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Regionals to be reprinted with white borders

First class Welsh regional First class Welsh regional with white borders Pictorial regionals, or country stamps, were issued by Royal Mail starting in 1999. The designs continue all the way to the edge of the stamps, and many of the stamps, such as the one shown at the left, featured dark colors. The complete set of designs, plus two of the new stamps with borders, can be seen here in the Virtual GB Album.

Like all low value stamps, the regionals have one or two nearly-invisible vertical phosphor bands printed over the design. The bands are used by Royal Mail’s automated mail handling equipment to locate the stamp on the envelope and also to distinguish a stamp paying the second class rate (one center phosphor band) from the others (two side bands).

Unfortunately, the dark colors reduce the amount of signal that the phosphor gives off in response to ultraviolet light. To compensate this, all current regionals will be reissued on October 14, 2003 with narrow white borders around the edge. The edge area will provide the required signal strength.

James Mackay reports in Scott Stamp Monthly that the Welsh stamps and some of the Northern Ireland stamps posed the greated problems. The English and Scottish stamps caused much less trouble.

The British Philatelic Bulletin notes that Royal Mail regrets these new printings, presumably because of the cost to stamp collectors, but says the stamps must meet operational needs. (Posted June 9, 2003. Updated January 1, 2004.) top

Hugh Jeffries David Aggersberg to retire as SG Catalogue Editor

David Aggersberg has decided to retire from his role as Editor of all the Stanley Gibbons catalogues, a position he has held for 18 years. An interview with Mr. Aggersberg is available here on the GBCC web site. He will be succeeded by Hugh Jefferies (pictured at left), Editor of the Stanley Gibbons Monthly since 1988.

Aggersberg became Deputy Catalogue Editor in 1971 and Editor in 1985. Aggersberg has had to deal with the deluge of new issues during his tenure, including the task of determining which ones met the criteria for listing. He also expanded the amount of information available in the catalogues, especially in the British Commonwealth listings.

Aggersberg has also overseen the computerization of the production process and he created a new image library making possible the creation of full color catalogues. The first such catalogue, the Commonwealth Simplified, was published last March.

Jeffries will continue his GSM duties while taking on the new responsibilities. His personal collections spans the entire Commonwealth up to 1980. He plans to continue Aggersberg’s work in modernizing the style and production of the catalogues while adding additional information and increasing the frequency of publication of some volumes. (Posted June 9, 2003. Updated October 3, 2003.) top

Royal Mail Marketing Mentions Machins (finally!)

A few years ago, when Royal Mail started promoting its stamps on its web site, I noted that only commemoratives and greetings stamps were featured. Machins, and other definitives, were completely ignored. This seemed odd considering the popularity of the Machin series with collectors and the possibility of attracting more collectors through the use of the web site.

Universal stamp for Europe I’m pleased to report that the situation recently changed. Royal Mail now has a whole page devoted to definitives. The Machins are there, along with the new Universal airmail stamps that include the Machin portrait. The Universal stamp for Europe is pictured at left. More on these stamps here. The pictorial regionals are also featured, as are the recent souvenir sheets containing the Wilding definitive designs. There are large images of all of the stamps, even each individual Machin.

Collectors can buy the stamps in presentation packs. Stamp cards (post cards with large images of the stamps but no postage value) can also be purchased.

Visit Royal Mail’s web site at www.royalmail.com, click on “2003 Stamp Calendar” and then click on “Definitive Stamps.” (Posted May 31, 2003.) top

Michael Sefi now Keeper of Royal Philatelic Collection

Stamp Collector reports that Michael Sefi has been promoted to Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection, replacing Charles Goodwyn, who resigned for health reasons. Sefi has been Deputy Keeper since 1996. (A history of the collection is here.)

Sefi plans to continue Goodwyn’s work on the King George VI period and later work on Queen Elizabeth II material.

Of interest to all collectors, perhaps especially American ones, is Sefi’s goal of making the collection more accessible to students and researchers. He plans to discuss the possibility of presenting material from the collection at the National Postal Museum (part of the Smithsonian Institute) in Washington, D.C. (Click here for information about the exhibit. Click here for Sefi’s talk at the National Postal Museum in Washington, DC. Click here for information about a book telling the story of the Royal Philatelic Collection.) (Posted May 17, 2003.) top

Postal rates increase on May 8

Inland postal rates and airmail rates for mail to Europe increased on May 8. The increase was originally scheduled for April 17, but it was postponed while Royal Mail negotiated with Postcom, the Postal Services Commission. Postcom was set up in 2000 to regulate the postal market, including rates, as more competition is introduced.

It has been three years since the last basic increase in rates.

