Monday, 30 January 2017

Linn's Reports Newly Discovered Machin Trials

(Updated February 1.)
In the February 13, 2017 edition, Linn's Stamp News reports the discovery of three Machin trials printed by Hélio Courvoisier SA of Switzerland in 1997.

The announcement was made by Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions LLC, a US auction house representing the owner of the three panes of 100, although the firm said that the owner has not yet made plans for sale. Linn's reports that British stamp dealer Allan Grant of Rushstamps also owns a set of panes and is donating them to the Postal Museum in London.

If you cast your mind back to the mid-1990s, you may recall that Royal Mail decided that all its definitives (except for certain small printings like prestige booklets) should be in gravure, a more secure printing method than lithography.

At that time, the House of Questa was printing Machin stamps by lithography but did not have gravure capability. Royal Mail approached Courvoisier, which had been printing stamps by gravure since 1931 and had a reputation for high quality.

Three denominations were included in the trial: 1st flame, 2p deep green, and 29p light gray. Sheets of 200 were fully finished, perforated and gummed, then cut into panes of 100 with the Courvoisier imprint in the vertical margins. Ian Billings' blog has more information with larger illustrations, and it shows the imprint to be "PRINTED BY HÉLIO COURVOISIER S.A. LA CHAUX-DE-FONDS, SWITZERLAND."

These appear to be trials to test whether Courvoisier could perform the complete production process. The only thing that was missing from the trial stamps were phosphor bands. And, of course, the value tablet.

There's no indication why these panes were kept secret until now. Printer records in the UK are kept sealed for 30 years, but this information is just under 20 years old. The fact that Allan Grant has a set of panes indicates that other sets may exist and that some other philatelists may have known of their existence.

The auction firm said that the quantity of panes printed is not known.

Stanley Gibbons will list these trials in the next version of the Great Britain Specialised Stamp Catalogue, Volume 4, Part 2

The panes will be displayed at the Kelleher stand at Spring Stampex in London on February 15-18.

Courvoisier shut down on April 30, 2001, and its business was purchased by Walsall Security Printers.

NOTE: Access to Linn's digital edition is currently free. Go to and click on FREE DIGITAL EDITION at the upper right.

NOTE: The 2p Machin shown above is obviously a genuine stamp, not one of the trials.


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