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  1. Rates to Europe increased on October 25, 1999
  2. Year 2000 millennium commemoratives announced
  3. The Stamp Show 2000 reorganized
  4. Royal Mail millennium fever accelerates
  5. Entrepreneur trying to make money in GB from discount postage
  6. The end of denominated coil stamps?
  7. Souvenir sheets; Millennium cancels; new Millennium definitive
  8. ‘E’ stamp in sheet format; Prestige booklet full of commemoratives
  9. Specialized Catalogs updated in 1999
  10. Scott totally revises the Machin listing
  11. Stamps for Prince Edward's wedding in June
  12. New Machin definitives; pictorials for Scotland and Wales
  13. New millennium booklet
  14. A word to the wise collector of modern GB stamps
  15. New tariffs effective April 26, 1999

Rates to Europe increased on October 25, 1999

The rates for letters to Europe went up significantly on October 25, 1999. The first two steps were increased 4p each, from 30p to 34p and from 44p to 48p. However, no new Machins were issued. Smaller increases were also made to all other rates to Europe.

Acoording to Linn’s, Royal Mail said that the increase was the result of a new system of payment agreed upon by European postal administrations for handling and delivering each other’s mail. Other foreign rates were not changed and will be frozen until at least next April.

The non-denominated ‘E’ stamp now sells for 34p. (Posted November 22, 1999, updated December 15, 1999.) top

Year 2000 millennium commemoratives announced

Royal Mail has announced details about the second year of millennium stamps to be issued during 2000. There will again be 48 stamps, issued four per month. The size and basic format will remain the same, but the subjects are very different.

The 2000 stamps will honor projects throughout the U.K. that are being completed during the millennium period. The designs will all be photographic and will attempt to convey the visions of the projects rather than simply the objects themselves.

Each set will have a theme, and some of the ones announced are “Above and Beyond,” “Fire and Light,” “Water and Coast,” and “Life and Earth. ” Royal Mail calls this set a “philatelic travelogue.” Click here to see a few of the Millennium 2000 stamps.

A columnist in Linn’s says that “a keen imagination is needed to interpret many of [the stamps]. Colors are dark and border on the funereal.” (Posted November 22, 1999, updated November 27, 1999.) top

The Stamp Show 2000 reorganized

A report in the September 1999 issue of the Machin Collectors Club Newsletter quotes from an article in the Philatelic Exporter and states that P & O Events has quit its role as organizer of The Stamp Show 2000 (TSS2000), the international stamp show to be held in London in May, 2000. Exact reasons were not stated, but the members of both the TSS 2000 Philatelic Board and the Philatelic Trader’s Society had expressed concern about the organization and promotion of the show. Other collectors and societies had expressed concern over the very high fees for exhibition frames and meeting room reservations.

The fate of Kathy Wilkin, Royal Mail’s representative on the TSS 2000 Philatelic Board, is unknown. Concern has been expressed by dealers over the planned admission fees: £10 on the first day, with 50% off tickets to be distributed by dealers, and £5 for each subsequent day, with unlimited free tickets available in advance through philatelic channels.

The article concludes, “Royal Mail must now convince the stamp trade, postal administrations, exhibitors, and collectors that The Stamp Show 2000 will be the jewel in the crown of world philately!” (Posted September 30, 1999.) top

Royal Mail millennium fever accelerates

Royal Mail is offering two special items to commemorate what is widely considered the beginning of the new millennium on January 1, 2000. They are issuing a Millennium Moment Commemorative Document and a Millennium Moment Coin Cover, both numbered, limited editions.

The Millennium Moment Commemorative Document is a specially designed folder which will hold a cancelled copy of the Millennium Timekeeper Miniature Sheet. The sheet, which was announced previously, will contain four 64p stamps designed by David Gentleman. The design is similar to his 20p Inventors’ Tale stamp but with the clock hands showing different times. Click here for an image of the souvenir sheet. Two of the stamps will be cancelled on December 31, 1999 and two on January 1, 2000. This commemorative document (a new term for Royal Mail, probably indicating that we’ll see more of them in the future) sells for £12.99, a rather substantial premium over the £2.56 face value of the stamps.

