May 30, 2015

In the postman's bag this week

I was telling my postman about the 1d black anniversary issue last week and as he'd never heard of them I suggested we have a look through all the mail in his bag and see if there was one there. Not only were there no 1d black anniversary issues but there there were no Post And Gos, no special issues and just two actual stamps, a couple of 1st Class reds, one which look distinctly as though it was being reused when we looked a bit more closely, despite all the security slits and awkward glue.

That was amongst the whole of his round still to be completed, well over 200 items which we just skimmed through pretty rapidly so may have missed something but I doubt it. Horizon labels were the main 'stamp' items amongst the bundle.

I am beginning to wonder just what the numbers would look like for stamps sold for postal use. I know that collectors are probably providing 99% of the revenue for special issues but the thought that we may be the principal raison d'ĂȘtre for most definitives too is saddening. I can't stop until the Machins stop but I am, for the first time, almost hoping for their end.

Spare a thought too for the Post And go collectors who have not cancelled orders for the non-Machin issues and overprinted issues. I've counted 22 new issues, not counting those illustrated below, three for the Heraldic Beast issue but most of the others all new overprints or old overprints on different labels. There are even some from overseas exhibitions. They would have needed well over £500 to fund that lot in an attempt to stay 'complete'!

The Cartor versions of the 1st black and blue are not Machins I know but these are nice stamps that ought to be in any British collection, although I am none to sure of the need for these 'Smilers' sheets. the facility to have a photograph of yourself or someone or something else professionally printed and appearing on a sheet of proper British postage stamps was quite a remarkable thing when it first came on the scene. It pushed most of our computers' graphics cards to their limits to handle the process and it was a bit tedious over dial-up but it was different, if expensive. The 'Smiler' issues that were available for the process also seemed vaguely appropriate but now you can appear next to anyone.

Similarly, you'll find a variety of labels next to these stamps but I'm not too bothered, being only interested in the variations of the stamps themselves.

Next we have the Post And Gos in a 'normal' strip with the MA14 date code and font IIA. the previous ones are all short phosphor variations, not that you can see much difference here. I shall probably sell the short phosphor versions if anyone wants them.

Now here's something interesting! Sme post office staff have put the wrong roll in the machine again and we've got 2nd Class values being printed on the olive background. It wasn't that long ago that we had the 1st Class and higher values printed on blue so this sort of balances things nicely. I like this pair. Because it is comparatively easy to do, I suspect that values will never be vast because it is simple for someone to recreate if they're a little mischievously inclined.

The Great War 21015 prestige booklet carries just three new Machins. The 1p, 5p and £1.33 have the M15L MPIL security codes. The small definitive size poppy stamp is attractive. The Poppy series of remembrance issues are quite exceptional designs all of them and would make a superb collection on their own.

A 2nd Class from the Walsall book of twelve with the M15L MTIL code.

De La Rue have a M15L code for the counter sheet 1st Class and 1st and 2nd Large issues too. In addition, it seems that they didn't do enough M14L Special Delivery stamps as that has now appeared with M15L after years of inactivity beforehand.

The Walsall 2nd Class with M15L MTIL comes from the revised booklet with slightly different text as we get yet more lessons in distinguishing between normal and large. I find that putting almost anything in my thickish C5 envelopes will stop it slipping through the device the ladies at Towcester Post Office use. How ever many times they put stuff on booklet covers or issue posters, there is really no way most of us can figure out how thick 5mm is. I am not too sure I have much of clue as to how heavy 100g is either. I know from my younger days that jars of jam are 454g but that probably includes the glass.

May 06, 2015

175 years on, two nice new commemorative stamps

A marvellous job by Royal Mail for the 175th anniversary of the 1d black and 2d blue being made available for postal use to the public. Several items are being promoted but the main items are the self adhesive !st black in a book of 6 from Walsall and a miniature sheet with  1st blue and 1st black se tenant in a pane of four. This is a gummed sheet.

Both have the security ovals in the perforations and pretty gigantic phosphor bands. They all have the position letters SC which was presumably chosen by some committee at some point. It would have been fun being party to that discussion! Did they just pick letters at random? Did someone's little daughter dig letters out of a couple of hats? We may never know.

I would like to have seen the 2d Blue used as a 2nd class denomination. I know that that would reverse the order of the two but it just seems right somehow. Anyway, that isn't to be.

If you do need some stamps, ask for these at your Post Office as it would be nice to see these on as much mail as can be organised.

May 02, 2015

More 2015 codes

The new Comedy Greats introduce a variation in the related booklet. It seems that it is a tradition now to issue a 4+2 book with each Special Issue (assuming that they have a 1st Class NVI value) and pop two examples in with four 1st Class definitives of the day. I haven't checked when this started and whether it has, indeed, been consistently maintained but it certainly seems to be doing so now.

The variation here is that the larger space for the Special issues is fully occupied by an illustration within which there is the stamp with no border, just the perforation. Interesting. The Machin stamp is the M15L MCIL we've seen before.

A new book of 1st Large includes MA15 MFIL stamps.

A 2p M15L MAIL counter sheet stamp has appeared with a 5p and 20p joining the ranks of 15 codes.

Lastly for now, Post And Gos have gone completely mad with all sorts of overprints appearing on all sorts of different backgrounds. although my supplier did actually send me a bundle of Flags with The RMM, The FAAM and goodness knows whatever acronyms they'd done so in error and are already winging their way back in order to get a refund of the £50 plus cost. Whilst I am sure some of you love these acronym overprints and can happily afford to lay out the regular fortune required, they rather leave me cold. Had overprints been a very occasional thing I might have stuck with them, although I am not entirely sure how I would have coped with what must be the almost impossible task of having a 'complete' collection when you can never really know which Post Office might have some dusty old Birds II roll to put in in future or some strange printing appears when an engineer pops in and makes an adjustment.

All that remained on the Machin front, thankfully, are these pairs of Europe 100g and Worldwide 100g denominations. One pair has an MA13 in the background, the other MA14. You would, at least, have expected an MA15 but there you go. That says a lot. And you'd have though these Post And Gos would have been getting through the rolls but I am wondering just how popular they really are. I haven't yet been in a Post Office where there has been a machine installed. Presumably they do seriously impact on queues at the counters and allow us to pop in and get the required label pretty smartly. I just wonder, though, about just who pops into Post Offices now anyway? I do, once or twice a week, to post parcels which these things wouldn't help me with anyway, but I seldom have to wait very long. If the queue has stretched a bit far then I'll go and do something else and return later.

These are beginning to look very boring now. I am still having third and fourth thoughts about whether even to continue with the Machin labels. I suppose if the costs remain moderate I will but they're not inspiring me. The Horizon labels look just as interesting and seem far, far more widely utilised.

Soon we should have some visual treats with the Penny Black and Twopenny Blue issues. They do look very smart and I do hope there will be some interesting oddities in the mix. It would also be nice if people would actually use them in post. Perhaps the Post Office should try and supply just these for a week in recognition of the other Hill's efforts in 1840 and put all other first class labels aside.

May 01, 2015

Happy 175th Birthday 1d Black

Look out for some excellent new issues in a few days.