort of Definitive of the Day fashion, then my argument breaks down.

Just as I was prepared to envisage scenes of Britain becoming a definitive issue in the course of time, so could these Birds, Farm Animals and whatever else they have up their sleeves. If these things had remained an oddity, produced only at a few locations and seldom to be seen except on Ebay, then I would have no problem not bothering about them. They do seem to be getting more widespread, though, and if 143 machines (or whatever the number of locations where they're available is now) grow it is feasible that they could become the new definitive label. Note I didn't use the term stamp. If they do supercede the Machins we know and love then we'll want to have had all those early ones. 

I am belatedly getting the non-pictorial ones in each denomination and type but not the overprints. As for the pictorials, I can't take the risk that they don't fade away so I'll get 1st Class examples of each to start with. 36 for each set would be a bit much, I feel. Royal Mail has the three Farm Animals issues and the Flag issue so it is only the 4 Birds I need at this time. Birds 1,3 and 4 are available at only slightly above cost but Birds 2 seems pricey. I have a bid on that so hopefully that will bring me up to date. 

One encouraging thing is that the numbers of these Post and Gos being sold, and the frequency of change, coupled with what I suspect will be inevitable tweaks to the machines, paper, printing etc. as they develop, ought to make them attain higher prices in future than normal commemoratives, if that's what they do turn out to be in the end, and that little bit more collectible. I can't say I'm excited at all about deciding to add them but it will be fascinating perhaps to return to this article, or have someone land on it in future, when wondering whatever happened to Post and Gos and were they ever definitives?!

Of course, Royal Mail's site announces that it is 'unavailable' when I try to pay for the items this evening! Typical. It's not a good site at all for collectors. Poor images and terrible navigation.

February 12, 2013

Post and Go 2nd Class

20 February sees the issue of a Post and Go that I do think Machin collectors will want. So far we've just had a rather boring olive for the 1st, 1st Large, Europe and 3 Worldwide postage rates so this more interesting shade of blue brightens things up a little.

Printed by Walsall with one phosphor band and self-adhesive.

The next day the Jane Austen commemoratives come out and two days later there's the Freshwater Life Post and Gos. I and quite glad I'm sticking to definitives. Well, what I describe as definitives, that is. (That'll be the subject of my next post!)

February 11, 2013

3 January 2013: New colours and England, Wales regional changes

An early start for new definitives in 2013! In fact, I think this is the earliest ever issue in a year and bearing in mind that Royal Mail's Tallents House staff will have had a Bank Holiday on 2 January I bet they were jolly pleased to have this lot to deal with on their return!
50p £1.00 1st red 1st large red

We have a smart colour for the 1st Class NVIs and you might be forgiven for thinking at first glance that the printers have used up their stock of diamond blue ink for the new 50p but I am assured that it is slate grey. The £1 also gets a new colour, imaginatively called wood brown. Then there are a further five items Machin collectors will need as the 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p and 20p self-adhesives now have different slit security features and a 12 code included in the overprint. These are De La Rue items.

Of course, there are also three Walsall booklets too for the usual 12 x 1st Class, 6 x 1st Class and 4 x 1st Large stamps and you'll need the London Underground booklet which emerged just a few days later on 9 January! That contains 4 x 1st Class plus two from the London Underground set.

As if that wasn't enough to start off the year, England and Wales had a change of printer for their 1st and 2nd self adhesive pictorials on 3 January.

The British Philatelic Bulletin's November issue promised a listing of all the new issues for 2012 but I have yet to see it. Despite having three pages devoted to Post and Go (which really does seem to be being pushed quite heavily) in the January issue I can find no mention of the regional issues at all so I cannot yet confirm more details and will have to look elsewhere for any differences.

I am also grateful to the 'Machin Nut' for the following information regarding codes found in the 1st and 1st Large red self-adhesives.

1st red self-adhesive with '12' code, code T
1st red self-adhesive with '12' code, code B
1st red self-adhesive with '12' code, code C
1st red self-adhesive with '12' code, code S
1st red self-adhesive with '12' code, code R

1st large red self-adhesive with '12' code
1st large red self-adhesive with '12' code, code B
1st large red self-adhesive with '12' code, code F

February 09, 2013

New Great Britain Machin site and lists now published!

It's taken some long nights to get this far but, at last, the new AHI Machin Catalogue is available on-line. take a look at ahi2000.com/machin and you'll have access to lists for each of the main areas I have updated.

The £sd Machins definitives aren't there yet but I'm working on them. The only other section to be added is the small format 'Smilers' which are neither Machin nor definitive but I reckon they need to be there for some reason best known to myself.

This has been a massive task and I may have made a few mistakes along the way which I hope either I'll spot soon enough or someone out there will tell me about.

There are links to the resources that I have found particularly useful and, whether you're new to all this and just starting out on the Machin road or pretty experienced and just want a quick checklist that is easy to view on-line, then I hope you find it a helpful site and catalogue.

