September 29, 2015

The Royal Mail Stamp Shop. Not exactly First Class.

Having realised (OK, been told!) that there is, indeed a sheet issue of the 1st Class amethyst definitive, I thought I really ought to get one. So where do you go if you want a stamp? Apart from the supermarket (they tend only to have books) and let's say your car uses vast amounts of fuel or is one of the VWs, Audis, Seats or Skodas that had the software to deceive emissions test devices fitted and you are very worried that you may damage little children. Yes, well done! You go to the Royal Mail web site.

They have an online Shop. It isn't very good, though. I failed to find any 1st Class amethyst sheet stamps. They have the booklets and miniature sheets but not the 'normal' stamps.

I see that they still have the old and horrible PIP designs for what they cheerfully call Everyday Stamps!! That illustration has been there for years. They also have several cups of tea dotted around the place - not something a true collector would risk so close to mint items!

The site may be useful for business things and for finding people's post codes and rates for parcels to Outer Mongolia but not, I'm afraid, of much help to collectors. What surprises me is that Royal Mail haven't put The Philatelic Bulletin online. It would be comparatively easy to do and could be restricted to subscribers if they really wanted to. At least then, however, we could access information and buy items consistently and without getting hot and bothered enough to write ruddy articles about it.

Clearly I shall have to drive into town and buy a stamp. It has just occurred to me that I didn't even get a copy on what I had thought was a pretty comprehensive supply request list with Edinburgh. Very odd.

September 23, 2015

New Horizon labels

Something new on the Horizon front? This label was on a package that came today. It is curious in two ways: first it has the 'Single use only' addition, looking a bit like an old postmark might have done, and, secondly, the background seems to have a deliberate fade out running top right to bottom left.

This is identical, other than the source and fee detail, to another that came in on another parcel. So what looked like a poorly printed 'gold' label is as it is intended to be.

My guess is that the pale background will make the printed stuff easier to read, should anyone actually need to, and the 'postmark' might be intended to discourage people from reapplying these to new parcels. That had never occurred to me!

Correction: Amethyst Source Codes

I have to thank Ian Billings of Norvic fame for pointing out that not only has there been a sheet stamp issued but also there are source codes on the amethyst stamps.

I had had a good look at all the examples I'd received on the day each arrived but have to admit to missing the spelling of REIGN six lines up on the right. It isn't helped by being just where the slits are stamped!

So, I haven't yet found a sheet stamp but here are the three different codes to look for:

The Rugby Concrete & Clay book has (REI)GC

The book of six has (REI)GS

The miniature sheet has (REI)GM

September 09, 2015

Long To Reign Over Us

A nice surprise today from Royal Mail! A new amethyst shade 1st Class Machin definitive to mark HM Queen Elizabeth II becoming the longest reigning British monarch after 63 years and several hundred days.

A book of six stamps with the phrase in the title as an iridescent print in the background and the code O15R. The code does seem a little pointless, being the same as on the miniature sheet stamp below but never mind.

There is also a miniature sheet comprising three 1st Class and two £1.52 stamps, none of which I suspect we will find on our post! With four emblem stamps illustrating the changes over the years there is a gummed Machin which, whilst also printed in gravure as the booklet stamps, looks distinctly furry to me at its left edge.

This stamp is supposed to be the same size as the booklet ones and it may just be an optical illusion but the rectangle part looks smaller, with a wider border between it and the perforations.

These will be around for a while I imagine as standard stock for books of 6. There may also be some other examples appearing in time but, as of today, these are the only two examples and there has not been a sheet definitive issued nor a book of 12.

The Philatelic Bulletin has these as printed by ISP, good old International Security Printers. I am assuming that is Walsall fro the booklet but i really wouldn't like to say who did the sheet. It's not that brilliant.

September 05, 2015

Post and Go. I give up.

That's it. I have made a decision. No more Post And Gos. Anyone who has been following this story for a while will know that I started happily collecting everything, first cancelling the Post Office presentation packs and then dropping all the pretty picture labels after a while, then the Flags as well and then the overprints, leaving what I thought would be a reasonably manageable and quite interesting set of Machin labels to follow.

It is pretty clear, though, that staff are putting the wrong rolls in from time to time and we're going to get 2nd Class values on olive backgrounds as well as 1st and higher denominations on blue. There will also be fading inks and font style changes as the months go by. Multiply each change by n where n is a very large integer representing different date codes or machines used and even normal versions will be rare. In fact, for many already released, the short phosphor varieties seem to be the norm and the 'normal' positioning types get sent as a 'variety'!

