Tuesday, August 22, 2023

In the post after the Machin and Country definitives invalidation on 31 July 2023

My plan in this post is to show how Royal Mail treat items posted with the postage paid entirely or partly with recently invalidated stamps.  We know that a further unofficial grace period seems to have been granted in some areas for mail to work through the pipeline.  Given the staff shortages and resultant processing and delivery delays, this seems a wise move.

My plan at this stage is to show 

- examples of mail which should have been surcharged as it bears invalid stamps, but which has not;

- examples of mail correctly surcharged;

- examples of mail incorrectly surcharged (though not that which only has forged stamps on).

1. Mail which should have been surcharged.

a. Here's a 1st class Northen Ireland stamp (self-adhesive from a Smilers Sheet) used on 16 August in the Bristol Mail Centre area to Devon. (Thanks to RW).

Invalid 1st class Northern Ireland stamp posted 16 August 2023 not surcharged (should have been £1.10).


 b. My thanks to CP for sending this example of a 1st class Machin, processed by North & West Yorkshire Mail Centre on 9 August 2023.  Whilst one can understand the machine-processing of the Northern Ireland stamp above, hand-cancelling seems to suggest either that the message hasn't quite got through, or that some mail is going through because nobody can be bothered to apply the rules. 

Invalid 1st class Machin cancelled North & West Yorkshire 9 August 2023.

c. PA (see also section 2) sent this picture of a 2nd class letter posted with pairs of 10p & 20p barcoded stamps but with a cylinder block of Northern Ireland 2½p Machin regionals - which are no longer valid.  This was posted at the Castle Hedingham (Essex) Post Office on 1 August 2023 and processed through the SE Anglia Mail Centre in Chelmsford.

Combination cover with barcoded Machins and invalid Northern Ireland country stamps, with no surcharging, posted 1 August 2023.

d. This selection was not only accepted at the Post Office counter (sent by the Signed For service) but accepted all the way through the system and delivered without surcharge. (Branch and addressee details not known.)  I don't know the details but there is potentially £8.38 of postage here (only £4.63 valid) neither of which makes a valid postage rate.

Scottish Parliament sheet containing invalid country definitives accepted at the Post Office and delivered without surcharge. (Date believed to be August 2023).

e. (4 October)  This letter posted to Canada at a Southampton branch office has only the Machin World 20g rate stamp, and was not surcharged at Southampton mail centre - although we have seen other examples from Southampton MC which valid stamps which have been incorrectly surcharged.

Worldwide 20g stamp sent from Southampton to Canada 11 September 2023 but not surcharged.

f. (8 March 2024).  Supplied by RL for the postmark to be used on the other blog, this stamp is invalid and should have been surcharged at the (new since October last) rate of £5.00! - £2.50 (up from £1.10), thanks for the correction!  This is the rate for using a non-barcoded stamp.

International Women's Day slogan Cumbria Dumfries & Gallowy 05/03/2024, unsurcharged 2nd class Northern Ireland non-barcode definitive.

2. Mail which has been correctly surcharged

a. My thanks to PA who provided the first example of a correctly surcharged letter posted via Gatwick Mail Centre on 10 August 2023, which has a new type of yellow 'Fee to Pay' label, inscribed 'Stamp No Longer Valid for Postage'. 

Stamp No Longer Valid for Postage 'Fee to Pay' £1.10 label on 1st class Machin definitive posted Gatwick 16 August 2023

UPDATE 22 December 2023.  Surcharge rates increased from 30 October, which means that this one caught the new rate!  

£2.50 'Stamp no longer valid', surcharge 1 November 2023 at new rate effective 30 October.





3. Mail which has been incorrectly surcharged.

a. Some confusion in southern England (Southampton Mail Centre?) where this letter to the Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society was similarly surcharged to 2a above, but with a valid 1st class Penny Black stamp - which was a commemorative, unlike the double-head stamps which are no longer valid.

1st class Penny Black stamp deemed invalid and £1.10 surcharge raised.

b. I sent this to a dealer in Birmingham on 11 August, returning the genuine Children's tv stamps that I borrowed for comparison with the forgeries.

Using a valid Decimal Wilding from the Diamond Jubilee PSB (nobody wanted these, they all wanted the Machin), not only was it surcharged it took 19 days to arrive at the conclusion that it was no longer valid!

Norvic outbound cover with 1st class (1/-) Wilding declared invalid by Birmingham Mal Centre.

c. It seems that the line at some offices is 'when in doubt surcharge it' judging by this from Sheffield Mail Centre which is wrong on all coounts.

2007 Wembley Lion 1st class definitive declared invalid and incorrectly surcharged at Sheffield or Mount Pleasant Mail Centres 8 August 2023.

d. (October 4). Another example of an incorrectly surcharged letter, this one stamped with a 1st class 1d red Smilers stamp.

1st class Penny Red Smilers stamp incorrectly surcharged either at South East Anglia or Mount Pleasant Mail Centres, 8 September 2023.

e. 8 March 2024.  This is actually a stamp that we sold for postage and the buyer used it to send an order to his buyer.  It was surcharged at the new (post 31 October 2023) rate of £5, refused, and returned but not charged.

Gummed 1st class 'Hello' stamp incorrectly charged as counterfeit at the new rate of £5.



If you have examples of any of these, or any other interesting post-invalidation covers, please send scans to the email address at the right (under 'About me').  Thanks.


  1. Is it possible that the envelope with the block of 2½p NI Machins, postmarked on 1 August, was actually posted on 31 July, when they were still valid? if it was dropped in a postbox on 31 July then it would be a bit mean to surcharge it. It seems to have a counter date stamp but might that be applied if mail was dropped in the branch postbox?

    1. Mail dropped in a branch postbox is not normally cancelled at the counter. Some branches have boxes in the front wall which can be opened from inside and post emptied into a sack, thus making space for more.

      It would be possible for these to be handstamped assuming the staff had nothing better to do before collection, but then why not cancel the new stamps as well as the old?

  2. Regarding item 1 f: "this stamp is invalid and should have been surcharged at the (new since October last) rate of £5.00!"

    From the table of new surcharges, £5 only applies if there is no stamp or a counterfeit stamp, so shouldn't that be £2.50 as it is an invalid (non barcode) stamp?

    1. Yes Rob, you're right - thank you for spotting my error. It's difficult keeping up!