Service Current rate New rate Increase Increase
First class letter to 60g 27p 28p 1p 3.7%
First class letter 60g to 100g (second step) 41p 42p 1p 2.4%
Second class letter to 60g 19p 20p 1p 5.3%
Second class letter 60g to 100g (second step) 33p 34p 1p 3.0%
European letter to 20g
and postcards
37p 38p 1p 2.7%
European letter to 40g 52p 53p 1p 1.9%

Rates for inland letters over 100g are increasing by 2.5% to 5.5%. Rates to locations outside Europe are not changing at this time. (Posted May 2, 2003.) top

One lone Machin for the new rates

34p lime green Machin Remember when an inland rate change would bring forth a myriad of new Machins? There would be four or five national Machins and four for each of the three regions. No more.

With the introduction of non-denominated (NVI - non-value indicated) Machins for basic first and second class service and the basic rate to Europe, there’s little need for new stamps. In fact, for the May 8, 2003 increase (see above), only one new Machin is needed.

It is common practice to have a single Machin available to pay both the first (up to 60 grams) and second (60g to 100g) weight step for both first and second class letters. The first weight steps are covered by the NVIs. The second weight step for first class mail is 42p, and there is already a sage 42p Machin issued last July for the airmail postcard rate at that time. The second weight step for second class mail is 34p, and this requires a new Machin. This denomination, in lime green, went on sale on May 6 (coincidentally, no doubt, the 143th anniversary of the first day of use of the Penny Black.) This color was previously used for a 6p Machin.

The first step second class rate is now 20p. There is currently a 20p light green Machin with two phosphor bands. There were rumors that it might be replaced with a single band version, since a single phosphor band is used to identify a stamp paying the second class rate to the automated mail handling equipment. Supplies of the single band version, originally issued in 1996, have allegedly been retained. (The basic second class rate was 20p from July 6, 1996 to April 25, 1999.) However, Royal Mail announced instead that it was simply withdrawing the two band version in favor of the NVI stamps. (Posted May 10, 2003.) top

De La Rue is on a roll

De La Rue is the world 's largest commercial security printer and papermaker, and it has been growing by acquiring other firms. In 1997, it acquired Harrison and Sons, a firm that was over 450 years old. Harrisons printed the initial set of Machins in 1967 and was the primary printer of them for most of the years since then. Harrisons printed Machins by photogravure, then in 1997 switched to the computerized process known simply as gravure.

Last year, De La Rue acquired The House of Questa, Ltd., another British printing firm. Questa began printing Machins in 1980 using lithography and switched to gravure in 1998. The announcement of the Questa purchase is given on the De La Rue web site.

De La Rue also announced that the old Harrison plant at High Wycombe would be closed by June 2003 and postage stamp manufacturing transferred to Questa’s plant in Byfleet, about 20 miles southwest of London. De La Rue now produces a large proportion of British postage stamps.

This will reduce the number of printers of British definitives to three:

Update: De La Rue’s purchases of stamp printing firms did not start with Harrison and Sons. Gerry Fisk, writing in Cross Post, the journal of The Friends of Postal Heritage, notes that De La Rue bought Waterlow & Sons Limited in 1961. Waterlow printed the 1934 re-engraved Seahorses. (This Waterlow is not to be confused with Waterlow Bros & Layton, printers of the original 1913 Seahorses.) In 1986 De La Rue purchased Bradbury Wilkinson & Co, printers of the 1918 Seahorses, the 1969 and 1970 engraved high-value Machins, and other stamps. Finally, in 1994 De La Rue acquired M B Clarke, a firm originally known as Perkins Bacon and printer of British stamps from 1840-1853.

Fisk points out that, “By its own contracts and those of the companies it acquired, De La Rue has been a stamp producer for [the British Post Office] since 1840.” (Posted May 2, 2003. Updated May 25, 2004.) top

Snail mail...again

The term “snail mail” is often used in a slightly pejorative sense to refer to postal mail, especially when compared to the much speedier electronic mail. However, in the moist United Kingdom, snail mail is a reality. I’ve noted it once before, and the May issue of the British Philatelic Bulletin tells of another problem.

A letter box in the village of Well, in Surrey, is prone to snail attack. Above the box, Royal Mail posted, “Any mail posted in this postbox is liable to be eaten by snails. The nearest alternative box is at Lord Wandsworth College. Royal Mail apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Royal Mail says that the snails mainly eat envelopes, but they will also eat letters on cheaper, thin paper. They also noted that any snails found by Royal Mail staff are removed “as humanely as possible.” (Posted May 10, 2003.) top

Last update: March 1, 2008   Macintosh!
Copyright © 2003 by Larry Rosenblum