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The 2p Machin welcomes you to the third Machin editorial

Machin Editorial 5
“Mutant Machins? No!” by Larry Rosenblum

Copyright © 2000 by Larry Rosenblum

My colleague, Albert Farrugia, decries the Machin “gimmicks” that Royal Mail has unleashed upon us last year and this one. His first target was the large-sized Machins in the “Profile on Print” booklet, which he discussed in an editorial which is reprinted here. Next, he jeered the Millennium Definitive, calling it a “mutant” in a subsequent editorial.

However, I find the subject to be complex, and I’m not willing to join in the blanket condemnation of these issues.

I think the primary culprit here is the prestige booklet, the large-sized, over-priced creation aimed directly at the wallets of specialist Machin collectors. With a couple of exceptions, every one of these monstrosities has contained one or more unique stamps that every serious Machin collector, myself included, has to have.

Usually, the object of our attention has a phosphor band or two in places not seen before, though some stamps have had different paper or perforations. Not too exciting, but to ignore them would leave an unsightly gap in our collections, one that generally becomes expensive to fill later on. Just look at the (in)famous ha’penny left band in the 1972 Wedgwood booklet for proof.

I’ve complained about the prestige booklets loudly and publicly for years, though my voice is not heard by Royal Mail any more than Albert’s. But when it comes to the recent Machin mutants, to use Albert’s term, I sing a different tune.

One of my problems with the prestige booklet contrivances, besides the cost, is that they can only be recognized by specialists. To the casual collector, to the bloke filling in his GB album, to the guy looking for one example of each of the Machin colors, these stamps are redundant. Just extra baggage.

And if I proudly show off my well-centered, full-perf ha’penny left band to a group of non-specialist collectors, the reaction is likely to be a loud “ho-hum.”

But an embossed, self-stick Machin! Or a double-header with Queen Victoria! Now these will make anyone, even the most casual GB collector, sit up and take a second look.

That’s how I see these mutants. They are stamps that add a little spice to the Machin series. Stamps that stand out on an album page. In a world full of blue and flame NVIs, these stamps shout, “I’m a Machin but I’m different.”

Yes, it is unfortunate that Royal Mail chose an expensive prestige booklet as the venue for some of these issues. However, the double-headers of 1990, the gold Machins of 1997 and the current Millennium Definitives are available in sheets, and we could buy just one from a British PO or a dealer and place it ever so humbly in our collection.

Even as specialists, a couple of cylinder blocks and a booklet of ten still cost less than a single prestige booklet, and there are no wasted stamps in the process.

So I look at these mutants as good things. Things to keep the Machin series fresh and original, while still clinging to the classic Machin design.

On a related subject, I agree with Albert that a brand new, updated portrait of the Queen would be a good idea. It would allow us to draw a line and mark the end of the Machins. But I doubt that Royal Mail will kill this golden-egg goose as long as Her Majesty remains on the throne. And since The Queen Mother is approaching the century mark, we may well have a lot of Machins in our future.

With that scenario, I’m glad to see the occasional (let’s not go overboard, Royal Mail - be reasonable!) mutant Machin to add a little variety to the series. And if you would like to see them, you can do so right here in The Virtual Machin Album.


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Copyright © 2003 by Larry Rosenblum