Saturday, August 5, 2017

International mail: solo uses, and high value research.

My latest finds, from the local philatelic society fair included some really nice examples of postal history items which require a bit of digging and delving - to find out whether they are 'right'.

Three letters to Greece
From 26 April 1976 the postage rate for letters to Europe was 10p for 20g, so this letter, without a clear UK postmark but with an Athens arrival of 31 May 1977, was correctly prepaid with the standard 10p light orange-brown.



On 13 June 1977 the rate was increased to 10½p.  This letter - with the Athens arrival mark of 4 September 1977 on the reverse, and a violet boxed C85 (or 685) cancelling the stamps - was prepaid with the same 10p stamp and an additional ½p stamp.


The third one, to the same addressee but from a different sender, uses the shortlived 10½p yellow, issued on 25 February 1976 and replaced on 26 April 1978 with the grey-blue version.  Finding covers to Europe franked with a single stamp for the right rate is not easy and the destination of Greece rather than, say, France or Germany is even better.


The other international cover I bought today is a gem: not pretty, not tidy, but a gem of an exercise in rate research.   This is an airmail insured packet to South Africa, prepaid £3.35 with the use of 3 x decimal £1 stamps, a 20p dull purple, and 3 x 5p pale violet, and clear New Barnet Parcel Post marks dated 23 December 1976.  My initial thought was that insurance must have been expensive, but in fact it is only a low fee.

My source was the website of the Great Britain Philatelic Society (GBPS) which has an excellent series of postage rate tables for inland and overseas mail including 'special services'.   In these tables I found that insurance fee for this date was 65p for up to £175 and 70p for up to £210, so this packet insured for £200 needed the 70p fee.  The balance of £2.65 was obviously the postage, but how is this arrived at? 

The airmail small packet rate tables show 130g is 49p, and each additional 10g is 3½p.  3½p doesn't divide evenly into £2.65 (=75.71) so it probably wasn't a small packet, although 130+ (75x10g) 750g is still within the limit of 1kg for a small packet.  Curious.

The GBPS website doesn't include all the parcel post rates - for some periods there were many different rates for the countries around the world and in some periods they changed more than once during the year.  But the site does reference the publication of amendments to the Post Office Overseas Letter Post Scheme in the London Gazette, the official public record for certain legislation, regulation, and official notices, etc.   Here, I found that the rate for an Airmail parcel sent outside Europe varied from £2.20 to £3.60 for the first ½ kg, depending on destination, but the rate for South Africa was... £2.65: the packet was prepaid exactly as it should be, as you would hope for something posted over the Post Office counter!


The clue as to whether it was a Small Packet or Parcel lies in the Barnet parcel post label on the reverse.  A Customs Form would have indicated the weight, but I suspect that was removed on arrival in South Africa, where the white label shown was attached, indicating a fee of 50c for Wharfage.

When the basic inland postage rate was only 8½p for second class, a £1 stamp would almost certainly only have been used on parcels.  To find three on one cover - even a slightly damaged cover - is very pleasing!

(Click on the images to see a larger version.)




Thursday, July 20, 2017

Recent acquisitions: a 1972 parcel tag and an enigma

As I haven't had time to sort through my collection into any order, and thereby make some properly structured posts, the next few will be recent acquisitions - more or less as I get them, or at least as I finish researching them.

This 1972 Parcel Tag originated in Norwich in 1972.  Although the parcel postmark is not clear, the nursery kindly added the date at the right and of course their return address is printed on the tag.

Evidently there was something wrong with the address, and the plants were returned.  Coincidentally there is (now at least) a garden centre in Orchard Road, Coton, Cambridgeshire, where Mrs R P Barnes may have lived once.


21p paid for an inland parcel up to two pounds in weight (about 900 grammes which would now cost £2.90).  The postage is paid by the 20p 'high value' and 1p Machin definitives issued in 1970/71.


This other cover, though, is something of an enigma.  I bought it knowing that it was almost certainly wrong!  It's been sent by Recorded Delivery (apparently), on 24 May 1975? - I couldn't be sure.  But I did know that on decimal day, 15 February 1917, the minimum inland postage rate was 2½p - and recorded delivery had been 9d, becoming 4p on decimalisation.  So the postage had to be at least 6½p, not the 5½p represented by the 2 x 2½p and single ½p stamp.

