Saturday, 29 December 2007

Underprints, too!

You can learn about nearly every aspect of modern philately by studying the Machins: papers, phosphors, gums, printing methods, and so on. About the only significant exception is watermarks. You'll have to go back to the Wildings for those.

The Machins can also teach you some things that you don't commonly see. One of those is underprints, that is, printing on the gum side of the stamp. This was done on several Machins from 1982 to 1986. (Five commemoratives were also underprinted, but they are beyond the scope of this blog.)

The first underprints appeared in the 1982 Christmas booklet. This booklet contained a pane of 20 Machins, ten 12 1/2p (second-class rate) and ten 15 1/2p (first-class rate). As an encouragement for patrons to buy the stamps and send holiday cards, Royal Mail sold this booklet for £2.50, a discount of 30p from the nominal face value of £2.80.

Royal Mail wanted to make sure that no one could buy the discounted stamps and then resell them at full value. The solution to this problem was to underprint the stamps with a blue star. This would identify the stamps as having been sold at a discount.

The booklet is pictured here. The pane is folded (which is the way it was sold) so that the outer three columns of stamps overlap columns five through seven. You can see the stars on the back of the stamps.

Christmas booklets in 1983 and 1986 were also sold at a discount with underprinted Machins, and two regular (non-Christmas) booklets were also sold that way, one in 1983 and one in 1985. The booklets, stamps, and underprints are described below.

By 1986, Royal Mail decided to discontinue the practice of discounting booklets. There was, however, excess paper with the underprints. Royal Mail decided to use up that paper for 12p Machins issued in sheets and 17p Machins issued in 50p booklets.

There's one critical difference between the underprints used to indicate a discount and the ones used up as excess. For the discounts, one image (either a star or the letter "D") appeared on the back of each stamp. You can see this on the XMAS booklet stamps.

When the excess paper was used up, the images and stamps were not lined up. Therefore the image appeared unevenly on the back of the stamps, and some stamps had only a portion of the image. I've seen this referred to as a "wallpaper" pattern. Shown here are the front and back of a pair of 17p stamps from the 50p booklet.

These underprints are pictured and listed in intermediate catalogs such as the Stanley Gibbons Concise and the Stoneham. They are noted (but not pictured or listed separately) in the Scott Catalogue. Roy pictures them all and has some additional information on his web site.

Here's a list of the underprinted Machins:

12 1/2p and 15 1/2p
Underprint: 2 overlapping stars, centered on stamp
Source: 1982 XMAS booklet (£2.80 face sold for £2.50)

12 1/2p
Underprint: double-line star, centered on stamp
Source: 1983 XMAS booklet (£2.50 face sold for £2.20)

Underprint: double-line star, centered on stamp
Source: 1986 Christmas booklet (£1.30 face sold for £1.20)

Underprint: double-line letter "D", centered on stamp
Source: 1983 counter booklet "Lyme Regis" (£1.60 face sold for £1.45)

Underprint: double-line letter "D", centered on stamp
Source: 1985 counter booklet "Letters Abroad" (£1.70 face sold for £1.55)

Underprint: double-line star, wallpaper pattern
Source: Sheet stamps

Underprint: double-line star, wallpaper pattern
Source: 50p booklets (Pillar Box, Pond Life #1, Pond Life #2)


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More information on underprints (overprints)can be found below.


It looks as though Larry will be holding the fort for another couple of months. Thanks Larry I am having difficulties getting connected to the internet due to the fact I have to have an extention built to house the computer.

info below