January 27, 2020

More about Horizon labels

It has taken a while but I think I now have a reasonably good idea of the development of these labels. Much of the information I gleaned from Postage Labels of the UK, a blog by Brian Sinnott. I would link to it but the text is peppered with links to what look unsavoury products and it looks very much like it has been compromised and I suspect the links might lead to trouble rather than any product. He also stops at the end of September 2017 but, if you can navigate around the bad stuff there is a huge amount of valuable data on labels of various sorts from around 2008.

Some more recent information has come from Norvic Philatelics' blog.

It has all taken quite a bit of finding, though, so here I shall try and set out the basics to date so that, together with the last couple of articles and others to follow, you can find some degree of Chapter & Verse here by searching for Horizon.

The first gold labels were first trialled in Camden Town High Street in June 2009 with the first official issue being to Post Offices in Wales in April 2010. Before that, white labels with similar content had been around for some time. The white labels had no security features and were withdrawn in July 2010. I expect you'll come across white labels dated later where an Office had old stock to use up.

This is one of the early gold labels, with a bold font and the date in dd/mm/yy format.

Some time in 2010 the format changes to dd-mm-yy and the fonts and alignment are tweaked for a better presentation.

The gold labels had a pattern of curved slits - one in each corner and several at the top, bottom and on each side. I have darkened the image below so that these can be seen a little more clearly.

This pattern continued through to some time in December 2011.

In August 2010 an imperforate version was trialled in London and it looks like the first official issue date for what I prefer to call the straight edge labels (as the original 'perforation' was purely a design thing) would be 13 September 2010.

So the first straight edge issues will have the slits at top and bottom centre too.

Shortly after release, at the end of December 2010 there is a change of software that prints the date in dd/mm/yy format again rather than dd-mm-yy

As Post Offices will have had stock of the old perforate-style labels the dd/mm/yy format will be seen on both straight ede and perforated-style labels for some time.

Both De La Rue and Walsall have printed the gold labels. I have not been able to find out when Walsall first came on the scene. I presume, as De La Rue did the trials in 2009, that they have been printing them all the time with Walsall coming in later. When I don't know.

The illustrations below indicate how you can distinguish between the two printings.

The Walsall printing has a background of what appear to be mostly continuous lines running slightly down to the left. There is a clearly discernible gap in the two sections of the corner slits.

The De La Rue printing has a much less clearly defined background, one person describing it more as a stream of morse code running, as Walsall's, slightly at an angle top to bottom. The gap between the two sections is very small and, indeed, the corner slit looks to me to be one section.

In October 2011 accounting codes are added to the data displayed.

As far as I can tell each service indicator has a different accounting code. So all 1Ls will have .b and I am not too concerned with what they may or may not mean.

Life seems to be fairly peaceful for a while now and it is not until May 2015 that we hear about the new 'white label. Officially it appears to go live in September 2015 and looks a little bit odd.

Slits remain at the right corners and down the right side only. There is a 'postmark' at the bottom right corner. I suspect that this element was designed by the same person who thought a perforation-style edge might make people regard it with the same respect they had for stamps.

Yes, there was a reason for the large white empty space; QR codes were added from November 2015, although clearly not in software at the Post Office in the illustration above!

A major redesign of the layout of data is now evident, with various code numbers or letters being placed in the postmark area too for reasons I have yet to understand.

At some point around September 2016 an adjustment is made to drop the Royal Mail text from the Signed For labels.

That would seem to bring things up to date, with these labels still being used at the time of writing and I have not seen or heard of any imminent changes.

The only other item is the similar looking Self Service labels that are now being produced by machines at some Post Offices. This was trialled in September 2016 and I have referred to this in my previous articles. Indeed it was this oddity arriving on a package that made me look again at the box full of Horizon labels that had remained more or less untouched for ten years. It is, though, a separate thing.

I have made a list of the different identifiers. View it at this link. (I have used this facility to avoid constantly editing this post). I make it 38, but several of those are replacements for others and not every group of labels will have every code, some being deleted before a change and others not being introduced during the period of another group. I would love to add some dates to when they were first enabled and when they were deleted so that we could make a better job listing what you might find (and save you looking for something that doesn't exist!)

