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The 43p Machin welcomes you to the Machin Quiz

The Machin Quiz #1
See how much you know about the Machins
Now illustrated!

This quiz is a modified version of the one given to the participants of the Great Britain Collectors Club Machin Workshop at Pacific ’97 in May, 1997. It was also the topic of the September, 1997 Great Britain column in Linn’s Stamp News.

The quiz covers some of the basic and not-so-basic aspects of the Machins. Read the questions and see how many you can answer. Clicking on the number of the question will take you to the answer. At the end of each answer is a link to bring you back to the top of the page. Keep track of your score and at the end, see what rating you’ve earned. Good luck!

If you have completed this quiz, try Quiz 2


1. True or false: Machin is the surname of the artist who sculpted the plaster relief of the Queen’s profile upon which the stamps’ design is based.

2. Which of the following firms have printed Machin definitives?

  1. De La Rue
  2. Harrison and Sons
  3. Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co.
  4. John Waddington PLC
  5. Perkins, Bacon & Petch

3. True or false: NVI stands for “Not Valid for Inland mail.”

4. True or false: Fluorescence is the afterglow of phosphor tagging after ultraviolet light has been shut off.

5.  Which of the following are abbreviations for gums used on Machin stamps?

  1. GA
  2. ACP
  3. OBA
  4. PVA
  5. APS

6. True or false: No denomination of Machin has ever been issued in more than three different colors.

7. True or false: The 60p Machin was never issued in sheet format.

8. True or false: The colors of the first decimal Machins were selected by teams of housewives and postal workers.

9. True or false: Today, Royal Mail restricts the Machin series to 25 different colors.

10. True or false: There are over 20 varieties of the 1p Machin that can be distinguished with the use of standard philatelic tools.

11. True or False: Double-headed Machins were issued in 1990 picturing Queen Elizabeth II and her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, on the occasion of the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday.

12. True or false: I find Machins terminally boring and can’t imagine why anyone would want to collect them.



The Answers

You aren’t cheating, are you?

1. True or false: Machin is the surname of the artist who sculpted the plaster relief of the Queen’s profile upon which the stamps’ design is based.

Arnold Machin

True.  Arnold Machin was one of five artists commissioned in November, 1965 to create a design for a new definitive series. His assignment from The Post Office was to design something comparable to the Penny Black. Now, over thirty years later, the consensus is that he succeeded admirably.

Machin created plaster casts of the Queen’s profile. Photographs of the casts were then taken and used as the basis for the stamp. More information about Machin’s efforts can be found in the Virtual Machin Album. This image comes from the brochure for the Arnold Machin Retrospective.

Ironically, Machin never designed another postage stamp. top

2. Which of the following firms have printed Machin definitives?

  1. De La Rue
  2. Harrison and Sons
  3. Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co.
  4. John Waddington PLC
  5. Perkins, Bacon & Petch

A,B,C,D. Harrison and Sons printed the first Machins in 1967 by photogravure and have printed at least some of the low values ever since. De La Rue & Co. purchased Harrison and Sons in 1997 and renamed it De La Rue Security Print, and with the new name it is still printing Machins. De La Rue & Co. printed many British stamps starting in 1855, but never Machins until it purchased Harrison and Sons.

Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co. printed the high value Machins from 1969 to 1977 using recess printing.

Waddington printed low value Machins by lithography in the early 1980’s. Waddington bought out the House of Questa, another Machin printer, in 1987, and the combined firm has used the Questa name for its stamp printing operations. Questa was in turn bought in 1996 by MDC Communications Corporation, a Canadian company. In 2002, Questa was purchased by De La Rue.

Perkins, Bacon & Petch printed the Penny Black and other Victorian issues. top

NVI Millennium Machin 3. True or false: NVI stands for “Not Valid for Inland mail.”

False. NVI stands for “Non-value indicator,” Royal Mail’s term for the symbol used on non-denominated stamps. The NVI’s on stamps show the service that has been paid for, either first class, second class or European mail. NVI Machins were first issued in 1989 and are now widely used. A first class NVI is shown at left. top

4. True or false: Fluorescence is the afterglow of phosphor tagging after ultraviolet light has been shut off.

False.  Fluorescence is the visible light given off by phosphor bands during irradiation by ultraviolet light. Phosphorescence is the afterglow which is visible for a few seconds after the UV light has been turned off. Nearly all low-value Machins have one or two phosphorescent bands or were printed on phosphorescent paper. It was not until 1993 when the composition of phosphor bands was changed so that they were fluroescent as well as phosphorescent. top

5. Which of the following are abbreviations for gums used on Machin stamps?

  1. GA
  2. ACP
  3. OBA
  4. PVA
  5. APS

A,D. GA is the abbreviation for gum arabic, a natural product which is white and shiny. It was used on Machins from 1967 to 1973.

PVA is the common abbreviation for polyvinyl alcohol, a creamy and matt gum introduced in 1968 and still in use today. It often appears pale orange as a result of dye added to make the gum visible.

