Every year around March, Royal Mail (the British post office) announces changes in rates of its most-used services. Usually, the changes are increases.
This necessitates the introduction to the Machin definitive series of new denominations in different colors. The nickname for this long-running definitive stamp series is derived from the surname of Arnold Machin, the sculptor who created the original plaster relief of Queen Elizabeth’s profile that appears on the stamps.
This year, new rates went into effect March 31 resulting in four new Machin self-adhesive stamps for international services. The stamps were issued March 26.
Figure 1 shows two of these stamps denominated 97 pence and £1.47.
The 97p, in a color called purple heather, pays the weight step rate up to and including 20 grams on letters to Europe and up to and including 10 grams to the rest of the world. The international postcard rate is also 97p.
The third step rate for letters to Europe weighing more than 20 grams but less than 60 grams to Europe increased to £1.47. This stamp is printed in dove gray.
Figure 2 shows the other two new denominations, a marine turquoise £2.15 and a holly green 81p.
The third step international standard rate, 40 grams to 60 grams, increased to £2.15. International standard is the new name Royal Mail has given to worldwide airmail service.
Surface mail, which is now called international economy by Royal Mail, increased from 78p to 81p for up to and including 20 grams.
De La Rue Security Print printed the four new Machin definitives by graure in sheets of 25.
The worldwide airmail rate up to 20 grams is now £1.28, which is covered by an existing Machin series stamp printed in emerald and issued in 2012 (Scott MH417). Stamps bearing the year code for 2014 are likely to appear this year.
The four new colors, holly green, purple heather, dove gray and marine turquoise, now become part of the jubilee color palette.
This array of colors for Machin stamps received its name because it was introduced by Royal Mail in the queen’s diamond jubilee year, 2013.
Collector reaction to the new colors has been mixed.
One seller in Britain labeled them “tasteful tones,” while another called them “insipid.”
While the first-class rate increased by 2p, from 60p to 62p, on March 31 and the second-class rate increased 3p, from 50p to 53p, the current nondenominated Machin stamps in Royal Mail red and light blue, respectively, will remain unchanged in design and color.
Since February 2009, British definitives have been overprinted for security purposes with the words “ROYAL MAIL” repeated in wavy lines in iridescent ink. Figure 3 shows the 2013 1p stamp with this security overprint (Scott MH420).
Year codes, and sometimes source codes, are embedded in this text. They can be seen by holding a stamp at eye level obliquely to a bright light.
On the new stamps issued March 26, the year code for 2014 is embedded in the security overprint.
The iridescent text of the word “MAIL” located in front of the queen’s diadem has had the “AI” replaced with the year indicator “14,” making the year code “M14L.”
The year code usually indicates the year in which the stamps were printed, not necessarily the year they were issued.
Because the four new stamps are issued only in sheet format and because stamps from sheets do not have a code designating the source, they do not have a source code embedded in the security overprint.
So far this year, three additional Machin stamps with the 2014 year date code have appeared. The nondenominated first-class stamp in Royal Mail red, the regular-size nondenominated second-class stamp and the second-class large stamp used to pay postage on larger-than-normal sized envelopes also have been issued with the “M14L” code.
On the stamp for large-size mail items, the year code is located in front of the queen’s chin above the “ge” in “Large.”
In addition to the year code embedded in the iridescent security overprint, stamps whose source is other than regular sheets have an embedded source code.
Source codes denote whether a stamp originated in booklets of four (F), booklets of 12 (T), business sheets (B), prestige booklets (P), custom booklets containing both commemorative stamps and definitive stamps (C), or coil rolls (R).
For example, the nondenominated first-class stamp with the 2014 year code was issued in booklets of 12. The source code “T” for 12 is embedded in the word “MAIL” in the upper right corner above the diadem, replacing the letter “A” to form “MTIL.”
On April 15, Royal Mail issued a new prestige booklet with its Buckingham Palace stamp set. The Machin pane in the booklet includes three different denominations but no new colors: two 10p stamps in light tan, four 20p in light green and two £1 in wood brown.
All of these stamps have the year code for 2014 in front of the diadem and the source code “P” for prestige booklet embedded in the security overprint above the diadem.
The iridescent overprint on these stamps is often blurred and indistinct, making the year and source codes difficult to detect.
A custom booklet, which contains a combination of two commemoratives and four first-class Machin definitives, also was issued in conjunction with the Buckingham Palace stamps.
The definitive stamps in this booklet bear the 2014 year code and the source code “C” for custom booklet.
The Machin series, now 47 years old, continues to expand every year with new denominations for rate changes and varieties provided by new colors and the security features.