Friday, 11 December 2009

Now, the 2nd class Machin with 4 security slits.

Following our report of the 1st class Machin stamp appearing in kiloware with four security slits we have now been sent an image of the 2nd and 1st with four slits.

These are soaked off and have machine wavy-line postmarks so
(a) we don't know where they were posted, and
(b) they have been through mechanised sorting unlike most of the other odd-ball security Machins which have packet handstamps.
Both these and the previous 1st class (shown again below) have very flat 'tops' to the perforations, similar to, but possibly flatter than, the Walsall stamps in mixed booklets, and are probably from business sheets. But their real origin remains a matter of speculation.

We still await any reports of these found unused.


  1. I find this discovery interesting, but, as you say, somewhat suspicious. To have both the absence of the iridescent overprint and 4 security slits is a bit much at the same time. What's ùmore, you show examples which have been "soaked off" - I thought the whole point of the security stamps was to remove the soluble PVAl gum layer to make this impossible to do without tearing the stamps with the slits? Could it be therefore that these mysterious stamps are pre-security examples on which someone has found a way of adding as many pseudo-security slits as desired? Even if they are 'genuine', the fact that the slits apparently have uninterrupted arcs would indicate they are DLR rather than Walsall, also confirmed by the shape of the letters 'ST' in the value, totally different on walsall printings.

  2. Thank you for your comment Robert.

    The stamps are known with security slits and no overlay, with normal gum. We know this because when they were first mentioned to the trade at the Stampex briefing we were shown a Walsall-printed business sheet top panel, printed in March 2008, with slits and no overlay. Clearly there must have been trials.

    Let's consider the trial process, and let's assume that Royal Mail let the printers do the trials as they are familiar with security printing including stamps for other countries which may already have similar slits.

    Both De La Rue and Walsall would need to demonstrate various types of slit. The first demonstrations COULD be achieved by a hand-operated device like a self-inking datestamp or polling-station perforator, modified as to depth, like a cookie cutter. Once the STYLE of slit was decided upon, then production of stamps with the slits would need to be achieved on the printing machine, either during printing, or at the end of the process by a bolt-on device at the end of the process. (Although we now know that the security slits are NOT applied at the same time as the die-cut perforations.)

    The purpose of these trials would be to ensure that they were feasible, that applying the slits would not be detrimental to the printing machinery, and that the matrix could be lifted without any problems with the slit stamps. Satisfied at the stage, stamps should then have been supplied to Royal Mail so that they could be tested in handling, ie that the stamps lifted properly and completely from the backing paper or booklet covers. So they would pass public handling. They would also have to be tested through the sorting and cancelling machinery, to ensure no problems during the hi-speed run around corners etc. (There should not have been any problems of 'lift', any more than would occur from the edges of the stamps.)

    These tests and trials would only need to be done on one value - or possibly on small and Large stamps. They would be done on ordinary stamps (as in the sample we were shown) without the security overlay - no need to print a second layer on stamps that were not going to be used. Equally the adhesive would be the existing type with the water-soluble layer. Testing of different types of adhesive would also be necessary and could be carried out in parallel, ie on stamps without the security slits. We know, for instance, that some Christmas 2008 stamps were probably printed on the new paper as some were reported to be very difficult to soak.

    So we have stamps with security slits but no overlay on ordinary self-adhesive paper, but probably only 1st class. So how do we get four slits, and why 2nd class?

    Let's go back to the cookie-cutter tests. These could have been done on whole sheets, using various types of cutter - which may account for the extreme variability WITHIN some business sheets, as shown in the type 2a discussion

    And rather than waste stamps, the process COULD have been carried out twice per sheet, once inverted. No reason why this should not have happened in trials - but still it would only explain one value, there being no need that I can determine to test two different values.

  3. (continued - couldn't get it all in one comment!)
    Finally, there is the question of how these trials came to be in the public arena available for use, with the supplementary question of why there are no unused ones. If the use is genuine, we must assume that the trial versions were intentionally or unintentionally distributed along with other normal stamps of either type - security or pre-security. And with the millions of 1st & 2nd class stamps used every day it is quite fair that if they were not sent to Edinburgh Philatelic Bureau OR to Royal Mail Direct, then they would have been distributed to post offices and bought over the counter. Although some Machin collectors do scour the post offices of the country looking for the unusual, these could easily be missed. Even specialist dealers do not have time - or agents - looking in every post office.

    I accept that all this is pure conjecture - fantasy even! But until there is a better explanation this is a starting point.

  4. Why can't someone from Walsall or DLR give a definitive answer on this subject? After all they printed them, so someone there must know why, when and how many were printed, and who they sent them to, surely?
    Brian Coyle