The Millennium Moment Coin Cover combines one of the souvenir sheets with a new £5 coin to be issued for the occasion. “Coin cover” is Royal Mail’s new term for philatelic numismatic covers, or PNC’s, which have both cancelled stamps and an embedded coin. The coin shows a pair of clock hands set at 12:00, with the outer edge looking like typical clock markings of hours and minutes. The coin also has a map of the United Kingdom, plus all of Ireland, not just Northern Ireland. The coin cover sells for £22.50. (Posted September 6, 1999. Updated November 27, 1999). top

Entrepreneur trying to make money in GB from discount postage

An entrepreneur in Great Britain is trying to make money by selling postage stamps at a discount, according to an article in the July, 1999 issue of The Bookmark,, the journal of the Great Britain Decimal Stamp Book Study Circle.

Nick Farren is selling four first-class stamps for £1, a savings of 4p over the usual price for the stamps. He makes his money from advertising - each stamp is affixed to a larger self-adhesive label. The four labels, in turn, are affixed to a larger sheet which has additional advertisements on it. The larger sheet is sold in a vending machine.

The buyer removes the label with one of the stamps on it and affixes the label to the envelope so that the stamp is in the normal position. The label contains two advertisements which will be seen by the recipient.

Farren calls his company “Mr. Farren’s Cut Price Stamp Company,” and he hopes to get enough advertising and volume to start selling five stamps for a pound, which would be a very significant discount to the buyer.

Farren buys the stamps from the post office at full price. He notes that it is against the law to sell stamps for more than face value (unless you are a stamp dealer, I suppose), but there is nothing preventing someone from selling them at less than face value.

Royal Mail is not happy about this. They are looking into branding issues, the compatibility of the envelope-with-label with the mail handling machinery, and the possible misuse of the Royal image. Farren replies that the Queen’s image is on their product, not his, and that he has never created a counterfeit stamp.

Farren hopes to resolve the dispute with Royal Mail and has applied a patent for his scheme.

Historical notes: For many years, the British Post Office (now called Royal Mail) sold advertisements which were printed on the covers and interleaves of stamp booklets. There were even ads on the labels that were part of the booklet panes. The BPO never sold those booklets at a discount, claiming that the advertising revenue helped cover the cost of manufacturing the booklet. Such advertisements were discontinued in the early 1970’s when folded booklets were introduced.

More recently, some window booklets have carried advertising, usually in the form of a contest such as the opportunity to win a trip to Disneyworld. Again, there was no discount offered on the value of the stamps.

In the 1980’s, some stamp booklets were sold at a discount to encourage customers to buy booklets and use more stamps. The discount varied but sometimes exceeded 10%. These booklets carried no advertising. (Posted August 28, 1999.) top

The end of denominated coil stamps?

A letter to the editor printed in the August, 1999 issue of the British Philatelic Bulletin points out that denominated coil stamps seem to be on the verge of extinction. Colin Peachey points out that when the 37p and 43p coils were reissued in 1997 using the enhanced (EME) gravure process, the 63p coil was not also reissued. (All of those stamps paid airmail rates at that time: 37p paid the airmail postcard rate, 43p paid the first-step letter rate, and 63p paid the second-step letter rate.)

This year, when those rates each went up by 1p, none of the new values was issued as a coil. In addition, vending machines in London which used to sell these coils now sell only first-class and second-class NVI (non-denominated) stamps.

Peachey notes that these stamps are still available to collectors from the Philatelic Bureau. He also wonders whether the ‘E’ NVI stamp, issued as a booklet and sheet stamp, will also appear in coil format.(Posted August 1, 1999.) top

Souvenir sheets; Millennium cancels; new Millennium definitive

Timekeeper sheet with Stamp Show 2000 overprint

Royal Mail has gotten on the souvenir sheet bandwagon this year. On August 11, a sheet was issued containing four 64p Scientists' Tale stamps which note Sir Isaac Newton’s development of the reflecting telescope in 1668. The stamps picture the planet Saturn as photographed by the Hubble space telescope. The souvenir sheet itself marks the total solar eclipse of the sun that will occur on that day and will be visible from parts of the United Kingdom.

