Monday 31 March 2014

389. Post and Go - New Machines And Postal Rate Changes.

One of the 2 new NCR Post And Go machines, Harborne, Birmingham.

  For those who are struggling through the Slough of Despond that is otherwise known as collecting Royal Mail "Post and Go" stamps the challenge grows greater almost by the day. The new NCR machines are being introduced into post offices at quite a rapid rate and a post office about 5 miles from my home introduced the new machines on 27 March 2014. Two machines (pictured above) were introduced at Harborne Post Office and on visiting the post office today I was able to buy stamps from the machines. 
  The stamps on sale were in the Machin Head design and were sold at the following rates:- 2nd class, 2nd class large, 1st class, 1st class large, Europe up to 20g and Worldwide up to 20g. The 2nd class stamps have the MA12 security text and the 1st class designs have MA13. The value inscription is of  course  different In appearance from that which appears on stamps produced by Wincor Nixdorf machines which have been in use up to now in ordinary post offices (see illustration below). Presumably we will find Union Jack stamps and spring flowers stamps also being supplied by these new machines before long. 
  The machines have the facility on them to produce "Collectors' strips" of 6 different values but I was told that they were not being sold in that format in this post office. 

6 values from NCR machine, Harborne Post Office.

Comparison of the Wincor Nixdorf (left) and NCR Post And Go Inscriptions.

  The purpose of the machines remains something of a mystery since a post office assistant has to be available full time to explain to customers how to use the machines which seems to take more time to do than if the postal assistant sat behind a counter and just got on with carrying out the task required by the customer.
  Harborne Post Office itself is quite interesting since it must be one of the most unattractive post offices in Britain. It is typical of the dreary buildings which were constructed across Britain in the 1960's  and is far too small for its purpose and when I visited there was a long line of people queuing to the entrance door to get service at the counters. The new NCR machines occupy a significant area in the corner of the post office and if a couple of customers and the assistant responsible are standing by the machine the queue has to move aside for them. I cannot help but think that money could have been better spent in improving the post office itself rather than installing 2 new "Post And Go" machines and employing an assistant to service them. Still, where there's a Post And Go machine there are stamp collectors buzzing around spending money.

Harborne Post Office, Birmingham.

  On the subject of spending money, new postal rates were introduced by Royal Mail today, 31 March 2014, as detailed in Blog 376. After visiting Harborne Post Office I travelled on into Birmingham city centre to visit the main post office there situated in Pinfold Street where several Wincor Nixdorf "Post And Go" machines are located. I bought a new "Collectors' strip" from one of them and the 6 values are depicted below. This particular machine dispensed Machin Head design stamps with no security date and there are 2 new values included in the strip which take account of the change of postal rates - a rate to Europe up to 60g and Worldwide up to 60g with the previous Worldwide up to 10g and Worldwide up to 40g disappearing from the strip.
 [Addendum - 1 April 2014 - The Norvic Philatelics Blog reports (including input from its readers) that the 2 new postal rates have already been found not only on the Machin Head no date Post And Go stamps as I report above but also on other types of Post And Go's from other post offices - namely 
  Robin MA13
  Spring Flowers
  Union Jack no year code
  River life
  Birds 4th issue
  Robins MA12
This astonishing array therefore adds another 20 stamps to the Post And Go stamp total. I have completely lost track of the grand total of Post And Go stamps that have appeared on the market and I shall certainly not be bothered to try to obtain all of the above at a face value of £3.59p per pair (total face value so far being £35.90p! I shall merely add a note under my new Machin Head Post And Go stamps that these other items were produced in various post offices around the country completely randomly. The Norvic Blog illustrates many of the above items.]
 The cost of the complete 6 value collector strip now totals £7.42p (previously £6.42p) so we note a 15.6% increase in price for this item which is considerably ahead of inflation in Britain:-

The 6 values of the Collectors' strip from the Wincor Nixdorf machine in Pinstone
 Street, Birmingham's main  post office, with 2 new Worldwide rates 

Sunday 30 March 2014

388. Art, Wooden Horses And An Exciting New Designer's Spin On Downton Abbey.

A booklet containing 4 different stamps was issued by the postal service of Ireland, An Post, on 27 March 2014 which is the second issue of the Contemporary Arts series. The stamps were designed by Ger Garland and lithographed by the Irish Stamp Security Printers:-

  The art depicted on the stamps is "Patterned Behaviour" by Diana Copperwhite, "Maesta" by Sean Scully, "Light Receiver" by Ellis O'Connell and "Chaplet" by Alice Maher. An interesting issue and modestly priced. If Royal Mail had issued a set of paintings we would undoubtedly have been expected to buy 10 or even 12 se-tenant stamps at two and a half or three times the price of this Irish set. An Post really seems to have its new issue policy precisely right and invariably produces well designed and interesting stamps.
  Also on the subject of art, amidst the vast ocean of issues which has washed out in recent months from a large New York-based agency which produces philatelic items on behalf of a large number of Commonwealth countries, I overlooked a sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 miniature sheet from Tanzania which depicted art by the Chinese artist, Dong Qichang. The set was issued in conjunction with the China International Collection Expo in 2013. Clearly the designs have no relevance to Tanzania  and I would not include the stamps in my own collection of Tanzania stamps, but I mention them for completeness of information:-

  Dong Qichang was a painter, scholar and calligrapher of the late Ming period who lived from 1555 to 1636. He famously produced distorted landscapes as can be seen in the stamp designs. He also served as an official in the imperial civil service. None of which, of course, is anything to do with Tanzania.
  Art was the subject of Bhutan's last issue rather controversial issue featuring house wall phallus paintings (see Blog 356) but its latest issue returns to a more familiar theme - the lunar new year, this year being (as we know from countless issues from other territories such as Gibraltar, Guernsey and Tanzania where obviously Chinese New Year is a big event) the Year Of The Horse. Bhutan expands our knowledge of the Year of The Horse by pointing out that this is actually the "Wood Male Horse Year" and this year's issue consists of 1 sheetlet which depicts the 12 animals which make up the zodiac with the horse picked out in the sheetlet by a yellow background. There is also a miniature sheet with a single stamp which depicts a stylised horse. I do not yet know the date of issue of these items:-

  I found an intriguing website recently which features work by Siobhan McDevitt and which has the text "Turks And Caicos postage stamps and poster. Official Downton Abbey licensed product concept submission. Completed at IGPC." The text accompanies an illustration of a sheetlet of 20 x 50c Turks And Caicos stamps (5 rows of 4) perforate and the same sheetlet imperforate and without the stamp values and country name inscription added to the designs.
   I have to say that even if I don't particularly approve of lots of countries issuing stamps which depict subjects such as a British television programme that is totally irrelevant them, these designs are very original and effective and interesting and would make an exciting stamp issue. As the text says that these are submitted designs one wonders if they will actually be Turks And Caicos' contribution to the Downton Abbey series - I have not seen such an issue announced yet but time will tell.
  The website shows other work by the artist including previous designs produced for the same New York-based agency as well as designs for marketing campaigns by that agency. In my opinion, Siobhan McDevitt is an exciting stamp designer who brings something new to the increasingly tired world of stamp design. I hope that we continue to see a lot more of her work in the near future.

The stamps with perforations and inscriptions added.
Siobhan McDevitt's submitted designs.

  I have not really taken much notice of her previous work since the stamps on which it has been used have generally had no direct relevance to the countries for which they have been produced but after looking at her website I shall look out for more of her work even if the stamps are not going to find a place in my collection. Recent stamps which feature her designs include:-

The Tanzania 2012 Olympic Games stamps.

Guyana 2013 World Environment Day sheetlet

Artwork for 2013 Guyana Environment Day issue.

One of the Nevis Diamond Jubilee stamps (2012)

One of the stamps from one of the very clever 2013 Nevis Crossword sheetlets. 

Friday 28 March 2014

387. Tuvalu In Space.

  For no obvious reason, a sheetlet of 6 different stamps and 1 miniature sheet were issued by Tuvalu on 24 March 2014. These garish items merely depict the sun and its various planets and the issue is not connected with Tuvalu nor any important international anniversary linked to Tuvalu. They seem to be pieces of sticky paper with pictures depicting a randomly chosen subject printed on them. I imagine stamp collectors all over the world will be contacting their dealers feverishly desperate to buy these products. Or perhaps not.

I have a better illustration of the miniature sheet which was issued by Maldives to commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the 2 countries as mentioned in Blog 304:-

  Also now illustrated below are the final issues of 2013 and the first issue of 2014 from Sri Lanka as mentioned in Blogs 360 and 364:-

  12 January 2014 - Thai Pongal Farmers' Festival (the accompanying miniature sheet was depicted in Blog 365).

  19 December 2013 - Dharmadasa Walpola;
   December 2013 - Ven. Baddegama Wimalawansa Nyaka Thero:-

   December 2013 - Sri Lanka Administrative Servce:-

There are also new issues from Brunei Darussalam  - 

   2014 - ? 23 February - 30th National Day - 4 se-tenant stamps, 1 x $30 miniature sheet and 1 booklet containing a se-tenant strip of all 4 values:-

  2014 - Butterflies of Brunei (4th issue) - se-tenant strip of 3 values:-

  The first issue of 2014 from Mauritius was released on 28 March on the subject of wildlife of the island and consisted of 3 stamps designed by Mauritius Post and lithographed by BDT International:-

  Meanwhile collectors who have a lot of money and nothing useful to spend it on will be rushing out to purchase the latest Stamperija products which have the name of the unfortunate Solomon Islands printed on them. This miscellany is purported to have been issued on 22 November 2013  and comprises 9 sheetlets each containing 4 different "stamps" and "9 miniature sheets". Each sheetlet and miniature sheet unit depicts a different subject none of which seem to have any discernible relevance to the country whose name appears on them. For the record the subjects are:-
  Brazilian football players:-

   400th anniversary of the founding of the Russian Romanov dynasty:-

  Bees and flowers, the Concorde aircraft, Australian motorcycles, 40th anniversary of Pablo Picasso, Bicentenary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi, American impressionist paintings and Foreign high speed trains:-

  This is probably the last issue of "stamps" for 2013 with the Solomon Islands' name printed on them and so a total of 505 "stamps" and 112 "miniature sheets" were issued for this territory making a grand total of 617 philatelic items which places Solomon Islands in the number 2 spot in the list of "Greediest Commonwealth stamp issuing territories of 2013" (not too far behind Mozambique with its grand total of 659 items). I hope that the Solomon Islands postal administration is proud of what Stamperija has achieved on its behalf and pleased with what the company has done for the international philatelic reputation of the country.

Monday 24 March 2014

386. Commemoration.

  In Blog 382 I dealt with Royal Mail's first set of stamps on the subject of the centenary of the First World War to be issued in July 2014 and also mentioned my own grandfather, Dick White, and his part in the war and that I thought I could make my own personal commemoration of him at the time of this notable anniversary by having a portrait of him used on a Royal Mail Smiler stamp label. I ordered 20 of the Union Flag stamps with his portrait in the uniform of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment placed in a circular label attached to the stamps and I must say that I find the result to be very pleasing. The stamps are presented in a sheet of 20 stamps which consists of 2 panes of 10 stamps and labels (illustrated above and below) and I shall be proud to use the stamps on letters to friends and relatives in this centenary year.

