Monday, 20 October 2014

Keeping Track of the Myriad Machins

The new security features introduced in 2009 have spawned numerous specialized Machins, with varying source/date codes, slit varieties, etc. Since most new varieties are not announced by Royal Mail, keeping track of them all is a challenge.

Fortunately, we have many good-hearted souls who are willing to help us mere mortals do just that. The latest is Ian Billings - he of the well-known Norphil blog - who has created a checklist of Machins with the security features.

Ian includes his own numbering system, which he uses in his online store but which collectors can certainly use as well. He also cross-references the Stanley Gibbons numbers (with permission).

A snapshot provided by Ian is shown above. You can get the checklist by going to this blog post and clicking the link at the bottom.

There are two other web sites which also have information, though not as a downloadable document. They are Paul's GB Stamp Blog and Great Britain Machins (which comprehensively covers all Machins).

I'll mention two other well-known sources of information, though both require a modest investment.

The Modern British Philatelic Circle has an excellent newsletter, the Bookmark, and has a comprehensive web site. The site has some information for everyone, but most of it is restricted to members. That said, if you are willing to get all publications in pdf form by email, the yearly dues are only £6, one of the best bargains in philately.

From the web site, members can download a frequently updated list of the Machins with the new security features.

The web site has some great graphics, one of which I show above.

And, of course, there's the Deegam Handbook and the periodic free updates distributed by email. This needs no introduction for most of you, and more information is on Douglas Myall's web site.


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Robert G. Godbehear


"Who is that?" I can hear you asking the question. 

That name was as unfamiliar to me as it is to you, but now I have discovered that his name is the answer to a question I have had for a long time:

Who engraved the first recess-printed Machins?

I discussed this previously in response to something written by Adrian Keppel. Adrian kindly responded that the information was in a long forum thread, but with one thing and another, I never went back to it.

Now I recently discovered that he added the information to his excellent web site, "Stamp Engravers." He did this last year, but I'm just a little slow at these things.

You can read the full story here. To summarize, Godbehear was one of two engravers who were evaluated for the job, and he was selected. The plaster cast was rephotographed in a way to emphasize the depth of the cast, making it easier to use by an engraver. Godbehear's resulting engraving had a little too much depth in its recesses, leading to many rejected printings and a high number of plates produced.

Keppel doesn't say, but I assume that as with the 1999 engraved Machins, one master die of the portrait was created, and this was used to make individual dies for each denomination. The four pre-decimal values - 2/6, 5/-, 10/- and £1 - were issued on March 5, 1969.

A new master die was created for the decimal values - 10p, 20p, 50p and £1 - issued on June 17, 1970.

Douglas Myall describes the details of printing in The Deegam Handbook, Chapter 4. He notes that the two engravers worked for the printer, Bradbury Wilkinson and Co., Ltd. He also notes that the Queen approved the final engraving.

In contrast to Godbehear's lack of visibility, the engraver of the 1999 issues, Czeslaw Slania, was well-known before he was given the Machin assignment. As a result, his name is frequently associated with those stamps. Keppel's page on Slania is here. Slania's autograph is in the margin of the pair shown above.


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Making My Own Machin Profiles

I have used Douglas Myall's DEEGAM system of identifying and cataloguing the Machins since it was introduced, if I recall correctly, back in the 1980s. I won't describe the system here, so if you want some basic information, visit Myall's site and read Roy's comments here and here.

One of the Myall's many innovations are profiles - stamp-sized labels that contain enough information to identify an individual stamp. One of them is pictured above. These labels can serve as the write-up to a collection, saving the collector a lot of time and providing a great degree of flexibility.

Since I prefer to mount my collection on stock pages, the profiles suit me very well. I wrote this up in a post four years ago.

Unfortunately, Myall recently stopped producing new profiles. He said that only a small percentage of people were using them and they had become too much work. He was kind enough to distribute the graphics he used, and in his recent Deegam Report (#108), he provided a detailed procedure for using them.

I'm familiar enough with the computer that I could use his graphics to create my own profiles, but I needed to think about what I wanted to do. I now had the ability to modify them to suit my own taste and requirements, so that gave me a lot of options.

Before I describe what I decided to do, I will quickly recap the information shown on Myall's profile above, for those of you who are not familiar with his notation.

Line 1 - printer - (in this case: De La Rue)
Line 2 - paper and adhesive - (Optical Brightener-Free Non-Phosphorised paper and Self-Adhesive)
Line 3 left - phosphor pattern - (2 Bars)
Line 3 right - phosphor/fluor type and width (A2 phosphor, Blue fluor, 9 millimeters wide)
Line 4 left - value type and setting (Type 1, setting B4)
Line 4 right - direction of printing (Upright)
Line 5 left - source (Self-Adhesive Product 154)
Line 5 right - colored ink cylinder (D1)
Line 6 - code(s) in the security overprint (M12L)
Line 7 - Deegam catalogue number

The blue shading in the profile shows the placement of the phosphor bars. The security slits are illustrated; there's a small gap at top and bottom indicating Type 2 slits on this stamp.

(If  some of these terms are unfamiliar to you, please leave a comment and I will reply with an explanation.)

When I first started making my own profiles, I found that I could get nine lines of text on them. That gave me a little more flexibility. I also decided not to use the graphics for the phosphor bars and security slits, so I would only have a single template to use.

Finally, I decided to have a black border around all the profiles. Myall had them on profiles for gummed stamps, as shown previously, but he differentiated self-adhesive stamps by omitting the border as on the profile above. (I added the black frame in the image above - it is not part of the profile.) I like having the border because it blends in with the black stock sheet, and I don't have to worry about creating a nice, straight line when I cut out the profile.

These are two of the profiles I created. The information is similar to what Myall shows, but I've made some changes.

Line 2 - I added the method of printing.
Line 6 - For stamps from prestige booklets, I added the name of the booklet. This is a convenience for me so that I don't have to look it up, although it is defined by the pane number that appears to the left.
Line 7 - Since I don't include illustrations of the security cuts, I include the Type or indicate that there are no cuts.

The fact that I have changed the profiles is in no way a criticism of Douglas Myall's work. I am indebted to him for inventing the profiles and for all his other efforts relating to the Machins, and of course I'm still using his nomenclature and cataloguing system.

If you would like to learn more about the Deegam system and/or purchase the Complete Deegam Machin Handbook, you can contact Douglas Myall at the address on his web site. However, please be aware that he has had to take a break from philately to deal with some family issues, so be patient for a reply.


Note: I see that four years ago, I added a comment that I liked the profiles because they came ready-made, courtesy of Douglas Myall. I guess now I know that when it comes to stamp collecting, there's no substitute for doing the work yourself.