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Third edition of the Complete Deegam Machin Handbook to be published

Bigger and better than ever, the third edition of the Complete Deegam Machin Handbook is scheduled to be published in Spring 2003. So much bigger, in fact, that it will be released in two loose-leaf volumes. Better for several reasons:

Pricing and ordering information will be provided early in 2003. (Posted December 7, 2002.) top

Fourth edition of Machin Collectors Club Catalogue to be published

Also bigger and better than ever, the fourth edition of the Machin Collectors Club Catalogue is due out next April. It will be supplied as pages only, with an optional binder, so that members with the prior edition do not have to buy a new binder. Enhancements and new features are:

For more information about the Machin Collectors Club, see the listing in the Machin Mania section of this site or go directly to the MCC web site at http://www.machins.org.

Update: The catalogue was postponed until October, 2003 and then again to January, 2004. (Posted December 7, 2002.) top

Inland postal rates to increase in April, 2003

First-class and second-class inland letter rates will increase by 1p next April to 28p and 20p, respectively. No further details are available, but it is not expected that a new 28p Machin will be issued because the first-class non-denominated stamps (NVIs) are generally used for that purpose. Note: The increase was delayed and actually took effect on May 8, 2003. Details are available here.

A 20p Machin has been available because it is one of the standard denominations kept on sale permanently. It is likely that this stamp will be reissued with a single phosphor band, rather than the two bands it currently has. If an envelope is franked with a single-band stamp, the automated letter handling machinery will identify it as second-class and separate it from the first-class mail. Second-class non-denominated stamps have a single phosphor band. Update: The revised 20p was not issued, but a new 34p Machin was. More info is here. (Posted December 7, 2002. Updated July 7, 2003.) top

Wilding miniature sheet set for issue in December

Booklet pane of Wildings The first of two miniature sheets containing stamps of the Wilding design is scheduled to be issued on December 5, 2002. The Wildings were the first definitives issues for the reign of Queen Elizabeth II; they were named after Dorothy Wilding, the photographer whose studio took the photograph of the Queen that was used for the stamps. A booklet pane from the original Wilding series is shown at left.

The first Wildings were issued on December 5, 1952. This souvenir sheet, being issued on the 50th anniversary of that occasion, are part of the Golden Jubilee celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s reign.

The souvenir sheet contains nine stamps and a label; the stamps include all five of the Wilding designs and have varying decimal denominations from 1p to 50p. Two of the stamps are non-denominated first-class and second-class stamps, a repetition of the stamps in the “A Gracious Accession” prestige booklet issued earlier this year. The stamps are issued in colors matching those of the original issue. Note: The referenced article has been updated to include images of the second class Wilding printed at an angle and the resulting slanted watermark.

The stamps are arranged in two rows of five, with the label in the middle of the top row. This is similar to the Jeffery Matthews miniature sheet issued in 2000.

Top Row:

Bottom Row:

Like the Wildings in the “A Gracious Accession” prestige booklet and reminiscent of the original stamps, these will be printed on uncoated paper with a watermark of “50.” They will also be printed on slightly tinted paper that looks more like the ‘creamy’ paper used for the originals. Unlike the originals, however, these will have an elliptical perforation on each side, a characteristic of modern definitives since 1992.

The souvenir sheet will sell for its face value of £2.21. The second souvenir sheet, with nine different denominations, is scheduled for May 20, 2003. (Thanks to Douglas Myall for this information.) (Posted December 7, 2002.) top

Revised criteria for special stamps

The Philatelic Bulletin reported in August, 2002 that Royal Mail revised its criteria and related conventions for the issue of special stamps, commonly known as commemoratives to collectors. The new criteria are:

  1. Commemorate important anniversaries
  2. Commemorate events of national importance and major contemporary UK successes on the international stage
  3. Reflect the contribution of the UK to world affairs in the broadest range of activities, from the arts and humanities to science and technology
  4. Explore “the British way of life,” celebrating the diversity of cultures and interest within the UK
  5. Contribute to the cultural life of the UK through the patronage of art and design, and thereby act as a showcase for the best of contemporary British creative talent
  6. Meet Royal Mail Group’s commercial target for philately

Conventions relating to special issues are:

  1. Subject matter that may be construed as controversial or liable to cause offense to individuals or communities in the UK or internationally is to be avoided; such as propaganda, unbalanced political references and insensitive consideration of religious beliefs
  2. Members of the Royal family are the only identifiable living people who may be the “hero image” on a stamp. Others may be portrayed as an integral part of the design solution if: shown individually, they are neither immediately identifiable nor a public figure; they are not associated with political or religious beliefs; they are the subsidiary figure, a minority part of the overall design or used as a symbol of a broader theme; they are part of a larger group involved in a single achievement; or their achievement is the focus of the design rather than their image
  3. Anniversaries are restricted generally to 50 years or multiples of 50
  4. Past and future years are considered to ensure a balance and variety of subjects taking one year with another
  5. Within a year’s program, the aim is to provide a variety of subjects

For some of the ramifications of this new criteria, see this musing.

