Royal Mail Special Handstamps - how does it work?

I’ve been looking online at the Royal Mail Postmark bulletin and the Postmark website…

Am I correct in thinking if I mail an item in an envelope with correct address and onward postage and a covering note explaining what postmark I require they will endorse and post back to me ?

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I think @maddymail is the expert on the Royal Mail postmarks but essentially yes.

There are a few different types of postmark, you have the first day of issue postmarks which can only be used for the relevant monthly new commerative stamps issued at the same time.

There are the monthly changing postmarks, which come out to celebrate different things, such as the anniversary of the HMS victory or 150 years of Dracula or something, they can be used with any old stamp but they’re only available from a certain date and usually I think, only for a certain time.

And there are the permanent ones, such as the pictorial city stamps, and the picture centre postmarks for special places. They’re available all the time.

You send your cards, fully stamped, in an envelope, to the right stamping centre. Send all cards for one postmark together in one envelope. If you want a different postmark for one of them then send it in a separate envelope. They will either, forward the card on to the relevant address if you’ve addressed the card - usually in a clear plastic envelope so that you don’t get further postmarks on it. Or, if you add in a return addressed envelope, they’ll send it back to you to send on. You don’t need to stamp that envelope as you’ve already paid the postage on the postcards.

If you go that route then you have to remember that you won’t be able to post the cards using the franked postage as it will be used already.

Turn around is usually a couple of weeks although I did do a permanent city one that took two months.

It’s a lot of fun and really adds to the card I think! Come join the dark side lol.

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Thanks @Natea :slight_smile:

On a similar note, has anyone managed to get a Post Office to cancel stamps on an item you then get them to mail with their date stamp?


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Hello @simmo11

Claire @Natea has pretty much covered all the details, I can’t really add much more. If you are looking to create maxicards, there are slightly different rules. The only thing I would add is to include your phone number on the covering letter, just incase something isn’t right, one of the SHC team member can contact you for guidance.

In regards to post office counters, well officially (I can’t source this) the clerks are not allowed to postmark stamps on anything smaller than a Large Letter, but in my experience most will postmark out stamps on postcards, although many can be a bit arsey about doing it.

Even recently at my local work post office when I have a good relationship with the team where I have purchased special stamps from them when they have them and given them tubs of sweets at Christmas, they have been a bit reluctant to postmark out the stamps.

In my experience it’s best to build a rapport with the post office clerk first,

Also not guaranteed to get a good cancellation and sometimes their will be a pen cancel or poor machine cancellation over the top, funny one post office mistress will happily cancel my stamps, but she will crash her handstamp obliterating the stamps, whilst the manager doesn’t like doing it, but she cancels them in a beautiful philatelic way :man_shrugging:

For me the postmarks are sometimes more fascinating, it’s a shame the Mail centres don’t use there ones more often.


@Natea and @Maddymail have covered it. I’d just add that you should be prepared for a lengthy delay. While it used to only take two weeks to get your items back, the closure of most of the special handstamp centres and the recent strikes mean it is taking about two months to get items back at the moment. Fine for preparing maxicards in advance, collecting for yourself, or private swaps (as long as the other person is aware), but best avoided for official Postcrossing cards at the moment!

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… Oh yes, we forgot to mention the wacky turnaround times…

I’m still waiting on some December & early January postmarks, yet my Valentines day postmark request have come back already.

Be prepared for a turnaround anywhere between three days and three months!


Belated thanks to you all for the feedback… I’ve prepared an envelope for 2 cards with Flying Scotsman stamps on them to go to Edinburgh in the morning… looking forward to receiving them back!


Hi, I’m writing from Italy and I kindly ask an information.
In within how many days it is possible to cancel stamps with the special postmarks listed in the bulletin that Royal Mail periodically publishes on their website?
To have stamps canceled with the special postmarks, you can go in person to the Special Handstamp Centers or the postcard/envelope franked with the stamps to be canceled must only be sent to them?

In Italy, the special postmarks related to the temporary philatelic services and first day of issue can be used to the responsible philatelic structure within 60 days (excluding holidays) from the closing of the service and is possible to cancel the stamps directly there in person or having the postcard/envelope sent back after the stamps have been canceled with the special postmark.

Thanks in advance and Happy Postcrossing :wink:

Saluti dalla Scozia!

Generally speaking, for the ‘special release’ postmarks, they are available for a month from date of issue. Unfortunately you cannot visit the handstamp centre in person (at least at the Northern one in Edinburgh, I have tried!) As they will use the postage to the centre as ‘payment’ for the stamp.

The best way I have found is to send items in an envelope with the code of the stamp you would like on your cards with the correct postage, and as long as you include a return address with correct postage, they will send it back to you. Unfortunately, I don’t know the rules in regards to non-UK postage returns but there is an email address on the bulletin that you can contact the handstamp office on.

Hope this helps!

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I’m only just learning about these handstamps. Has anyone got any pics of some examples that they’ve successfully received from the Royal Mail

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Also some here:
PC 4 | Imogen | Flickr


@Minaminx If you are after maxicards for postcrossing, you don’t necessarily need to create your own, there are always loads for sale on eBay, as getting your cards handstamped is more expensive than just sending them, as you have to pay for the additional postage to the handstamp centre, as well as using the stamps you want handstamped, if this makes sense.

Having said that, I don’t mean to be negative! @Maddymail has posted loads of advice on requesting handstamps and I am more than happy to help if you did want to get started. :slight_smile:

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