The Machin series of Stamps refers to the main definitive series of British stamps used since June 1967. It is a very popular topic amongst experienced stamp collectors, but as I had never heard the name before venturing into stamp collecting, I decided to do a bit of research.
The stamps have a sculpted profile of Queen Elizabeth II which was designed by Arnold Machin. They are almost always one colour, but you will note gradations of the same colour in most of the stamps. Covering the printing of stamps for the last 50 years, these stamps show all the innovations and differences in printing during that period. There are over five thousand varieties of colour, gum, value, perforations, etc. As postal rates changed, so new values became necessary. Different methods of printing such as photogravure and intaglio (for the higher value stamps) were used. From the 1980’s, when demand for these stamps became greater, a new printing company was also used which used the method of printing called lithography. Different sizes of the stamps were also used. In 1969, the £ sign was printed in italics, whereas it was printed in normal script in the 1970 series.
In 1965, the Postmaster General Tony Benn and an artist David Gentleman wanted to have the image of the Queen changed for the name of the country. This change was not accepted mainly due to the fact that it would have taken away the uniqueness of British stamps which is that they are the only stamps in the world which do not have the name of the country printed on them.
To mark the 150th anniversary of the first stamp in 1990, a new design was printed with the profile of the Queen’s great grandmother, Queen Victoria behind and to the left of Queen Elizabeth.
In 1993, self adhesive stamps were introduced. At about the same time on the high value stamps a substance called “Iriodin” (an iridescent ink giving stamps a shiny appearance) was applied to the stamps in order to make reproduction by photocopying very difficult. In 2009 further security measures were introduced to prevent the re-use of uncancelled stamps. This was done by printing “ROYAL MAIL” continuously on both the profile as well as the background of the stamp. Two later features were added to ensure that the stamps could not be removed from the paper, and collectors were actually advised that to do so would damage the stamp. A further feature included the use of various letters on the stamp to show where the stamp originated. Forging of the stamps seems to be a continuous threat, so ongoing changes are being made to prevent this practice.
Although proposals were made at various times to replace the Queen’s profile with a more up to date one, the Queen herself turned this idea down. The Machin series celebrated its Golden anniversary in 2017. New booklets and miniature sheets were issued to celebrate this milestone.
This is just a brief introduction into the Machin series. It is a highly valued subject amongst collectors and there are many collectors.