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Win a million pounds from Royal Mail (if you live in the U.K.)

Linn’s Stamp News reports that Royal Mail is sponsoring a holiday contest in which the first prize is £1 million (approximately US$1.4 million). Royal Mail has randomly distributed 31 winning game cards in its booklets containing first class Christmas stamps.

Besides the main prize, there will be five winners of £50,000 and 25 winners of £10,000. The contest runs until December 21 and is open only to United Kingdom residents.

Cancel promoting contest

Royal Mail is promoting the contest with a special slogan postmark. Thanks to my friend Ian for sending me a holiday card with the postmark pictured above. The slogan says, “Where’s the £1 MILLION stamp?,” although more appropriate would be “Where’s the £1 MILLION booklet?”

Cynics might ask why Royal Mail is giving away a million and a half pounds when it is also threatening to lay off tens of thousands of workers (see next story). But you won't find any cynics here. (Posted December 14, 2001.) top

British postal workers may strike

The Associated Press reported on December 12, 2001 that the union representing most of Britain’s postal workers is threatening to strike if Consignia goes through with its plan to eliminate 30,000 jobs, about 15 percent of the workforce, over the next 18 months.

One of the union’s officers stated that workers were fed up with being blamed for management failures.

Consignia has already eliminated about 10,000 staff members over the past year “in the face of increasing competition and huge losses.”

Meanwhile, the Machin Collectors Club's December newsletter reprints a story from the Daily Mail describing Consignia’s plans to drop its second delivery of mail to concentrate on on meeting its mail delivery goals. The government has set a goal of having 92 percent of first class mail delivered the next day. Estimates of actual performance have ranged from 86.5 percent to 69 percent.

Consignia is also considering charging an annual fee of up to £50 for deliveries before 9am. It is likely that businesses will be the ones interested in early delivery. (Posted December 14, 2001.) top

Special exhibition in 2002 for the Golden Jubilee

The Royal Philatelic Collection, in conjunction with the Crown Agents Stamp Bureau, will present a special exhibition next year to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne.

The 27 frame exhibition will feature rare stamps from Great Britain and the Commonwealth. It will be displayed at several locations throughout the U.K. from April 27 to June 4. It will also be shown at the Golden Jubilee Stamp Show on October 20, presumably in London. Details of the show have not been announced. (Posted December 8, 2001.) top

Christmas booklets have a new look

2001 XMAS booklet

This year’s Christmas stamps are the first to be issued in self-adhesive format. Also unusually, they are nearly square in shape. This combination led Royal Mail to adopt a different look for the annual Christmas booklets.

That is, if you can call them booklets. They are actually miniature sheets, or sheetlets, that can be folded into a convenient size, not much different from an ordinary booklet. The booklet of first class stamps contains 12 stamps, and the second class booklet has 24.

The first class booklet has a top panel, four rows of three stamps and a bottom panel. It folds between the first and second rows of stamps and between the third and fourth. The top panel of the folded booklet is shown above. To see the unfolded booklet, click here. The second class booklet has eight rows of three stamps and four folds.

Royal Mail used a very similar format for self-adhesive definitives. These were in units of 100 stamps and were called sheets and not booklets. That raises some very tough questions. Are these formats properly called “booklets?” And if the same format is used for 12 or 24 stamps and for 100 stamps, are the smaller ones booklets and the larger ones not booklets? (Posted December 1, 2001.) top

Souvenir sheets back in annual yearbook

Every year since 1984, Royal Mail has produced a hard-bound yearbook containing all of the commemorative, or special, stamps of the year. “Royal Mail Special Stamps: The Stories Behind the Stamps” is the book’s title.

The full-color volume has an article about each set of stamps that includes information on the subject, design and production of the stamps. The designers are usually interviewed for the articles. The mint stamps are included with the book, and hingeless mounts are included in the book so that the stamps can be placed on one of the pages with the related article. The book serves as an informative album for the stamps.

