Saturday, 2 February 2008

The Dilemma of the James Bond Litho

Last summer I mentioned Royal Mail's announcement that all prestige booklet panes would be printed by lithography. This in turn would create new Machin varieties, at least for those of us who collect variations of printing method.

The first such Machin appeared on January 8 in the James Bond prestige booklet. The first-class gold Machin in one of the panes has been printed by lithography for the first time. Click here for a picture of the Machin portion of the pane, scroll down the page until you see the first day cover of the pane.

The gold first-class Machin first made its appearance in 1997, in honor of the Queen's golden (50th) wedding anniversary. (There were also gold 26p Machins, since 26p was the first-class rate and Royal Mail had not made the complete conversion to non-denominated NVI stamps at that time). The gold first-class Machins were all printed by gravure, by Walsall (in sheets and booklet panes) and Harrison (in coils and booklet panes).

The flame-colored version returned the next year, although the gold version popped up in booklet panes from time to time.

Gold returned permanently as the color of the first-class Machin in 2002, celebrating the golden jubilee of the Queen's accession to the throne. The gold first-class Machins were issued in self-adhesive formats printed in gravure by Walsall, Enschede and Questa.

The next year, the gold first-class stamps appeared in sheet format with water-activated gum. These were printed by De La Rue in gravure on the ATN press.

And so the situation remained until a few weeks ago when the James Bond booklet appeared.

Now, about that dilemma. I'm not referring to the dilemma of identifying the lithographic printing. That's not a dilemma, although it can be a bit tricky. There are some helpful links toward the end of the previous post.

The dilemma I have is where to put this stamp!

Let me explain. One of the cardinal rules of Machin collecting is that the only organization scheme that can handle any new stamp with aplomb is the Deegam system. This is the method devised by Douglas Myall and explained in his Complete Deegam Machin Handbook.

We've discussed the handbook previously here and here, so I won't go into too many details now. The essence of the system is that it is organized chronologically within denomination, so any new stamp simply gets the next higher number. There's no fussing with gum or printing method or anything else in order to determine where each stamp goes.

As my readers know, I have been a big proponent of the Deegam system for a long time. Most of my collection is organized according to his system, at least to the extent that it is organized at all.

However, a few years ago, I made an exception. When De La Rue first started printing Machins on the ATN press in 2003, first at their Byfleet plant and then at the Dunstable plant, there were many variations in paper and gum that appeared. Roy wrote about it here and here. This kind of thing is exactly what causes a Machin collector to salivate, and salivate I did. (I did manage to keep my saliva away from the Machins, in case you were concerned.)

I started to build a specialized collection of these stamps, including marginal singles (easier to determine the paper and gum with a piece of margin), date blocks (marginal blocks with the printing date inscribed in the margin - the date almost always confirms the paper and gum), and cylinder blocks. I put these in an album, which then grew into two albums. So this is a collection of Machins printed by De La Rue on the ATN gravure press, displaying the variety of papers and gums used during this period.

The rest of the Machins issued over the past few years have gone into another album organized according to Deegam.

And now the De La Rue litho stamp throws a monkey wrench into the works and leaves me with a dilemma. Should I put it in the with ATN issues? It doesn't quite fit there because it was printed on a different press and is not part of the story told by the other stamps, but it is a De La Rue issue, and all the other De La Rues of the past five years are there. Or should I put it with the other issues? It seems out of place there, too, because it is the only De La Rue mixed in with several years worth of Walsall, Questa and Enschede stamps.

So this lonely stamp, pictured above, is sitting on my desk (actually resting peacefully beneath my monitor), waiting until I decide where its home will be. Where do you think I should put it?


1 comment:

Adrian said...

Oh, the joy of Machin collecting! It's questions like these that got me completely bogged down as far as Machins is concerned!

I find that the Deggam book may be the most fantastic read on earth but I would not dream of organizing my collection accordingly. I believe that how you approached the ATN bit is a much better way. But that would then imply that you start a new chapter of lithographic printings. There will be undoubtedly more stamps to follow so your 1st class may be lonely now but it will soon have a band of friends.

I suppose SG will just put it in with the previous lithographic issues but that seems rather an affront, doesn't it?