September 28, 2013

More MA13 codes, fish and new Regional shades

Here's some freshwater life you won't find on your envelopes. These are the Post Office Presentation Pack editions. Not that you'll see that many of the 'real' ones printed by people on machines in Post Offices either. They'll be illustrated when I get them so you can see the differences which I expect will be the same as for Freshwater Life I and II but you never know.

Another Post And Go issue you may easily miss. This is the Union Flag with a Coronation overprint and with MA13 in the background. These were available only, to my knowledge, at the Stampex Exhibition earlier this month. As it seems unlikely that the same issue will be available with that overprint and in that typeface again, these could be pretty rare.

Two new Regionals appeared from May. They're not Machins, but I like them. All the Regional pictorial designs are getting pretty ancient and I am quite surprised they've lasted as long as they have. These two are Cartor reprints and the olive has become distinctly sage and the Scottish 88p much deeper.

As for Machins - you can now look out for a 10p tan, 1st red and 1st Large red, all three from De La Rue counter sheets with MA13 and no code letter and 2nd Large blue with MA13 MBIL from Walsall business sheets. My lists have been updated with these items.
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September 21, 2013

Horizons. Getting a little clearer.

I tried very hard to distinguish between the various Horizon gold labels I had, using various sites written by people with a lot better knowledge than me. You may have read the earlier post and it was a reasonable effort but I did find some of the material I was using very confusing. So I bought a pile of unsorted stuff and looked again. Here are the results, which do tie in with the erudite and the expert posts elsewhere but, perhaps, mine will be a little simpler to refer to for beginners sorting their bundles.

Well, until there are more differences discovered and the slits could well be a case in point ( I have that 1/2a feeling coming on which those who read an earlier post about self-adhesives will appreciate!)

So, here we go. My type 1 is the original with fat font and pretty obviously different.

#1 Perf Font 1 Date // No code Slit 1 DLR
 Type 2 has a thin font and a different date style.

#2 Perf Font 2 Date - -  No code Slit 1 DLR
Type 3 reverts to the // date style 
#3 Perf Font 2 Date // No code Slit 1 DLR
 Type 4 is Type 3 with a code

#4 Perf Font 2 Date / / Code Slit 1 DLR
Type 5 is an imperf version of Type 2 and one expert remarks that there are bigger gaps in the curves introduced at this time. I'm not convinced that this only applies to the imperforate ones but can't find any more anywhere about this so I won't confuse things yet. I am sure I have two different types of slits in the perforated labels. Something for another day.
#5 Imperf Font 2 Date - - No code Slit 2 DLR
Type 6 is an imperf version of Type 3 
#6 Imperf Font 2 Date / / No code Slit 2 DLR
Type 7 is an imperf version of Type 4 
#7 Imperf Font 2 Date // Code Slit 2 DLR
Type 8 is Type 7 with different slits - just down the sides 
#8 Imperf Font 2 Date // Code Slit 3 (side only) DLR
Type 9 is the Walsall print of Type 8 with a slightly different background construction and very slightly bigger gaps in some curved slits. I'm not sure the illustration below is Walsall - I will try and publish a magnified version of each of the most recent De La Rue and Walsall ones as it is not easy to tell the difference.
#9 Imperf Font 2 Date // Code Slit 4 Walsall
 Now I know that others are using different numbers and types. Once it has all settled down and one of the series becomes definitive then I will adopt that one. For now, they're just Types 1 to 9 in my list! Sorry if that is troublesome but I can't decide which to follow yet.
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September 19, 2013

Ships, a Morris Minor van and two new Machins

This week sees the Merchant Navy prestige book and a new 6 1st book of the 4 Machins +2 special issue type. The special issues stamps are interesting in that the prestige book has an Enschede pane with the Royal Mail Ship stamps gummed but the small book has a Walsall self-adhesive version.

There is also a nice pane of four stamps in greyscale which I think are just illustrating the Merchant Navy (the others being part of Post Office transport). The four Merchant Navy stamps have no text at all, just the 1st denomination. As I write this, I cannot quickly recall another issue, other than definitives, that have had no descriptive text but that is more likely to be down to poor memory than an indication of anything significant.

I shall give that more thought before I am inundated with comments highglighting something terribly obvious.

