Postage rate changes which took effect from 7 April required several new stamps. This seemingly straightforward situation was made complicated by the recent changes in the security printing industry which saw De La Rue take over Questa in 2004. Consolidating their production facilities in 2004 meant that definitive stamps were printed on a variety of different papers and with different phosphor bands during that year. Further consolidation - moving the ATN gravure press from Questa's Byfleet factory to Dunstable - meant an interruption to production in early 2005, so Enschede of Holland and Walsall Security Print were contracted to provide initial supplies of some values.
The only Machin definitive to be affected was the new 35p stamp in lime green for the 2nd class 2nd weight step. The two stamps are shown above. One basic difference is that the Enschede printing is on very glossy paper, compared with all other recent Machins.
Even at basic web-size you would suspect that there were differences - apart from the shade. (In fact we received our DLR stock from two sheets and they, too, were different shades to the naked eye, but it doesn't show on a scan.) The enlargements shown below demonstrate the differences more clearly.
The new 42p country stamps for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, were all printed by Walsall Security Print in gravure or litho (N Ireland). The release date of the De La Rue prints was announced as 10 May but in the event DLR had not been able to print the (litho) Northern Ireland stamps, and the latest date we have for that is 26 July. (The pictures above are taken from publicity brochures and are not the actual stamps.)
As with the Machin there are noticeable differences between the printings, as shown below.
The figures of value are closer to the right margin on the De La Rue print, the distance from the base of the 2 being about 0.4mm, instead of 0.8mm. The screening has a noticeably different appearance, though this may also be to do with the amount of ink used. The DLR print is softer, noticeably on the acorn. The shape of the back of the hair, particularly below the ribbon is markedly different but this may be to do with the properties of the metallic ink. This image has been digitally brightened.
In addition to silver for the head and value two colours are used and registration is good.
The base of the thistle is nearer the bottom margin and the top of the thistle nearer the top margin on the Walsall printing. The right-hand leaf of the thistle is closer to the right margin on the /DLR/ printing, while the left side is almost exactly the same. The hair ribbons are better defined on the DLR printing but as this is a different colour (silver) position is irrelevant. The head size seems to be almost the same.
The figures of value are about the same size although they seem thicker on the Walsall printing; however metallic ink is not as reliable as non-metallic when fine lines are required.
The size of the value is smaller on the DLR print than Walsall's. On this example the three colours are out of register, but even taking this into account and working out the maximum possible DLR dimensions, the figures are smaller. On the DLR the 4 appears to be closer to the left edge of the stamp, and the 2 further away from the dark diagonal line to the NE of it. Both left and right petals of the daffodil are closer to the margins on the DLR stamp so the overall design must be larger.
Just as the figures of value are smaller on DLR, so is the Queen's head.
The position of the variables - the value and the Queen's head - are almost exactly the same on the two prints: so much so that an 800dpi scan is insufficient to show a difference. The main difference in the DLR printing is the colour. Although the stamp appears to be shades of grey it is printed in three colours, black, cyan and an orangey-brown (Walsall) and lemon-yellow (DLR):
From this initial investigation the main difference apart from shade, which is always difficult to determine on used stamps, is the 'texture' of the lace which can be seen in the 'value' image above, but which is more obvious in these pictures:
Differences are noticeable with the eliptical perforation, especially with the Enschede printing:
This page updated 1 July 2005
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