World Stamps

By David Alderfer

Great Britain Philately: Six new stamps issued in Great Britain’s Machin series

March 25, 2015 09:19 PM

  • Increases in Great Britain’s international postage rates on March 31 caused Royal Mail to add new denominations to the long-running Machin stamp series. The official names of the colors are amber yellow on the £1.33 stamp, orchid mauve on the £1.52 and plum purple on the £2.25.

  • Increases in three other international rates for large-size envelopes resulted in these three new denominations in new colors: spruce green, £2.45; aqua green, £3.15; and rose pink, £3.30.

  •  The year code for stamps printed in 2015 can be seen embedded in the security iridescent overprint in front of the queen’s diadem, “M15L” on this graphically cropped image of the top of the nondenominated first-class stamp.

Every year, near the beginning of March, Great Britain’s Royal Mail announces changes to domestic and international postage rates for the coming year, usually meaning new stamps in the long-running Machin series of Queen Elizabeth II definitive stamps.

Increases to six distinct international rates that went into effect March 31 bring six new Machin denominations and four never before seen colors to the series. The stamps were issued March 24.

The international airmail second step rate (for up to 20 grams) to countries outside Europe increased to £1.33, from £1.28.  The new denomination is printed in amber yellow, a color used in 2013 for the 88-penny value. The phased-out £1.28 denomination was emerald green.

A second increase in international rates is £1.52 to Europe for up to 100 grams. The new denomination is printed in orchid mauve, a color also previously used in 2013 for the 78p stamp. The new £1.52 stamp supersedes the £1.47 denomination introduced last year, which was printed in dove gray.

A third new Machin denomination this year is £2.25, paying the worldwide rate up to 100 grams for standard-size envelopes to countries outside Europe. The stamp is printed in a newly introduced color called plum purple and takes the place of the £2.15 stamp printed in marine turquoise introduced last year.

Three more higher denominations were brought into use with this year’s rate increases.

Since August 2006, Royal Mail has charged different rates for standard-size letters and for large-size letters within Great Britain.  This is known as pricing in proportion. This is the first year that Royal Mail also applied the pricing in proportion scheme to international mail.

Regular size is up to approximately 9¾ inches by 6½ inches, and large size is up to approximately 14 inches by 9.8 inches.

Three additional new Machins pay duties on large envelopes weighing up to 100 grams for the three pricing zones of international mail: Europe; zone 1, which includes North America, South America, Africa and Asia; and zone 2, which includes primarily Australia and New Zealand.

Royal Mail eliminated any lower rates for weight steps under 100 grams for large size envelopes.

A £2.45 denomination in spruce green pays the airmail rate to Europe up to 100 grams for large letters.  

Another new Machin stamp is printed in aqua green and pays the £3.15 rate for large letters up to 100 grams to zone 1.

The highest denomination of the new Machins,   £3.30, pays the postal duty for large size letters weighing up to 100 grams to zone 2. Its color is rose pink.
De La Rue printed these new stamps by gravure.

All six new denominations have security U-shaped slits in the lower half and are overprinted with iridescent ink for security purposes.

In 2013, Royal Mail began to develop a new palette of colors for Machin definitives. This brought an end to reliance on the palette developed by Jeffrey Matthews standardized in 1993.

Royal Mail called the new palette Jubilee. The first new color in the Jubilee palette was Royal Mail red, used for the nondenominated first-class stamp starting in 2013.

Of the six new Machin stamps, two colors had already appeared in the Jubilee palette, being reused after a hiatus of one year; and the other four colors are new additions.

A security feature introduced by Royal Mail in 2009 was overprinting stamps with a text pattern in iridescent ink, which is difficult for counterfeiters to duplicate and thereby authenticates genuine Royal Mail’s products.

The six new Machins bear the year code for 2015. The two-number year, “15,” has replaced the letters “AI” in the word “MAIL” located in the iridescent overprint in front of the queen’s diadem.  The year code becomes “M15L.”

In addition to the aforementioned postal rates, Royal Mail increased the cost of the basic domestic first-class letter 1p, from 62p to 63p, an increase of 1.6 percent. The second-class rate also increased only 1p, from 53p to 54p, an increase of 1.9 percent.  

The current nondenominated first-class stamp stamp printed in Royal Mail red and the current nondenominated second-class stamp in light blue remain unchanged in design and color.  

Royal Mail also increased the first-step rate for standard-size worldwide airmail from 97p to £1. As a £1 stamp in wood brown is currently available, there was no need for a new £1 stamp.

With this rate increase, collectors in America can look for airmail letters from Britain bearing £1 stamps instead of 97p stamps.

The number of Machin denominations continues to grow with the addition of six for 2015.

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