In my alternate guise as the Meandering Maniac, I recently traveled to two regional shows not too far from my home in California: PIPEX in Portland, Oregon, May 11-13 and ROMPEX in Denver, Colorado, May 25-27. I'm pleased to report that Steve McGill's mind-boggling Machin exhibits graced both shows.
Steve showed two Machin exhibits that he has been developing and showing for several years, plus one on postal mechanization. Over that time, they have gone from masterful to magnificent to mind-boggling.
The first is "Britain's Marvelous Machins: 1967-2017." This exhibit tells the story of the first 50 years of denominated Machins. The exhibit has six chapters (which I am summarizing): design, paper/gum, color, luminescence, printing process, and perforation/security. In each, he thoroughly shows and describes each change and the reason(s) for it.
He includes many superb items. A few that I found especially interesting are:
- three of the 1969 Cambridge color trials that were held to help decide the colors for the upcoming decimal issue (each stamp is one of three in private hands).
- a block of four of the unreleased, small £5 brown gravure printing with Iriodin security overprint, unreleased apparently because the overprint changed the color of the stamp. The issued stamp was grey-blue (this block is four of the 14 known copies).
- the 3 1/2p error of color - olive-brown instead of grey-green - caused by ink contamination (one of fewer than 25 known copies).
- a spectacular dry-print of the 2d brown affecting seven rows of the sheet (including 30 completely blank stamps and many partial prints).
- the Silver Queen error, a £1 mauve with excess Iriodin ink giving the stamp a silver hue (one of presumably a maximum of 24 copies created).
Steve's exhibits are also known for his excellent visualizations. He creates images that help the viewer grasp a lot of information at once and put it in context. Above I have shown his timeline of paper types and gums. Click to enlarge it. Notice how easily the viewer gets an overview of this subject and understands the sequence and lifetime of each variety. (It's a quick photo taken with my camera, so it has the usual reflections, but it gives you an idea of what he does.)
His exhibit of non-denominated stamps has items that are, incredibly, even more stunning. It is titled, "The British Non-denominated Definitive Series: 1989-2017."
It starts out with a previously unrecorded Harrison/De La Rue perforated self-adhesive booklet trial. Notice the combination - perforated and self-adhesive. He shows a complete sheet of normal (vertical) first-class flame Machins printed in a custom format - six panes in a column, ten stamps in each pane as a block of six (two rows of three), a margin, then a block of four. The stamps are fully perforated with elliptical perfs, and the sheet is gummed with a peel-able adhesive.
He also shows a semi-finished column of booklets. The uncut sheet of six booklets has the stamps affixed to the cover with the margins around the stamps removed. If this sheet were to be cut into six individual booklets, each booklet would have a block of six stamps on the left and a block of four on the right. The mailer would have to lift one of these blocks (at least partially), tear off one of the stamps to use, then reattach the remaining stamps to the cover for future use. To the right of the block of four is the text, "Self adhesive stamps Do not lick" (with no punctuation).
Steve notes that Harrison patented this process, but, as we know, it was never put into production. These items are unique as far as is known, though possibly De La Rue has some in its archives.
Moving on, there's a first-class Machin color trial in silver produced by Questa. Questa used the layout of the multi-stamp pane from the "Across the Universe" booklet pane (DP377). (The issued pane is shown above.)
We have discussed silver trials on this blog before: Roy first mentioned trials by De La Rue; I talked about a report by Don Staddon of a Harrison trial in an issue of Cross Post; I reported on display of many color trials in 2010 at the BPMA, though I don't identify who printed the silver trial shown; and Ian Rose sent us a letter about the "Across the Universe" trial.
Following this is a previously unrecorded color trial of a gold second-class Machin in a complete booklet of 12. Steve shows one stamp plus a scan of the complete booklet (which presumably was broken up by a dealer).
Perhaps most surprising of all are Machins printed on plastic! Steve shows a complete sheet of 12 x 1st booklets with Walsall cylinder numbers. It is apparently a test run by the company that supplied the cylinders to Walsall, Technograv Derby Ltd. (no longer in operation). Tell me you have seen one of these before!
Not content to rest on his (well-deserved) laurels, Steve entered a third exhibit at PIPEX: "British Postal Mechanisation: From TRANSORMA to the Modern Era - The story of the postal automation in the U.K." This covers efforts from 1935 (the King George V era) to the present. This is, of course, relevant to the Machins because many changes in the Machins were driven by mechanization requirements. The display includes Machin stamps and Post & Go labels in the story.
At PIPEX, the "Marvelous Machins" exhibit was in the Court of Honor. The other two exhibits won a large gold. Only "Marvelous Machins" was shown at ROMPEX, where it was entered in the George Brett Cup competition. It won the Cup as well as a large gold.
The George Brett Cup competition is sponsored by the American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors (AAPE). This is a by-invitation exhibition of qualifying exhibits from the past three years; exhibits must feature 20th century philately. George Brett was a researcher and writer about 20th century US stamps.
I don't know which future shows Steve will show his exhibits at, but they are well worth traveling to see. He told me he will be exhibiting at London 2020 (less than two years away!), and after that he will probably retire his exhibits. See them while you can!