A second souvenir sheet will be issued on December 14, 1999. It will be titled “Millennium Timekeeper” and contain four new 64p stamps designed by David Gentleman (his 100th-103rd for Royal Mail) in a style similar to his 20p Timekeeping stamp issued in January as part of the Millennium series. The four stamps are each denominated 64p and have two hands of a clock. On each stamp, the two hands come closer together until they are united as one on the fourth stamp. The Timekeeper sheet is shown above with the special Stamp Show 2000 overprint. This version of the sheet was given to buyers of an admission pass to the show.

Royal Mail will provide special cancels on December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000 as part of the Millennium celebration. The Gentleman souvenir sheet, or any other valid British stamps, can be submitted for either or both cancels. As a special consideration to collectors, Royal Mail will allow collectors to submit a cover once and obtain both cancels; normally, a cover must be submitted separately for each cancel. (There is no word on whether Royal Mail will offer a similar service on December 31, 2000 when the millennium actually ends.)

Finally, Royal Mail confirmed its earlier announcement that a special Millennium definitive will be issued in sheets and books on January 6, 2000. It will be on sale for a year.(Posted August 1, 1999. Updated November 27, 1999. Sheet image added May 11, 2001.) top

‘E’ stamp in sheet format; Prestige booklet full of commemoratives

Nondenominated E Machin The ‘E’ stamp, the non-denominated stamp that pays the minimum letter rate to Europe, was issued in sheet format on October 4. It was issued in booklet format last January. For more information about this stamp, see the earlier news item.

A new prestige booklet was issued on September 21, 1999 and was titled “World Changers.” In a reversal from previous practice, the booklet has four panes of commemoratives and only one pane of definitives.

According to the offical Royal Mail announcement, the panes are:

Contrary to Royal Mail's announcement, the 19p Machins have a single central phosphor band. All the Machins in the pane differ only slightly from previously-issued versions. This is a departure from normal practice in which at least one stamp has a paper or phosphor variation of more significance, such as a side band instead of a center band.

It is interesting to note that the 63p stamps do not pay a current postage rate. They did pay the second step overseas airmail rate when they were issued in January, but that rate has now increased to 64p. If there was ever any need to prove that these prestige booklets were not issued with the idea that people would actually use the stamps in them, this is it.

The booklet sells for £6.99, the face value of the stamps. (Posted July 27, 1999; Revised August 1, 1999 and November 22, 1999.) top

Specialized Catalogs updated in 1999

Two specialized catalogs of interest to collectors of modern Great Britain stamps were updated earlier this year.

A supplement was published in September for the second edition of The Complete Deegam Machin Handbook. The supplement included new issues and revisions up to the new regional Machins issued in June.

The handbook is a comprehensive guide to the Machin definitives. It is described in question 9 of the Machin FAQ. Since the handbook is in loose-leaf format, the supplement will consist of new pages to be inserted into the current edition.

The seventh edition of The Bookmark Catalogue of British Decimal Postage Stamp Books was published in July. This comprehensive work details every aspect of every booklet issued since decimalization in 1971.

It is produced by the Great Britain Decimal Stamp Book Study Circle. For more information, visit the club’s web site.(Posted June 16, 1999, revised November 22, 1999) top

Scott reorganizes the Machin listing

The listing of Machin definitives has been totally revised in Volume 3 of the 2000 edition of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue. Formerly spread among ten different blocks of numbers, the Machins are now grouped together at the end of the listings and given their own special numbers starting with MH. They are organized into five major groups and by denomination within the groups. The regional issues are also included in the new listing.

Many new varieties are now listed, and some stamps that were minor varieties in previous editions are now major varieties. One big group of stamps that now have their own numbers are the lithographed printings; previously, those only rated a lower-case suffix.

Scott also has included a complete listing of British booklets, the first such listing they have produced for a country other than the United States. The listing for each booklet includes the panes in the booklet.

