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Wilson Hulme II, Curator of Philately, US NPM

Wilson Hulme II W. Wilson Hulme II, Curator of Philately at the U.S. National Postal Museum, died on January 10, 2007 of a heart attack. He was 60 years old.

Hulme was appointed the museum’s first Curator of Philately in 2002. He took the job at a time when the museum was being criticized for concentrating on the history of mail delivery rather than stamps and for not making good use of the stamp collections at its disposal. His obituary appears on the NPM site, so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice it to say that those criticisms stopped soon after Hulme’s arrival and were replaced with praise (as well as greatly increased attendance at the museum).

The New York Times noted:

Mr. Hulme was a specialist in U.S. stamps of the 19th century — the country’s first stamps were not issued until 1847 — including stamps of the Confederacy. He did pioneering research on techniques used to separate stamps and became the nation’s foremost expert on stamp perforations, which first appeared in 1857. (Before then, stamps were cut or torn from a larger sheet.) He completed an article on perforations for the Postal Museum’s Web site two days before his death.

Hulme was the president of the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society.

I first met Wilson Hulme in 2004 when I visited Washington, D.C. Tim Burgess, my good friend and president of the Great Britain Collectors Club, was kind enough to introduce me to Hulme. Although I was just a friend of a friend, Hulme took several hours out of his day to give me a tour of the museum. He also gave me a personal guided tour of the special exhibit of items from the Royal Philatelic Collection, “The Queen’s Own.” He told me about the history of the items on display as well as his experience in arranging for the exhibition. I was (and still am) honored by the fact that the philatelic curator of such a fine musem gave me so much of his time.

I understand from talking to other people, and reading the comments on The U.S. Philatelic Classics Society web site, that this was part of Hulme’s nature. He was a generous, friendly, unassuming person, a set of remarkable traits considering his extensive knowledge and talents.

I met Hulme several times last year. He attended the GBCC society meeting at WESTPEX in April, 2006 and gave a talk at the Collectors Club of San Francisco dinner that preceded the show. He is pictured here joining the other notable philatelic guests seated at the dinner table. He made the cross-country trip to support the GBCC in spite of the fact that the big Washington 2006 stamp show would be held only a month later. That show was, sadly, the last time I saw him.

Philately is blessed with a large number of very talented individuals who give of themselves to help other collectors and the hobby as a whole. Wilson Hulme was one of the finest and most talented of that group. He will be greatly missed. (Posted January 20, 2007.) top

400 Machins in 40 years

The Machins celebrate their fortieth anniversary on June 5. (Royal Mail is celebrating this event with a big splash of issues. More information to come.)

It’s only natural to ask how many Machins have been issued during this time. The correct answer is, “It depends on how you count them.”

One person who does count them, in a very public manner, is Douglas Myall, author and publisher of The Complete Deegam Machin Handbook. The Handbook contains many listings, but the one that most collectors can relate to is the simplest, which Myall calls “Level 1. ”

Myall totals all the different combinations of color and denomination (or service indicator in the case of non-denominated stamps). He also includes the regionals with the country symbol at upper left and the 1840 Anniversary issues with the heads of both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.

Counted this way, the total number of Machins issued prior to June 5 is exactly 400, a nice, round average of 10 per year. For a beautiful display of these Machins, click here.

The new ruby-colored £1 Machin to be issued on June 5 will be number 401. It is not likely that we will see another 400 Machins during Her Majesty’s reign, especially since the regional Machins have been replaced with pictorials, but we could well see another 100. (Posted March 24, 2007.) top

In with the old, out with the new or, back to the future

From Douglas Myall we learn that on June 5, Royal Mail will begin replacing the redesigned non-denominated (also known as non-value indicated or NVI) stamp shown at left that was issued last year to pay for standard letters under the new Pricing in Proportion system. The replacement? The former NVI that it replaced — the “classic” Machin design shown at right. Both the first-class and second-class small PiP stamps will be replaced.

1st gold standard PiP Machin 1st class gold Machin

It seems that Royal Mail’s easily confused customers thought that the large numeral on the stamp meant that it would pay for large letters. It does not. These small (or normal definitive size) stamps pay for what are called “standard letters,” or simply “letters.” Only the physically large stamps with the word “large” on them pay for large letters.

The new, that is, old, sheet stamps will go on sale June 5. Booklets, coils and business sheets will be replaced later as supplies of the old, that is, new design are used up.

The large NVI stamps will retain their large numerals. Hopefully, this more significant difference between the stamps will be crystal clear to Royal Mail’s postal patrons.

Update: This is the first time that the second-class blue NVI sheet stamp will be printed by De La Rue (or its predecessor, Harrison and Sons). Previous sheet stamps were printed by Walsall (by gavure) or Questa (by lithography). (Posted March 24, 2007. Updated December 30, 2007.) top

New Machins and Regionals for rate increase

The April 2 rate increase requires several new definitive stamps. The new stamps will be issued March 27 and are described below.

Description Color Phosphor Printer Service
16p Machin Pink 2 bands De La Rue Make-up rate between second-class letters and large letters
New Jeffery Matthews color
46p Machin Old gold 2 bands De La Rue Overseas surface mail to 20g (first step)
Returned to circulation, new cylinder, not a new issue
48p Machin Rhododendron 2 bands De La Rue Europe airmail postcards and letters to 20g (first step)
50p Machin Light grey 2 bands De La Rue General use (see below)
54p Machin Rust 2 bands De La Rue Worldwide airmail to 10g (first step)
78p Machin Emerald green 2 bands De La Rue Worldwide airmail 10g to 20g (second step)
48p Pictorial Regionals Multicolor 2 bands De La Rue Europe airmail postcards and letters to 20g (first step)
78p Pictorial Regionals Multicolor 2 bands De La Rue Worldwide airmail 20g to 40g (second step)

The basic (first weight step) UK first and second class rates (letters to 60g), will continue to be paid by non-denominated (non-value indicated or NVI) definitives. The make-up amount of 10p between those two rates continues will be paid by the 10p Machin, a value that remains on permanent sale for general use.

