Arnold Machin £1 gold anniversary stamp.

Norvic Philatelics - GB New Stamps and Special Postmarks

50th Anniversary of the Machin - 5 June 2017

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the issue of new Queen Elizabeth II definitives featuring Arnold Machin's iconic bas-relief sculpture which replaced the Wilding definitives. Arnold Machin's 1967 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (sometimes referred to as the Machin head) has been reproduced over 200 billion times

Inspired by the Penny Black, the design was conceived by sculptor Arnold Machin and at first based on his bas relief sculpture for the new decimal coins.  He sculpted plaster casts, looked to incorporate text and symbols and essays were produced. Simplification of head and text and framing devices occurred, and ultimately the SAC preferred the Queen to wear a diadem (crown worn by Victoria on Penny Black). Machin used a photograph by John Hedgecoe to model the diadem and then he created a further new sculpted plaster cast, later adding a corsage for the final sculpture. A cast of this was photographed and used for the artwork for the first stamp.

Machin’s image has appeared on more than 200 billion stamps, making it one of the most reproduced images of all time. It is the subject of avid collecting and study by philatelists.

To commemorate this important philatelic anniversary there are two Miniature sheets, one showing how the design processed and a second showing some of the variants in its evolution over the 50 years.
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The Miniature Sheets

The first sheet, captioned 50 Years of a Design Icon shows the development of the Machin design from the 1d black-inspired design through to what was almost the final design.  The Machin head which is common to each stamp is embossed, as is the plaster cast portrait in the margin.

Machin Anniversary Design Icon miniature sheet 2017.

The stamp designs in detail:
1st Class January 1966: One of the many preliminary sketches by Arnold Machin based on the Penny Black
1st Class February 1966: Preparatory work by Machin using a photograph of his coin mould 1st Class April / May 1966: One of many essays with the ‘Coinage’ head surrounded by country symbols
1st Class October 1966: Essay of the Coinage head cropped and simplified, with only the denomination
1st Class August 1966: Photograph by John Hedgecoe with The Queen wearing the Diadem
1st Class October 1966: Essay of the first plaster cast of the ‘Diadem’ head, without corsage.
Background Image March 1966: Revised plaster cast of the ‘Coinage’ head, with The Queen wearing a tiara.  Total face value £3.90.

The second sheet, captioned Golden Anniversary Celebration shows the original 4d dark brown stamp issued in 1967, and includes many of the different design variants of the stamps issued over the 50 years, and a new £1 stamp embossed and printed in gold foil, in the size of the 1969 high values.

Machin Definitive Golden Anniversary miniature sheet 2017.

The stamp designs in detail:
5p - A range of 12 low-value stamps, including 5p, was issued on ‘Decimalisation Day’, 15 February 1971.  Few were sold on the day of issue because of a labour dispute which closed most post office branches.  First day covers were delivered after the strike was over, in March.
20p - The double-head 20p stamp was issued as part of a range of five values on 10 January 1990 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Penny Black.
1st Class* - On 19 October 1993, the first self-adhesive stamp issued by Royal Mail appeared in booklets of 20. The format was landscape.  The trial was short-lived as it soon became apparent that postmarks of the time could be wiped from the stamps.  Anyone trying to use the stamps from the booklet now will find that the stamps are very difficult to remove from the baking card. 
1st Class* - On 6 January 2000, a new setting of the Machin portrait on a white background was issued to mark the millennium.  Differences can be seen between the stamps printed by the three different printers.
1st Class*  - A change to the way postal charges were calculated, known as ‘Pricing in Proportion’, led to the release of new definitives on 1 August 2006. This included Large Letter stamps
1st Class* - On 3 January 2013, the colour of the 1st class Machin definitive was changed from gold to red with an iridescent security overprint.  Philatelists soon found a whole new area of Machins to study as the text in the iridescent printing varied according to the source (sheets, booklets etc) and year of production. Note that this stamp is red, not deep scarlet.
£1 - This new £1 stamp is based on the high-value range of 1969 and is printed using gold foil.

Background Includes an image of one of the 4d one of the first values issued on 5 June 1967  and a quote “After months of extremely hard work by Mr Arnold Machin and the printers, Messrs Harrison and Sons Ltd., a design was evolved which in my opinion will be one of the classics of stamp history.” Edward Short, Postmaster General 1967.  
* These four stamps have elliptical perforations.  Unlike the 20p in the PSB pane, see below, the 20p in the MS does not have elliptical perforations.

Technical Details & Acknowledgements:

The miniature sheets were designed by Atelier Works and printed in gravure on gummed paper by International Security Printers, with gold foil on the £1 stamp.  The sheets are 192 x 74 mm.  The stamps on the Design Icon MS are 34 x 24 mm.  The stamps on the Golden Celebration MS are 20 x 24 mm, except the 1993 stamp (25 x 20 mm) and the £1 stamp (30 x 35 mm).  Perforations are: 14½ x 14 (Design Icon stamps), 14 x 15 (Golden Anniversary 1993 and 2017 stamps), 15 x 14 (other Golden Anniversary stamps).  Phosphor bands: On the Deisgn Icon stamps appear to be 14 mm, gradated on the left side of the stamp only (and thus avoiding the embossed head); on the Golden Anniversary stamps 8 mm bands on all stamps except the £1 value.  The iridescent printing on the 1st class red has year code M17L and source code MMIL. 

