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Thermochromic ink featured on weather commemorative

Always looking for important subjects for its stamps, Royal Mail features aspects of British weather on four stamps to be issued on March 13, 2001. The colorful, cartoon-style designs show rain, sunshine, storms and dry weather.

Weather Stamps with Thermochromic Ink
Weather stamp with normal color Weather stamp after touching
The 27p weather stamp with normal color. The 27p weather stamp after it has been warmed.

The 27p stamp featuring sunshine includes thermochromic ink, a technique not previously used on British stamps. When the ink is touched or rubbed for a few seconds, the heat from the finger changes its color from reddish violet to light blue. The two colors are shown in the images above.

Besides being issued as individual sheet stamps, the four stamps are also being issued in souvenir sheet format. The thermochromic ink is also used on the 27p stamp in the souvenir sheet, and it continues into the design in the margin of the sheet.

Complete Weather Souvenir Sheet with Thermochromic Ink
Weather sheet as normal Weather sheet after touching
The weather souvenir sheet with normal color. The weather souvenir sheet after it has been warmed.

I have not yet heard any reason for the use of this ink. It might be a security device to discourage counterfeiting, but then it would be more appropriate to use on all four stamps. It might simply be a trial on the part of the printer (De La Rue) or Royal Mail, or it might be a gimmick to sell more stamps.

Royal Mail has announced that the weather stamps will be sold in a new children’s pack known as a “Postbag.” The bag will contain the souvenir sheet plus stickers, a glider, door hangers, a make-it-yourself barometer and postcards with interesting and unusual facts. It will sell for £5.99. Similar items will be produced for three other issues this year. (Posted February 15, 2001, Revised March 9, 2001.) top

Postage due fee jumps 150%

A small article in the February, 2001 edition of the British Philatelic Bulletin notes that the penalty fee for unpaid or underpaid items (called a “surcharge fee”) was raised to 50p per item from 20p. In addition to the penalty, the addressee is charged sufficient postage to make up the second class rate if the item weighs 750 grams or less, otherwise postage is charged for the first class rate.

In 1983, the penalty was changed from the amount of the deficiency to a flat fee. The fee in 1983 was 10p, and this was increased several times until it reached 20p, where it stood until the current increase.

For example, in 1980 a letter which was underpaid by 5p would be charged 10p (the 5p needed to pay the remainder of the postage plus the same amount as penalty). With the first flat penalty, the recipient would pay 15p (5p postage plus 10p penalty). Now, the total amount to be collected would be 55p. (Posted February 15, 2001.) top

Hallmarking authority says “No” to greetings stamps

Linn’s Stamp News of January 29, 2001 reports that The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, the oldest hallmarking authority in Great Britain, has asked Royal Mail to scrap its greetings stamps scheduled for issue on February 6. Royal Mail refers to these stamps as “Occasions” stamps.

Greetings stamps showing hallmarks

The five designs on the stamps resemble hallmarks, symbolic markings placed on silver, gold and platinum items to indicate that the item has been tested at an assay office. The hallmark guarantees the content, or fineness, of the precious metal content.

The designs on the stamps are not real hallmarks. They are symbols that look like hallmarks and have messages of moving to a new home, cheers, romance, the arrival of a new baby, and thanks. The stamps have a special pearlescent background to make them appear metallic.

Royal Mail has issued several sets of greetings stamps since 1989. These are the first greetings stamps issued in sheet format rather than booklets, with the exception of the personalized greetings stamps first issued last year. The personalized stamps are called “Smilers.”

The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths says the Hallmarking Act of 1973 makes it illegal to make a mark which appears to be a hallmark or could be mistaken for a hallmark where there is intent to deceive. The stamps are called “appalling.”

No response from Royal Mail has been reported, but they may argue that there cannot be any intent to deceive because the marks appear on paper, not on a metal or anything that might be mistaken for a metal.

The original article appeared in an online newspaper, “The Electronic Telegraph.”

UPDATE: June 4, 2001: Royal Mail and the British Hallmarking Council apparently came to an agreement about the stamps. In its brochure describing the issue of the Occasions stamps in Smilers format, Royal Mail said

Royal Mail and the British Hallmarking Council wish to make it clear that the Occasions stamp issue of 6 February bearing specially created “Hallmarks” symbols was not intended to represent in any way official hallmarks placed on precious metal articles by the four Assay Offices and by certain recognised independent offices in other countries. Royal Mail acknowledges the importance of authorised hallmarks as a guarantee to the consumer of the standard of fineness of the precious metal content in articles of jewellery or silver.

Another article in the same newspaper reported that Royal Mail gave its staff in Scotland 45 postage stamps in December, 2000 as a holiday bonus. At least one worker reacted angrily and felt that the workers deserved more as well as something other than what they see every day. The union was also not pleased, but Royal Mail said the gift was costing a lot of money and it was the thought that counts. (Posted January 27, 2001. Updated June 4, 2001.) top

Regionals for England to be issued

The January, 2001 issue of the ‘British Philatelic Bulletin’ announces that pictorial regional stamps for England are to be issued in 2001. The date was later set to April 23, St. George’s Day.

The full set of stamps is shown in the Virtual GB Album.

Regional stamps, officially known as ’country’ stamps, are issued primarily for use in one particular area of the United Kingdom, although they are valid throughout the U.K.

5d Jersey regional Regional issues first appeared in 1958 for Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man. These were definitive issues featuring the Wilding portrait of Queen Elizabeth II plus symbols appropriate for each region. The stamps for Guernsey and Jersey were discontinued in 1969 when those areas established their own postal services and issued their own stamps. A Jersey regional is at left.
5p Isle of Man regional When the Machin definitives were introduced in 1971, special regional versions were issued for the remaining four areas. These had the basic Machin design with the addition of a single symbol in the upper left corner. The Isle of Man regionals were discontinued in 1973, again because the island established its own postal service. A 5p Isle of Man regional Machin is at left.
1st class Welsh pictorial regional Regional Machins continued to be issued for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In 1999, some of the Machin versions for Scotland and Wales were replaced by pictorial issues. Pictorial stamps for Northern Ireland are scheduled to be issued on March 6, 2001. The Welsh 1st class regional showing the Welsh dragon is at left.

As with the other countries, there will be four stamps, for first-class letters, second-class letters, letters to Europe and the second weight step for overseas letters. The first three will be non- denominated stamps.

The designs feature symbols associated with England: Three Lions of England (second class non-value indicated), Crowned Lion of England supporting the shield of St. George (first class NVI), English Oak Tree (European rate NVI) and English Tudor Rose (65p, second step overseas airmail). The designs come from sculpted images that were then photographed (the same way the famous Machin portrait was developed). The usual silhouette of the Queen is at the upper right and the denomination or service indicator at lower right. The stamps are pastel colored.

The British Philatelic Bulletin states, “The national definitives (Machins) will remain available on request.” That seems to indicate that the regionals will be the primary sheet-format stamps sold in post offices. Now, will Royal Mail issue these, and the other regionals, in booklets, too? (Posted January 14, 2001. Updated March 9, 2001.) top

Last update: November 22, 2001   Macintosh!
Copyright © 2001 by Larry Rosenblum