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How Special TPO Postmarks Were Used to Stop First Day Cover Cheats

Many Travelling Post Offices (TPO) began their route during the evening and their postmark handstamps were prepared with that day's date. However, as midnight came and went the handstamp was not changed to show the next day. All mail sorted on board the entire run of that TPO carriage would have the same date applied. This is how it had always been done and nobody saw reason to change anything as the growth in popularity of first day covers took hold.

A few shrewd first day cover dealers and collectors realised they could purchase new stamp issues at midnight in London from King Edward Building and/or Trafalgar Square Post Office (open 24 hours a day) to then drive out of the capital to meet incoming TPOs coming back toward London which would then apply postmarks dated the previous day.

Eventually this trick came to the attention of GPO management and special handstamps were created and issued to some TPOs specifically for use on first day covers. These new postmarks displayed "AM" above the correct first day of issue date in standard circular datestamps leaving regular non-philatelic mail still being cancelled as before. So, while the "early release" trick had largely been overcome, a new and rather special first day of issue postmark came in to use.

According to Norman Hill's Railway Travelling Post Offices of Great Britain and Ireland 1838-1975 the AM indexes slug was originally used 1st July 1954 on five TPOs running in to London where late fee mailings were possible after midnight. However we're not actually aware of any philatelic first day covers bearing these AM postmarks until 1960 on the East Anglian Up and South Western Up TPOs.

In all 32 of these AM postmarks for use on First Day Covers are documented and getting them all represents a tough challenge although they do turn up on eBay fairly frequently. As many eBay sellers don't realise what they are listing it's often possible to pick some of these covers up at rock bottom prices! This pre-filtered search for TPO First Day Cover listings usually finds them.

Warning: Use of the AM postmarks ceased completely in 1981 although some bogus items dated 1982 or later are known so be careful.

Here's an alphabetical listing of all the known TPO routes that used AM postmarks and remember to check the covers dated 1960-1981 only for the "AM" above the date inside the circular postmark rings:

Bristol - Derby TPO

Cardiff - Crewe TPO

Carlisle - Ayr SC (Sorting Carriage)

Carlisle - Edinburgh SC

Crewe - Bangor TPO

Crewe - Cardiff TPO

Crewe - Glasgow SC

Crewe - Peterborough TPO

Crewe - Peterborough (Lincolnshire Section) TPO

Down Special (Aberdeen Section) TPO

East Anglian Down TPO

East Anglian Down (Peterborough Section) TPO

East Anglian Up TPO

East Anglian Up (Peterborough Section) TPO

Great Western Down TPO

Great Western Up TPO

Huddersfield - Whitehaven TPO

London - York - Edinburgh TPO

Manchester - Glasgow SC

Midland Going North TPO

Midland Going South TPO

North East Night Down TPO

North East Night Up TPO

North Western Night Down TPO

Shrewsbury - York TPO

South Eastern Down TPO

South Eastern Up TPO

South Wales Down TPO

South Western Down TPO

South Western Up TPO

Up Special TPO

York - Shrewsbury TPO

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How Special TPO Postmarks Were Used to Stop First Day Cover Cheats

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