Bas-relief portrait of The Queen by Arnold Machin OBE, RA, the 1971 stamp typography by Stuart Rose CBE, FSIA, the 1990, 1993 and 2013 stamps design and typography by Jeffery Matthews MBE, FCSD, FRSA, the 2000 stamp design by The Chase (including typography by Jeffery Matthews MBE, FCSD, FRSA), the 2006 stamp design by CDT Design Limited, and the
2017 stamp design based on the original design by Arnold Machin OBE, RA issued in 1969 © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2017;
all other images, including photograph of The Queen by John Hedgecoe © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2017, courtesy of The Postal Museum, except Arnold Machin’s sketch based on the Penny Black and preparatory work by Machin using a photograph of his coin mould © The Machin Arts Foundation.

Prestige Stamp Book

Designed by Godfrey Design, the Prestige Stamp Book features an overview of the history of Machin Definitive in its various forms and developments. (Click on the images to see a larger one, and use the 'back' button to get back to this page.  At the time of publication only panes 3 and 4 are of the actual stamps, the remainder are pre-issue pictures from Royal Mail.)

Pane 1 from Machin Anniversary PSB. Pane 2 from Machin Anniversary PSB.
Pane 3 from Machin Anniversary PSB. Pane 4 from Machin Anniversary PSB.
Pane 5 from Machin Anniversary PSB. Cover of Machin Anniversary PSB.

The panes in detail:
Pane 1: Three x 1st class stamps from the top row of the Design Icon ms.
Pane 2:  Three x 1st class stamps from the lower row of the Design Icon ms.
Pane 3:  Current range of make-up values - 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p - plus 2nd class and £1 ruby.  The 50p grey and £1 ruby are not in the current colours, but in the colours first used in 2007.  Odd then that the £1 ruby has iridescent printing, coded M17L MPIL from the 2009 security stamps.  The central label is a detail from the 50p stamp.
Pane 4: Range of stamps approximating to those included in the Golden Anniversary ms.   From the top left: 1st class black (1989), 20p black double-head (1990), 1st class orange (1990), 1st class gold (2002), 1st class Millennium (2000), 1st class PIP (2006), another 20p black double-head, 1st class red (2013 - not deep scarlet) coded M17L MPIL.   The central label is a detail from the 1970 50p stamp, but in black.
Pane 5: Block of 4 x £1 gold foil embossed stamps as on the Golden Anniversary ms.

Technical details:

The PSB is designed by Godfrey Design, printed in gravure by International Security Printers, except for the pane 5 which is lithography and gold foil.  Non-stamp panes are printed in litho. The stamps on panes 3 and 4 have elliptical perforations, but those on 1, 2 and 5 do not.

Retail Stamp Book

As in 2007 Royal Mail has produced a retail booklet containing 6 x 1st class stamps.  As in 2007 the stamps are unremarkable definitives (then they were 1st class gold) and the booklet has a panel on the inside cover about Machin and the anniversary.  We understand that these are deep scarlet (although they look like the original red in the publicity pictures).  The coding is M17L MSIL and we're told the backing paper is SBP1.

6 x 1st class retail booklet, Machin anniversary.
2007 Machin anniversary retail booklet.

Products issued: Monochrome cover of Machin Anniversary Limited Edition PSB.
Miniature sheet x 2      -     Prestige Stamp Book   -   Presentation Pack with two MS   -    Set of 8 stamp Cards unused  -  Retail booklet
Miniature sheets on two Royal Mail fdcs   -   PSB Panes 3 and 4 on two Royal Mail fdcs    -   Medal cover with Royal Mint (limited edition of 9,000)
Press Sheets of both miniature sheets, each containing 8 miniature sheets, each in limited editions of 1,000.

Limited Edition PSB

This Limited Edition Prestige Stamp Book comes in an exquisite specially-created display case together with a silver Machin medallion which was handmade in the UK and has been struck in solid sterling silver, weighing 97grams (diameter 60mm). In addition, centrally placed in the lid of the case is an original 4d stamp as replicated on the Golden Anniversary Celebration Miniature Sheet. 
The cover of this Prestige Stamp Book consists of duotone imagery with silver foil lettering and this unique presentation set is complete with a Certificate of Authenticity and hologram on the inside cover complete with each book’s individual serial number.

Summary of new stamps (other than on Design Icon MS)Inside cover of Machin Anniversary Limited edition psb.

± - ISP, may be Walsall Security Printing or Cartor Security Printers

*  Technical details are as announced by Royal Mail, but these have not yet been examined for differences.

Special Postmarks
Postmarks available for the day of issue are shown in Royal Mail's Postmark Bulletin which can be downloaded from their website here.

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This page created 16 May 2017.

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