Friday, 5 July 2013

Presentation Packs, FDCs, and Sideways Printing

For several years, the Machins that Royal Mail puts on first day covers have been from a special coil printing. Presumably this facilitates an automated process that places the stamps on the covers. Of interest to collectors is that these stamps are printed sideways right, rather than the usual upright printing of sheet stamps.

Douglas Myall has listed the coil versions in the Deegam Handbook and noted that they are only available as used stamps from the FDCs.

Early this year, the Modern British Philatelic Circle indicated that the presentation pack containing the Machins issued on January 3rd included the stamps from the coils. In the February issue of 'The Bookmark' Journal they wrote, "The surrounding backing paper for [the stamps in the presentation pack] was guillotined and is therefore much narrower than on stamps torn from sheets using the roulette cuts. This suggests that special coils may have been produced for the stamps inserted into packs and affixed to FDCs."

A similar statement was made for the presentation pack containing the Machins issued in late March.

If the coil stamps were used for presentation packs, this would mean that the sideways printed version would be available mint as well as used. However, I've seen no confirmation of this or mention of it elsewhere.

Below are magnified images from the large Royal Mail Signed For stamps issued in March. The top image is the bottom of the large numeral 1 and below it is the upper right corner of the stamp. The first image is from the presentation pack.

The second image is from the FDC.

Both sets of stamps were printed by De La Rue and have the MA13 security code. You can see a distinct difference in the right edges and a smaller but still distinguishable difference on the top edges. I think this indicates that the two stamps were printed in different directions. (I do not yet have any De La Rue sheet stamps, and I do not want to use the Walsall printings for comparison, since a different printing press may result in a different appearance.)

I did another test which is pictured at the top of this post. (You were wondering about that, weren't you?)

The top pair of stamps is from the presentation pack and the bottom pair, obviously, is from the FDC. If the presentation pack stamps are from the same coil as the FDC stamps, you would expect them to have the same spacing. This of course assumes that the distance between the stamps is not changed in the process of transferring them from the coil to the cover.

You can see that the stamps on the FDC are spaced further apart than the two from the presentation pack. If my assumption is correct and if these stamps are typical, then I would say that this also indicates that the presentation pack stamps do not come from the coil used for the FDC.

There's one other indication. You may not be able to see it in the image above, but the scanned images of the stamps from the pack and the FDC look different. The FDC stamps are much sharper, and the Queen's portrait on the 78p FDC stamp has faint horizontal lines. The background of the presentation pack 88p stamp appears to have vertical lines, whereas the FDC 88p stamp has horizontal lines. All of these are artifacts of scanning, but the presence of horizontal artifacts on the FDC stamps but not the presentation pack stamps indicates that they are different.

Even if my conclusion is correct about the stamps that I have, it may not be universally true. Douglas Myall suggested that there could be two types of presentation packs, one containing stamps printed sideways from the coil and the other containing stamps printed upright, presumably from sheets.

I would be very interested in hearing other opinions about these stamps. Have you ever seen a mint copy of recent Machins printed sideways right, or know of anyone who has? Do you know how presentation packs are produced and whether it is possible that coil stamps were used for them? Please let me know in the comments.



Luciano De Castris said...

Thank you, your comment is very interesting

Ian - Norvic said...

"The surrounding backing paper for [the stamps in the presentation pack] was guillotined and is therefore much narrower than on stamps torn from sheets using the roulette cuts."

Surely this is not new this year? SA stamps have been 'imperf' in packs for some time.

Ian - Norvic said...

Follow-up to my previous comment.

The stamps from packs are also shorter (including the backing paper) than those in sheets from which they are supposed to be cut. So how does this work?

The implication is that the ordinary counter sheets are rouletted in the usual way, and then a 4-blade* grid is applied to trim out the part of the backing paper with the rouletting on.

*4-blade, to get the paper with the vertical and horizontal rouletting out in one pass.

Is that really feasible? Any engineers out there ??

Ramona said...

This is great!