Autumn 2003

Machin Definitive UK postage stamps

Cock-ups appreciated by Paul Neale, Graphic Thought Facility

Examples of printing and production errors are particularly sought after by stamp collectors. Their market value is to a great extent proportional to the obviousness of the flaw.

The familiar Machin Definitive issue is a rich source of errors for collectors . In 1967 the General Post Office recognised an opportunity to create a reductive design and agreed to omit the ‘Postage Revenue’ wording, used in the previous series, from the design. As the first country to introduce the postage stamp, Great Britain has never been required to include the country name.

John Hedgecoe’s photograph of Arnold Machin’s bas-relief of the Queen has since appeared in over a hundred gravure and litho colourways. Best of all are the sixteen intense and subtle shades selected by Machin for the pre-decimal issues.

Though less spectacular than errors, the number of listed varieties (intentional amendments to the design and specification) are seemingly endless. Variations in process, paper, gum-type, phosphor bands, perforations and shades of colour run to over 770 pages in the Stanley Gibbons Decimal Definitive Catalogue, with ever more miniscule classifications.

Since I spend much of my day trying to get things produced properly, there’s a little irony in my appreciation of the cock-up, but it’s testimony to the beauty and iconic status of the Machin design that it wears its scars so well.

Paul Neale, Graphic Thought Facility, London

First published in Eye no. 49 vol. 13 2003

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