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The 2p Machin welcomes you to the third Machin editorial

Machin Editorial 3
“Staying Ahead” by Albert Farrugia

Reproduced from Machinations, Volume 2 Issue 3 (July-September 1999) with kind permission of the author.

I was struck by an article on “Selling Your Collection” while rereading some issues of the Newsletter of the British Decimal Stamps Study Circle. The author describes the poignant situation of the Machin collector who devotes considerable time, outlays and what I might describe as emotional investment into a collection to find that when he/she wishes to resell, an offer of face value from a dealer might be the best outcome. Disappointing, to say the least.

Like most philatelists, Machin collectors collect for the love it, but, I would venture to say, like all philatelists, the value of their collection is also a feature in their collecting philosophy. The prospect of liquidating a collection to release funds for other purposes (not the least, more collecting) is ever in our minds. However, as collectors rather than dealers, the monetary value is clearly not the first consideration, and this can lead to the kind of unpleasant surprise described above.

Machin collecting is an area of modern philately - as such any appreciation of the standard stamps is bound to be slow and, considering the numbers issued, unremarkable. The plethora of gimmicks which the British Post Office has imposed on the field - Prestige Booklets by the ton, Label Booklets, Sponsored Booklets, Millennium Booklets (when they contain Machins) cannot help. Yet every philatelist has some level of completion in their aims, and this will invariably mean that a sizeable financial outlay will have to be devoted to acquiring material which, like much of any modern philatelic area, will, due to the vagaries of the market, not give sufficient return upon resale.

So, you may well ask, what is to be done? Are we doomed to disappointment and penury? Not necessarily.

Scanning the excellent price lists sent to us by dealers, it is clear that the value in the Machin field currently lies in the varieties produced by printing errors - missing or abnormal phosphors, imperforate pairs or blocks, errors of paper or gum, etc. Clearly, collecting in the standard way cannot be expected to yield these issues - one simply has to wait until some fortunate soul (and it could well be you) turns up the one in a million item and then makes it available to the field through the retail sector.

However, as one muses on the development of the field over its thirty years or so of its existence, items which ave been produced in the standard fashion and which have acquired enhanced value also exist. In our occasional series “Scarce Machins,” we have described some of these and speculated on the reason for their scarcity. Be that as it may, the field is certainly capable of generating some potential classics. Chief of these are, in my mind, the scarce regionals produced by lithography.

Scotland 31p Type II Issue Catalog Value 1986 Catalog Value 1991 Catalog Value 1996
Waddington Scotland 31p Type II £0.50/£0.55 £45/£20 £95/£60
Questa Northern Ireland 17p Type II   £13/£15 £55/£22
Questa Wales 17p Type II   £8/£8 £15/£8

And a scrutiny of recent local price lists indicates that these values are still increasing - it is interesting that the Scottish and Northern Ireland stamps will set you back more than a good Penny Black.

Turning to more recent issues, a notable stamp is the first 2nd class non-value indicated (NVI) issue in coil format using EME printing. This was apparently issued by Harrison as a standard stamp in July 19995 in error, on PVAD (dextrine) gum, as were all of Harrison’s issues at the time. The EME coild stamp was released on PVA gum (lay flat) in 1997 - the two issues differ slightly in shade as well. The point is that a strip of four retails for approximately £15 according to the Machin Collectors Club Catalogue, while the PVA strip (still current) is priced at £2.40.

And other issues abound. The aforementioned change to lay flat gum by Harrison was fairly synchronous with the change to EME, but some printings of both sheet and booklet stamps in acid-etched gravure were also made with the PVA gum, and are scarce. And we could also mention the various types of blue fluor apparently used by Enschede in their recent printings of the self-adhesive NVI's as other examples of standard printings which are increasingly recognized for their scarcity.

Which brings us to our theme, of ensuring value in a collection. Clearly, even by sticking to the tenets of standard collecting, the Machin field has the potential for assembling a collection which will retain its value. What is needed to achieve this? We offer the following humble suggestions:

  1. Keep up your expertise in the field, particularly in new issues - join the societies, get information from the British Post Office, etc.
  2. Get good contacts - dealers by all means, British Philatelic Bureau by all means BUT above all, a fellow collector close to the coal face i.e., the U.K. - oh, you lucky Poms!
  3. Don't waste money on gimmicks - if it’s Machins you collect, then buy Machins, e.g., save money on Prestige Booklets by buying the relevant panes, etc.
  4. Assemble and make attractive your collection - make it comprehensive and well written up, so that when you come to sell it, it stands out as a complete item, not as a source of a few good “bits” with the rest to be flogged at face value.
  5. Be innovative, e.g., get genuinely postally used examples of things that will be scarce in this condition, such as the “giant” Machins from the “Profile on Print” Prestige Booklet; these items will be scarce and in this condition will enhance your collection.

And of course, if you have the cash and inclination - I have neither, alas - by all means get the big ticket errors, etc., which are on offer.


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