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  1. GB goes self-adhesive
  2. Three new GB rate books published
  3. Northern Ireland regionals to be pictorial
  4. Personalized Christmas stamps available
  5. ‘Rainbow Trials’ book published and recalled
  6. Stanley Gibbons flies free
  7. Special issues for the Queen Mother’s 100th Birthday   
  8. New Machin colors and other rate increase issues
  9. Special issues for The Stamp Show 2000 announced
  10. Postal Rate increase effective April 27, 2000
  11. The Millennium Machin is here!
  12. “Special by Design” prestige booklet announced
  13. Toilet stamp flushed
  14. Personalized stamps to be available
  15. Deegam Machin Handbook supplement available

GB goes self-adhesive

On January 29, 2001, Royal Mail begins a massive transition to self-adhesive stamps. Although countries such as the United States have been issuing large quanties of self-adhesive stamps for the last few years, Great Britain has released only a few trial issues. That situation is about to change.

Self-adhesive booklet

Eight new self-adhesive booklets containing non-denominated (NVI) stamps will be issued. The booklets are listed in the table below. It is likely that all British definitives will be issued as self-adhesives next year, with the possible exception of the recess-printed high values. The first self-adhesive special (commemorative) issue will be a booklet of ten Cats & Dogs to be issued in February.

An return to the past is marked by the issue of booklets containing six and twelve stamps, instead of the usual four and ten. Royal Mail says that market research showed that the public preferred these new sizes to the old ones. Also, since there is no need for a selvedge to attach the pane to the cover, the new booklets will be the same size as the old ones, even with the additional stamps.

Booklets containing panes of ten will also be issued to be sold in machines that cannot be converted to take books of 12 because they do not handle coins smaller than 10p.

Panes of six were common in booklets from their inception in 1904 until the introduction of folded booklets in 1976 and window (or barcode) booklets in 1987. The original reason for panes of six was the ease of making the a booklet contain an even amount of stamps using the Sterling currency of 12 pence to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound. For example, four panes of six 1d stamps would cost an even two shillings. Panes of six were continued after decimalization in 1971, but often one or two of the stamps in a pane was replaced by a label.

Booklet with Queen Victoria label

Self-adhesive booklets issued January 29, 2001
Contents Printer
All 1st stamps are flame and all 2nd stamps are light blue.  
6 x 1st plus Queen Victoria label shown above Walsall
6 x 1st Walsall
6 x 2nd Walsall
10 x 1st Questa
10 x 2nd Questa
12 x 1st Walsall
12 x 1st shown at top Questa
12 x 2nd Questa

Additional self-adhesive issues during 2001 are listed here. This list is complete.

Self-adhesive issues after January 29, 2001
Date Contents
February 13, 2001 Sheetlet of 10 Cats and Dogs
February 13, 2001 Booklet of 10 “Cats and Dogs” stamps plus two 1st-class NVI Machins
April 17, 2001 Booklet of four 1st NVI Machins plus two “Submarines” stamps
August 1, 2001 Five of the January 29 booklets with slightly changed text on the covers. The booklets of six and twelve were the ones reissued; booklets of 10 were not reissued.
September 4, 2001 Booklet of four 1st NVI Machins plus two “Punch & Judy” stamps
October 22, 2001 Booklet of four 1st NVI Machins plus two “Flags & Ensigns” stamps
November 6, 2001 Sheets of 50 Christmas commemoratives: 2nd NVI, 1st NVI, E, 45p, 65p
November 6, 2001 Booklet of 12 1st NVI Christmas commemoratives and booklet of 24 2nd NVI Christmas commemoratives.

Royal Mail’s self-adhesive issues prior to 2001 are listed in the table below. The image is the 2nd class Enschedé coil issued in 1998.

