Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Ultra-modern Postal History: the transition period 2023 onwards

The first definitive (NVI and £2.20) stamps bearing the likeness of King Charles III were issued on 4 April 2023 and are detailed in our 'new stamps' blog.

As His Majesty had stressed that there should be no waste arising from his succession, to minimise any environmental impact, existing stocks of definitive stamps that feature Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth would continue to be distributed and remain valid for use. 

Although further valued stamps were issued in August these have not, at the time of writing, been seen in Post Office branches after the day of issue.  Stamps supplied in the Royal Mail Swapout scheme (exchanging now invalid Machin and Country definitives) have only been Queen Elizabeth stamps.

This can clearly only continue while stocks of Queen Elizabeth stamps remain available in Post Office stores and at Royal Mail's warehouse.  Before long we will see non-philatelic examples of mail with postage paid by King Charles stamps - or a mixture of those and Queen Elizabeth stamps.  

Here is an example of a packet sent to Canada by the International Signed service, costing £11.20 with postage paid by 11 x £1 and a single 20p Queen Elizabeth stamp.

November 2023 International Signed 101-250g letter sent to Canada, with £11.20 in Datamatrix Machins all properly cancelled at Petersfield, Hampshire.

Unfortunately for collectors of Postal History, current practice at Post Offices is to use Horizon labels for postage on this sort of post.  So this was more than likely sent by a dealer or collector.  

Mixed frankings

Mixed frankings have, in the past, been eagerly collected.  There will always be philatelic examples produced by collectors and dealers, but as supplies of some QE values are exhausted other values may continue to be available.  

Here's one I sent earlier(!), in May 2023 when old-style Machin stamps were still valid.  I sent this to the USA with a mix of old Machins (to use them up) and a few datamatrix stamps. It's a bit messy because the Norwich Mail Centre decided to cancel the stamps which had already been cancelled at the Post Office Counter.  

The rate for the up to 100g letter was £4.20 (£3.62 old plus 58p new).  The King Charles low-value stamps had not been issued at this time.

Under 100g letter sent by International Standard mail to the USA; postage of £4.20 paid by £3.62 still-valid old Machin and 58p new datamatrix stamps.

However, as with early First Flight covers (many sent by the leading dealer Francis J Field) this sort of thing may not exist if it was not for dealers and collectors.



The next stage in Mixed Frankings comes after the invalidation of the old Machin and Country definitives on 31 July 2023.   Now there is the opportunity for a mixture of Queen Elizabeth and King Charles definitives.

When the latter were first issued on 29 August collectors and dealers took the opportunity to create philatelic mixed frankings, but not all post office branches received any significant stocks, in line with the King's instruction that there should be no waste and that the stamps of the previous reign should be used up rather than being wasted.  

At the time of writing there have been no reports of King Charles stamps being supplied in the Swap Out scheme.

It is only now, in December that King Charles definitives are being supplied to post office branches as a matter of course.  PA sent this picture of two covers produced from this situation; his description is below the picture.

Pair of covers from different post office branches with a mix of Queen Elizabeth and King Charles definitive stamps, November 2023. [1] 5p, 20p QE, 50p KC.  [2] 5p, 10p QE, 3 x 20p KC.

"Whilst they might appear philatelic, in fact the Cruden Bay Outreach (lower cover) is as supplied by the P.O. (28 Nov) and  in the case of the Chudleigh one I supplied the 5p and 20p whilst the P.O. added the 50p King (25 Nov)"

Cruden Bay is in Aberdeenshire, and Chudleigh is in Devon.

So that is the start: the King Charles stamps are starting to appear, so check out your local post office branches, especially those that do a lot of business, and please let me know what you find, or receive through the post. 

UPDATE 8 January 2024 - sheet versions of the 2nd class Charles stamps were on sale in my Crown PO in Dereham last week, but not booklets.  I wonder how long it will be before the supermarkets start asking for Charles stamps - they have been known in the past to influence what they are supplied with.

UPDATE 10 June 2024 - Royal Mail decided to stop selling Queen Elizabeth Machin datamatrix  definitives from 1 June, but country definitives continue.   However, Post Office branches and other outlets continue to sell the stamps that they have: King Charles stamps are becoming more common, and the first have now been received from their SwapOut scheme. 

Royal Mail have been strongly criticised by the public and politicians for their policy of raising a £5 surcharge on mail with allegedly counterfeit stamps.  The pressure built up when postmen said that the free stamps they were given at Christmas had been surcharged (they would have been Christmas stamps rather than definitives), as had mail with the stamps people received from the SwapOut according to other reports.

So this - although without any definitives - may be an indication that Revenue Protection are being more careful or checking more.

For full write-up on the 'why' of this mark, see our other blog.

I'll use this post to add more covers, both inland and international, with any of the new stamps and especially either mix of old and new.


  1. Ian, re your comment of earlier today: my local supermarket (Cambridge area) supplied me with a KCIIIx8 1st class booklet just before Christmas.

  2. It looks as though the Cruden Bay Outreach service stopped just 5 days after that cover was posted. https://www.grampianonline.co.uk/news/collieston-residents-to-lose-local-access-to-post-office-ser-332294/

  3. In fact - I see I misread it and the 28 November postmark was in fact the last day of service at Cruden Bay Outreach!

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. That may well be why the collector/sender was there.


If you do not have a Google account, please use a name or pseudonym so that we do not confuse anonymous posters