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The 31p Machin welcomes you to Machins at The Stamp Show 2000

Machin Miscellany
A collection of posts about the Machins

Page 1

Machins in Royal Mail’s “Eyes Right” exhibit

Machinites from three continents gather at TSS2000
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Machins in “Eyes Right”

Royal Mail’s exhibit at The Stamp Show 2000 told the story of British definitives from the Penny Black to the Millennium Machin. It was titled “Eyes Right” because the monarch always faces to his or her right (viewer’s left) on British stamps. Although the exhibit featured all definitives, only the Machins are discussed here.

Note: This exhibit was developed by Douglas Muir, Curator, Philately for Heritage, Royal Mail. Muir discusses how he goes about putting together exhibits like these in an interview with the GBCC.

The development of the Machin design

The Machin portion of the exhibit started with many preliminary sketches done by Arnold Machin. These were in many colors, included a sculpted bust of the Queen, had decorative frames, and often included the words “POSTAGE AND REVENUE.” In other words, they were much like the Wilding definitives and other previous issues.

Restall essay Two other designers also did preliminary work to provide an alternative to the sculpted approach. David Gentleman created some designs based on photographs of the Queen. There were many variations, using both a cameo and a profile, but all were totally free of ornamentation. Andrew Restall did some sketches, including some which included a whole plaster cast — the sculpted profile and its circular, plaster background. Even more striking were stamps with the Queen’s profile lit only from the front and back. Only her face, neck, and back of head are visible. The middle portion of her head was dark, nearly blending in with the background. To me, these were reminiscent of modern French definitives. An Andrew Restall essay, not shown at The Stamp Show 2000, is pictured at left.

Machin’s progress in coming to his final design was visible from the actual plaster casts that were on display. He first started with his cast used for the portrait on coins. The Queen was wearing a tiara. Essays were prepared with the Queen’s head set in various frames along with regional symbols. Subsequent essays had more simplified designs, simply the head and value, much like the final design.

The Stamp Advisory Committee decided to go ahead with Machin’s approach, rather than that of Gentleman or Restall. However, the committee wanted the Queen to be wearing a diadem, as she was on the Wilding definitives and as Queen Victoria wore on all stamps during her reign. Machin made another cast with the diadem, and this was very similar to the final one. However, in this cast the Queen’s shoulder was naked, and Her Highness later expressed the desire to be shown wearing a corsage, or dress.

Machin made a cast with corsage and photographed it under different lighting conditions until he was satisfied. It has been widely reported that he took the cast outside on a foggy London day, and that light gave him the result he wanted. The final cast was displayed at the show in a booth surrounded with black curtains. Light was shone on the cast from two different angles, alternating from the front and from the two sides. The appearance of the cast differed under each method of lighting, showing why it was necessary to try many different lighting conditions. Also displayed was the large-format camera, made by Kodak in the 1920s, that he used to photograph the cast.

A panel in the exhibit summarized Machin’s contribution:

Arnold Machin’s legacy is one of the most enduring and instantly recognizable designs of the 20th century. It is a striking design that has both simplicity and dignity, a timeless piece of work that arguably has been reproduced more times than any image in history.

A photo of Arnold Machin at work, plus some of his sketches and one of the casts, was shown in the “Profile On Print” prestige booklet issued in 1999. They are displayed here in the Virtual Machin Album on page 5 and page 5a. Comments made by Arnold Machin about the development of the design are included on page 1 of “The Story of the Machins” in the Virtual Machin Album.

(Note: The above description is brief and concentrates only on some of the items shown at The Stamp Show.)

The early Machins

First Machin, the 4d A presentation booklet for the Queen was displayed. It included a selection of essays of the Machin design. Some had only the portrait. Others had the denomination at lower right and a few had it at the upper left. None had it at lower left, which became the standard placement. The essays were in various colors. Some were close to the colors used on actual stamps, such as red, dark green and light purple. Another had a bluish-pink portrait on a dark blue background, similar to the colors used on £5 large Machin issued in 1977 (shown on page 2.) This might have been the booklet from which the Queen selected the olive sepia color used for the 4d value (left).

Also on display were essays in the final colors. Visit “The Story of the Machins” in the Virtual Machin Album for more information on the first Machins.

The small Machins were printed by Harrison and Sons using the photogravure method. In keeping with tradition, the high values were to be larger in size and printed by intaglio. The firm of Bradbury, Wilkinson was chosen to produce the stamps. They took their own photographs of Machins cast, several of which were shown. Also displayed were essays and color trials using the die for the £1 Machin. There were 19 color trials which were all dark colors: green, olive green (similar to the color used later for the 20p decimal high value), black, several blues, several reds, pink (close to the color used later for the 10p high value shown below), browns and a deep purple that I thought looked very good.

Machin 10p high value The first series of Machins were in Sterling currency. Twelve pence made up a shilling. Twenty shillings (and therefore 240 pence) made up a pound. By the time all the values were issued, work had already begun on a completely new series in decimal currency that had 100 new pence to the pound. Decimalization occurred on February 15, 1971, but in preparation, a new set of three Machin high values was issued on June 17, 1970. The issued 10p is shown on the left. On display were color trials using the 10p die. Most of the colors were the same as the trials for the Sterling high values, although there were a few different purples in this set. Visit “The Story of the Machins” in the Virtual Machin Album for more information on the first Machins.

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Mad, Mystic Machinites Meet at The Stamp Show 2000
Don’t blame me, that’s Albert’s title.

Douglas Myall,
Albert Farrugia, Larry Rosenblum

Machinites from three continents met at The Stamp Show 2000 in London. From left to right, Douglas Myall, U.K., author of The Deegam Complete Machin Handbook, Albert Farrugia, Australia, editor of “Machinations,” and Larry Rosenblum, USA, webmaster of this site.

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