2nd class horizontal Machin coil

Item Printer Issue Date Scott Catalogue Gibbons
Booklet of 20 1st stamps in horizontal format Walsall October 19, 1993 Pane MH243a
Booklet BK1251
Booklet HE1
Rolls of 100 1st & 2nd stamps in horizontal format Enschedé March 18, 1997 MH300, MH305 1976,1977
Rolls of 200 1st & 2nd stamps in vertical format Enschedé April 6, 1998 MH292, MH297 2039,2040
Sheets of 100 1st & 2nd stamps in vertical format Walsall June 25, 1998 MH292, MH297 2039,2040
Pane of 4 x 1st in Profile on Print booklet Walsall February 16, 1999    
Sheets of 100 1st & 2nd stamps in vertical format Questa (1st) and Walsall (2nd) September 4, 2000    

(Posted November 19, 2000. Updated February 4, 2002.) top

Three new GB rate books published

Three new books listing various British postal rates have been published. These books are useful to collectors of postal history who want to know what rate was paid on a cover or piece. They are also useful to stamp collectors who want to know the rate or rates paid by a particular stamp.

The three books are listed in the table below, along with information on where to get them. They may also be available from other literature dealers. The books were reviewed in our “Great Britain” column in “Linn’s Stamp News” of November 13, 2000.

My colleague, David Alderfer, wrote the review. He noted that the easiest book to use is Wawrukiewicz because of the illustrations of 49 covers and because the information about special services such as registration are repeated at the bottom of the basic tables so the reader does not have to switch back and forth between different parts of the book to evaluate a cover.

He notes that Furfie includes brief narratives that establish a context for the postal rates listed. Johnson and Peet has a vast section itemizing the individual values of the George VI and Elizabeth II definitves, giving the color, date of issue and intended service of each; this would be of interest to stamp collectors as well as postal history collectors.

  British Civilian Postage Rates of the 20th Century British Postal Rates 1937 to 2000 Great Britain Domestic and International Postal Rates and Fees 1871-1999
Author(s) Michael Furfie Robert Johnson and Gordon Peet Anthony S. Wawrukiewicz
Format 6 x 8.5 inches, stapled 8.25 x 11.5 inches, spiralbound 8.5 x 11 inches, three-ring binder
Number of Pages 62 164 49
Approximate Price $11 $32.50 postpaid in the U.S. For other destinations, contact the seller. $24.95 plus $3 postage in the U.S. For other destinations see web site or contact the publisher
Years Covered 1900-2000 1937-2000 1871-1999
Illustrations none none 49 covers
Available From
(please contact before sending payment)
Michael Furfie
37 Town Tree Road
Ashford, Middlesex
TW15 2PN, U.K.
Leonard Hartmann
PO Box 36006
Louisville, KY 40233 USA
Box 650
Snow Camp, NC 27349 USA
Phone none 502-451-0317 1-800-447-8267
Web site none http://www.pbbooks.com/ http://www.worldwide-postal-rates.com/
Email none

(Posted November 19, 2000.) top

Northern Ireland regionals to be pictorial

65p Northern Ireland pictorial Royal Mail has announced that pictorial definitives for Northern Ireland will be issued on March 6, 2001. They will join the pictorials issued for Wales and Scotland last year. The full set of stamps is shown in the Virtual GB Album.

The denominations and designs will be:

This will mean the total elimination of the Machin design for regional definitives. Regionals for England were subsequently announced for issue on April 23, 2001.

Thanks to Douglas Myall for the initial information. (Posted November 19, 2000, revised February 15, 2001.) top

Personalized Christmas stamps available

Royal Mail has announced ‘Customized’ Christmas stamps available starting October 3, 2000. There are two stamps available, a sheet of 20 of the 1995 19p Robin in a pillar box and a sheet of 10 first class (non-denominated) 1997 Father Christmas stamps.

19p Smiler for Christmas First class Smiler for Christmas

The sheets are available in two formats. The first contains Greetings labels along with the stamps. These are sold at a slight premium over face value, £3.99 for the 19p stamps (face value is £3.80) and £2.95 for the first class stamps (face value is £2.70). These are immediately available from the Philatelic Bureau and in postshops.

