Friday, 14 April 2017

Machin Treasures at TPM

Cross Post has been the wonderful semi-annual publication of The Friends of The Postal Museum (TPM), formerly The Friends of the British Postal Museum and Archives, born as The Friends of the National Postal Museum. I say "has been" because The Friends - having survived several name changes - will disappear this year in favor of a membership scheme run by TPM. Therefore, Cross Post will be no more.

One of the highlights of Cross Post for us Machin Maniacs has been Don Staddon's regular column of various modern GB treasures in TPM/BPMA/NPM, often including Machinalia. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Machins, his last column reports on several Machin treasures in the archives. Sadly, it would not be appropriate for me to copy any of the illustrations, so my verbal descriptions will have to suffice.

In the early 90s, Jeffery Matthews was asked to look at the project to issue a secure £10 stamp. This of course ultimately led to the short-lived £10 Britannica. Matthews came up with a large, vertically-oriented stamp that featured the Machin portrait in the center surrounded by an engine-turned background reminiscent of the Penny Black and various designs from the Treasury Competition. He also included the four heraldic symbols: the rose, thistle, shamrock and leek. These were made up of small lines oriented in various directions, an idea which led to a similar technique being used on the £10 Britannia.

Matthews, as we know, designed the horizontal format Machin used for the original public self-adhesive trial in 1993. When Royal Mail discovered the postmarks could be easily removed from the stamps, Matthews investigated one way of solving the problem. He designed several versions of the stamp that had fine white lines running horizontally across the background of the stamp. Nine versions are shown, ranging from 15 lines to about 40. Royal Mail also tested different inks and phosphor, but ultimately decided to change the composition of the postmarking ink instead.

Several trials are shown for the Millennium Machin. At least some of these have been published before. All feature an enlarged and cropped Machin portrait. Some are cropped just above the lowest part of the necklace, and just a bit of the back of the tiara is cut off. Others have an even larger portrait that is cut off just below the chin and behind the ear.

Some trials from 1996 show a comparison between traditional acid-etched photogravure cylinders and computer etched cylinders. There are some Machins with colors similar to those in use at the time, some with a grey head surrounded by the usual colored background, and one featuring a dark gray head on a white background with a thin, black frame. The ones with the white background have the value 00p, the others all have 1st or 2nd indicators.

Just based on the illustrations in the magazine, there is very little difference in the results of the two printing methods. The actual trials may show more.

Finally, the strangest group of the bunch. These were a concept for the Millennium issue printed by De La Rue, but no credit given to the designer. Imagine an imperforate horizontal strip of NVI Machins. Now perforate the strip so that the vertical perforations slice through the portrait(!), then center the service indicator between the two sections of the portrait. 

The result is a stamp having the back portion of the Queen's head on the left, the service indicator in the middle, and the front portion of the Queen's head on the left. Two different placements of the vertical perforation are shown.

I'm not surprised that the designer's name is not known. (Trust me, this is not something that Jeffery Matthews would have done.)


Note: The web site says The Postal Museum will open in July.  

Note: The stamp pictured above is from the 1997 coil, not the 1993 booklet. It's the one that I had at hand. Don't flame me.

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