Flags and Ensigns Souvenir Sheet

Prior to 1999, Royal Mail issued souvenir sheets only as a method of raising funds for its decennial international stamp exhibition. The Edward Lear sheet of 1988 (Scott 1229a) and Industrial Archaeology sheet of 1989 (Scott 1284) were issued to publicize Stamp World 90 and were included in the 1988 and 1989 yearbooks, respectively. However, the Penny Black Sesquicentennial sheet issued at the show in May, 1990 (Scott 1296a, used as the header for pages here at GBStamps.com) was not included in the 1990 yearbook.

Souvenir sheets were again issued in 1999 and 2000 as part of the special millennium issues of those years and for Stamp Show 2000. In spite of the fact that some of the souvenir sheets, such as the “Millennium Timekeeper,” contained stamps not issued in regular panes of 50, these souvenir sheets were not included in the yearbooks.

The 2001 yearbook has two of the three souvenir sheets issued during the year. The weather stamps are represented by the souvenir sheet rather than the four singles, and the Flags and Ensigns souvenir sheet (at left) is also included. Missing is the buses souvenir sheet; only the se-tenant stamps are present.

Also of note in the yearbook are the mini-pane of ten cats and dogs stamps and the self-adhesive Christmas stamps, since these are the first self-adhesive special stamps issued by Royal Mail. Also in the yearbook are the Occasions stamps. These are a continuation of the greetings stamp series, but this is the first such issue to be in the yearbook.

The cover of the yearbook and the dust jacket feature this quote:

We are a nation of flower-lovers, but also a nation of stamp collectors, pigeon-fanciers, amateur carpenters, coupon-snippers, darts-players, crossword-puzzle fans.
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn, 1941

(Posted November 19, 2001.) top

Golden jubilee special edition book offered

Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne, will be celebrated with an issue of stamps and a prestige booklet on February 5, 2002. Accompanying the issue will be a souvenir book that describes 50 years of royal issues. The book is a collaboration between Royal Mail and the British Library. It will feature 200 color images.

A special limited edition of this book is being offered to customers of Royal Mail. The edition, limited to 5,000 copies, includes a numbered certificate with a cancelled set of the new stamps featuring the Queen, in the stamp pane format of the prestige booklet. This edition is priced at £16.95 and will be published in June, 2002.

Update: The special edition of the book sold out quickly. The regular edition, with the same text but without the numbered certificate, remained on sale at £14.95. (Posted November 19, 2001. Updated October 20, 2002.) top

Stanley Gibbons announces single-country catalogues

Stanley Gibbons announced its intention to produce single-country catalogues using advanced digital techniques. The catalogues, available on high quality paper in a multi-ring binder, were scheduled to be available starting with Australia in August, 2001, though none was listed on their web site in early September.

Each set of country pages comes with general information pages that would generally appear in the front of a multi-country catalogue.

The goal is to allow collectors to buy only what they need, saving them money compared with buying big volumes containing information they do not need.

Gibbons stresses that production of its normal, bound catalogues will continue for “the foreseeable future.”

Why is this important to GB collectors, since Gibbons already makes several different catalogues devoted to Great Britain?

First, Gibbons is a major resource for collectors in Britain, much like Scott in the United States, and its Great Britain catalogues, especially the Specialised, provide information unavailable elsewhere. Its health as an on-going concern is of interest to collectors of British stamps.

Second, if Gibbons is successful with this venture, it could lead to the termination of worldwide and multi-country catalogues. For worldwide collectors and topical collectors, buying all the individual country catalogues would probably be prohibitively expensive. Where would these collectors turn for their catalogues?

The adoption of new formats by catalogue makers, whether it is Gibbons’ single-country catalogues, Scott’s single-country CD-ROMs, or Gibbons’ web-based catalogue, affects all collectors. (Posted September 10, 2001.) top

Philatelic Bureau moves to new home

Last March, the British Philatelic Bureau moved to a new location in Edinburgh. The building is located at the South Gyle business park and is named Tallents House after Sir Stephen Tallents. Tallents developed The Post Office film unit that produced the well-known film, “Night Mail.” Tallents also served as a public relations officer for The Post Office during the 1930s and was a governor of the BBC. He was knighted in 1932 and died in 1958.

The Bureau is part of Royal Mail’s Stamps and Collectibles unit. It handles over 10 million mailings per year to nearly 500,000 collectors, dealers and businesses in 130 countries.

