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Welcome to Musings and Miscellany at GBStamps.com! Here you will find my various musings plus some comments and opinions by others. You'll also find miscellaneous other topics here. Enjoy!

Musings 2000-2006

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I’ll take it, Glenn

(Posted February 10, 2006)

Writing in the February issue of The British Philatelic Bulletin, Glenn Morgan describes a recent auction held by the British firm Grosvenor. Among the items offered was a mint example of the Edward VII 2d Tyrian Plum.

This stamp was prepared and printed in 1910 to replace the bi-colored 2d stamp, since monochrome stamps are less expensive to print. However, King Edward VII died before the stamp could be officially issued. The vast majority of the stamps were destroyed, but a few survived and are in collectors’ hands and museums.

Gibbons catalogues the stamp at £60,000. The pre-sale estimate was £42,000 - £45,000. It didn’t sell, and Glenn notes that the reason might be a small surface mark to the left of the value, though this is believed to be a natural paper flaw and not damage. Glenn then says, “Certainly, if I had that much spare cash to spend on a single stamp, I would be seeking perfection, however rare the item might be.”

My attitude is different. The 2d Tyrian Plum is one of the gems of British philately, and there are only a few copies in existence. If I had a stratospheric stamp budget, I’d gladly purchase this copy rather than wait for the unlikely availability for a better copy.

As it is, though, I’ll have to be happy that I had a chance to to see the mint pair and the only known used copy, both of which are in the Royal Philatelic Collection and were displayed here in the US in 2004.

By the way, this comment is not to be taken as a criticism of Glenn. He is a noted philatelist and prolific writer, and he maintains an excellent web site. I have had the privilege of meeting Glenn twice, in 1997 and 2000, and I can add that he is as intelligent and personable as one would expect from knowing his accomplishments. We’ll just have to agree to disagree about the selection of stamps that neither one of us will ever own. top

Victorian rhyme welcomes the new postage stamps

(Posted October 22, 2002)

When Rowland Hill’s reforms led to new ways of prepaying postage, both postage stamps and postal stationery were introduced. The stationery, in the form of envelopes and lettersheets, featured an elaborate design by William Mulready. This design was ridiculed by the public and soon parodies and caricatures appeared. The Mulreadies, as the stationery became known, were withdrawn soon after.

In a recent auction catalogue was a caricature, “Fores’s Comic Envelope No. 1,” that featured a cute little rhyme that I have reproduced below.

Your letter weighed half an ounce,
The queen looks black on you;
But, if the half ounce it exceeds,
Her Majesty looks blue.

The writer was referring to the fact that the postage for a letter weighing a half ounce or less was paid for by the Penny Black, but if the weight was over a half ounce (and less than an ounce), the sender would need a Twopenny Blue. top

Machin Mania continues to spread

(Posted December 24, 2001)

It’s nice to see evidence of the continuing popularity of the Machins and new collectors coming into the field. My friend and colleague David sent me an article from the March, 2001 issue of Stamp Magazine, a British monthly publication. The article was titled “Machin Mania.” The timing was not accidental; it was close to the 30th anniversary of the issue of the first decimal Machins on February 15, 1971.

In the article, West describes the history of the Machins and some of the reasons for the numerous varieties that have appeared over the last 30 years. He discusses papers and gums, phosphors, coils and booklets, and special versions of the Machin design.

A little closer to home, a short article by Jim Meyer appeared in the January 8, 2001 edition of Linn’s Stamp News. Meyer notes that when he first came across the Machins, he thought, “what could possibly be duller than a series that hasn’t changed in any substantial way for more than 30 years?”

As he became more familiar with the Machins, though, he realized the number of varieties and the possibilities for study. He realized that the Machins offered much opportunity for the collector, and that there are thousands of different Machins when factors such as papers, gums, phosphors and printing methods are taken into account.

He notes that most Machins are relatively inexpensive, and that a batch of used Machins can provide hours of pleasant study for a very modest price. He concludes, “Long live the Machin-head stamps.” For more information on the Machins, visit Machin Mania on the web here on this site. top

Combination commemorative/definitive booklets are a good idea

(Posted December 21, 2001)

In 1999, in the midst of the first year of the millennium stamps, Royal Mail issued a booklet in a new format. It had eight first class Machins and two of the millennium commemoratives. It was the first time that definitives and commemoratives were combined in the same booklet, with the exception of the excessively expensive prestige booklets.

Millennium and Machin booklet inside

Millennium and Machin booklet cover

The stamps were in two overlapping panes, one containing the Machins and on top of it the other having the two commemoratives surrounded by a selvage. The Machin stamps were not new in any way, so they were of no particular interest. One of the two commemoratives was printed by a new printer — the Workers’ Tale sheet stamp was printed by De La Rue and this new booklet by Walsall — and the se-tenant pair was new, but I’m not very interested in the minor details of commemoratives. I dismissed this new booklet as just another gimmick.

My disdain not withstanding, Royal Mail issued several more booklets during 1999 and 2000. This year, however, with the end of the millennium series and the increase in self-adhesive issues, Royal Mail changed the format a little and I found myself liking the result.

Punch and Machin booklet inside

Punch and Machin booklet cover

The combination booklet has been changed to six stamps, four definitives and two commemoratives. The stamps are now self-adhesive and the six stamps fit nicely on the inside of the booklet. This is a much neater layout.

The front cover was also changed slightly. The phrase “First Class Stamps” has been eliminated, leaving only the numeral “6” indicating the number of stamps. This simplicity echoes the text-free Machins, and I like the parallelism.

My opinion was also affected by a comment in a recent issue of the British Philatelic Bulletin in which it was mentioned that these booklets were an attempt to introduce the public to commemorative stamps that might otherwise go unnoticed. A postal customer seeking a booklet of six stamps is likely to be as happy with this booklet as with one containing only Machins, since they are both equally convenient. Why, the customer might even appreciate a little variety, and then might be motivated to purchase some of the commemoratives to save. Just what Royal Mail wants!

Cynicism aside, though, I like the idea, I like the revised cover, and I like the new self-adhesive format. Score one for Royal Mail.

Note: Three of these self-adhesive combination booklets have been issued this year.


The ultimate put-down

(Posted March 19, 2001)

This letter to the editor was published in the March, 2000 Newsletter of the Machin Collectors Club.

During a recent after dinner visit a friend of mine took a look at my Machin album. There he saw, viewing page after page, tiny pictures of Her Majesty's left profile in a variety of colors and denominations. Then he said, “How many of these books do you have to completely fill so you can go to the redemption store and get a pop-up toaster?” (From a reader in the United States.)


Is owning a forgery really a crime?

(Posted January 2, 2001)

The British Post Office’s Revenue Protection Branch states that it is a crime to possess a copy of a Machin forgeries. Two forgeries are known, the 24p sheet stamp and the 2nd class non-denominated (NVI) booklet stamp.

In a recent report, Douglas Myall points out that the Post Office has not been very energetic in enforcing this rule. Jim Shaw of Australia showed a complete pane of the forged 2nd stamp in an exhibit at The Stamp Show 2000 in London. The show was organized by Royal Mail, yet no action was taken. In addition, the forgeries have been auctioned many times, with no apparent complaint by Royal Mail. Stanley Gibbons advertised a forgery of the 24p in Stamp Magazine of July, 2000, again with no action by authorities. (It was offered at £50.)

So it seems that the Post Office is not too worried about these forgeries, at least in the hands of collectors who are not likely to use them to defraud Royal Mail of revenue. And that’s how it should be. top

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