The most radical change yet to the Machin design occurred in 2003 when Royal Mail
issued the first of what were then called “universal stamps.” These non-denominated stamps for airmail
service feature the Machin portrait of the Queen, though smaller than on regular definitives and with
the portrait in a dark color on a white background, similar to the Millennium
Definitive. The stamps have text at the bottom and upper left and a stripe of half-chevrons at the right.
They were designed by Sedley Place.
Since Arnold Machin designed the whole stamp, not
just the portrait, it is a bit of a stretch to call these stamps “Machins.” Indeed, Royal Mail
does not do so (nor did it do so in the case of the Millennium Definitive, although many collectors called
that stamp the “Millennium Machin”). Regardless of what we call these stamps, nearly all collectors
of Machins would include these stamps as part of their collection, so I include them here in the Virtual
And speaking of names, I pointed out at the bottom of my
news item when these stamp appeared that rather than
being truly universal, these stamps are the least universal stamps that Britain has ever issued. They
are designed for specific purposes and for specific destinations. Royal Mail apparently saw the light
and changed the name to “International One-Stop” stamps. I discovered this in the summer of 2006,
but I don’t know when the name change took place.
The two stamps shown at the left above were the first to be issued, appearing on March 27,
2003. The postcard stamp followed a year later on April 1, 2004. The wording on the stamps makes their
use very clear. The stamp on the left, inscribed “up to 40 grams” and “Europe,”
can be used to send letters weighing up to 40 grams to any destination in Europe by airmail. The middle stamp,
inscribed “up to 40 grams” and “Worldwide,” pays for similar letters to destinations
outside Europe by airmail. The stamp on the right, inscribed “postcard” and “Worldwide,”
can be used to send a postcard by airmail to any destination outside the U.K.
I also noted in the news item about the
first two stamps and in a later news item about the withdrawal
of the ‘E’ stamps, that the way these stamps are marketed and sold subtly (or maybe not so subtly)
encourages patrons to overpay the postage for some of their overseas mail. On its web site, Royal Mail
promoted these stamps by saying, “Sending letters abroad is child’s play. Just stick and send.”
without indicating that letters under 20g could be sent for less cost.