I will keep looking and add data to the sheet as and when I get it.

The labels featured here are, in my view, worthy of collectors' time. At first glance they may seem a bit big and some are downright ugly but there is plenty for collectors to look out for. There is a huge list of service indicators although I am not too concerned with some of them. The BFPO ones, for example, I can happily ignore, and the Shopping Return ones which I guess only people working at the stores will see. I'll be happy to have one of each type by each printer (where both are available) and maybe an example from each year would be nice.

Whatever the case, these do have one big advantage in my book; they're really something used for postage and not merely issued for collectors like porcelain figures and plates in Sunday Magazines and it shouldn't cost the Earth to acquire a lot of them. Well, unless dealers start reading this and realising how few there might be of some types . . . luckily it is all quite complicated and, hopefully for a while, amateur Ebay sellers still won't tell the difference between the common and the good stuff.

January 26, 2020

Even further beyond the pale.

I decided to take a closer look at what was in the box of labels I had collected and, as I had taken pictures of the different labels, I might as well share them here in case anyone is interested. I will add headings for what seem to be distinct groups but I won't bother with any other identification as that's pretty obvious. Apparent duplicates in groups will be for different years in which they were used and/or a Welsh version.

I do seem to recall that there are more types of security slits or cuts and also printing variations which may require some further adjustment of these when I get a chance to look up the differences and then publish them here so others may be able to distinguish between the less obvious gold label groups.

As and when I find some more informed and accepted 'groups' or terminology I'll update this post - so these are just my own basic findings.

Group 1

Perforation-style edge, Security cuts, DD-MM-YY date style


Group 2a

Different date display, DD/MM/YY, bold service font

Group 2b

Similar to Group 2 but normal font weight

Group 3 

As Group 2 but with Royal Mail + dot code

Group 4

Straight edge, No Royal Mail dot code, DD-MM-YY date style

Group 5

Straight edge, No Royal Mail dot code, DD/MM/YY date style

Group 6

As Group 5 but now Royal Mail + dot code

Group 7

White paper, Group 6 style, security slits on right side only

Group 8

QR Code, 'Royal Mail' in title, security slits right side only.

Group 9

QR code, 'Royal Mail' omitted from title, security slits right side only

Group 10

Year code in background, re-arranged and new data, no security slits

From Self Service machines and with slightly smaller dimensions.

This is very much work in progress rather than a definitive guide, more to help me see what I have as it is much simpler to look at these images than sift through the real labels which, being attached to all kind of card or material, are not that easy to handle or file away. The security slits make most of these labels difficult to remove and then they are still sticky on the back or flimsy and prone to damage. So they'll be staying where they were and I'll have to think about storage and display.

Whilst I am only too well aware that many will wonder what on Earth drives me to collect and write about these I can only offer in my defence the fact that these are, at least, all 100% postally used items!! So much of the other new material coming in will never see the front of an envelope or a sorting office.

On that note, I have found in amongst the several hundred Horizon labels (if I can still call the nearly square things that) precisely six Post And Go labels, none of which had any picture or overprint either. I shall collect them - but solely used ones, so I don't expect I shall be needing a massive album for them just yet!

That can never, of course, be a complete collection so it will be something similar to what we used to have when we were young and had a few stamps from different countries. We knew then that we would be extremely unlikely to have all the stamps from any particular set and gradually we lost interest in most of the pages as we decided to specialise in an area where we might hope to have fewer gaps over the years. I'll stick 'em in, using an old 1970s pack of stamp hinges that I've still got. It'll be like old times.

As for these big and quite ugly labels, I feel there is some chance of attaining completeness insofar as types of print, security features and data presentation is concerned, once I can figure out what's missing. Then there is the task of finding the range of the different services. That's trickier as there do seem to be quite a few different 'service' names and abbreviations used even in just 10 years, some of which will be very hard to find. Unlike rare variations of Corgi Toys, however, I am hoping that these things will not yet have become very appealing to many people and I can acquire most at a modest outlay. I mean, seriously, who would want to charge me more than a few shillings for these?!