May 12, 2021

The Big Stamp with a Barcode


Just as you may have thought that there wouldn't be much more of interest in Machins, along comes the Big 2nd. It's big because it is 38mm x 30mm including perforations. the 'stamp' part, excluding perforations is 22½mm x 28mm compared to 18mm x 22mm for the familiar size stamp area.

Separated by a rather bizarre printed 'perforation' line is a panel containing what I believe is now referred to as a 2D barcode. I still call these things, whether square or rectangular, QR codes and the app on my phone is a QR reader but, whatever you wish to call it, this is a big new addition.

Each of these panels contains a set of characters which will be unique for each label. The one illustrated above and below have these sets of characters:

JGBS1123101703 114139229 00066 231120 01 D7F8DD75094BEF1 501
JGBS1123101703 123311783 00066 040121 01 140D0D76722095E 501

Messrs. B Alan Ltd have made some intelligent guesses as to the translation of some of these and you will be able to identify a date and a value fairly easily. One was printed on 23/11/2020 and the other 04/01/21, both having a denomination at the time of 66p.

There are other educated guesses they make regarding the position of the label on a sheet of labels but that's about as far as anyone can go. 

This label I can envisage having several purposes as well as the obvious security function. It will prevent the label being used twice without penalty when scanned by new reading devices at sorting offices. I am sure this happens a lot at the moment with very few of my stamps ever being franked or marked. The security slits do make them difficult to take off an envelope but I have seen plenty of instances where the stamp and backing have just been cut out and stuck on another envelope. You may think this is an obvious ruse but how do we know that someone simply needed to use a different envelope and the transfer is entirely innocent? So that's one purpose.

Another could be to enable us to track items to which this label has been applied. I can see an app being launched in time to come which will let us see where our post may or may not be

Something no-one has mentioned so far that I have seen is the possible effect of including a denomination. For many years we have been able to hoard piles of NVI stamps and defer payment of new higher rates. When a particularly large increase is announced in advance then there is a great incentive to go and buy as many as you can as the stock will be worth considerably more a few weeks later. I am sure people have done this and even sold sheets at a price to businesses that still represents a discount on the new rate but gives the seller a worthwhile profit. This new code will, however, specify an amount - 66p in this case - and I can well imagine that this could determine the 'value' of the label when used in part-payment of postage and, more significantly, in future when 2nd Class postage may increase to, say, 70p and we'll be asked for another 4p, or whatever the difference happens to be at the time.

It is suggested that the Big size is not a permanent thing and that the stamp area may reduce to normal size, with a proportionately smaller label to the side, and that this concept may be spread across some other denominations. 

I can imagine that there was much debate about whether to include the wavy line to imitate perforation and those promoting this won. Here's what a 1st Class might look like without it!

The second printing that I have of the 2nd Class issue has a slightly different shade and a much more reflective ink for the background. This does not show in these scanned images, however, but is most noticeble in daylight at an angle.

Both issues bear the normal code M21L MBIL.

Back down to normal size, there is a 21 code 1st Class Business sheet issue. M21L MBIL.

The 10p light tan has a bright fluor. Still M20L MAIL code.

A noticeably brighter shade of bright blue for this 2nd Class issue, from business sheets.

March 27, 2021

Only Fool & Horses and some more 20 code varieties

2p paler dark green M20L MAIL

1st Royal Mail red pale head M21L MCIL
Fools & Horses 4+2 book

2nd pale bright blue M20L MTIL

2nd Large bright blue M20L MFIL

And from the Only fools & Horses Prestige book, all M20L MPIL:


March 23, 2021

2nd Class stamps - yours will be unique, 1 in 20 million


A surprise in the post this morning - this new 2nd Class stamp. I had noticed a bill for a new 2nd Class stamp issued by the Philatelic Bureau some time ago and, whilst wondering just what was in store, I concluded that it might just be some minor change. Instead there is is this much larger item.

The label comprises two images, the traditional 'stamp' and a type of QR code matrix. To preserve the impression of the 'stamp' being a 'stamp' there is a wavy line incorporated in the design to make a printed 'perforation' between the two main images. I have to say that this looks odd and will only fool those applying the label to a blue envelope. But never mind. So what on Earth is this all about?

It seems a little OTT for just security but I understand that the code for every stamp is unique, with the QR code revealing (to anyone with a QR reader app on their phone) a string of digits which only that item will have. This will certainly make forgery less effective as the idea is that equipment at sorting offices will record the use of the string of digits and reject any further use through some form of intercommunication across the nation. I hadn't appreciated how much money must be being lost through forgery for such a lot of extra security printing measures to be justified. My guess is that the string of digits might be used in future to track an item's progress or, more mundanely, provide detailed data of items source and destinations for Royal Mail.

The backing sheet also contains the wavy lines of text in a similar style to that used across the self-adhesive range.

The stamp image has the same security features as we are familiar with, with an M21L MBIL code indicating that this one is from a Business Sheet which, I imagine, is the code used in most forgeries. Perhaps we will also see this available at counters and in booklets, together, naturally, with 1st Class items in similar vein to be seen before long.

A new page required in the album. That was not expected. I thought there might be development of a picture theme to replace the Machin head and it is interesting to note that the separation of the main code element from the stamp design does leave it quite possible for other designs of the 'stamp' to be substituted. I cannot see this device being rolled out to other than the NVI issues, however.

I would tell you more but I have not received a Philatelic Bulletin for some time, where I would imagine details have been provided. I had to turn to Norvic's Philatelic Blog for help and there you will find chapter and verse in fine style.

January 04, 2021

New values, an odd Wales 1st and the first 21 codes

1st Large Royal Mail red M20L MFIL





Regionals December 2020 with revised value tablets.

1st Royal mail red M21L MCIL

2nd Large bright blue M20L MBIL

1st Royal Mail red M21L MCIL

2nd Deep bright blue, pale head M20L MAIL

Cartor reprint of Wales 1st Dragon but with sans serif vale tablet August 2020