THE NETHERLANDS. 2017, the new PostNL postal kiosks

Introduction. PostNL

The Dutch postal administration is possibly one of the main European mail companies that has undergone more changes and transformations in recent years, reflecting a rapidly changing postal business (More information, see article, also published in VARIABLE 3).
In May 2011, TNT Post (formerly TPG Post), was split into two independent companies; TNT Express, dedicated to the express business, and PostNL, the new postal company.
PostNL also operates in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom, offering mail and parcel services, as well as e-commerce solutions.

Following the significant drop in mail volumes in the Netherlands, PostNL started, a major restructuring plan for the company in 2012. Between 2012 and 2013, PostNL closed almost all post offices in the country and replaced them with small post shops integrated into other commercial establishments, such as bookstores, tobacconists, supermarkets, etc. These new post offices are usually run by the establishment's own employees and offer all PostNL products and services.
The only non-integrated post office is located in The Hague in the city centre
(left image).

The new postal kiosks and the automaatpostzegels

Beginning in the early 2000's, the then TNT Post decided to stop selling single stamps at its counters and sale points in order to improve customer service and efficiency in its branches. Instead they offered booklets of ten stamps that customers could keep for use later or whenever. After several years with the change in postal habits the company has again considered the possibility of selling individual stamps via postal kiosks.
Apart from the 'traditional' stamp vending machines, this is not the first time that the Dutch postal administration has installed self-service equipment issuing variable value stamps. At different times, between 1989 to 2010, the company installed or tested various types of stamp vending machines and postal kiosks. Starting in late 2006, the former TNT Post launched various interesting trials which, in the following two years, led to the installation of a large number of postal kiosks from three different suppliers (Wincor Nixdorf, aCon and Gunebo) in post offices and supermarkets across the country. Changes in the postal company, the closure of post offices and / or the minimum success of some of these trials, ended with the gradual withdrawal of all equipment a few months or years after their installation.
More information: The new postal self-services of TNT Post (article). See also the dossier published in VARIABLE 3.

In 2017, PostNL has launched a new one-year trial with four 'Post & Go' kiosks, originally developed by the British company Intelligent AR, for Royal Mail.
On this website and in VARIABLE issues, we have published dozens of articles on these machines and their issues in different countries).

The first machine was temporarily installed, as a demonstration of the technology, in the Filateliebeurs 2017. This national philatelic fair was held in January 28th/29th 2017, in the Dudok Arena hall, in Hilversum.
The new kiosk, with the logo of the Dutch postal administration and code NL01, was installed next to the PostNL philatelic stand.

During the first trial period, the kiosks used rolls of 1500 labels with two different designs, used on the issue of domestic and international stamps, respectively. On the left, the design features two Plebejus argus butterflies. On the right, one of the most representative flowers of the country, the tulip, being the variety Tulipa Jannekes Orange. This design already incorporates the symbol of international priority mail.

Both designs are by Frank Janse, Frank Grafisch Ontwerp, a Dutch graphic design studio that has already designed other philatelic products for PostNL.
Self-adhesive thermal labels were manufactured by Walsall Security Printers. These labels have the same size and characteristics as the 'Post & Go' issues produced for other countries. The size is 56 x 25 mm. and has perforations resembling 'traditional' stamps. 
Like the labels produced for Spanish Post, there is a pre-printed number on the back of each label, on the silicone paper, for inventory control. This number shows the number of labels remaining on the roll.

During the initial trial period, kiosks only offered two types of stamps or automaatpostzegels, sold individually or in strips of five. The machine prints the country name (Nederland) and the face value indicator (1, letters up to 20 g.). On the left, at right angles to the normal text we find the usual 'Post & Go' unique code for each stamp and, in the case of the stamps below, the 'Hilversum 2017' temporary imprint. The stamps for international mail, printed on labels with the 'tulips' design also include the text 'INTERNATIONAAL'.

The kiosks also print marks or sorting 'hooks', designated by two small right angles of varying length depending on the postage rate (domestic rate stamp, see upper left corner - international rate stamp, lower left corner). These indicators have been included on all stamps issued by Dutch Post since 2010. Postal sorting equipment can 'read' these marks and check if the weight and destination of the postal item match the stamp rate.

The stamp code is made up by four blocks. In the first block, 'B' indicates that it is a philatelic issue, '1' for the month of issue (January), 'NL' for the country where the issue was printed (The Netherlands), and '17' for the year of issue. The second block corresponds to the machine code (NL01). The third block of four digits corresponds to the session number, followed by a block of three digits indicating the stamp number within the purchase transaction. As can be seen in the images, these last two blocks of digits are not always visible, as some of the information is printed on the dark coloured area of the label design. This is especially the case with the domestic rate design.

On completion of purchase, the machine issues the stamps and a receipt printed on thermal paper. The right image shows the receipt issued by the NL01 kiosk, on the first day of issue at the Hilversum fair, for the purchase of the two domestic and international stamps.
The new kiosk and its issues aroused great interest among visitors. 
The offer limited only to 2 stamps, and the printing speed, helped to reduce the queues in front of the machines.

On the 1st January 2017, PostNL decided to withdraw all handstamps used in post shops throughout the country, to the subsequent annoyance of the philatelic community. Consequently, on the date of issue of the new stamps there were only two postmarks available at the Hilversum fair PostNL stand. These were, a postmark with the city name and the date of the first day of the fair (maximum card, right), and a special pictorial postmark (images below).

