Friday, 21 March 2008

A Closer Look at the James Bond Litho

Recently, I wrote about the James Bond Litho. That's what I called the first-class gold Machin printed by lithography and issued in a pane of 8 in the James Bond prestige booklet last January.

Previously, I wrote a brief history of lithographic printing of Machins. In short, the first lithography Machins were ugly - flat and lifeless are the terms I used. By the late 1980s and 1990s, lithographic printing had improved to where it was pretty much equal in quality to the gravure stamps.

Imagine my surprise, though, when I took a close look at the James Bond litho and found that it looked noticeably better than its gravure counterpart. The two stamps are shown side-by-side above. The litho stamp is on the right, with a little of its margin from the prestige booklet pane. You can see that, overall, the lithographed portrait is sharper ahd shows more detail.

The gravure Machins look pretty good. The switch to electromechanical engraving and the use of a digital portrait improved the image significantly from the older versions. But this new litho version is another step forward.

To investigate further, I scanned the two stamps at 1200dpi. I also scanned the 50p sand, which is a similar color but doesn't have the metallic finish of the gold stamps. The result is below. The tiny cells of the gravure process are easily visible. The litho stamp, in contrast, is smooth.

Look at the earring. The detail of the litho version is much clearer than the gravure stamps. The same goes for the curls of Her Majesty's hair.

And that difference is probably the best way to identify this stamp, in the unlikely event that you find one commercially used.

I'm left hoping that we see more of these lithographed stamps in prestige booklets ... and that's something I never thought I'd be wishing for.


No comments: