Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Become a Friend of the BPMA

Many of us were saddened when the National Postal Museum closed at the end of 1998. I was lucky enough to have visited it twice. It was pure heaven for a GB collector.

The organization behind the museum floundered for a while, but then it was merged with the Postal Archives. The new organization was (and is) called the Postal Heritage Trust. A while later, the Trust decided that its name wasn't very friendly, so they adopted the public identity of the British Postal Museum & Archive, known as the BPMA. The BPMA has a web site here.

Bear with me, I'm getting to the Machins in a moment.

Back in 1985, an organization called the Association of Friends of the National Postal Museum was formed. It was a voluteer group that supported the museum and provided some benefits for its members.

That organization has now become the Friends of the BPMA. The Friends have a web page here that describes the benefits of membership.

One of those benefits is an excellent journal called Cross Post. The cover of the latest issue is shown above.

The journal is a full-size (A4, I think is your term), full-color magazine with articles about a variety of topics relating to British philately. And, in general, each issue has at least one article about Machins.

The Autumn 2007 issue has two, in fact.

One is titled The Machins in use by Michael H. Lockton. It is an overview of how to collect Machin postal history. It is well illustrated with over a dozen covers.

The other is Delving into the unknown by Don Staddon. Don is a long-time volunteer at the BPMA, working primarily on modern material. He is also an author of many articles about the Machins. In this article, he describes and illustrates some unissued material that is archived at the BPMA. Most striking, to me at least, is a sheet of booklet panes containing one 3p, two 14p and one 19p Machin each. These were printed in April 1988. These were intended for 50p booklets.

The actual issued panes had two 19p and one 14p Machins, along with a label. Staddon doesn't explain the reason for the change, but my guess is that first-class mail is used more frequently than second-class mail, and Royal Mail decided that have two first-class stamps was better than having two second-class stamps in the booklet, even if it resulted in a 2p discount to the buyer.

Also pictured are a 21p Machin proofed in a sand color, one of the then-new Matthews colors. That stamp was never issued, but the color was used for the 28p later that year. There's also a 16p Machin in a shade of violet that was never issued and a 10p light tan Machin printed from cylinder 22 that was never distributed (only stamps from cylinder 21 were sold).

And, as a bonus, there's even an article titled Carrying Mail within the United Kingdom, and it pictures Machins used on a post bus ticket.

The previous issue of Cross Post, Spring 2007, included an article by Douglas N. Muir, Curator, Philately, discussing his research on the genesis of the Machin head. This article complements his book. There's also an article on British Stamp Vending Machines by Glenn H. Morgan and Graham Eyre, and it includes the machines that have vended Machins for the last 40 years.

So I urge you to consider becoming a Friend of the BPMA. You'll get this excellent journal. You'll be able to take advantage of other benefits, including special events for members and a discount on BPMA shop products (including Muir's book). And you'll be helping the BPMA, and perhaps one day soon we'll have a British National Postal Museum again.

Membership is £15 annually for UK residents and £20 annually for us folks overseas.

I joined the Association of Friends of the NPM in its founding year, and I've been a proud member ever since. Won't you join me?


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