Thursday, 2 February 2017

About that £5 Machin...

Roy has blogged about the new £5 Machin to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Queen's Accession to the throne in the previous post and an earlier one. Ian Billings provided some historical background in his post.

I'm surprised the response to this £5 Machin has been so muted. I consider it an out-and-out money grab.

Let's review the history that Ian so nicely described. The first commemoration of the Accession came on the 25th anniversary in 1977. It was a set of five stamps with a identical designs, somewhat reminiscent of the set issued in 1935 for King George V's 25th anniversary. (Sadly, the set contains one of the worst portraits of Her Majesty to appear on stamps, but that's another story.)

Fifteen years passed, and the 40th anniversary was honored with an innovative strip of five se-tenant photographs of events in the Queen's life.

Ten years passed, and the golden jubilee was honored with five portraits of the Queen over the five decades. This set borrowed heavily from Jeffery Matthews' 1986 set for the Queen's sixtieth birthday, but it was still attractive. The first-class Machin was changed to gold.

Ten years passed, and the diamond jubilee was marked with an inventive miniature sheet containing six first-class stamps, and the first-class Machin was changed to diamond blue.

Now here we are five years later. Royal Mail seems in a hurry to celebrate the Accession again, but apparently with no time or budget or desire to design anything new. So Royal Mail reaches deep into the archives and comes up with ... reissuing the large £5 Machin from 1977.

Why is this bad? Let me count the ways:

1. There is little need for any £5 stamp, much less an oversized one. The standard £5 Machin, first issued in 1999, was long ago withdrawn from general sales, along with its brethren, because such stamps have been replaced in most locations with Horizon labels, Post & Go stamps, and perhaps other more convenient forms of indicating payment of large amounts of postage.

2. What is it? It clearly commemorates a specific event but Royal Mail calls it a "£5 High Value Definitive." Will it replace the existing small £5 Machin? What happened to the desire for consistency, which was the rationale for printing small-size high values for the first time?  And with all deference to the Queen's ongoing longevity, is Royal Mail really going to replace one of its definitives over the long term with another one that costs twice as much?

3. Other than the overprint, it offers nothing new. It even reduces the formerly bi-colored stamp to monochrome. Whether you like them or not, the previous sets and miniature sheet reflected a desire to design something new and attractive. This stamp represents laziness, greed, lack of forethought, or some combination of all three.

4. Is it really necessary to celebrate the 65th anniversary? We've already celebrated the fact that Queen Elizabeth II has reigned longer than any other monarch, so by definition she's the first to reach the 65th anniversary. What other 65th anniversary has been commemorated on a stamp?

5. Sum those up, and it's clear to me that this is the most blatant grab of collectors' money yet. With a modicum of restraint, this could have been a £1 stamp, or £1.52 to pay a current rate. But at £5, it almost equals the cost of all the other anniversary stamps combined. (The face value of all the stamps mentioned above is £6.43 with the NVIs valued as of the date of issue.)

I gave consideration to not including this stamp in my collection. I generally follow the Deegam Handbook, and Douglas Myall does not include stamps that don't fit the definition of a definitive. I will be interested to see how he treats this one, but I've decided that since it looks identical to many other Machins, and perhaps it will replace the small £5 Machin, I will include it.

Now I am giving serious consideration to stopping my Machin collection after the fiftieth anniversary of the Machins later this year. My collection can be "The First 50 Years of Machins." If the unthinkable happens and the Machins are replaced in a few years, I can go back and get what I've missed. If Her Majesty lives longer than her mother, I may be spared from future money grabs by Royal Mail.

If you think I've been too harsh on Royal Mail or if you have a completely different opinion, please let us know in the comments.



Roy Simpson said...

If you think this is a rip off, wait for the The First 50 Years of Machins. I foresee a bumper issue that will cost a fortune.

Although I do not collect everything Machin that Royal mail slings at us. I do follow the issue circuit and enjoy writing about them. I must have saved £1000s over the last few years.

GBStamps said...

Roy, I certainly expect a deluge in June. However, for the 40th anniversary, I thought the souvenir sheet with the two £1 stamps and two special stamps was nicely done and not excessively expensive. Even the Smiler sheet was okay. So if Royal Mail puts some effort into it and creates desirable items, I won't mind too much.

John Beresford said...

I'm with Roy on this one, but I'm not waiting for the Machin anniversary. My GB QE2 collection is retiring with me at the traditional age of 65.