When those Machin Men contacted me to ask whether I would care to contribute to this wonderful blog, my first reaction was one of enormous pride! But that was fiollowed immediately by a panick attack! Hong Kong Machins? But I know naught 'bout them Asian stamps. After having quietened down a bit, I realized that that was probably also the case for many of you, dear readers. For we have all heard of them, we probably all have a few copies of them, but what do we really know about these Machin stamps from Hong Kong?
And that's a pity, for the Hong Kong set is the largest Machin definitive set outside GB, and Hong Kong was always very, very kind to Machin. Not only do we have the proper Machin set, but in the past Hong Kong issued three more Machin sets with that other Machin head! And these, too, are real beauties!
So let's have a closer look at the 1992 definitives. For it was in that year, on 16 June to be precise, that the Machin stamps were introduced in Hong Kong. The design was by I. Leung. The main bulk of the set are, of course, sheet stamps. These were printed in gravure by Enschedé. The low values are of the normal GB Machin small format, perf 14.75x14. The high values are larger, almost like the Machin predecimal recess high values.
The markings on the sheet margins include the cylinder numbers. Three plates were used, two for the background colours and one for the Machin head. All my copies have A1 for all the background colours and A7 for the Machin head cylinder.
I suppose, therefore, that the machin head cylinder was used for all values, which would explain the higher number, as more plates will have been used due to wear, etc. If you know of any other cylinder numbers, do let me know! The traffic lights (Asian style, ie square) are also included on the sheet margins. I don't know if there are any other interesting markings, such as printing dates, printer's logo, etc. So again, let me know if you know!
The high values have a security peforation. This does not consist of the usual elliptical perforation, but the four corner perforation pins are larger. You hardly notice this on a single stamp, if at all, but in blocks the effect becomes much more obvious.
In 1996, phosphor bands (yellow) were introduced on the then current and new values.
Together with the sheets, coil stamps were issued. These were printed in the same way, and therefore not readily distinguishable, apart from the clipped perfs at the sides. But every fifth stamp in the coil has a number on the back. This is printed under the gum, so used copies should still have that number intact.
The miniature sheets form an interesting part of the set, because a) there's been quite a few, b) they're quite colourful, and c) they contain stamps that have not been issued in sheet form. This goes especially for the $10 stamp. This stamp was actually included in various miniature sheets with completely different colours! If I'm not mistaken, there are 8 different colour combinations to collect. Shown here is the apple green, carmine & black stamp from a 1996 miniature sheet.
The Hong Kong stamps can also be collected in booklets. Again a very interesting part of the set, because these booklets were printed in lithography. They also yield various se-tenant pairs.
Enschedé was not the only printer involved. Leigh-Mardon, in Melbourne, Australia, was also employed for the production of booklets. Their stamps, too, were printed in lithography. The Leigh-Mardon stamps are easily distinguishable, however, because the printers used paper with the watermark "Crown over CA".
And that concludes a brief introduction to this wonderful Machin set. It should be enough to get you started, but when you feel the urge to delve deeper into the subject, I would recommend the Deegam Handbook, which is the only source, as far as I know, where you'll find some more detailed information. Enjoy the hunt!