  Postal rates in Australia will rise on 31 March 2014 with the domestic rate moving from 60c to 70c - a shocking 17% increase. To soften the blow, 2 non-denominated stamps were released on 24 March 2014 which are available to pensioners and disabled people and will enable them to buy domestic rate stamps for 60c until 2017 (Australia Post estimates that 5.7 million people will benefit from the concession). These items are sold to collectors in a pack of 5 (3 of the kangaroo design and 2 of the map design) at a price of $3.95. Australia Post expects the postage rate increase to help it to offset a $147 million loss experienced by its domestic mail business in the 2012/13 financial year (in 2011/12 the loss had been $114 million). 
  Collectors who buy this pack will of course be making the biggest contribution to helping Australia Post claw back some money in the face of financial losses since the face value of the 5 stamps is only $3 or even if charged at a face value of 70c each the grand total is only $3.50 but Australia Post is making collectors pay $3.95 to obtain 5 stamps although there are only 2 different stamps in the pack (collectors must buy 5 stamps to obtain two). We collectors of Australian stamps must think of ourselves as philanthropists - a continual source of income to a failing postal service.
  The concession stamps were designed by John White and lithographed by R A Print:-

  The programme of new issues for 2014 from The Turkish Republic Of Northern Cyprus is:-
  6 January 2014 - 50th anniversary of the postal service of the Republic of Northern Cyprus - 3 stamps:-

  27 January 2014 - 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Education College - 1 stamp:-

  17 February 2014 - FIFA World Cup Competition, Brazil - 2 stamps:-

  10 March 2014 - "The only witness was the Cumbez..." - 4 stamps:-

  23 May 2014 - Europa - "National musical instruments" - 2 stamps;
  4 July 2014 - Surcharged stamps (Beneficial insects and World Environment Day) - 2 stamps;
  19 September 2014 - Fruit tree flowers - 4 stamps;
  17 November 2014 - Traditional production 4 stamps.

  Gibraltar issued a set of 5 stamps on 20 March 2014 which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Red Arrows, the RAF flying display team. The set was designed by Stephen Perera from photographs by Rich Andrews and was lithographed by Lowe Martin. The face value of the stamps is £4.38p and since the subject of the issue does not appear to have any direct relevance to Gibraltar I shall not bother to add it to my collection of Gibraltar stamps. This issue joins the Chinese New Year issue on my list of Gibraltar "Footnote issues".

Friday 21 March 2014

385. Commonwealth New Issues.

  Pakistan's first stamp issue of 2014 was released on 12 March and was the latest stamp to appear in its "Men of Letters" series. The stamp commemorates Habib Jalib and was designed by Adil Salahuddin and lithographed by Pakistan Security Printing Corporation of Karachi. Jalib was born on 28 March 1928 and became a revolutionary poet and left wing activist and politician.

  A stamp was then issued on 20 March 2014 which commemorated the late Air Commodore (R) M M Alam. This stamp was also designed by Adil Salahuddin and lithographed by Pakistan Security Printing Corporation (depicted above). Muhammad Mahmoud Alam was a Pakistan Air Force fighter pilot and one star general who was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat (the Star of Courage) for his actions during the Indo-Pakistan War in which he shot down 5 Indian aircraft in the space of 1 minute. He died on 18 March 2013 aged 77.

  Malta issued a set of 4 stamps on 28 March 2014 titled "Maritime Malta Series II" and designed by Cedric Galea Pirotta and lithographed by Printex:-

  I highlighted the first 2 issues of the year to appear from Tuvalu in Blog 383 and apparently the third issue of 2014 will be a set to be released on 24 March on the subject of "Space" and the next issue after that will feature "Vegetables" and will be released on 23 April.
  The next issue from Guernsey will be a set of 6 stamps depicting musical instruments which will be released on 8 May 2014. The stamps and a miniature sheet were designed by The Potting Shed and lithographed by Lowe Martin. The 55p and 63p represent Guernsey's participation for 2014 in the annual EUROPA omnibus:-

  And then a set of 6 stamps will be issued on 28 May 2014 which have a floral theme - the 50th anniversary of "Britain In Bloom". The stamps were designed by Andrew Robinson and lithographed by BDT International:-

