Thursday, 23 August 2012

Elvis has left the Post Office...

It's always nice to receive some item through the post that has attracted instructional markings from the postal services during its journey. Today's post included an uprated, but underpaid, inland letter card from India - illustrated below. Being 4,50 rupees short of the correct postage rate it was withdrawn by a postal official who applied a rubber handstamp which denoted the deficiency and required the item to be RETURNED TO SENDER. An additional requirement being that the sender repost it with the additional postage required for the correct rate.
Inland letter card from India with Indira Ghandi imprint

It appears that the instruction was cancelled and the letter card sent on it's way without the required rate of 15 rupees. The "Return to Sender" element of the handstamp had me thinking of immediately of Elvis Presley whose song of the same title was a huge hit in the early 1960's and is probably the most famous of all songs with a postal theme in it's lyrics. Then came the many postally related songs can you think of?  Well...there was the Carpenters with "Please Mr. Postman" (which I think was originally a Beatles song)...and...and. A quick "google" produced little information. Ella Fitzgerald sang "Air Mail Special" and there was an Indy pop band by the name of "The Postal Service" who were active around 2005. So, its over to you for more suggestions!

The Victorians, for whom the postal service became a national obcession, produced lots of postally related songs: "The Postbox Polka"; "The Postman's knock" and "The Royal Mail Galop" appear to have been popular songs and tunes of their time.

"The Postman's Story" (illustrated left) was a ballad that told of drowning on a sea voyage to America and very little to do with the postal service. It tells of an old man awaiting his postman to deliver a letter from his son who was lost at sea. However the use of the postman illustration on the sheet music proved a positive marketing ploy and it appears to have sold well as a result.

Back to the postal markings topic and perhaps the most iconic of markings is the pointing finger used by the US Postal Service of which I have a few examples in my collection and must sort one out to illustrate in a future posting.

Finally, on the subject of postal delivery workers, there is a wonderful award winning short film about an Indian rural delivery postman. If you haven't seen it yet, its a must! The link is here:

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Where's Wenlock?

I received a cover from my friend Adeline a few days ago. It carried the set of four stamps issued by Singapore to commemorate the 30th Olympiad in London, attractively mounted and cancelled with a neat circular datestamp. What really drew my attention though, was that all four stamps depict the games mascot, "Wenlock". Who? you might ask. "Wenlock" I say, the official games mascot...haven't you heard of she, er it?
Singapore 2012 Olympic stamps on registered cover

Wenlock was selected as the official mascot in December 2009, so he/she/it has been around for a few years - opportunity enough to achieve some degree of familiarity with the public I would have what happened?  One of the design criteria was to create something that would "...connect young people with the power of the games and in doing so inspire them to choose sport..." but they seem to have developed the stuff of nightmares. A metallic cyclops wearing a flashing London taxi cute...
If you are inspired to find out more about "Wenlock" and his paralympic counterpart "Mandeville", they have their own website, a best kept secret at:

I have recently been pondering on the impact of hyperinflation. No, it's nothing to do with the current lack of growth in the UK economy or the recent increases in UK postage rates.. but the result of a bet! 
Within a philatelic forum to which I subscribe, one member bet another 100 million 1993 Yugoslav dinars. A small fortune you may think, but in reality just enough to post a few letters. It brough to mind one of my favourite covers of all time.
1993 Yugoslavia hyperinflation cover

It was posted on the afternoon of 26th November 1993 in Belgrade. Stamps to the value of 211,660 dinars were attached and the postal clerk added a label to the value 163,340 dinars making up the postage rate of 375,000 dinars. What the postal clerk did not apply was the new postal rate that became applicable that morning, a revised rate that should have cost the sender 5,620,000 dinars. He thus made a saving of 5,245,000 dinars.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Party's over....

If I was asked three months ago for my opinion of the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics, I would probably have replied with cynicism a few negative expletives. However, from the perspective of the first day in seventeen that Olympic sporting events have been absent from the TV screen, I feel a little deflated and that something is missing from my daily life.
The 29 gold medals that Team GB have won at the games has left my pockets empty of cash. I doubt even that the Royal Mail could have foreseen such a large medal haul when they promoted the Gold Medal Winner stamps that the public would take such an interest. If you are not aware of these stamps, the Royal Mail pledged to issue a 1st class stamp illustrating a GB gold medal winning Olympian or team and have them on sale by noon on the day following their success. They were issued in sheets of six stamps and initially sold thus, but Royal Mail later relented and informed post offices that they could be sold singly - possibly to take advantage of the interest and demand. The stamp issue quickly became synonymous with a gold medal win...TV presenters greeting winners with "'ll be appearing on a stamp tomorrow!.." and such like.
Met by many philatelists (myself included) with suggestions that the stamps sacrificed quality in favour of a quick profit, I would now conclude that although a "gimmick", they have stimulated an interest in stamp collecting, that if sustained, could create a huge legacy the hobby in general..and weren't the games all about "legacy" ? It will be interesting to see what the final sales figures will be, but some of the stamps quickly sold out at my local retail outlet in Dudley - one of 500 nationwide. The first to sell out was the Bradley Wiggins stamp, my candidate for the Gold Medal Winner's Gold Medal Winner!

The most popular of the Gold Medal Winner stamps?

You may be aware, from earlier postings, that I have been just a little bit critical of the philatelic service at my local post office in Dudley. Such has been the impact of these stamps that they have transformed the attitude of the counter clerk selling them...he has started his own collection!

It will be interesting to see in the weeks to come what philatelic souvenirs will surface and be paraded around like the flags at the opening ceremony. At the moment, my cherished item is a sheet of the Jessica Ennis stamps on cover with first day "flag" postmark and oval cachet from the Olympic Park Office.

Jessica Ennis Gold Medal Winner sheet with interesting cachet

The cachet on the cover is interesting, in that it differs from the one applied to the "smiler" sheet folder on sale at the Olympic village. It is known to have been used to cancel stamps on official mail at the village, though it's status is at present unconfirmed... unless someone has the knowledge? Below is a comparison between the two cachets.


Sunday, 12 August 2012

Sneaky goings on at the Royal Mail?

Hi followers! Sorry it has been such a long time since my last posting but life has not yet furnished me with that lottery win that will permit me to become a full time blogger!
Having a little more time than usual I will try and get up to date on the most important matters postal over the past few months, starting with.....the shocking increase in postal charges.
On 30th April, UK inland postal charges increased from 46p to 60p (a rise of 30%) for first class mail and from 36p to 50p (a rise of 39%) for second class postings. International prices fared slightly better with more modest increases between 25 - 28%. It seems that Royal Mail - or the government - had bullied the regulator Ofcom into abandoning the prescribed price limits with threats that the universal service, making daily deliveries to every address in the UK, was at risk.

Will Royal Mail profit from entering the loans and morgages market

Within two months of the rate increase, before it had any impact on revenues, the Royal Mail announces yearly profits of £211 million, a 400% increase on the previous year and earning a nice bonus of £371,000 for Chief Executive Moya Greene. Royal Mail had, over this period shed 4,000 jobs at a cost of over £70 million in redundancy and other payments. Economics is not my strong point, but something doesn't seem right here! Recent announcement have included planned reductions in collection times from some of the 115,000 postboxes nationwide and that TNT, the Dutch postal carrier, is undertaking trials with end-to-end deliveries in the London. This all suggests to me that there is some cost-cutting and 'fattening up' taking place in preparation for a large scale privatisation of the mail service. Watch this space....