Biro cancellations on stamps… Time for action?

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24 March 2018
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biro-31110.jpg Biro cancellations on stamps
The thorny issue of stamps being hastily cancelled with a biro pen has been the subject of debate for some years now, writes Matt Hill, with many collectors bemoaning the trend and wondering why we can’t have ‘proper’ neat cancellations. Now’s the time for action…

A recent email from Stamp & Coin Mart reader John Gray prompted me to look at the subject of pen cancellations afresh.

It initially seemed as though Royal Mail was, in its own measured way, taking a look at the issue.

John’s communications with Royal Mail had been escalated to Caleb Carter, an executive working alongside Moya Greene, Royal Mail’s CEO.

Caleb wrote an email to John explaining some of the reasons for the pen cancellations. These included the following:

• Multiple stamps on one envelope where a single hand stamp or machine stamp will not suffice will be cancelled with a pen.
• Padded envelopes that cannot be processed by a machine will be cancelled by a pen if a handstamp is unavailable.
• Envelopes with hand written addresses that cannot be read by a machine will be cancelled by a pen if a handstamp is unavailable.

Whilst these explanations might not be wholly convincing, they at least provide collectors with some information on the issue.

John informs me that his communication with Caleb has been good, he has always replied in a timely fashion and ‘appears to want to handle my correspondence properly’, so it is with some disappointment that the promise of ‘communications going out to the philatelic community starting at the National Stamp Show [Stampex] explaining the best format of mail that will give you the best chance of getting a cancellation stamp,’ have so far not materialised.

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In any case, John worries that the announcement will inform collectors how to avoid pen cancellations, rather than any action by Royal Mail to prevent or minimise the use of pen cancellations by their staff. ‘I think collectors are unlikely to be impressed!’ John told us.

With little news on Royal Mail’s stance on the issue despite the promise of an update, John is now taking more drastic action.

‘We now need a concerted effort by the philatelic community, including Stamp & Coin Mart and its readers. I think that it is now time for a campaign directed at Moya Greene and her executive team,’ John says. ‘Letters sent to stamp magazines or to local mail delivery services do not reach the necessary targets.’

John proposes that we should now send images (scans or photos) of stamps cancelled with biro or felt-tip pen to Moya Greene at [email protected].

He recommends that each email should contain a single image and a polite request that Royal Mail stop using pen cancellations, and we should continue sending individual emails for all the pen-cancelled covers we receive or have received.

He says ‘I believe an avalanche of emails to Moya Greene is our best means of persuading Royal Mail to change its policy on pen cancellations.’ …So it’s over to you, and please do let us know what response you receive.

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