The second format includes a photograph rather than the labels, as pictured above. These are also called ‘personalized’ stamps or ‘Smilers for Christmas.’ These are available only from the Philatelic Bureau. There is an order form available by phone (0845 074 2000 from within the UK) or on Royal Mail‘s web site at http://www.royalmail.com. At the site, click on ‘For you at home,’ then on ‘Smilers for Christmas.’ Royal Mail also said that the forms were mailed to Bureau customers in late October. The prices for these sheets are higher, £7.99 for the 19p stamps and £5.95 for the first class stamps. The personalized stamps are available only to residents of the United Kingdom.

The name ‘Smilers for Christmas’ is a reference to the personalized ‘Smilers’ sheets sold by Royal Mail during The Stamp Show 2000; those sheets had stamps picturing famous smiles. (Posted October 9, 2000. Revised November 6, 2000) top

‘Rainbow Trials’ book published and recalled

The Great Britain Philatelic Society has published a beautiful and scholarly book entitled ‘Rainbow Trials.’ The GBPS web site describes the book:

The PENNY BLACK postage stamp was an extraordinary creation. It was the first stamp that ever portrayed the effigy of a reigning sovereign, and except for two minor instances which were quickly detected, the stamps were never forged. This is the story of how the colour [of the stamp] was changed from black to red.

Early in May 1840, Rowland Hill was advised that several red Maltese Cross cancellations had been removed by the public from the black stamps. Hill was immensely alarmed and immediately instituted a series of trials to establish satisfactory printing and cancelling inks, the so-called ‘Rainbow Trials.’

The published work is hardbound and illustrated in full colour. It includes much previously unseen material, which has in the main been scanned directly from the original items, to ensure as accurate as possible colour reproduction. In total there are 180 illustrations, 146 of ‘Rainbow’ items, including 77 from the Royal collection.

The book is available directly from the GBPS for £75 plus postage. Members of the GBPS or the Great Britain Collectors Club receive a 10% discount.

Unfortunately, the first printing of the book was defective because it did not have accurate color reproduction. A reprint is being done and will be sent to anyone who has a copy of the first printing. Contact at for more details. (Posted October 1, 2000.) top

Stanley Gibbons flies free

The takeover of Stanley Gibbons, the world’s most famous stamp firm, by Flying Flowers is being reversed. Gibbons will once again be an independent firm.

In April, 1998, Gibons was purchased by Flying Flowers, a mail order company, with the hope that the parent company’s marketing experience and customer list would help expand Gibbons’ business. Flying Flowers paid the equivalent of $22.5 million in April, 1998 for Gibbons.

Since then, Gibbons’ business has not done very well, showing a small loss in the last fiscal year. But Flying Flowers’ plant business has done very poorly. So the Gibbons firm is being sold back to Paul Fraser, 44, who sold it to Flying Flowers in 1998. The price Fraser paid was not stated. Flying Flowers is keeping two other stamp businesses, the Benham first day cover firm, and the Urch Harris new issue service.

Stanley Gibbons was founded in 1856 by Edward Stanley Gibbons. It is acknowledged to be the world’s oldest stamp dealer as well as its most famous. (Posted June 23, 2000.) top

Special issues for the Queen Mother’s 100th Birthday

Royal Mail has decided to issue a prestige booklet and a souvenir sheet to honor the 100th birthday of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on August 4. (The Queen Mother is the widow of King George VI.)

The souvenir sheet pictures a family photograph with four generations of the Royal Family: The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, The Prince of Wales (Charles, heir to the throne) and Prince William of Wales (Charles’ oldest son). Perforations surround each of the four faces, and the usual silhouette of the Queen and the numerals ‘27’ are placed in the upper left corner, creating four 27p stamps. The portrait was taken by John Swannell on the Queen Mother’s 99th birthday.

The prestige booklet will be titled “The Life of the Century.” It will sell for £7.03 and will contain the usual four panes. The first will contain two rows of three 2nd class Scottish regional stamps and a row of 65p Scottish regionals with a label picturing Glamis Castle, The Queen Mother’s ancestral home. The second pane contains eight Millennium Machins with a central label. The third pane is the miniature sheet but slightly larger than the one issued separately, and the fourth pane contains four of the 27p Queen Mother stamp from the souvenir sheet.

Other related items being issued are five stamp cards (one showing the entire sheet, four showing the individual stamps), a coin cover, a bank note cover and a commemorative document.

This would mean that 2000 is the first year in which Royal Mail issues three prestige booklets. The first was “Special by Design,” issued in February. A prestige booklet titled “A Treasury of Trees” is scheduled for September, tying in the with Millennium commemorative set “Tree and Leaf,” which is due August 1. (Posted April 15, 2000. Updated July 29, 2000.) top

New Machin colors and other rate increase issues

A general rate increase went into effect on April 27, 2000, postponed from the originally announced date of April 3. New stamps and booklets were issued on April 25.

For the first time in over ten years, Royal Mail has authorized new permanent colors for the Machin series. The current palette, devised by Jeffery Matthews in the 1980s, barely provides enough colors to cover the number of stamps required, which includes stamps for the current postage rates, obsolescent stamps issued for prior rates, and stamps permanently on sale. Matthews also developed the new colors.

The table below lists the stamps to be issued on April 25 to cover the rates going into effect on April 27 (see below). Grey blue is the new color being used at this time. (The 33p was originally announced as “slate grey,” which was presumed to be a new color. However, this was in error and the 33p stamp was issued in slate blue, an existing color.)

Denomination Color Service
8p Old Gold Second class to first class makeup
33p Slate Blue Second class 60g to 100g (second step)
40p Grey Blue new Worldwide airmail postcards
41p Red First class 60g to 100g (second step)
45p Rhododendron Worldwide letters to 10g
65p Dark Turquoise Worldwide letters 10g to 20g (second step)

Notable for its absence is a 27p stamp for the new minimum rate for first class letters. Royal Mail apparently expects that need to be met by non-denominated stamps (NVIs), including the Millennium Machin. There is an existing 19p Machin to pay for the second class rate which is not changing.

The regular flame 1st and blue 2nd NVIs are no longer available in sheet format. The self-adhesive sheets of 100 printed by Walsall have been discontinued. The Millennium Machin is currently available in sheets, but it will go off sale at the end of this year. Unless new versions are issued, there will be no NVIs in sheet format in 2001.

Another change for this rate incrase is that machine-vended booklets contain NVIs instead of denominated stamps. The £1 booklet contains three flame 1st and one blue 2nd NVIs. The £2 booklet contains six 1st and two 2nd NVIs. Booklets of four 40p and of four 65p stamps were also issued.

New regional definitives

Also issued on April 25 were new regional definitives. For Northern Ireland, there is 40p, 65p, and 1st stamps with the standard regional Machin design. NVIs for Scotland and Wales were issued last year, so all that is needed for them is a 65p stamp. The Scottish and Welsh 65p stamps will retain the same design as the 64p stamps issue last year.

New printer for high-value engraved Machins

New printings by De La Rue Security Print of the £1.50, £2, £3, and £5 recess-printed Machins were issued on April 11. The original versions were printed by Enschedé and were issued only 13 months before then. The stamps were prepared from the same dies (created by Czeslaw Slania) used for the first version. The colors remain the same, but Douglas Myall has noted that the fluorescence is very different.

This will probably be very unpopular with specialist collectors who will need to buy the new versions. This issue was not announced in the April issue of the Philatelic Bulletin, but did appear on April 11 as scheduled.

(Posted March 4, 2000. Thanks to Douglas Myall for the information. Updated May 1, 2000.) top

Special issues for The Stamp Show 2000 announced

Royal Mail has announced several special items to be issued during The Stamp Show 2000, being held in London, May 22-28, 2000.

(Posted February 5, 2000. Most recent update May 11, 2001. Thanks to Douglas Myall and the Machin Collectors Club for some of the information.) top

Postal Rate increase effective April 27, 2000

Royal Mail has announced a comprehensive rate increase effective April 27, 2000. An earlier announcement gave the date as April 3, but it was subsequently postponed. Both inland and overseas rates are affected, though the second class letter rate remains unchanged at 19p.

