World Stamps

By Michael Baadke

Born Sept. 30: Arnold Machin

September 30, 2016 03:30 AM

  • Sculptor Arnold Machin is pictured on the first-class stamp at left, issued by Great Britain's Royal Mail in 2007.

By Michael Baadke

British artist and sculptor Arnold Machin was born Sept. 30, 1911, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.

His name has been permanently linked with the Machin series of definitive stamps issued continuously by Great Britain’s Royal Mail since June 1967. The familiar stamps show a sculpted left-facing profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth II that was completed as a bas-relief in plaster by Machin.

Most of the Machin definitives have been issued in a single color, with a very broad range of colors employed over the course of nearly 50 years. The stamps have also been printed using a variety of processes, though most are printed by either gravure or offset lithography.

As a young teenager, Machin was an apprentice with a pottery firm before attending art school at Stoke-on-Trent. He became a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1947 after serving in prison during World War II as a conscientious objector. He later taught at the Royal College of Art. Machin died in 1999.

The Machin design has appeared on numerous other postage adhesives, including a series of Post & Go vended stamps issued in 2011 to mark Machin’s birth centenary.

In 2007, Royal Mail commemorated the 40th anniversary of Machin stamps by issuing a miniature sheet of four stamps, including two £1 Machin definitives in violet and ruby, respectively, a first-class commemorative depicting the 4-penny brown black Machin stamp issued June 5, 1967, and another first-class commemorative with a photographic portrait of Arnold Machin (Scott 2471).