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Stamps for Prince William’s 21st birthday

Spokesmen for Royal Mail said that they have reached agreement with Buckingham Palace (likely including the Queen herself) to issue a set of stamps to celebrate the 21st birthday of Prince William. The stamps will be available prior to his birthday on June 21, 2003.

Prince William is the eldest son of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. His mother was the late Princess Diana. Charles is next in line for the throne after his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. William will succeed his father to the throne. Members of the British public who are not fond of Charles have apparently begun to think about William’s reign, although that is likely not to occur for another 20 years or more.

This is the first time that the British Post Office has commemorated such an event with stamps. Is this is a truly noteworthy event, or is it just another opportunity to take money from collectors?

In answer to my question, reader SL wrote:

Yes, I do feel such events should be commemorated with stamps. I know we are inundated with special issues - and some are rather weird - but something like this is special.

(Posted October 22, 2002.) top

Slania to engrave pillar boxes stamps

Noted engraver Czeslaw Slania will engrave a set of five pillar boxes stamps to be issued on October 8. The stamps mark the 150th anniversary of the introduction of the first roadside pillar box, often called a post box.

Pillar boxes were a direct result of the post office reforms implemented starting in 1839 at the behest of Rowland Hill. With the public encouraged to prepay postage and use postage stamps or postal stationery, there was no reason for a mailer to have to go to a post office or receiving house in order to mail the letter. Conveniently located deposit boxes would serve the public admirably.

The stamps show full-color examples of five boxes, ranging from the green and gold box used in 1857 in London, Dublin and Edinburgh to the nearly flat-top box installed from 1980 to 2001. Current boxes are cylindrical and have a cap with a milled edge, a traditional design from 1879.

Pillar Boxes stamps engraved by Czeslaw Slania

The first day cancel above was done at Bishops Caundle, now the site of the oldest operating postbox in Great Britain.

This is the fifth set of special stamps produced by Slania for Royal Mail. Earlier this year, Royal Mail awarded him the Reginald M Phillips medal for stamp design and the Rowland Hill award for Lifetime Achievement. For information about Slania and his work, visit the award-winning site, “Exploring the World of Czeslaw Slania’s Engravings.” (Posted September 16, 2002. Image added November 22, 2002.) top

Machins celebrate 35 years

43p Machin

Writing in the June issue of the British Philatelic Bulletin,, Douglas Myall notes the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Machin definitives, first issued on June 5, 1967. The design by Arnold Machin, for whom the series is named by collectors, was the winner of a competition begun two years earlier. Myall says that the simplicity of the design and the timeless quality of a sculpture has resulted in its enduring popularity.

More information on the inception of the Machins can be found on this site in the Virtual Machin Album. (Posted September 16, 2002.) top

David Gentleman’s autobiography, Artwork, to be available in October

David Gentleman is Royal Mail’s most prolific stamp designer with over 100 stamps to his credit. An interview with him is posted on the GBCC web site.

To celebrate the fortieth anniversary of his first Great Britain stamp, Royal Mail is supporting the publication of his ‘creative autobiography,’ titled Artwork.

Gentleman's Millennium

The book features an overview of all the stamps Gentleman designed for Royal Mail, plus some of his other work in woodcuts, poster and book design and painting. The 192-page book was written and illustrated by Gentleman himself.

The book will be published in October by Ebury Press and will be sold in stores for £30. It can be ordered from Amazon UK. It will also be sold by Royal Mail Tallents House (formerly the British Philatelic Bureau) at a discounted price of £27 plus their normal postage fee of 34p for overseas orders. The book can be ordered on the Royal Mail web site by clicking on the “shop” link. (Posted September 16, 2002.) top

New overseas rates lead to new stamps

New overseas rates went into effect on July 4, 2002 reflecting an overall increase of 4.8%. Most of these rates were last increased in April, 2000. Several new stamps were issued to pay for these rates. The rates and stamps are listed in the table below.

Service Old Rate New Rate Increase Percent Stamp(s) issued
Surface Postcards and Letters (minimum) 36p 37p 2.7% 37p dark grey Machin (Notes 1,2)
Airmail Postcards 40p 42p 5.0% 42p sage Machin
Letter to 10g 45p 47p 4.4% 47p sea green Machin
Letter 10g to 20g 65p 68p 4.6% 68p stone Machin and 68p versions of the four pictorial regionals (same design as 65p) (Notes 3,4)

Note 1: The non-denominated ‘E’ Machin, which pays the rate for letters to Europe, currently costs 37p and could be used to pay for these services as well. However, the ‘E’ rate is subject to change, so having a 37p definitive is a good idea.

37p dark grey Machin Note 2: The reappearance of a dark grey Machin is unexpected. This color was last used for the 75p value that was discontinued in 1994. When I was investigating the history of the Machin color pallette, Royal Mail told me that the dark grey color would not be used again because of the difficulty of seeing the cancel on such a dark stamp. Also, I know from talking with Jeffery Matthews in May, 2000 that he designed two additional colors for Machins, pink and orange, and these remain unused. The return of dark grey is puzzling.

Note 3: The issue of a 68p Machin seems to be unnecessary in the light of the four 68p pictorial definitives. The booklet of six 68p Machins, mentioned below, makes sense, since it is not practical to issue four different booklets with the pictorial stamps, but why issue a 68p Machin in sheet format?

Note 4: The four 68p pictorial definitives are available in a presentation pack. The four new Machins are also available in a presentation pack.

Three new booklets are also being issued, containing six ‘E’ stamps, six 42p stamps and six 68p stamps. All of these booklets are self-adhesive and conform to the new format introduced in June with the gold Machins. The cover of each booklet is the same as the color of the stamps inside. The booklet containing six 68p stamps is shown in another news story. (Posted September 9, 2002.) top

“Consignia” name consigned to history

The corporate name “Consignia,” adopted for the British postal service early in 2001 is being dropped in favor of “Royal Mail Group PLC.” The change takes effect on November 4, 2002.

The name “Consignia” was intended to make the firm sound more international and avoid problems with copyright issues that go along with a common name such as “Post Office.” The name was not intended to be seen very much by the British public, who would instead see the names of the three operating units: Parcelforce Worldwide (handles packages), Post Office Ltd. (runs post offices), and Royal Mail (processes letters). However, many people didn’t believe this and said that the name “Consignia” reminded them of an Italian soccer player, according to the Associated Press.

Les Winick, writing in Linn’s Stamp News, said that the change to the name “Consignia” cost £500,000 and the change to “Royal Mail PLC” will cost £1,000,000. No explanation was given for the higher cost of the second change, but perhaps the first switch was not yet completed, while the second switch will be complete.

Winick notes that the name change was the decision of the new chairman, Allan Leighton. Leighton said that the name change reflects a new focus on the company’s core services. Perhaps adding a positive spin, he adds that the name change is particularly appropriate because this year is the Queen’s golden jubilee.

Leighton is also working on trimming the huge layer of management added by the previous management that costs the company more than one billion dollars per year. He also plans to eliminate the second daily mail delivery and cut additional workers from the payroll.

Royal Mail Group’s new web site is at http://www.royalmailgroup.com. (Posted September 9, 2002. Updated September 21, 2002 and November 8, 2002.) top

Last update: November 22, 2002   Macintosh!
Copyright © 2002 by Larry Rosenblum