June 05, 2017

Machin @ 50


50 years ago today, these three stamps were issued, the start of a long and fascinating list of Machin definitives still going today.

I was still 14 and 3/1d was quite a lot to fork out in those days, especially as I would have had a first day cover and some tipped examples too, requiring about 10/- if not a shade more. This was also the day that I met my dear old friend Mr Vincent. He would walk from the Booksellers Retreat to Kings Langley Post Office. That was a fair trip for someone in their 70s too but there he could count on a carefully positioned postmark being applied to all his collector friends' envelopes and a few attached to a white sheet to be supplied as used copies.

To mark the occasion Royal Mail have produced a fine prestige book - two in fact but I can only afford the one without the silver medallion and display case. I am pretty sure the stamps will be the same.

There is also a simple booklet of 6 1st Class red and some quite attractive Post And Go stamps in Machin style and in six shades that are inspired by the original definitives. As they stand they are certainly nice to look at but they'll just be the usual pack issued by Royal Mail that are unlikely ever to see real envelopes or parcel paper. If each shade is supplied, however, to machines across the nation then there will be quite a few to collect as in the case of the pictorial issues. If they start adding overprints then I fear for the credit-worthiness of those who still feel obliged to collect them. I may have to pick up a set of these on this special occasion but I'll stick to the simple 1st Class values.

There is a rather less attractive set of stamps (also included in the prestige book) which display the design of the definitive at various points but these stamps don't work for me. The booklet has an excellent and well laid-out and illustrated timeline but this set looks bland and I can't see it being that popular.

The best thing of all, in my opinion, is a pane of 4 £1 stamps in the prestige booklet. They are printed in what looks like gold foil, producing a wonderfully shiny surface on stamps the same size as the 1969 high value issue. I can't imagine postmarks staying long on that surface but I may be wrong. I intend to get hold of a supply of these lovely stamps and use them on parcels for a while. They're too good to leave lying in a book.

The other panes show the different Machin stamp designs over the years, (including the ghastly PIP one which still stands out like a sore thumb!) The centre label is a magnified section of the 50p high value issue in dark grey rather than its original ultramarine.

Another pane has some of the current range but only the £1 has the iridescent code. I remember how I used to write regularly to suggest that (much as I like the range of values as a collector) they should think about issuing just the 1 - 2 - 5 - 10 - 20 - 50 - £1 - £2 - £5 values which would enable all rates to be met with just a small group. The centre pane would seem to be no more than a representation of how 50 now appears in contrast to the first appearance.

 The booklet cover is smart. Reminds me of the slide I created for my talk about Machins to some people in St Albans a little while ago.

May 29, 2017

Heads or Tails? Our Children's Children Won't Give A Toss.

In my previous article, I looked at what I might start calling Heads and Tails - stamps printed on the new security backing paper with text in either direction - suggesting that we could have all sorts of problems if people simply unpeeled mint stamps and stuck them back on the backing paper the other way up.

I couldn't figure out whether this would actually make any difference or not so have just tried it with a 5p that I had lying around.

This is the wrong way up - and would be described by one dealer as Small-Large.

This is how it should have been. It would be described as Large-Small.

So, yes, this simple switch does make a difference and we need all to be aware and not splash out on supposedly 'rare' variations. Personally, I think it could even be a bit of a waste of money to collect the genuine heads or tails issues as they're so easy to create that I don't see our children's children getting at all excited about finding these in the collections they inherit in years to come.

Security Backing Paper Up and Down.

The 20p and 5p have now appeared with M17L MAIL codes, being the De La Rue counter sheet issues.

From Walsall we also have M17L MBIL from Business sheets

and a Walsall 1st red with M17l MTIL from books of twelve.


Two more '16' codes here for the Walsall 1st red M16L MBIL and 2nd blue M16L MTIL

Lastly, something nice and confusing for us all! If you look at the 2nd Class above and 1st Class below you'll see that the security backing text looks a bit different from one to the other. I think that's because one has the text printed upside down in comparison to the other. Because the lines of text are now not only large-small-large but also normal-inverted-normal but either the large or small can be one or the other. So if the paper is printed in one direction it will appear different to that printed in the other. Now, so far, I gather that only one issue has been produced in both ways. That's the Walsall 1st red M16L MSIL from books of six.