Unfortunately, there are a large number of errors and many inconsistencies. Nonetheless, it is a vast improvement and should make the Machins more manageable for anyone using the Scott Catalogue. Let’s hope they fix and improve the listings further in future editions. (Posted June 11, 1999) top

Stamps for Prince Edward's wedding in June

Royal Mail issued a set of stamps on June 15 to commemorate the wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones which occurred on June 19. Like prior wedding issues, the stamps feature photographs of the couple. Prince Edward is the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

According to a wire service report, the Mirror, a British tabloid, featured the front page headline “Yuk” to describe the stamps. The newspaper had pictures of the black-and-white portraits (only the stamps’ denomination is in color), with the comment that the couples are posing “cheek to cheek for the cheesiest of royal pictures yet taken.” (Posted May 14, 1999.) top

New Machin definitives; pictorials for Scotland and Wales

On April 20, 1999 Royal Mail issued 4 new Machins and revised two, as shown in the table below.

Denomination Color Service
7p Light Grey Second class to first class makeup
19p Olive Green Reissued with enhanced EME portrait
20p Light Green Reissued with one phosphor band
38p Ultramarine Worldwide airmail postcards
44p Stone Worldwide airmail letters to 10g
64p Sea Green Worldwide airmail letters to 20g

Since the first class rate remains at 26p, the existing Machin will continue to serve for that purpose.

Of considerable interest are the new regionals, due on June 8. Pictorial Scottish stamps had been expected, but these will be joined by Welsh stamps as well. In addition, three of the four stamps will be non-denominated - 1st, 2nd, and E (for pan-European rate). The fourth will be a denominated 64p. (There’s another change in policy here, too. One of the denominations of regional stamps used to pay the world-wide postcard rate. For these two regions, it is now replaced by the ‘E’ European rate.)

Scotland 'E' pictorial regional See the complete set of Scottish regionals in the Virtual GB Album.

Most importantly, they are the first multi-colored regular British low-value definitive stamps. Also, they do not have the name of the region on them, as some had speculated, so the design is the only identifier of the region.

On the left are the 2nd and 1st stamps for Scotland showing the Scottish national flag and the lion rampant from Scotland’s coat of arms, respectively. The Welsh stamps on the right have the service indicators in both English and Welsh. The design of the 2ail/nd is a leek fashioned in a style reminiscent of Welsh lovespoons, which are now popular souvenirs of Wales. The leek is the national emblem of Wales. The 1af/st stamp shows a dragon, a Welsh symbol, fashioned from Welsh steel.

See the complete set of Welsh regionals in the Virtual GB Album.

The stamp on the left is the Scottish stamp paying the rate to all European countries. The service indicator ‘E’ is at the lower right, although it is hard to see on this image. Next to it is the tartain plaid of the 64p Scottish stamp. The Welsh ‘E’ stamp pictures a daffodil made of Welsh slate and the 64p shows the Prince of Wales feathers, a crest that was adopted by Edward, the Black Prince who became the Prince of Wales in 1343.

The Northern Ireland stamps will follow tradition - denominated stamps in values of 19p, 38p, and 64p. The first class stamp remains the 26p. Pictorial stamps for Northern Ireland were subsequently issued in early 2001, followed by ones for England. (Posted April 15, 1999, updated May 14, 1999.) top

New millennium booklet

A special booklet was issued on May 12, 1999 along with the Millennium Workers’ Tale stamps. The booklet contains two of the 26p Millennium commemoratives, the Settlers’ Tale and the Workers’ Tale, on one pane as well as eight 1st class Machin definitives on a separate pane.

This is a new format, the first time that commemoratives and definitives have been combined in a single booklet that is not a prestige booklet. (Posted March 5, 1999, updated May 13, 1999). top

A word to the wise collector of modern GB stamps

Be sure to get a copy of the Machins in the Breaking Barriers prestige booklet issued on October 13, 1998. This booklet, also known as the Speed booklet, contains Machins that are perf 14 rather than the standard 15x14. This means that these stamps are likely to be given major catalog numbers by Scott and Gibbons and will probably appear in all printed albums.

(This characteristic was missed by the editor at Scott and is not reflected in the listing in the January, 1999 issue of Scott Stamp Monthly. A corrected listing appeared in the March issue.)