If I had seen more of these in actual use that might have convinced me to stick with them but we're dealing here with a label that lacks the scrutiny in production of the definitive issues and so may appear in all sorts of strange forms with mistakes and errors depending on who filled or serviced the machine last. The Post Office presentation packs are a joke and really are just 'for collectors to collect' being different to those in normal production. They look pretty but so do the porcelain cats on the back pages of weekend magazines.

My main frustration is that I cannot see how I can ever get anything resembling a complete collection as new denominations get printed on old stock so you can never close the file on a particular denomination or background as, at any time, a variety may emerge either by mistake or from a distant office with slow-moving stock.

Add the complication of umpteen overprints and many issues being available only at exhibitions or special locations for a few days and the dilemma of having, in the special picture label issues, 36 possible combinations of denomination and image - actually that is more now that extra denominations have appeared! - and you'll get the idea. Not only is the collection likely to be immensely expensive but it will never be complete and what might appear to be scarce could even become common some time later. All in all, not a good attraction for most collectors.

There was a significant hint about all this when the NCR open values came along, with almost any denomination you want appearing on the Post And Go format labels. Many dealers don't stock or supply these, although, as I said at the time, my view is that they are more like what I would describe as a 'stamp' and, if they become more generally available, I might still consider collecting them. That's quite a big might though.

Now I am quite aware that it is also quite impossible to have a complete collection of Machin definitives but, firstly, most do get issued for a postal purpose. Just the prestige books break that rule but we'll let that pass for now. I have serious doubts that most Post and Gos go to dealers and collectors. Secondly, there will only be one 80p pink with an M16L date code printed by De L Rue. Their security processes see that all their stamps are, indeed, identical. Yes, there may be errors and shades but you needn't worry about another coming out in years to come. If they do print another, it will be different.

Normal definitives are also on general sale. You should be able to buy them from any Post Office although I am aware that may not be the case nowadays but you can certainly get the Philatelic Bureau to send you any current items. That's not the case with the Post And Gos. If there is a machine in your local office then you can get them for yourself but otherwise you're reliant upon a dealer to get them for you and they'll come at a price as they have to stand around plugging coins into machines all day.

So I shall now take some pleasure in listing all that I have, in the knowledge that no more need come to complicate what is already quite complicated, and put them up for sale. The income I receive will mostly go to good Machin definitive causes!

September 01, 2015

The shades are more interesting

It took me a good half an hour or so to figure out just what the dealer had sent me this month as not a lot tied up with the invoice. The main problem, however, was not looking for amounts that might add up to the various figures paid but distinguishing between these three pairs and wondering why on Earth I'd been supplied with them anyway!

Here we have type IIA font on undated backgrounds for these values. I don't think I have the undated background type so may need these. They have short phosphor which is also inset at the right.

These are virtually the same but don't have inset phosphor. One of these pairs is surplus and as these were the more expensive they'll be what I either return or sell.

These are the same as some provided some time ago, type IIA again and still with MA14 in the background as before but these don't have short phosphor. So these or the earlier ones can go.

To be honest, the really interesting thing about all these is the shade difference - quite obvious as you can see. Now that I would collect. I think this was the shade of the short phosphor version too and the other pairs' darker shade is similar to their predecessors too so these needn't be retained but I probably will as it is a hassle getting them returned.

I could barely contain my excitement when the mailing also included three booklets, one which the Post Office had already supplied with the latest Concrete and Clay layout and these two providing M15L MTIL and M15L MSIL variants. I am pretty sure I have noted these before but they're almost new and rumour has it that one book has some new phone numbers and the other has some weird Welsh stuff on it. I do wonder why we don't have variants with Gaelic or even Cornish or whatever the Irish speak.The Welsh do seem to have special treatment and I am not sure there are more than 17 who will actually encounter these booklets and need to have a translation of To Check Postcodes and addresses for free go to.

This has been another tedious month but then August used to have nothing happening anyway so I shouldn't complain. I also thank my lucky stars that I didn't have to cope with (and pay for) the new 100g values on British Flora II and ist Class and higher values printed on the background intended for 2nd Class in British Flora III, yet another new naval overprint, RNSM on Machins and Flags, Sinpex overprints on two types of Flags (with and without dated backgrounds) and BPMA Postage Due 1914 overprints on Flags with MA13 background. Gosh. That's a lot. If you are still managing to keep up then well done. You must be exceedingly well-off. Or were, at any rate.