Collectors wishing to order from the Bureau can write to them at 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, Scotland EH12 9PE. They accept major credit cards for payments. I have been a customer of the Bureau for over 20 years and am very pleased with their service. (Posted August 16, 2001.) top

Royal Mail postpones domestic rate increase request; ‘E’ rate increases

Royal Mail asked for a 1p rate increase for both first and second class mail to be effective October 1, then postponed the request and promised that domestic rates would remain frozen until the end of 2001.

The rate increase would have to be approved by the new Postal Services Commission, known as Postcomm. Consignia, the parent of Royal Mail, felt that it cannot justify the rate increase until the government determines the “future capital structure of the business.”

Royal Mail notes that in real terms, the first class rate is down five percent compared with five years ago and almost 20 percent compared with 20 years ago. The second class rate, used on more than half of all mail, is 12 percent lower than five years ago and 31 percent lower than 20 years ago. The current proposal would be the first increase for second class mail after six years of flat or reduced prices.

The UK First Class rate remains one of the lowest domestic rates among EU countries. Only three countries charge lower basic rates for an equivalent service standard and half of the EU countries charge at least 25 per cent more than the UK.

If and when the increase is approved, expect a group of new Machins to cover many of the new rates. There will probably not be a 20p or 28p Machin (just as there has been no 27p Machin for the current first class rate) because non-denominated (NVI) stamps are generally used for those rates.

The rate for mail to Europe was increased 1p to 37p effective July 2, 2001. This rate is covered by the ‘E’ stamp, so no new Machin is needed. Certain other international rates and the special delivery rate were also increased. (Posted August 12, 2001.) top

Isle of Man pictures British QE II definitives

Earlier this year, the Isle of Man issued a souvenir sheet picturing several British Wilding and Machin definitives that were used in the Isle of Man. British stamps were used in the Isle of Man until its own postal authority was formed in 1973.

Isle of Man souvenir sheet

The first two stamps are regular definitives issued for use throughout the United Kingdom. At left is a half-penny pre-decimal Machin definitive, and to its right is a six pence Wilding definitive.

The third stamp is a two-and-a-half pence regional Machin issued in 1971 for use in the Isle of Man. Regional definitives were issued for use in the the various countries within the U.K. The last stamp is a regional Wilding issued in 1958 for use in the Isle of Man.

Regionals have been in the news lately because of the recent pictorial issues. More information about regional issues is given in a news story below. (Posted May 26, 2001.) top

Designer Hedgecoe receives settlement from Royal Mail for Machins

A report in Stamp Collector of May 7, 2001 notes that Professor John Hedgecoe successfully sued Royal Mail for libel and to update historical records.

2p Machin Hedgecoe claimed that pictures he took in the 1960s were consulted by Arnold Machin as an aid while designing the stamps now known as Machins. Royal Mail denied this and made statements to that effect in early 2000.

Hedgecoe sued for libel. Royal Mail reviewed information supplied by Hedgecoe, withdrew its statements, apologized and settled the case for an undisclosed amount.

Douglas Myall provided more information in September in one of his periodic reports to Machin collectors. He notes that since Machin passed away in 1999 and no evidence could be found to support Hedgecoe’s assertion, Royal Mail concluded that it was impossible to really know if Machin consulted Hedgecoe’s photographs. Unfortunately, Royal Mail’s news department stated categorically that Hedgecoe played no part in Machin’s work, and this statement led to the suit.

According to Myall, this statement was released by Royal Mail when the suit was settled:

Royal Mail now believes that Professor Hedgecoe’s photographs were used by Mr. Machin as a significant aid in the design of the final study, which was then used for the definitive stamp. Professor Hedgecoe is therefore entitled to his full share of credit, along with others engaged in this complex process.

Contrary to assertions in Stamp Collector, these stamps are not likely to be called “Hedgecoes” from now on. Stamp Collector also asserts that 150 billion stamps with the Machin design have been issued since 1967. However, this claim has been disputed by British anti-monarchists, who have requested a recount. The recount is expected to be complete in early 2008, unless the House of Lords stops the count. (Posted May 11, 2001. Updated November 23, 2001.) top

Last update: April 9, 2007   Macintosh!
Copyright © 2001 by Larry Rosenblum