The new 16p Machin pays the make-up rate between second-class letters and large letters. The make-up rate between the new first-class letter and large letter rates is 14p. That rate is covered by the 14p Machin issued last August.

1st class gold Machin 50p sand Machin Printer's imprint on new grey 50p cylinder block
Are you confused? After five years of (peaceful?) co-existence, Royal Mail has decided that the colors of these two stamps are too confusing. They do look very similar here, but remember that the first-class stamp on the left is actually metallic (very shiny), whereas the 50p is not. Still, I suppose they are too close for comfort, so the 50p sand will be replaced by a light grey version. The first-class stamp shown here is a self-adhesive.

The second weight step (up to 40g) for airmail letters to Europe, now 69p; the third weight step (up to 40g) for worldwide airmail letters to Zone 2, now £1.24; and the first weight step (letters up to 10g and postcards) for worldwide airmail, now 54p, are paid by the international one-stop non-denominated stamps. Those stamps remain available, though Royal Mail has apparently stopped promoting them because nearly all mention of them has been removed from their web site.

The old gold 46p Machin was issued in April, 2005. It was withdrawn from circulation a year later when it was no longer needed. However, unnecessary Machins die slowly — they are kept on philatelic sale for a year or more, so they can be resusciated and returned to use. Since 46p is the new first step overseas surface mail rate, the 46p will be put back into circulation. A new cylinder was created for the new supply of stamps, but De La Rue numbered it D1. It should have been D2, since it is the second cylinder for this combination of denomination and color.

Update: The new 46p is visibly different from the previous one. The value on the new 46p is set lower on this new printing. You can see the difference here. Unfortunately, this new cylinder is numbered D1, even though the cylinder used previously was D1, and if traditional practice were followed, the new cylinder would have been D2. We’ll have to see if this was a one-off occurrence or whether De La Rue has started a new practice in numbering cylinders.

The 50p light grey Machin is a more interesting case. Apparently, the current 50p in a color called sand is being confused with the gold first-class non-denominated (non-value indicated, or NVI) Machin. The 50p is therefore being issued in a new color. What is interesting about this is that the gold Machin was issued in June, 2002 in honor of the Queens Golden Jubilee (after a one-year appearance in 1997 to honor her Golden Wedding Anniversary). The 50p sand has been around since 1990. Now, nearly five years since the gold Machin reappeared, Royal Mail has decided that the two colors are confusing?

One final note. Previously, Machins were issued to pay the second weight step for inland mail for both first and second class. That weight step was for letters between 60g and 100g. With the introduction of Pricing in Proportion, the first weight step now goes up to 100g. Now, the new higher (100g to 250g) second weight step is apparently not used frequently enough to require its own stamps.

Of interest to dedicated Machin collectors are some changes to the marginal markings. The printer’s imprint, such as the De La Rue logo shown in the cylinder block to the right, is being removed. Now, the color name will appear somewhere in the margin. (The new 50p is an exception, probably because it was printed before the decision was made to add the color.)

All of the new stamps will be printed by gravure including the Northern Ireland regional stamps, which were switched over from lithography to gravure last year. (Posted March 18, 2007. Updated February 16, 2008.) top

Going Up! Postal rates to increase on April 2

Like clockwork, Royal Mail is increasing postal rates on April 2, exactly one year after the previous increase. (Although the introduction of Pricing in Proportion created a new method of calculating the rate on domestic mail items, it did not result in a net increase in cost.)

Also like clockwork, Royal Mail noted in a press release that the increase would help Royal Mail compete against other firms (now that the monopoly on letter delivery has ended) by matching prices more closely with costs. As a result, while the price for customers mailing letters and small packets continues to climb, prices for business mail and heavier parcels increase more slowly or even decrease.

The old and new rates are shown in the tables below. New Machins are described above.

Service First Class Second Class
  Old Rate New Rate Old Rate New Rate
Letters, to 100g 32p 34p 23p 24p
Large Letters, to 100g 44p 48p 37p 40p
Large Letters, to 250g 65p 70p 55p 60p
Packets, to 100g £1.00 £1.09 84p 92p
Packets, to 250g £1.27 £1.39 £1.09 £1.20

Service Old Rate New Rate
Europe airmail, first step up to 20g and postcards 44p 48p
Europe airmail, second step up to 40g 64p 69p
Worldwide airmail, first step up to 10g and postcards 50p 54p
Worldwide airmail, second step up to 20g 72p 78p
Worldwide airmail, third step to Zone 1 up to 40g £1.12 £1.17
Worldwide airmail, third step to Zone 2 up to 40g £1.19 £1.24
Worldwide surface mail first step up to 20g and postcards 42p 46p
Worldwide surface mail second step up to 60g 72p 78p
Recorded delivery (surcharge in addition to postage) 68p 70p
Special delivery (minimum) £4.10 £4.30

(Posted January 20, 2007.) top

Last update: February 16, 2008   Macintosh!
Copyright © 2007 by Larry Rosenblum