Anyway, that's about as much attention as I have ever paid to special issues - on to the Machins. The 5p is new in several respects. Its gummed with security features. OK, so far, similar to Dr Who and Football book panes - except this is Enschede, not Cartor and Dr Who was M12L anyway. But there is another difference too - for the first time I have noticed, the ellipses in the perforation are near the top, not the bottom.

The 5p also looks a duller, more grey shade. The 50p is the first gummed version in the slate colour. So lots of new entries for this pane.

The small book is as expected - M13L MPIL codes and what I assume must be type 2a slits. We've seen these before.
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September 13, 2013

Stamp Collecting After Privatisation: First Thoughts

Will forthcoming changes at Royal Mail affect stamp collecting? That's the question being asked and I have to admit that it hadn't occurred to me that there was any change to stamps coming but I guess I do need to think about that now. I'd just seen it as a change in contracts for parcels in the main but I guess it could be much more dramatic.

Privatisation will mean that neither the Government nor HM The Queen need have any say in the services being offered by what is presently called Royal Mail. I should imagine that there would be some pretty strict conditions laid down if the trading name Royal Mail were to continue to be used by one or other of the private enterprises taking over. That would, I should hope, mean controls over how the monarch's head is utilised, advertising associations (she may well not wish to be shown aside a Big Brother advert, for instance) and with security features embedded in printing of labels to ensure that forged items do not flourish and impact adversely upon our Head of State's reputation for trust and reliability.

Use of the phrase stamp collecting does rather assume that there will be labels of some sort to collect, of course. Whatever the method of purchasing delivery, one would expect that there will be a continuing need for some sort of label to confirm that delivery has been paid for. There has been an increased use of Horizon labels and PostAndGo labels taking the place of what we normally think of as stamps and I think it is fair to say that the big gold things have not endeared themselves to a new generation of collectors. The fact that they feature a massive Machin head has, however, kept a degree of interest amongst dedicated followers of Machin like myself and I am anxiously trying to maintain a complete collection of each type issued.

The PostAndGo labels are not as widely seen, being available at a comparatively limited number of offices still and, of course, people still have the normal choice of definitives and special issues at Post Office counters and books of NVIs at many outlets.

They are definitely more likely to get a wider following as they look quite cute and come in sets and appeal to young and old collectors alike. If they continue, that is.

There are masses of special issues each year - this year's topics being as diverse as Dr Who and the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Bertram Mackennal. I have always had doubts about how many of these ever actually reach envelopes or packages, though. I suppose they are collected but some new organisation should be able to continue to churn out sets every month or so and they'll continue to be bought. I don't think special issue collectors are, in the main, that bothered about the Queen's head either. So special issues should be a nice little way of making a few shillings for the new people and need have nothing to do with postal services really.

What will be affected will be the collection of definitive stamps. I see a continuing market for Horizon or PostAndGo type labels, with or without the Queen's head - so they will be bouyant whatever happens, albeit in a modest size, mostly quite specialist market. So too should the pictorial definitives be as collectible, not that there are very many anyway. Some readers may never have seen this, for instance!

It is the Machins that this will eventually be all about. This internationally praised and much-loved series started in 1967 and, even to the surprise of some of its biggest fans, is still going strong 46 years on.

If the service continues with permission granted for continued use of the Queen's head (whether or not called Royal Mail) then all will be well. There could, indeed, be a decided increase in sales for a while as there will be lots of publicity, new rates and, possibly, new printings with all the fun and games that that will imply! To many collectors like me, that would be a wonderful time. I remember missing all the rapid rate changes in 1989-90, the double head 150th anniversary of the Penny Black issues and lots of stamps in books with all sorts of variations of straight cut edges, printers, gums and so on. It took ages to track all the variants down some years later so I will be one of many determined not to miss a thing this time!

Even if there are several competing firms within the new delivery service, and a choice for customers as to how they get a letter from here to there with all the different styles and types of labels to evidence the process, I would think that the very diversity will have some appeal - even if, for my own part, I would be inclined merely to stick to the Machins.

What would I do if the Queen's head were to go, though? Well, that would end the Machin series and there would be a great deal of philatelic weeping and wailing but it has to occur at some point so 2013 is a good as any, I suppose. Much depends on what replaces these stamps. I will almost certainly start with whatever is produced and many others will too, just in case they prove valuable, short-lived or meet any one of many criteria for apparent monetary gain and the satisfying feeling that gives (even if we never have even the remotest chance of selling any!)

Something well-designed will appeal and be collectible again and probably appeal and sell quite widely. I see British scenes being a theme - there was a great set of stamps issued recently in an A-Z of Britain which was beautifully produced and would be very popular. I doubt that many will have seen them - a reissue would save a lot on design fees too.

For me, something not well designed will also be collectible. I really quite look forward to getting hold of the early efforts at getting labels right that some of the new service providers will be doing. I hope they make mistakes, spell things wrong, change fonts, gum, paper, printer...

So, it would seem, and it has only been after scribbling all this that it is clear; I will continue to collect and the changes will, if anything, have me and thousands like me spending more than ever. For a while, at least.

Machin Self Adhesive slit types. Why did I bother?

I had this bright idea of helping collectors avoid the eye strain I have been experiencing in trying to distinguish between the types of slit in Machin self adhesive stamps. I thought I would scan an example of each and that would be that. However, it isn't at all obvious but, as you'll discover at the end, it may not matter a great deal anyway, once you have tucked three items from 2009 away.

So, according to the lists I have from dealers, the 1st Large red issues are an ideal example as they come in each of types 1, 2 and 2a and have different security codes so my job is comparatively simple. There is only one source of type 3 that I have seen listed so that is even simpler - the 50p, 1st gold and 2nd blue stamps in the definitive pane in the George V book.

So, here we go:

Type 2 from the Walsall MA12 MFIL books of 4
 That's pretty clearly different from the others, obvious gaps top and bottom.

Type 1 from the Walsall MA12 MBIL Buisness sheets
This is where I have trouble - distinguishing between types 1 and 2a 

Type 2a from DLR MA12 MAIL Counter sheets
 I really struggle to see much difference between the two. The illustrations in dealers' lists do say 'less noticeable' slits but, my goodness, these are so much less noticeable to be almost non-existent.

Type 3 from the Walsall George V prestige book MA10 MPIL
No problems with type 3. The lack of gap at the top and decent gap at the bottom is clear.

I tried zooming in on the images, sharpening them and using greyscale to try and make the differences clearer but it is still one big struggle to tell 1 and 2a apart. I am beginning to wonder whether the list I am using has got it wrong.

Type 1

Type 2a

Tye 2

Type 3
There is definitely something I need to look into further. In the meantime, here are images of two examples of the 2nd Large where the difference is a bit clearer and that should help you a bit. Just watch your eyes with those 1st Large reds!

Type 2a DLR MA12 MAIL from Counter sheets

Type 1 Walsall MA12 MBIL from Business sheets

Again, you have the different printers here and codes too and, so far, there are only three instances where I can find types 1 and 2a listed for otherwise same stamps (codes, printer being the same).

These three are:
2nd blue DLR 2009 MBIL Business sheet
1st gold DLR 2009 MBIL Business sheet
1st Large gold 2009 MAIL Counter sheet

Let's cross our fingers and hope like mad that there are no more. then, quite frankly, it won't really matter whether it's 1 or 2a.

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September 12, 2013

Codes, codes and more codes

These arrived this morning - what I sincerely hope will be all the security code issues that I missed between 2009 and 2012 - basically there were no other changes to the stamps being made and so not distributed by Tallents House. It has been updating my own lists that brought these huge gaps in my own collection to light! I shall, of course, be paying much more attention henceforth.

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Thank you Ma'am

With my British Philatelic Bureau Bulletin this month came two of these Jubile covers and inserts! No idea why but all contributions gratefully received.
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September 10, 2013

Early year NVI code changes I missed (so you may have too)

With the Philatelic Bureau not treating change of source or year code as a new issue I have just realised that I have missed a whole pile of NVIs with different codes between 2009 and 2011. I get them now on a standing order with B Alan (Mike Holt also offer this service) but I have two whole years to catch up with and there are a lot :(

There are also some variations in the types of slit with, for example, a De La Rue 1st gold MBIL appearing with both type 1 and type 2a slits.

Dealers are also listing many shifts of phosphor and iridescent layers, (almost entirely down to Walsall's booklets!) These are often very pricey but outwith my own sphere of interest so I haven't catalogued them. I have tried to include every other intended change, though. See the NVI page at this link.

The NVI list has now been split in two. The 'less security features' issues prior to 2009 and a couple of later stamps - the 2010 EU and World NVIs - are in what should now be a closed list with the second one covering issues from 2009. 

Now, to try and source those missing items at a reasonable price...