From 1973 until 1997, dextrine was added to the PVA and the dye, which has not always been used, changed to pale blue-green. The gum with dextrine is abbreviated PVAD, PVA/DEX, or simply DEX.

The other acronyms are used by Machin collectors but don’t relate to gum.

ACP stands for “A” coated paper, often referred to as “advanced” coated paper. ACP has a bright phosphorescent coating which was introduced in 1983. Paper with the previous coating, which is not as bright, is known simply as phosphor coated paper, PCP.

OBA is short for optical brightening agent, a substance added to paper to make it appear whiter in normal light and brighter when viewed under UV light. The first Machin paper, without OBA, is known as original coated paper, OCP. OBA was first used in 1973, and the resulting paper is known as fluorescent coated paper, FCP. OBA is present in PCP and ACP as well, but it was discontinued in 1993 because it was found to be environmentally harmful.

In the Machin world, APS is the abbreviation for Ab Produktion Svenska, a Swedish firm that manufactures a perforator used by Harrison & Sons (now De La Rue Security Print) during the production of Machins. The term is also used to refer to the perforations themselves when they were created by the APS machine. top

20p light green Machin 6. True or false: No denomination of Machin has ever been issued in more than three different colors.

False. The 20p small Machin has been issued in four different colors: purplish gray in 1976, sea green in 1988, black in 1989, sea green again in 1990 and light green (shown at left) in 1996. The black color was a temporary usage to mark the 150th anniversary of the Penny Black.

The first 20p Machin was the large format, recess-printed version issued in 1970. It was olive green, so technically the 20p Machin has appeared in five different colors. top

7. True or false: The 60p Machin was never issued in sheet format. Booklet with 4 60p Machins

True. The slate blue 60p Machin prepaid the second weight step (10g to 20g) for worldwide airmail letters when it was issued in 1994. It appeared only in booklet panes of four and was considered a trial by Royal Mail since a stamp to pay that rate had never been issued before.

The trial was apparently successful because in 1996, when the rate increased to 63p, that denomination became a full-fledged Machin issued in booklets, coils, and sheets. Subsequently, commemoratives started appearing with that denomination (though cynics might suggest that the inclusion of 63p commemoratives was simply a method of increasing revenue from stamp collectors). top

Original decimal 2p Machin 8.  True or false: The colors of the first decimal Machins were selected by teams of housewives and postal workers.

True. The British Post Office asked the Applied Psychology Unit at Cambridge University to help them select the 14 colors needed for the new, decimal series of Machins. The University used teams of housewives and postmen to help them determine which colors would be the most distinguishable from each other. The dark green 2p Machin issued in 1971 is shown here. top

9. True or false: Today, Royal Mail restricts the Machin series to 25 different colors.

False. There are 31 standard colors used for the Machins. These are known as the Matthews colors, after Jeffery Matthews who developed the color scheme in the 1980s.

Additional colors are used for special purposes, such as the metallic gold used in 1997 to honor the Queen’s 50th wedding anniversary. Gold was reintroduced in 2002 in honor of the Queen’s Jubilee and has remained the permanent color of the first class non-denominated Machin. top

1p Machin 10. True or false: There are over 20 varieties of the 1p Machin that can be distinguished with the use of standard philatelic tools.

True. The Deegam Complete Machin Handbook (Second Edition) lists 24 different varieties. The first was issued on Decimalization Day, February 15, 1971 and the most recent appeared on April 1, 1997.

The stamps differ in gum (four types), paper (six types), phosphor used (five types), phosphor band layout (four variations), printing method (two types), printer (three firms), size and position of value (six types), and shade (two colors).

The only tools needed to distinguish all of these varieties are a short-wave ultraviolet light and a strong magnifier. A good reference book, such as the Deegam Handbook, is also very useful. top

37p Double-header Machin 11. True or False: Double-headed Machins were issued in 1990 picturing Queen Elizabeth II and her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, on the occasion of the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday.

False. Although the Queen Mother did celebrate her 90th birthday that year, the double-headed Machins were issued to mark the 150th anniversary of the first British postage stamp, the Penny Black. Jeffery Mathews created a stunning design by adding Queen Victoria’s portrait to Queen Elizabeth’s. top

12. True or false: I find Machins terminally boring and can’t imagine why anyone would want to collect them.

False. Otherwise you wouldn’t have read this far! top


Scoring:

Give yourself one point for each question answered correctly, although question 12 doesn’t count towards your rating.

Rating:

0-3: Beginner. You have a wealth of knowledge yet to discover about the Machins. Pick up a good mixture and a reference book and have fun!

4-6: Intermediate. You are well on your way to mastering the Machins. If you haven’t already done so, it may be time to contact a dealer who specializes in Machins to get varieties that are not readily available elsewhere.

7-9: Advanced. You have obviously studied the Machins. Be sure to join a club or subscribe to a publication that will keep your knowledge up to date.

10-11: Machin Maniac. You have joined those of us who are obsessed with these intriguing stamps. Be careful that this passion doesn’t keep you up all night. At least not for several nights in a row.

Are you ready for Quiz 2?


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