One dealer is distinguishing these by asking us to look at the first line of text that is upright and below an inverted line. This will either be large or small text and will be followed by another upright line in either small or large text respectively. So you look down the left edge and the first two lines of upright text will determine the type. This one above is Large-Small. Because the Walsall M16L MSIL first appeared with the older style backing text, where each line was upright, this is even more confusing than I first thought. In fact, I don't seem to have an example of the Small-Large at all so assume that the dealer sent me this one as simply an example of the new security backing paper for the M16L MSIL issue and not, as I had thought, the second type of the new security backing paper.

Before looking through my previous items and finally getting my head around how to detect the difference I had already written to the dealer to say that I really couldn't get excited about this and so please exclude these inverted but not really inverted small-large or large-small things from my standing order. It now looks like they hadn't actually sent me both types anyway. So they'll be thinking I am a bit stupid.

To be honest, I think it is entirely reasonable to be a bit stupid about this. For a start, we're talking about something that really is not easy to detect unless you have a nice fat margin of paper around a mint stamp, and which is not part of the stamp at all but some printing on the paper it is attached to and will, occasionally, be detached from.

How long before someone peels off the stamps and then replaces them the other way up? That would achieve the same result, I think, and be virtually impossible to detect. Yes, the more I think about this, it is nothing like paper types, watermarks, stars printed on the back and all the previous variations we've had to consider and which have been worth collecting. I'm quite glad to have excluded them. For all I know, all the new SBP issues could be found with this alternative text. As it is there's a risk of more year codes for all of them and this could effectively double the numbers again!

I shall consider that a close call.

May 02, 2017

New 17 codes and security backing paper issues

The DLR Special Delivery 100g stamp must be popular as it now gets an M17L code.

So too is the DLR 1st Large Signed For.

The DLR 1st and 2nd Large issues have M17L codes and the new type of backing paper showing a darker print and large -small text.

The Walsall 1st M16L MTIL booklet stamp with the new security backing paper.

DLR 1st and 2nd M17L counter sheet issues with the new sceurity backing paper.

Several of the recently issued new values also have now appeared with the new security backing paper.
The long-lived 10p from DLR now has an M17L code for the counter issue but no printed security backing paper.

March 21, 2017

70g to Kazakhstan. Not signed for.

You know stamp collecting is getting expensive even for the day-to-day issues! Today, you'd have to fork out £19.24 to get the new Machin issues and the eight new Regionals. And another 45p for the Philatelic Bureau (which is pretty good value and a lot less than the petrol in running around trying to find a Post Office with any of these!)

Five more values that will make you smile or grimace in years to come when you may be showing your collection to someone and they ask 'Why did they have a special stamp for £1.57?' You may try to suggest that it was the second class rate for 70g to Kazahkstan. Not signed for.

As well as the codes M17L and their all being self-adhesive, I should also mention that two are prime numbers if you ignore the decimal.




We also get two new Regionals for each nation in the £1.17 and £1.40 denominations. Regions don't get self adhesives - people living there have to lick these. You'll see that the fonts for the value tablets have now been standardised and look very similar to the national font, I had often wondered, including out loud here from time to time, why on Earth each region had their own font.





The designs and colours look very much as they have done since 1999 with a small change in 2003 to give us the white borders. It is strange to think that the first time we saw the Scottish 'tartan' design, for instance, was as a 64p stamp!

This series has now lasted longer than many others have done and whilst it isn't about to break any records it is non the less a lot longer than ever I would have imagined. The designs really did not seem to have any particular longevity about them but, along with flags, lions, dragons, leeks, hexagonal basalt and green fields they have indeed lasted.

March 14, 2017

202 Decimal Machins

I have been asked to give a talk about Machins next week so have been putting together some display items. Along the way I created these A4 sheets illustrating the different decimal values issued. The audience are not at all expert so a simple set of different colours and value styles will suffice. I know that there could have been many more pages! I hope I haven't missed anything important. (The heading is wrong but I can't crop images in this software. It should have been 1971-17 and, of course, there'll be plenty more to come.)

Anyway, having gone to all the trouble of creating them I thought someone out there might appreciate the sheets which I have included here.