(Posted December 7, 2002.) top

More on the new style of booklets

Since my previous article on the subject of the new booklets issued on June 5, 2002, I have received copies of them, and I also have at hand Douglas Myall’s description of them in the August issue of the British Philatelic Bulletin.

Old-style booklet of six 1st Machins

The changes to the booklet design were the result of conformance to the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995. The new design is aimed at helping blind or partially sighted people as well as those who have difficulty in handling small objects due to diseases such as arthritis. Under the Act, disabled people have the right to access services regardless of their disabilities.

The changes begin on the front cover. The design has been simplified to include simply a statement of the contents in large text, easier to see than the small images of the inside stamp that were featured on the old cover. The Royal Mail logo is the only other element on the front cover. The color of the cover matches the color of the stamps inside, and this, too, probably helps people with visual disabilities to identify the booklet.The old style of booklet cover is shown above. The new, simplified style is below.

Cover of 2002 booklet

The cover of the booklet has been enlarged by 5mm so that when folded, the back edge sticks out beyond the front edge. This helps customers orient the booklet correctly and makes the booklets easier to open. The booklets containing first class and second class non-denominated stamps have notches at the top right edge, one notch on booklets with first class stamps and two on booklets with second class stamps. Booklets containing airmail stamps do not have notches.

As noted previously, the paper surrounding the individual stamps, known as “the matrix,” (no relation to the movie of the same name), has been removed. This allows the self-stick stamps to stand out from the background, making them easier to remove. It also makes it easy to rub one’s finger over the backing to see how many stamps remain. (Even customers with no disabilities sometimes found these self-stick stamps difficult to remove from booklets, so everyone is likely to welcome this change.) See image below.

Inside of 2002 booklet

Specialist collectors will be interested to know that the cylinder numbers, formerly printed on the matrix, now appear on the 5mm extension strip of the back cover. For the first time since this format of booklet was introduced in 1987, the cylinder number can be seen without opening the booklet. Previously, cylinder numbers appeared in one of every six or eight booklets; I’m not sure of the frequency in this series.

New booklets containing airmail stamps were also issued as a result of the rate increase on July 4. The booklets are essentially the same as the ones for first and second class definitives with two exceptions: there are airmail labels (etiquettes) for use on the letters and there are no notches at the right edge. Airmail labels have been included in previous booklets containing airmail stamps, but these have been redesigned.

Inside of booklet with airmail stamps

(Posted December 7, 2002.) top

Exclusive FDCs of Pillar Boxes Stamps are available

Earlier this year, Royal Mail commemorated the 150th anniversary of the first pillar box (also known as a post box or letter box) in the British Isles with a set of five stamps. The first box was located in St. Helier on the island of Jersey, so it is not surprising that Jersey also celebrated the event with its own set of stamps issued on November 23.

Covercraft FDC for Jersey pillar boxes stampsThe pillar box came about at the suggestion of Anthony Trollope, then a Post Office Surveyor as well as novelist. He suggested the location in Jersey as well.

To mark this occasion and Anthony Trollope’s part in the introduction of the first box, the Trollope Society has had an exclusive first day cover produced by CoverCraft in the U.K. It carries all five stamps and an original illustration by David Eccles, showing Trollope surrounded by letters, checking the time of the next collection!

Special Trollope postmark for Jersey The cover is cancelled with a special 150th anniversary postmark shown to the right. This is a notable event because sponsored postmarks are rare in Jersey.

Covercraft FDC for British pillar boxes stamps There is also a similar first day cover for the British stamps, shown at left. Both covers can be ordered from the Covercraft web site at http://www.covercraft.co.uk.

Covercraft is also making a special offer to readers of the GBStamps.com web site. In August, Royal Mail issued a set of stamps featuring characters from Peter Pan. The stamps actually honor the 150th anniversary of Great Ormond Street Hospital, to which J. M. Barrie donated the rights of his story. Covercraft produced a first day cover which is shown on the web site. That’s not the special offer! The offer is one of the first day covers signed by the famous actor Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman portrayed Captain Hook in the 1991 Steven Spielberg movie Hook. This special autographed edition is not listed on the web site. To get more information and to order, send an email to info@covercraft.co.uk (Posted November 24, 2002.) top

New book available: Overprints on British Stamps For Use Abroad

Almost every collector of British stamps has seen at least a few overprinted ones, with “Kuwait” or “Levant” or perhaps “Morocco Agencies” on them. Many have added them to their collections because the major albums have spaces for them. But most collectors do not have a good knowledge of the details, and few collectors specialize in these issues.

King Edward VII 1d with Morocco overprint Tom Current, founder of the Great Britain Collectors Club, has written a book that he hopes will change this situation.