2012 issues

A much more modest and pretty display for 2012, and this is one year I am so glad that I'm not collecting commemoratives or either Jubilee or Olympics themed stamps. In addition, there have been massive issues covering the nation A-Z as well as the usual selection of the weird and the wonderful. probably a wedding too, I can't remember.

Illustrations and details again with acknowledgements to Robin Harris and that's where the links on images and some items go where you can get loads more wonderful detail. I don't know the guy but I like him and reckon that if I ever go to Canada I would simply have to look him up. Perhaps when I have finally caught up, like I almost have now, and start adding my own images and the pictorial Regionals and other bits and pieces he doesn't cover, this blog might be something he lands on one day and he'll come and sample my coffee.

Whilst on the topic of good old' boys, I should mention the folk at B Alan Stamps. Way back in the 1970s I had an account with them which bore the number 8111. That kinda looked like Hill, my surname in the then computer font used which I quite liked but that's not the reason for mentioning them now. They had this distribution service whereby every few months a brown envelope would arrive stuffed with little opaque envelopes and card and in the little envelopes were varieties of Machins - printers, phosphors, perforations, head types etc that the Harrison issues, in particular, produced. These were almost impossible to get on your own as the Philatelic Bureau only dealt with the basic issues. Circumstances led to my having to drop out of that for several years and I missed all the goings on around the later 80s and early 90s which was most frustrating and it cost me a fortune to get all the necessary items later. I've been meaning to get some automatic service going again for a while now instead of looking at dealers' sites for what I seem to have missed, albeit not as much as used to be the case with the Bureau now doing a lot more than they did.

I just put B Alan into Google and, sure enough, not only were they still around but they had a decent-ish site and, most delightfully, publish a free catalogue called The Connoisseur of Machins catalogue. This is a work i progress but well done to them for what they've produced so far. Pages are in massive PDF files which can be a bit of a drag but you can, at least download them and browse through them at your leisure. Thoroughly recommended. Much more detailed thatn many people will need, which is why I think my own catalogue will still have its uses for those seeking a simple checklist without wanting to do what I have had to - scour bulletins, blogs and sites for information.

I have now enrolled again so hope that from here on, I shall have their regular news which, in addition to Robin's, Norvic's and the Bulletin, will be sufficient material from which I can select my version of what I suggest you collect, look out for, try and track down from here on.

I should also have time, at long last, to maintain this blog and my listings properly and will welcome any contributions from readers too to make this as informative and useful as possible.

I am currently working on the web site to feature the listings and will probably use Google Sheets to display the lists so that they can be readily updated. It's just a matter of making it all look reasonably attractive and legible. My purpose in doing all this is not commercial but to help collectors old and new. I don't sell stamps but I am happy to advise on portfolios for investment or to acquire items on behalf of others and would use the services of those I've mentioned and whose resources I've used to catch up to do so.

Right, so here's what 2012 brought us...

10 January 2012

68p security (no slits), 2p (new printer) and 10p (new printer)

25 January 2012

Security Machins
68p sea green self-adhesive with '12' code
76p bright pink self-adhesive with '12' code

Not yet seen (may or may not appear before April rate change):
£1.10 lime green self-adhesive with '12' code
£1.65 sage green self-adhesive with '12' code

6 February 2012

Diamond Jubilee
souvenir sheet
O security print
B security print
T security print

Various 2012

1st diamond jubilee
S security print
C security print

£1 ruby
12 security print

1st gold
T + 12 security print

2nd light blue
B + 12 security print
T + 12 security print
R + 12 security print

2nd Large light blue
12 security print
B + 12 security print
F + 12 security print

6 February 2012

Diamond Jubilee Machin miniature sheet.

27 March 2012

Diamond Jubilee
1st Large

25 April 2012

New rate-change definitives in self-adhesive format with security slits and code

Post and Go news

February brought a Jubilee 'over'print option and on December you could choose a BPMA (British Museum of Postal Archives) 'over'print. I am guessing that with two types of machines in operation these must be available in two styles each and for the increased range of 6 denominations. That's another 12 to the list by the seems of it and I wouldn't mind betting that we'll discover a bundle of variations on the theme too!

I am beginning to wonder whether those 'over'prints are actually something I need to collect. I don't want them - it would be merely a case of feeling that I needed to. They do have a whiff of 'commemorative' about them. But then, what would my reaction be to, heaven forbid, Machin definitives being overprinted with this or that? Just as I felt obliged to get the Boots panes I may well feel obliged again. Let's hope that doesn't arise. If these things do start getting either numerous of somewhat limited as to where people can get them then I shall think again. For ow, they'll remain on the list and I hope someone can find them for me as there's no machine anywhere near here! I must check with Edinburgh - they're probably on a basic order list if I were to look. Or no doubt Mr Alan and staff will help.

Right, that's it. Thanks for reading and hope you get a flavour now of what I'm doing and will follow future (more original) posts in future.

You can also follow me on Twitter soon. Look out for the link in the sidebar. I'll be something like @StampCollector or @31ppurple - haven't decided yet.