On October 14, 2003, the 16 current pictorial regionals were reissued with the same designs but
with standard white borders around the edges. This was the solution to a problem discovered with many
of the stamps in the series.
All British low value stamps have one or two clear phosphor bands printed over the ink.
These bands are read by automated mail handling equipment to locate the stamps and to separate
second-class mail from other mail. Dark colored inks reduce the ability of the machines to sense
the phosphor. By adding white borders to the designs, Royal Mail expects that the phosphor will be
easier to sense.
All stamps except those paying the second-class rate have two vertical phosphor bands located at
the left and right edges. The phosphor coats the right and left borders of these stamps, so the new stamps
provide a large, light area to help the sensing equipment. Stamps paying the second-class rate, inscribed
with the non-value indicator “2nd,” have a single vertical phosphor band down the middle
of the stamp. Even though only a small portion of the top and bottom borders are coated with phosphor,
this is probably enough to make the stamp easier to sense.
A few of the regionals had minor changes made to the designs, and those stamps are shown here.
Above are the old and new versions of the Scotland “E” stamp that pays the airmail
letter rate to Europe. Although the image area of the stamp was reduced to make room for the borders,
the size of the thistle was not reduced. Therefore, it takes up porportionately more of the image
area than before. This is easiest to notice at
the top where the flower on the new stamp nearly touches the border and at the top right, where the
leaf on the new stamp just about touches the Queen’s portrait.