Saturday, 2 June 2012

A Machin First from the Marshall Islands

The Machin made from cheese was almost certainly a 'first', but this one is philatelically more relevant. Ian Billings pointed me to the Marshall Islands miniature sheet shown above. It pictures six Machins in a stamp-on-stamp design commemorating the Diamond Jubilee and was issued in February.

This is the first time that the Machin portrait has appeared on a stamp issued by a country that is not a part of the British Commonwealth.

Many of you are probably saying "Marshall Islands? Where are they?"

Thanks to Wikipedia, here's a little background. The Republic of the Marshall Islands is located in the Pacific Ocean and is considered a part of Micronesia. They are named after British explorer John Marshall (1748-1819). They belonged to Spain and then Germany, and then they were conquered by the United States during World War II. They were governed by the US until 1979, and full sovereignty was granted in 1986, at which time they joined a Compact of Free Association with the US.

The Marshall Islands was used as a nuclear test site by the US from 1946 to 1958. In addition to that difficult history, the islands are now threatened by rising sea levels.

As you might expect, there are not a lot of resources from which to create a vigorous economy. Like many small countries, the Marshall Islands turned to postage stamps to raise revenue. Their postal service was established in 1984 in association with the USPS. The Islands use the US dollar as currency, and they are treated as part of the United States for postal purposes. A standard US first-class stamp can be used to send a letter from the US to the Islands. The Islands also have a zip code.

The Marshall Islands issues many stamps every year. There were 27 issues in 2011, all of which had multiple stamps. They are heavily advertised in the US.

Let's return to the stamps pictured in the miniature sheet. Ian pointed out that you can see the security slits on the 50p, and the 30p appears to be the lithographed version that was issues in the National Trust booklet in 1995. I also note that the 40p is the grey-blue issue from 2000 rather than the more recent dark turquoise issue of 2004. If you didn’t click on the link above, click here to see a larger version of the sheet.

Ian says he will offer this miniature sheet for sale if he can get a supply, so watch his site.


1 comment:

Gary Honey said...

I bought a few sheets from here For you in the US this will probably be the best place. However for me the Shipping and Handling charges were greater than the value of the sheets. It will be interesting to see if Ian can get a better deal.