On close inspection the year on the datestamp does appear to be 1975, by which time the 2nd class postage rate had risen to 5½p.  At the same time the recorded delivery fee was 7p, so the correct postage would have been 12½p (or 14p for 1st class).  We will never know whether this was handled under the recorded delivery system or not - but if it was, it was underpaid by 7p.  I suspect the sender knew what postage was required for the letter.  The Post Office almost certainly affixed the recorded delivery label, and may even have taken the fee - but if they did, they forgot to apply the extra 7p stamp!



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Remarkable Lives stamps now being used by Royal Mail's bureau

Royal Mail Tallents House have been using stamps on some mail for at least a year, with last year's Butterfly stamps being the most common until recently.

Complete Set of 10



Now the Remarkable Lives stamps issued earlier this year are being used:


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

More Modern British Postal History Coming Soon.

I've been prompted by a recent article in Britain's Stamp Magazine to take another look at modern postal history, so look out for some more postings in this blog before much longer.

Just for starters, proof that special stamps are still used here.

2013 Butterfly set and Football Heroes set


These are all on complete covers.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Premium services: registered post, special delivery, and recorded delivery

The fee for registration and special delivery was 3 shillings on top of the basic letter rate, but there was no 3s stamp.

Special Delivery 1967 - 4d brown and 2 x 1/6d Machins
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Registered 1970 - 5d blue and 2 x 1/6d Machins with a nice Burnham Market village registration label. Even now the permanent population is less than 1,000 although it is swelled all year round by visitors from London and has acquired the nick-name Chelsea-on-sea.
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Recorded Delivery. Registration cost a lot of money in 1960 and there was a need for a low-cost confirmation of delivery, without the insurance element. The recorded delivery service was introduced in 1961 with an initial fee of 6d. By 1967 the fee had been increased to 9d, still considerably less than the registration fee. Recorded Delivery could also be used with second class mail from the introduction of the 2-tier system in September 1968. The letters had to be posted over the counter, but no special handling was involved until delivery and ordinary machine postmarks were applied, rather than the counter stamps used for the higher-cost services.

4d Machin and 9d Wilding, 1s Wilding and 1d Machin, 1968 (By this time Machins had been issued for all the values shown here.)
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1d and 1s Machins, 1969
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1st class rate 5d blue with 9d green Machin 1969
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Recorded Delivery (continued) - 1st class 5d rate and 9d Recorded Fee

- paid by 2d and 1s Machins 1969
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- paid by 4d centre band and 10d Machins 1968, a nice use of the 10d unfortunately on an oversize cover
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- paid by a pair of 7d Machins, 1968. Possibly my favourite colour of all for Machins
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Underpaid, surcharged - postage due

Underpaid mail was assumed to be posted at 2nd class rates and usually surcharged accordingly although sometimes, as now, it escaped detection.

Stamped with a 1d Machin, and therefore surcharged at (4d-1d) x 2 - with 6d postage due (1970) (although from the manuscript marking they obviously had to think twice about it!)
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Unpaid, surcharged 8d but not always with postage due stamps applied. (1967 & 1970) (The one with the dues is actually before the two-tier system)
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Underpaid - 1d Machin treated as 2nd class, 2d Wilding treated as 1st class. (1st class mail had the time above the date, 2nd class has no time shown.) The 1d Machin might have been seen as a 4d brown, although the 4d red had been in use for over a year. Both these 1970.
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The 4d second class rate

The similarity in colour of the 5d dark blue and 4d dark brown caused some problems in manual sorting. Separating the two at lower light levels was difficult so a new 4d red was introduced on 6 January 1969. Despite this supplies of 4d brown - with 1 or 2 phosphor bands - and Wildings continued to be used in the run-up to the 1971 decimalisation.

4d red used December 1969


4d blue Northern Ireland (from the pre-Machin era: the colour matches the Wilding 4d) - obvious philatelic use, but there was a lot of using-up to do! The regional stamps were valid anywhere in the UK

4d red Scotland & Wales locally used. The Welsh stamp is postmarked Chester but North Wales received its supplies from Chester and some centralisation of postal sorting meant that some mail posted in north-east Wales received a Chester postmark.