  Guernsey Post will issue a second set of 6 stamps on 28 May 2014 but with the inscription "Alderney" which depict scenes from a recently produced final panel for the Bayeux Tapestry. The stamps and 1 miniature sheet are designed by Bridget Yabsley and lithographed by Cartor. The miniature sheet has been produced on 100% combed cotton thread:-

  Ireland's An Post issued a single stamp on 20 March 2014 to commemorate the 90th birth anniversary of the playwright, Brendan Behan. The stamp was designed by Conor and David and lithographed by Irish Security Stamp Printing Ltd:-

  Cyprus issued the 2014 Refugee Relief stamp on 12 March in the usual design but with a "2014" inscription:-

  Meanwhile, yet another issue to mention from Grenada Grenadines which has been released in 2014 (precise date not known) on the subject of rocks and minerals:-

  The New York-based philatelic agency responsible for the above Grenada Grenadines items has certainly been busy recently as detailed in Blogs 384, 383, 381 and 379 and now I have illustrations of recent philatelic items it has produced in the name of Tanzania (I do not yet know the dates of issue) -

  2014 - Sunbirds of Africa (strangely, South American toucans are depicted in the borders of the sheetlet) 1 Sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet. I'm not sure how many of these species are actually found in Tanzania - certainly the one depicted on the miniature sheet stamp, the Nile Valley Sunbird, is NOT a species which is found in Tanzania. What is the point of showing species which do not appear in Tanzania when the country apparently has 1108 species within its borders which could be depicted?

  2014 - Reptiles of Africa - 1 sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 m.s.:-

  2014 - Breeds of domestic dogs - 2 sheetlets each of 4 different stamps and 2 miniature sheets:-

  Below are illustrated the excellent set of 6 stamps and 1 miniature sheet issued by Hong Kong China on 20 February 2014 which depict Chinese dinosaurs and which were designed by Keith Yip and Tong Wai-pang and lithographed by Enschede:-

  On 24 March 2014 Australia Post will issue a set of 7 gummed stamps, a se-tenant coil strip of 4 x 70c stamps and booklets of 10 x 70c and 20 x 70c stamps (which produces just 4 different stamps) making a total of 15 different new stamps all of which are on the subject of Floral Emblems of Australia's States and Territories. The stamps were designed by Jo Mure and lithographed by McKellar Renown:-

Gummed set of 7.

Coil strip of 4 x 70c.

Booklet of 10 x 70c.

  The latest Stamperija products with the name of Mozambique printed on them are said to have been issued on 25 September 2013 and take the form of 15 sheetlets each of 4 different "stamps" and 15 miniature sheets, each subissue on a different subject which are:-
  Chinese trains:-

  Steam trains; Fire engines; Post Impressionist paintings, Russian Art:-

  Minerals; Lighthouses and shells, Ancient Egypt; Reptiles; Chess In Art; Butterflies; Whales; Owls; Primates and African Fauna.
  This may well be the last "issue" of 2013 with Mozambique's name  inscribed on it to emanate from this agency during 2013 which means that in all 538 "stamps" and 121 "miniature sheets" making a grand total of 659 philatelic items were issued with the Mozambique Post Office's approval during 2013. Not one of these things will find its way into my Mozambique collection. 
  Actually, this is the smallest total of philatelic items produced for Mozambique in several years but it still places Mozambique in the number 1 spot in the list of greediest Commonwealth postal administrations of 2013. Perhaps they could boost their new issues figures back up again by touring the world's philatelic exhibitions with a "Post And Go" machine in tow and cash in on that source of inflated philatelic income as the Jersey Post Office is now attempting to do even though there is not a Post And Go machine available for use by the general public in Jeresy itself. Or perhaps, Jersey could just give up producing its own stamps and let Stamperija loose on Jersey collectors and then it could share its machine with Mozambique and everyone would be happy (except the collectors).