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4d sepia Machin

The Virtual Machin Album

The Machin Story

4d sepia Machin
Page 1
The First Machins
4d sepia Machin 4d vermillion Machin



The Machin series of definitives made its first appearance on June 5, 1967. The goals of the new series were simplicity in production and design. Simplification in production was primarily achieved by eliminating the watermark, of which there were three different during the 15 year Wilding period (1952-1967).

The change in design was more striking. Arnold Machin, a sculptor, was asked to create a design similar to the one he did for British coins. The result was about as simple as could be.

Gone was the ornamentation that was found on every British definitive since 1840, with the sole exception of the short-lived Edward VIII series in 1936. Gone also were the words POSTAGE and REVENUE. Only the bare essentials were left, the Queen’s portrait and the denomination.

The result was striking and pleasing. The Postmaster General said the design was, “a classic of stamp history, one of the greatest stamps of all time.” The Machins became popular immediately.

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In 1981, Arnold Machin gave a talk at the National Postal Museum on the occasion of the opening of an exhibit about the Machin definitives:

The Penny Black is remarkable for its simplicity and elegance, and if it is thought that my design has captured something of these qualities I have cause to be flattered by your remarks. After 141 years the Penny Black still remains the one unchallenged masterpiece of the philatelic world, and so when I was asked to submit designs for the present stamp I thought it would be helpful to me in solving the design if I could discover why it was so satisfactory and so lasting.

One of the things that intrigued me was the fact that the Penny Black, as you know, is a portrait of the very young Queen Victoria yet it remained unchanged throughout her long reign without at any time appearing incongruous. If this youthful portrait had been a photograph, no matter how beautiful or how well designed, I am sure it would have had to have been changed from time to time as the Queen grew older.

The Wyon City Medal But this portrait was, in fact, skillfully engraved from a very fine sculptured coin relief by Wyon, and this method produced not only a good portrait but created a classical and timeless symbol of Royalty. See the next page for a larger image of the medal.

It was this observation that made me realize that the best result would be achieved by a similar approach and so I based my design on a sculptured relief rather than a photograph from life; but because the technique of stamp production has changed from the days of the Penny Black, which was engraved, the modern photogravure technique makes it possible to produce a more convincing three dimensional cameo effect, and this was what I was aiming for. This three dimensional effect varies, of course, according to the colours used, and some of the colours bring out this effect more than others.

Another point of interest in the design of the present stamps is that as far as I know it is the first that has not incorporated lettering as well as the value.

This came about because when I went to Harrisons to finalise the design and supervise the photography, I worked in close co-operation with Mr. York and we both decided that there was no point in considering any other aspect of the stamp until the portrait was satisfactory; consequently all the first trials were made using the portrait alone.

The Machin Portrait Finally, when we were satisfied with the portrait it was only then that we started to think about the lettering, and because the portrait looked so distinctive on its own I wondered whether any lettering was really necessary. The Post Office was consulted and it was agreed that lettering need not be incorporated, so that the only thing that remained to complete the design was to add the value. See the next page for a larger image of the portrait.

Three values were issued on June 5: 4d (four pence) olive sepia, 1/- (one shilling) bluish violet (called aconite violet) and 1/9 (one shilling and nine pence) orange and black. The 1/9 was a new denomination for the low value definitive series and the first bi-colored definitive for over 50 years, since the reign of King Edward VII. Other denominations were issued periodically. The full set of 14 was available on July 1, 1968.

The 4d is shown above on the left. The Queen selected the color herself because it was reminiscent of the color of the Penny Black. At the time it was issued, 4d paid the basic letter rate within Britain and the surface rate to the Commonwealth. On September 16, 1968, the two-tier mail service was introduced. The rate for the usual service, now called first-class, became 5d. The new, slower second-class service, was 4d.

The very dark color of the 4d soon proved to be a problem. It was very hard to see the date when the cancel fell directly on the stamp. This was a problem for the post office when they tried to study the time it took to deliver letters. Promoters of football pools also complained because they needed to see the date to tell whether an entry had been posted before the results were known. The dark color also made it hard for postal clerks to distinguish the 4d stamp from the dark blue 5d.

The post office’s solution was to reissue the 4d in vermilion, as shown on the right above. Since that color was already used for the 8d, that denomination was reissued in a light blue shade. Both stamps were released on January 6, 1969.

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10p engraved Machin



The pictorial high values showing castles, in use during the Wilding era, were also replaced with the Machin design. In keeping with tradition, these were recess printed using the intaglio, or line-engraved, process. They were also slightly larger than the low values.

The first Machin high values were issued on March 5, 1969. They consisted of 2/6 peat brown, 5/- raspberry red, 10/- ultramarine and £1 black.

In preparation for conversion to decimal currency, three new values of the same design were issued on June 17, 1970. They were 10p cerise, 20p olive green and 50p blue (the same color as the 10/- since they were equivalent values). The £1 black was retained, though new plates were made for it, and there are subtle differences which can be detected with the aid of a magnifying glass. The 10p cerise is shown above.


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