News Machin Stamp

Published on December 18th, 2013 | by admin

The Machin Stamp

As today marks the deadline for posting items using second class stamps before Christmas, we thought this would be an opportune moment to explore the lifespan of the Machin postage stamp which spans over 40 years featuring a sculptured profile of the Queen as a silhouette.

Machin stamps are named after Arnold Machin who designed them using the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. An estimated 180 billion Machin stamps have been produced since The Stamp Advisory Committee chose Arnold Machin’s stamp design featuring a plaster cast of The Queen wearing a tiara to be the standard UK postage stamp.

The Machin stamp came into existence because of a requirement to simplify the identification of British postage stamps. Whilst the design may appear simple, there have in fact been more than a thousand varieties of different colours and values.

First issued on 5th June 1967, the initial three Machin stamps issued were:

  • 4d olive sepia
  • 1/ aconite violet
  • 1/9 orange and olive brown


On 8th August 1967, a further three Machin stamps were then issued:

  • 3d spectrum violet
  • 9d winchester green
  • 1/6 turquoise and garter blue group_02_complete

While further variations of the Machin stamp were in circulation in 1968 and 1969, the next significant milestone of these stamps occurred in 1970 when the first variations featuring decimal values were issued. Available pre-decimalisation, four variations of the Machin stamp were issued on 17th June 1970: A 10p stamp in cerise, a 20p stamp in olive green, a 50p stamp in deep ultramarine and a £1 stamp in bluish black.



A replacement for the Machin stamp series was earmarked on several occasions during the 1980’s but proposed changes were abandoned on each occasion as new designs failed to meet with approval from the Stamp Advisory Committee. 22nd August 1989 marked the first appearance of non-denominated Machin stamps which carried the ‘1st‘ and ‘2nd‘ indicators denoting the class of service that was paid for.




Amongst the landmark versions in the lifespan of Machin stamps, the 10th January 1990 saw the 150th anniversary of the Penny Black stamp. To mark this occasion, special Machin designs were issued showing Queen Victoria (from the Penny Black) placed behind the familiar Queen Elizabeth Machin portrait. The Penny Black Anniversary Machins saw denominations issued in light blue (15p), black (20p), purple (29p), slate blue (34p) and red (37p).


A further notable landmark for Machin stamps occurred on 19th October 1993 when the first self-adhesive Machin stamp was made available.


Whilst there have been numerous changes in colour and value of Machin stamps over time, the effigy on British stamps has never been updated with the most recent proposals to make changes rejected by the Queen herself. To celebrate 40 years of Machin stamps, collectible stamps presented in souvenir sheet and prestige booklet format were issued on 5th June 2007.

With so many variations in Machin stamps since 1967, which have been the highest value you might ask? A £5 royal blue and pale pink was issued on 2nd February 1977. On 9th March 1999 a £5 brown Machin stamp was issued and the most recent £5 stamp was issued on 17th July 2009 as a self-adhesive grey blue stamp.



Whilst the majority of Machin stamps featured the monetary value in the bottom left corner, notable exceptions include the ‘E blue’ stamp issued on 19th January 1999. This Machin stamp featured the letter ‘E’ which was a new non-denominated stamp issued to pay the letter rate to the rest of Europe.


For over 40 years Machin stamps have almost always appeared in a single colour. A notable exception to this was in 2003 when non-denominated airmail Machins were released for Europe and Worldwide destinations.



We had a chat with Roger Dedman who spoke recently at the Leeds Philatelic Society about his experience with Machins, and to better understand how collectors see the series:

Are there collectors in the community who focus exclusively on the Machin series?

Yes there are, so much so that there is a Machin Collectors Club which specialises, needlessly to say, in Machins, with monthly news letters, an online auction, two gatherings a year, publication of a Machins Catalogue and a website

Many collectors steer clear of Machins! One philatelic meeting I went to where members brought 10 or so sheets of their own to display, there were groans when I got up with 10 sheets of Machins, and that was some 10 years ago!


What advice would you give to collectors who are interested in starting to collect Machins?

Have a deep pocket! Because of the minor variations, e.g. gum, perforations, printing methods  and within the last 4 years – the date of printing being included in the background of each stamp as well as its source. Some items can cost £200+!


Are there any areas within the Machin series on which collectors can focus?

There are sub sections, e.g. coils, booklet source material, and Prestige books always have a sheet of mixed Machins.

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