Sunday, 13 February 2011

Up to 60g

In the Autumn 2010 issue of Cross Post, the journal of the Friends of the BPMA (the British Postal Museum and Archive), Don Staddon shows some essays for stamps similar to the NVI's shown above.

The ones above are the actual issued stamps. The one on the left is one of two issued in March, 2003. This one paid for overseas airmail outside Europe for letters up to 40g; a second similar stamp paid for letters to Europe. A third stamp was issued a year later for worldwide postcards.

Although introduced with great fanfare, these stamps underwent a name change, from "universal" to "international one-stop," and then slipped under the radar. They remained on sale, but there was little publicity about them and, at least for a while, they could not be found on Royal Mail's web site.

Last year, the two 40g stamps were replaced with 20g stamps using the same design but different colors. One of the 20g stamps is shown above.

There was no official explanation for this switch, but my theory is that Royal Mail switched to the less-expensive stamps in the hopes of increasing the volume of overseas mail. The 40g stamps probably overpaid postage for most letters (since there are lower rates for 20g letters going outside the UK and for 10g worldwide letters), but this may not have been known by postal customers who simply bought the convenient NVIs.

I think Royal Mail would rather accept the risk of a few 20 to 40 gram letters being underfranked in return for the higher volume.

Anyway, back to the essays shown by Don Staddon. He says they were printed by Walsall and date from the early 2000's, so probably from a time before the stamps were actually issued. They have three unusual characteristics:

- They are inscribed "up to 60 grams"
- The lettering is in italic style
- The worldwide stamp is in a pink color that has never been used for these NVIs

The first point is the most interesting. Royal Mail apparently considered issuing these stamps at an even higher rate than the actual ones. The 60g weight would have been equivalent to the first weight step for domestic mail at that time. Instead, they settled on 40g and ultimately lowered it to 20g.

The change from italic to regular type style was probably simply an artistic judgment, as was the choice of colors. Probably there were other color trials done around the same time.

So thanks to Don, we have a brief glimpse at part of the development of these NVIs.


While we're on the subject, if you are not a member of the Friends of the BPMA, you should consider joining. Besides the semi-annual excellent journal, Cross Post, you get a discount at the BPMA shop and invitation to events available exclusively to Friends. And most importantly, you keep informed of and lend your support to the upcoming new postal museum.

No comments: