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The annual ritual - part 1: Rates

Royal Mail’s annual increase is scheduled for April 6. The old and new rates are shown in the tables below.

About the best thing you can say about these increases is that, on the whole, they are smaller than last year. And that’s about the only thing you can say about them, since they are otherwise unremarkable.

Unremarkable except for one thing. The added fee for Recorded Delivery Signed For mail went down by 1p. No explanation was given for this, and the fee for the corresponding international service, Signed For, jumped from £3.70 to £4.25.

Service First Class Second Class
  Old Rate New Rate Old Rate New Rate
Letters, to 100g 39p 41p 30p 32p
Large Letters, to 100g 61p 66p 47p 51p
Large Letters, to 250g 90p 95p 76p 81p
Packets, to 100g £1.28 £1.39 £1.08 £1.17
Packets, to 250g £1.62 £1.72 £1.41 £1.51

Service Old Rate New Rate
Europe airmail, first step up to 20g and postcards 56p 60p
Europe airmail, second step up to 40g 81p 88p
Worldwide airmail, first step up to 10g and postcards 62p 67p
Worldwide airmail, second step up to 20g 90p 97p
Worldwide airmail, third step up to 40g £1.35 £1.46
Worldwide surface mail first step up to 20g and postcards 54p 58p
Worldwide surface mail second step up to 60g 92p £1.00
Recorded Delivery (surcharge in addition to postage) 75p 74p
Special Delivery (minimum surcharge) £4.95 £5.05
Airsure (surcharge) £4.50 £4.90
International Signed For (surcharge) £3.70 £4.25
International Reply Coupon £1.10 £1.40

(Posted April 23, 2010.) top

The annual ritual - part 2: Stamps

The April 6 rate increase requires several new definitive stamps, as it does every year. The new stamps were issued March 30 and are described below.

Description Color Phosphor Printer Service
60p Machin Emerald Green 2 bands De La Rue Europe airmail postcards and letters to 20g (first step)
67p Machin Rhododendron 2 bands De La Rue Worldwide airmail postcards and letters to 10g (first step)
88p Machin Shocking Pink 2 bands De La Rue Europe airmail 20g to 40g (second step)
97p Machin Mauve 2 bands De La Rue Worldwide airmail 10g to 20g (second step)
£1.46 Machin Dark Turquoise 2 bands De La Rue Worldwide airmail 20g to 40g (third step)
Europe 20g Machin
Dark Green with
Red and Blue
2 bands De La Rue Europe airmail postcards and letters to 20g (first step)
Worldwide 20g Machin
Purple with
Red and Blue
2 bands De La Rue Worldwide airmail 10g to 20g (second step)
60p Pictorial Regionals Multicolor 2 bands De La Rue Europe airmail postcards and letters to 20g (first step)
97p Pictorial Regionals Multicolor 2 bands De La Rue Worldwide airmail 20g to 40g (second step)

1.46 MachinThis year’s batch of Machins brings some changes to the range of Machins available at post offices.

First, Royal Mail has apparently abandoned the practice of having Machins to pay the difference between two common rates. For example, last year Royal Mail issued the 17p olive green and the 22p stone Machins as make-up rate stamps. This year, the equivalent stamps would be 19p (the difference between second-class standard letters and second-class large letters) and 25p (first-class standard and first-class large letters).

The third make-up rate stamp was for the difference between second-class standard letters and first-class standard letters. That difference remains at 9p, as it was last year, so the existing 9p stamp remains on sale, but Royal Mail announced that it would not be reprinted after it is sold out.

While no announcement has been made, this is clearly a cost-saving measure, since it avoids two new stamps. Customers who want to make up the difference between two rates will have to use the existing permanent denominations, 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p and 20p.

The second change is a bit more complex, and it involves the two new non-denominated airmail stamps and the £1.46 Machin. [Note: The blue line on the airmail stamp is ink that has transferred from the airmail etiquettes (labels) that are on the opposite side of the booklet.]

20g worldwide Machin

General information about British non-denominated stamps (known as non-value indicators or NVI’s) is here. The first issue of these airmail stamps is discussed here. As I noted in the latter article, Royal Mail’s weight limits for domestic, European and overseas (outside Europe) mail are very different.

The basic postage rate for domestic mail pays for items up to a very generous 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces). This is much higher than normal. The weight limit drops drastically for Europe, where the basic rate is for items up to 20 grams, and drops again for overseas, where the limit is 10 grams (roughly the weight of two sheets of paper and an envelope).

In an apparent effort to simplify the mailing of international letters, to avoid having customers underpay postage and to convert additional rates to non-denominated stamps, Royal Mail issued stamps for 40g letters to Europe and overseas, followed by an additional stamp for postcards. The three stamps can be seen here.

From what I saw of the initial promotion of these stamps, Royal Mail did not emphasize that letters under 20 grams in weight could be sent at a lower rate, provided the customer had the appropriate stamps. After initially publicizing them as “universal stamps” and then changing to “international one-stop stamps,” Royal Mail seemed to sweep them under the rug. They remained on sale, but little was heard about them (as far as I can ascertain) and they were nearly impossible to find on Royal Mail’s web site.

And there the matter rested, until now. The two stamps for 40 gram letters are being discontinued and replaced with stamps for 20 gram letters. Royal Mail now calls these simply “Europe stamps” and “Rest of World stamps”, names which at least have the advantage of being truly descriptive and not misleading.

No reason has been given for this change. However, I offer a theory. Given the way these stamps were initially marketed, it is probably still true that if a customer asks for stamps for overseas letters, they are offered and sold the 40 gram stamps. With the number of post offices rapidly decreasing, postal staff probably doesn’t want to bother asking the customer how much the letters will weigh, only to find out that the customer has no idea if the weight will be under 10g, under 20g, or as much as 40g. Or maybe the customer would have a mix of weights.

As a result, customers have gotten the idea that the cost of a letter to Europe was 81p and to overseas was £1.35 (rates effective April, 2009). They don’t know that lower rates are available for some letters. With those prices and the current economic situation, customers are probably sending much less mail now than in prior years. And, as I’ve indicated above, all rates are even higher after April 6, 2010.

So I think Royal Mail is making a trade-off. By offering stamps for 20 gram letters, customers will now see rates of 60p for Europe and 97p for overseas. This will hopefully encourage them to send more letters. In return, Royal Mail is accepting the risk that some customers will use those stamps for letters up to 40 grams. I suspect Royal Mail believes that the higher volume will more than make up for losses from underpayment.

Meanwhile, the discontinuation of the non-denominated stamps for 40 gram overseas letters resulted in the issue of a denominated stamp for that rate, £1.46. This is the first British stamp issued specifically to pay that postal rate. The dark turquoise stamp is shown above. (Posted April 23, 2010.) top

Last update: April 23, 2010   Macintosh!
Copyright © 2010 by Larry Rosenblum
All stamps and philatelic items Copyright © Royal Mail