Sunday, 14 October 2007

Machin for the Queen's Diamond Wedding Anniversary

Ten years ago, Royal Mail issued four commemorative (special) stamps in honor of Queen Elizabeth's golden (50th) wedding anniversary. Royal Mail also introduced metallic gold Machins as I noted in a previous post. The gold stamps were withdrawn at the end of the year, but they reappeared in 2002 to mark the 50th anniversary of her accession, and they have remained on sale since.

This year, Royal Mail is celebrating the Queen's diamond (60th) wedding anniversary with a total of 10 commemorative (special) stamps, six in sheet format and four in a single miniature sheet. However, Royal Mail haven't issued a diamond-colored Machin. Or have they?

Now, I hear you asking how there could be a diamond-colored Machin because diamonds are colorless, or at least white.

You may recall that there was, in fact, a white Machin, the embossed Machin in the 1999 Profile on Print booklet. The booklet pane containing four of these Machins is shown above. The stamp is completely white except the service indicator, which is printed in grey.

However, the British Post Office learned a long time ago (in the 1850s) that embossed stamps are not practical, and they are probably too expensive to produce for general use. So reintroducing an embossed Machin is out of the question.

Another possibilty would be to include a bit of diamond on each Machin. After all, Austria put some small crystals on postage stamps a few years ago. (Click in the upper right corner for English.) A tiny bit of diamond should work just as well.

However, now that I think about it, the hardness of the diamond might cause problems for the mail processing equipment. That idea is not too great, either.

There is one other consideration. Not all diamonds are white. About 1 in 10,000 gem quality diamonds have impurities or structural defects that give the gem a beautiful color. There are pink, bue, red, green, brown and yellow diamonds. In fact, there's a beautiful display of them in the Natural History Museum in London. There's another display in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.

The star of the show at the Smithsonian is the Hope Diamond. It is a lovely bluish color.

In fact, there are two reasons why the Hope Diamond is an appropriate one to consider for the Queen's 60th anniversary. First, it is believed that King George IV owned the diamond for many years prior to his death in 1830, so it probably belonged to the Royal Family in the past.

Second, according to the Smithsonian article, when the diamond was examined in 1988, it was decided that the color was "fancy dark grayish-blue". Eight years later, the color was changed to "fancy deep grayish-blue". What could be more philatelic than that?

And guess what! There just happens to be a grey-blue Machin, and it's the £5 highest value!

So there is, after all, a Machin that celebrates the Queen's 60th anniversary. It's a shame that Royal Mail isn't taking the opportunity to promote this association. They could put a small diamond in the upper left corner to mark the occasion, creating a new variety that Machin collectors would have to have.

Just think of how many £5 Machins could have been sold to accompany the celebration. Someone missed a big opportunity.



Anonymous said...

Thanks Larry! What a wonderful article, full of information I didn't know. You're doing a great job.


Peter, London said...

I understand that a "White Machin" will be issued by Royal Mail on 29 October 2008 (??) - no further details as yet, there is speculation as to whether this will be similar to the "Millennium Machins". No reason for the issue has been given - perhaps this is going to be the diamond wedding celebration machin?