Service Current rate New rate Increase Increase
First class letter to 60g 26p 27p 1p 3.8%
First class letter 60g to 100g (second step) 39p 41p 2p 5.1%
Second class letter to 60g 19p 19p No change -
Second class letter 60g to 100g (second step) 31p 33p 2p 6.5%
European letter to 20g 34p 36p 2p 5.3%
Worldwide airmail postcard 38p 40p 2p 5.9%
Worldwide letter to 10g 44p 45p 1p 2.3%
Worldwide letter 10g to 20g (second step) 64p 65p 1p 1.6%

The European letter rate was raised from 30p to 34p last October. The last general rate increase was in April, 1999. It is likely that several new Machins will be issued to pay the new rates.

For more information on current postal rates, visit Royal Mail’s web site. (Posted February 5, 2000.) top

The Millennium Machin is here!

The Millennium Machin

Royal Mail calls it the “Millennium Definitive,” but anyone who knows me knows that I like the alliterative sound of “Millennium Machin” much better.

The Machin design was adapted by Richard Scholey of the Chase design group. The head was enlarged by omitting part of the Queen’s shoulder that is usually seen and letting the portrait bleed down to the bottom of the stamp. This is the first time a white background has been used for a Machin, and the brownish-olive is new, too.

The stamp went on sale in booklets of 10 and sheets of 200 on January 6, 2000. It is available in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, along with the country stamps in use in those regions. It will remain on sale through the end of the year.

Douglas Myall is quoted in Linn’s, “This new rendition of the Queen’s head ... is the closest I have seen to the Arnold Machin original conception.”

For another look at the Millennium Machin, see the Designer Machins section of the Virtual Machin Album. (Posted December 9, 1999.) top

“Special by Design” Prestige Booklet Announced

The third (and last) booklet leading up to The Stamp Show 2000 (next May in London) has been announced by Royal Mail. It honors the work of Jeffery Matthews, an artist who has done much work on the Machins since their inception.

The first pane of the booklet has eight of the new Millennium Machins (which Matthews had nothing to do with).

The second pane contains nine first class NVI country stamps using the original 1971 design which Matthews developed. There are three each from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Of course, those regionals were never issued as NVI’s, these are totally new stamps.

The third pane contains four 19p Machins and two 38p Machins, in the usual design.
These are the first 19p olive green Machins printed by Walsall and the first with the enhanced portrait to have side bands. The 38p stamps should be similar to Walsall’s existing booklet stamps, though there will probably be minor differences. Matthews designed the numerals used in all current Machins.
Doubled-headed Machin

The fourth pane has six first class NVI black 1840 Anniversary stamps (also known as double-headers) showing the portraits of both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II. Since the original double-headers of 1990 all had denominations, these are totally new stamps. Matthews designed these. The 20p from 1990 is at the left.

Matthews is also responsible for the colors of the current Machins, an achievement that is not noted in the booklet. (Posted January 11, 2000.) top

Toilet stamp flushed

According to an article in Linn’s Stamp News of December 6, 1999, the original proposal for the Millennium series stamp noting the Right to Health (part of the Citizens’ Tale set issued July 6) was for a stamp picturing a toilet. Royal Mail apparently did not want to use that design and substituted a water faucet (tap). Flush-trated topical collectors who want a toilet on a stamp must turn to St. Vincent and the Grenadines which recently issued a stamp picturing an artistic interpretation of one, a 1966 sculpture by Claes Oldenburg. (Posted December 4, 1999.) top

Personalized stamps to be available

In conjunction with The Stamp Show 2000 (to be held in London next May), Royal Mail will offer “personalized stamps” - a sheet of stamps with your own photograph on labels in the sheet. See image above. This is similar to what Australia did earlier this year. (Posted November 22, 1999.) top

Deegam Machin Handbook supplement available

The first supplement to “The Complete Deegam Machin Handbook” is now available. It brings the Handbook up to date through June, 1999. Contact John Deering at for more information. (Posted November 22, 1999.) top

Last update: February 4, 2002   Macintosh!
Copyright © 2002 by Larry Rosenblum