After several years of effort, Tom has put together a comprehensive listing of these issues. His goal is “to provide a roadmap and background information [to these issues] … and to encourage the collecting of [them].”

It is organized by region, and then by colony or country in the region. For example, the section on the Persian Gulf Region includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Eastern Arabia and Oman. Each section starts with an introduction that explains the history of the area and has notes about the usage of the overprinted stamps. Maps of each area are included.

The main listings are much like a catalog. The stamps are divided into sets, and each individual stamp is described. All overprints are illustrated, as well as some individual stamps. Illustrations of several covers, like the one shown here, are also included.

Of special note is the inclusion of overprinted postal stationery. This is not included in any of the common catalogs. Tom notes all his sources and includes an annotated bibliography.

Cover with three Wildings overprinted Kuwait

This is a fascinating area of British philately, and one that is not studied very frequently because, until now, information on these issues has been scattered among numerous references. Even within a single reference, such as the Scott or Gibbons catalogues, the information is scattered throughout. Now collectors have the whole picture in one place.

Overprints on British Stamps For Use Abroad has not been officially published. However, Tom makes copies available for the cost of photocopying and postage. The book is available for $15 within the United States. Cost to overseas locations is available on request.

For more information, or to order, write to
Tom Current
PO Box 4586
Portland OR 97208 USA

Check or money order only. No email is available. (Posted November 24, 2002.) top

Stamps from Wonderland now available

Wonderland borogrove stamp Ever seen a borogove? You remember the borogove, don’t you? If you were ever a child, you must have read “Jabberwocky,” the wonderful poem by Lewis Carol. The first stanza goes like this:

Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the Borogoves,
and the Mome Raths outgrabe.

And if you haven’t ever seen a borogove, you’ll be glad to know that one has been pictured on a stamp. No, not a British stamp. Not even an American one (its eyes are not bright enough). It’s a Wonderland stamp.

You didn’t know that Wonderland had stamps? How do you think Alice wrote home about her adventures?

Oh, you don’t remember her stopping at the Wonderland post office to buy stamps? Well, perhaps she didn’t. But if she had, she might well have used the borogove stamps pictured here. Pictured at left is the se-tenant pair of borogove stamps, part of the Jabberwocky Centennial Series. As noted in the Alice catalogue, the image was engraved on tulgey wood by A Bann der Snatch. The stamps were printed by Jubb, Jubb, Byrd & Co. The stamps were printed on paper watermarked with a tumtum tree design and were perforated with a vorpal blade.

Wonderland Knave of Hearts stamp These stamps, and many others, were created by Phantastician Gerald King. Frustrated in 1965 by the British Post Office’s refusal to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, King took matters into his own hands and created some of his own Wonderland stamps. The collection grew over the years and included postal stationery as well as stamps. Many stamps that were originally monochrome were reissued in two or more colors. King even created a catalogue, “Alice, The Millennium Collection,” for the stamps. The catalogue cover is pictured below. Pictured at right is the stamp commemorating the trial of the Knave of Hearts. It was printed by the Phantasmagoria Security Printing Co. on paper with a multiple jam tart watermark.

Many of the early Wonderland issues are illustrated in King’s book, Alice Through the Pillar-box and What She Found There. Published in England in 1978, the book contains Carroll’s original text illustrated with King’s stamps and covers.

The reviewer for the Times of London called the book, “the most brilliant and effective diversion on the Alice theme that I have ever encountered ... Only a great lover of Alice, a fine artist, a considerable wit and an expert philatelist could have produced this fantastic tour de force.”

Wonderland Catalogue

Another Wonderland stamp is shown on the 1998 News page in an article about Alice’s 133rd birthday.

If you are interested in acquiring some of King’s Wonderland stamps and covers, you are welcome to contact him via email at or by postal mail at The Cobbler’s Cottage, One, The Street, Bramfield, Suffolk, England IP199HT, U.K. (Posted November 8, 2002.) top

Royal Mail Heritage web site upgraded

With the change in name from Consignia to Royal Mail Group, I thought I would visit the web site of what was called Consignia Heritage Services to see what was new. This organization was formed as a combination of the former National Postal Museum and the Post Office Archives.

The group’s new name is apparently simply “Royal Mail Heritage,” fortunately moving away from the term “Services” that sounds like something from Microsoft. Even more fortunately, the site has been expanded since my last visit. There are now a number of small features on a variety of topics ranging from a Queen Victoria mourning letter to the unissued coronation stamps for King Edward VIII (who abdicated before he could be crowned) to the world-famous Machin head. There are 16 infosheets that can be downloaded.

Also given are instructions on how to visit Heritage’s current home at Freeling House, in London near King’s Cross Station. Parts of the Heritage Collection may be seen with an advance appointment.

The web site is at http://www.royalmailgroup.com/heritage. (Posted November 8, 2002.) top

Last update: December 7, 2002   Macintosh!
Copyright © 2002 by Larry Rosenblum