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The 2p Machin welcomes you to the second Machin editorial

Machin Editorial 2
“The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” by Albert Farrugia

Reproduced from Machinations, Volume 2 Issue 2 (April-June 1999) with kind permission of the author.

Oh, how we laughed…

…when we saw the new Profile on Print booklet, and how we cried, when we received the credit card statement with the item neatly costed in good old Aussie dollars.

There he goes again, I hear you say. Beefing on about his pet hate - the plethora of new issues, most viciously exemplified by the (now twice-yearly) Prestige booklets.

So let me state at the outset - these views are, as always, my own, and not necessarily those of the Machin Interest Group or of the Philatelic Society of Canberra - although I’m working on it! And let me freely admit that, yes, I did, as always, contribute to the Royal Mail’s balance sheet by purchasing the booklet. I also posted some items franked with THE STAMPS to myself while on business in the UK, so that I now have some genuinely postally used copies of THE STAMPS.

By THE STAMPS I allude, of course, not to the fairly innocuous gravure and litho panes, although the usual phosphor band permutations did spawn quite a few singles with the former. But we Machin buffs are used to these. We like phosphor band variations, we know and love them, we go cross-eyed figuring them out and we have a good time.

I allude to the so-called intaglio, embossed and letterpress panes. Let me say immediately what I think is wrong with these STAMPS - they are simply too big! Yes, I firmly believe the classic elegance of the Machin head is best preserved in the standard size format of the British definitives series’ over 160 years.

I believe that by increasing the size, the whole concept has led to the production of quasi-caricatures, rather than stamps. I suspect that had the Penny Black been printed in this size, similar outcomes would have ensued.

Intaglio-printed Machin Let us examine the STAMPS. I would like to start with the Good which in this instance is exemplified by the intaglio (recess) printings. The same labour-intensive, craft-based method which produced the Penny Black, it has produced the best example in these STAMPS. These small images don’t do justice to the stamps. Click on each image to see the full-size reproduction in the Virtual Machin Album on this site.

Embossed Machin I consider the embossed pane as the Bad because this printing method has never been a significant one in British stamp production. The only notable issues were the 1847 issues which did not do the method any good, although their elegant classicism has made them very popular with collectors (pity about the efforts which countless souls put into cutting them to shape, but that’s another story). The only contribution they have made to the Machin scene has been on some stationery - these products were quite attractive and seemed to have been suited to this method. But the large format of these self-adhesive STAMPS lends itself all the more to damage when put through the post, and the preservation of the embossing is very difficult. Highly unsuitable.

Letterpress Machin And then we come to the plain Ugly. The embossed stamp reminds me of a bar of white chocolate; the letterpress stamp reminds me of my childhood perusal of the British comic the Beano. In all honesty, the stamp does no justice to the Queen and to the Machin head. It is all very well for the Post Office to mention the long period of use for this method - the various stamps produced remain as triumphs of the engraver’s art to the same extent that this particular example is a failure. The engraving lines on the Queen’s face are too prominent and are made worse by the size of the STAMP. Too much of a bad thing.

Let us reiterate previous meanderings on this area. The purpose of a stamp is to frank postage. It is accepted that the stamps on Prestige booklets are unlikely to serve this purpose, but at least they should be formatted in a way which is compatible with this use. The likelihood of these large oddities ever gracing a first class letter is not only improbable; the whole concept is impractical. The last time Machins were of this size it was for stamps intended to frank parcels - even the most recent high values (and what a joyful contrast they provide to the STAMPS) are of the standard size. These issues are just artifacts; the fact that few efforts will be made to put them through the mail will further contribute to their irrelevancy.

And in the meantime, follow the Ed’s example and get a few through the system while they’re current - I suspect it will be an investment worth the while.

To see the complete Profile on Print booklet, visit the Virtual Machin Album.

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