This change in perforation creates nine new major varieties: three 20p regionals, three 26p regionals, and the 10p, 43p and 2nd regular Machins.

An expensive item was created the last time a Machin variety appeared in a prestige booklet and was subsequently included in catalogs and albums. The Christian Heritage booklet issued in 1984 contained a 10p Machin with its numeral in the new, narrower style known as Type II. Specialist collectors noticed the difference right away, but it did not come to the attention of album makers for several years. Once they put in a space for this variety, the demand for it sent prices soaring. The 10p stamp is now listed in Scott as 764b priced at $40 and in Gibbons as X886b, priced at £28 (about $45).

Other Machin varieties issued in prestige booklets have also become scarce. Most of these have differences which are not recognized by Scott, such as changes in phosphor, but they are listed by Gibbons.

I'm not generally a tipster, but if past events are repeated, these Machins will cost more after the new issue period. Booklets such as these generally remain on sale at the British Philatelic Bureau for a year after issue, unless sold out.

The booklet is also available from the Stamp Fulfillment Service of the USPS as part of the International Collection. It is item 804883 and sells for $10.45. You can order it by calling 1-800-STAMP24 or sending a fax to 1-816-545-1212.

update Reader Adrian Keppel wrote to point out that the 43p stamps in the second pane of the Speed booklet differ slightly from those in the fourth pane and the sheet versions. The 43p stamps in the second pane have the value slightly lower and to the right compared with the others. Douglas Myall calls this the “value setting” and lists them in his Handbook. The slight difference in this case is not enough to merit a separate number for this variety.

And while we are on the subject of perf 14 stamps, the 1st and 2nd non-valued stamps in books of 10 printed by the House of Questa using gravure are also perf 14. These booklets were issued on December 1, 1998. Royal Mail says that these stamps are within the specifications given to the printer, so they are likely to be around for a while.

The 2nd stamps from the Speed booklet can be distinguished from the 2nd stamps in the Questa booklet. The Speed booklet was printed by Walsall Security Print, and the direction of printing is inverted, as it usually is. The Questa stamps are printed upright. (Posted January 17, 1999, revised February 20, 1999 and March 4, 1999.) top

New tariffs effective April 26, 1999

Royal Mail announced new tariff (postal rates) that took effect on April 26, 1999. The rates for most letters stayed the same or decreases. Most notably, the rate for first class inland letters up to 60g stayed at 26p while second class letters up to 60g decreased 1p to 19p, a cut of 5%. Royal Mail noted that this will benefit millions of customers because two out of three letters go via second class mail.

The second weight step (60g to 100g) stayed the same for both classes of service, 39p for first class and 31p for second class. The third weight step increased by about 6% and heavier items increased roughly 10%. (Ironically, this is the opposite of the recent rate change in the United States. While letters under 1oz increased in price, those weighing 2oz or more have lower rates, up to the point where priority mail takes over.)

Airmail letters to Europe maintained the same rate for all weights, starting at 30p for up to 20g. Airmail letters outside Europe increased from 43p to 44p for under 10g and from 63p to 64p for 10g to 20g. Beyond that, rates increase to Zone 1 (including the United States) and decrease to Zone 2. Airmail post cards also increase one penny to 38p. These rates are shown in the table below.

Royal Mail states that this tariff change is the first in 33 months, the longest period of stable rates in over 40 years. The new tariffs more accurately reflect Royal Mail’s actual costs. The details of the new tariffs can be found on Royal Mail’s web site.

Several new stamps were issued for the change. (Posted January 15, 1999 revised May 13, 1999. Thanks to Douglas Myall for alerting me to the tariff change and providing the details.) top

  New Rate Change Change Percent
First Class      
60-100g 39p None None
Second Class      
to 60g 19p -1p -5.0%
60-100g 31p None None
Airmail Letters      
Europe to 20g 30p None None
Zone 1&2 to 10g 44p 1p 2.3%
Zone 1&2 10-20g 64p 1p 1.6%
Airmail Postcards 38p 1p 2.7%

Last update: January 14, 2001   Macintosh!
Copyright © 1999 by Larry Rosenblum