Although initially announced for Monday, January 30th, the second kiosk (NL02) went into operation the same day, on January 28th, at the Collect Club Winkel, a philatelic shop in Bussum, north of Hilversum. This equipment includes an additional unit with a set of scales, which allows the purchase of stamps according to the destination and weight of the shipment.

The stamps issued by this machine include a permanent imprint with the name of the city, 'Bussum' and, as an operational kiosk, the stamp code starts with the letter 'C'.

In addition to the two direct purchase options for domestic and international stamps, the main menu of this equipment offers the 'Posten een item' (Post an Item) option. Using the scales and selecting the destination (domestic or international), the screen shows the available shipping options and the corresponding postal rate.
During this first trial period, and since the current postal rates in the Netherlands are multiples of tariff 1 (1 stamp = shipment up to 20g, 2 stamps = up to 50g, 3 stamps = up to 100g, etc.), the kiosk issues various stamps with this indicator until the corresponding postal rate is reached. e.g. the image below, corresponds to a national shipment of 86 g; In this case,the machine issued three stamps of tariff 1

During the first day of issue and until the afternoon of Monday, January 30th, stamps issued with the 'Post an item' option did not include the name of the city. Also for a brief period on the first day, the session number printed on the receipts was six numbers higher than that printed on the stamps.

Left, first day receipt for the direct purchase of the two stamps available at the NL02 kiosk.

Right, receipt for the purchase of the two stamps, using the option 'Post an Item' option. In this case, the machine prints the initials PAI ('Post An Item') next to the destination and weight of each issued stamp.

The third kiosk (NL03) was installed on Monday January 30th in the new (and only) PostNL shop, located in The Hague city center (see image at the beginning of the article).
This operational equipment includes a side unit with scales. Since the installation, most of the postal operations that were previously carried out at the counters are now processed by the postal kiosk

As in the case of the machine installed in Bussum, the stamps issued include a permanent imprint with the name of the city, 'Den Haag', and the stamp code begins with the letter 'C'.

And also in this case stamps without the name of the city, were issued during the first few hours of operation when selecting the 'Post an Item' option. From 14:30 onwards, all stamps issued by the machine included the city name.

Left, first day receipt for the direct purchase of the two stamps available at the NL03 kiosk.

Right, receipt for the purchase of the two stamps, using the 'Posten an Item' option.

The image depicts a first day cover mailed to Spain, franked with a domestic stamp issued by the kiosk, with additional postage made up using a definitive variable value stamp issued at the post office's counter.
On the date of issue, The Hague post office did not offer any (handstamp) postmarks. All mail is mechanically handled at various sorting centers throughout the country.

In addition to these three public kiosks, PostNL has a fourth equipment for use in-house, with code NL00. This machine was used for the large-scale printing of stamps with both motifs, issued in rolls of 250 stamps, which were initially sold, as a trial, in two post shops located in commercial establishments, in Amersfoort.

These stamps were also sold by the philatelic service, in the form of booklets of four stamps (image below) together with first day covers (right image).
Unlike the stamps issued by the postal kiosks, the rolls used by the NL00 machine have perforations between the labels, to make it easier selling single stamps. All the stamps have the same code, B1NL17 NL00-0001-001.

The NL01 kiosk at the Essen International stamp fair

Following the appearance of NL01 kiosk at the Hilversum Filateliebeurs 2017 (see article, also published in VARIABLE 44), PostNL decided to follow in the steps of other philatelic services with similar equipment and install the kiosk at the main philatelic events it participates in. The second appearance of the NL01 kiosk was at the 27th Internationale Briefmarken-Messe in Essen, Germany.

The stamp fair was held from May 11th to 13th 2017, in one of the halls of Messe Essen, one of the largest trade fair venues in Germany. With the attendance or representation of over 40 postal administrations, nearly 80 commercial stands, plus many study groups at the event, it is one of the main annual philatelic fairs held in this country.

It was the second time that the Intelligent AR kiosks visited the Essen fair. Two years earlier, in 2015, Royal Mail had installed two 'Post & Go' kiosks at its stand, the A006 kiosk of Royal Mail and the GG01 kiosk of Guernsey Post (see article, also in VARIABLE 37).

Collect Club, the PostNL's philatelic department, arranged a large and open stand in front of the large Deutsche Post area, with its new philatelic kiosk as the main point of interest.

During the three days of the fair, the machine issued only two types of stamps or automaatpostzegels, with the two designs launched in January; 'Butterflies' for domestic mail stamps, and 'Tulips' for international mail stamps. All the stamps included the ' Essen 2017 ' special imprint.

Since the issue was released in Germany, the unique vertically printed code of the stamps issued during the stamp fair, begins with B5DE17 NL01-, followed by the session and stamp numbers.

With only two available stamps, the program installed in the kiosk offered the option of stamps for domestic mail as singles and in groups of two or five stamps, and the stamps for international mail as singles or in strips of five.

The Collect Club had two special postmarks on its stand, the 's-Gravenhage postmark with the date of the first day of the fair (right), and a special pictorial postmark (images below). Unfortunately, all the letters posted on the stand for delivery from the Netherlands arrived at their destination with an additional mechanical postmark.

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This page was created in March 2017 and last updated: 14.08.17 . English edition last rewritten by J. Gareze (07.08.2017)