Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The-first-pre-decimal-machin-booklets. Pt 2

A few weeks ago I started on a quest where I tried describe some of the first pre decimal Machin booklets. I sated that the 4/6d booklet was  the first issued and went on to describe the booklets  in general.

I have since that time delved into my earlier pre decimal Machin collections and found out that in actual fact the 4/6d booklets were not the first on the scene.

The actual first booklets to appear were the 6/- denomination. None pictorial cover. These made an entrance in 1967. The first sheet Machin as we all know was issued 5th June 1967.

The date on the first 6/- booklet (back cover)  is September 1967. the 4/6d booklets were also issued with a none pictorial cover. in May 1968. Shown below is the position of the date and year of printing. the one shown is the second issue October 1967.

When pictorial covers were introduced. The covers were bright and cheerful. This was about the time that collectors of Machins started to acquire the different booklets to form a basis of a collection.

The none pictorial booklets were mostly ignored at the time and today they are quite difficult as they have Gum Arabic rather than PVAl. The contents of the early booklets were 3 x panes of 4d sepia on OCP and as I said had gum Arabic. They had 2 phosphor bars.

The first 6/- pictorial booklets (British Birds) that followed had a bright orange cover, mostly the stamps had PVAl gum. There were ten different species of birds in the set which ran from June 1968 to October 1970.

I have most of these booklets in my collection.Some booklets with the same covers were issued more than once with a different printing date on the rear. They were also released with different stamp panes sometime in 1968 showing a 4d sepia withCB,then again in 1969 these contained 3 panes with 4d vermilion CB.

To make matters more interesting some panes had Head A and some Head B.

It should be noted that certain booklets were issued in error with mixed gums on the panes. GA and PVAl. Even today these are much sought after and fetch premium prices. This short article is only the tip of the iceberg. Pre Decimal Machins can be challenging subject when you get your teeth into it.

For more in depth information visit this link, passed on to me by a contact Ron who lives in Australia. I still have to visit it and absorb the information myself. I seem to forget more than I learn these days. Perhaps it is old age :-)

Look out for part 3 in the near future.I am also adding a link from our sites of interest to Ron's web site who has a passion for stamps and has lots of information on early Decimal Machin booklets.



Thursday, 6 September 2018

The Great War 1918 Machin Pane

To be issued on 13 September 2018 is Prestige Booklet  which is the last of the long going series and also a Customised Booklet entitled "The Great War 1918"

For the first time in this series Pane 4 of the prestige booklet will contain a mixed pane of 4 x 1st class poppy stamps and  4 x 1st class Machins with a label in the centre. The codes incorporated in the print will be new MPIL / M18L. These will be new stamps.

The Customised  booklet will have 2 x different special issues (Poppies) and 4 x self adhesive 1st class Machins they will have the same codes as the previous Dads Army booklet MCIL / M18L.

Four new Machins (printed by Walsall) will be available at this years Stampex. Details of these can be found on the Norvic blog.

I have also had a whisper that it is possible the 1p and 2p coins will be withdrawn in 2019, so it is possible the 1p and 2p Machins may also be withdrawn. One to keep an eye on.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Scott Catalog Mangles Machins

Machins are hard. 

That's a self-evident statement to anyone reading this blog. As collectors, we have some leeway in dealing with difficulty. We can choose to ignore some Machin varieties and restrict our collection. We can take our time, and we can change our minds without affecting others.

Catalog editors don't have such freedoms. They operate under many competing constraints, and sometimes these constraints bite them. That's apparently what happened to Scott, but before I get to them, I want to look at the plight of catalog editors in general. 

First, there are the specialized catalogs, the Machin Collectors Club and the Deegam Handbook. (Yes, I know the Deegam is not really a catalog, but it is similar enough for this discussion.) The editors of these works have some advantages - they focus on the Machins (and other modern definitives) and are unencumbered by listing practices that evolved in the Victorian era. They are personally very knowledgable.

Yet they still have constraints, including economics and timing. They still have many decisions to make. However, I think it's fair to say that in both these cases, the catalogs are at least in part a labor of love, and that mitigates the problems for them. 

Then there's the special case of Stanley Gibbons. Having staked their claim as publishers of a specialized GB catalog, they now have to deal with complexity far beyond what was originally envisaged. Their successes and lapses are well-known to us, and I give them credit for soldiering on in the face of their own corporate turmoil as well as Royal Mail's.

And that brings us to Scott (here and here). They have perhaps the most difficult position of the English language publishers. They cater to the general collector in the United States and try to find an acceptable level of detail for their foreign listings. They are not specialists in British stamps yet they have to deal with modern complexities.

They've made some interesting decisions along the way. Although they list phosphor varieties for the Wildings and 1960's commemoratives, when either the stamp has a phosphor overprint or doesn't, they ignore phosphor on the Machins (with one exception). They (like the Gibbons intermediate catalog, the Great Britain Concise Catalogue) broke the Machins out into a separate section (again with some exceptions).

One characteristic they chose not to ignore for the Machins is the printing method, and this is what tripped them up recently. Of course, back in "the good old days" it was pretty easy to distinguish between engraving (recess-printing), typography (surface-printing), and photogravure. As recently as 1980, it was easy to differentiate Machins printed by lithography and photogravure.

Then came digital gravure and enhanced lithography, and now the two appear nearly identical.

Scott has another problem not entirely of its own making. As a US-centric company, they do not have any specialists in foreign stamps on their staff. They rely in part on the information they get from the postal administrations. This is a problem when it comes to Royal Mail, as we know and is well documented by Ian Billings on his blog. Another source of information is dealers, who in turn rely for the most part on postal administrations.

I was alerted to the recent mishap by US specialist dealer JET Stamps. JET, which is the team of John and Tina Carlson, has been specializing in Machins for decades and certainly know their way around them. They are multi-lingual (they speak Scott, Gibbons, Deegam and others), and not surprisingly a lot of their customers go by Scott.

They recently pointed out to their customers that some Scott catalog updates published in recent editions of Linn's Stamp News are incorrect. 

Basically, in their listings for the 50th Anniversary of the Machins issues, Scott listed some stamps as printed by lithography, although they were really printed by gravure (which Scott still calls "photo"), and vice versa. This makes a big difference for their assignments of major and minor numbers.

There are also errors and omissions in the listings of several other recent issues. Scott publishes a Machin album to go with their listings, and this, too, has errors.

After communication with JET and others, Scott published some corrections in Linn's August 20, 2018 issue. Unfortunately, it was too late to make the corrections in the 2019 catalog, so collectors who don't see Linn's won't know of the problems unless they find out some other way.

It's a sad state of affairs, but I hope that Scott has learned a lesson and will be more careful with its GB listings in the future.