Thursday 20 May 2010

Machin MPIL variations - accidental or deliberate?

The George V prestige stamp book predictably contains a Machin pane which, predictably brought us some new stamps.  This is a scan of the actual pane, containing 2nd & 1st class stamps, and a 50p, the first self-adhesive PSB pane with small Machin definitives.

Of course these have security features, so the source code, at top right is MPIL and the year code, to the left of the eye, is MA10.  So far so good.

Collectors of Smilers Sheets - especially collectors who have used these stamps on FDCs, know that at an early stage either the printers or Royal Mail's production department recognised that there was a chance that in use the labels could become detatched from the stamp, thus destroying the link and purpose of the personalised stamps.  So these sheets included 'hangers' - interrupted die-cut perforations which were designed to keep the label and stamp together.  This is an enlarged image from the 2003 Christmas Robins sheet.

It was no suprise, then, that the same features exist in this PSB pane - after all, Royal Mail standard PSB FDCs always use the definitive pane, and they couldn't have their machinery gummed up with stamps which should be on the covers.

The first panes we received had a single hanger in the perforation hole immediately above the elliptical (long) perforation hole.   These panes also had the security slits in two types - at the bottom the divided 'paperclip' and at the top, a continuous paper clip.

The panes in the books - and later loose panes - are completely different.  Both 'paperclips' are divided, but more significant are the three additional hangers (see type B to the right of the illustration).  An additional hanger is in the 5th hole from the top on the long sides of the stamp, and two more are on both the short sides, five holes in from either corner, making 8 hangers in all.  These differences apply to all three stamps, so if you are a specialist collector for this sort of detail there are 6 new stamps, not 3.

So -  a deliberate change because either the printer had problems preparing the books or Royal Mail had problems with the handling & FDCs for this pane, or just a minor variation.  Or is it, perhaps, something that Royal Mail's production department have introduced to make Machin collectors even more interested, something to get you keenly examining every copy of every new stamp to find out whether there are unannounced differences ? 

I'd be interested in any further variations to this pane either in the hangers or the paperclips.

Now on Sale
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  1. Ian,
    With regards to illustration B are you saying there are eight hangers, two on each side? My panes taken from complete booklets show two on each side making a total of eight.

  2. Thanks BM, that is exactly what I meant and I have now edited the original to make that clear.

    I'm still waiting to see what the panes are like on RM's sets of 4 FDCs, which reminds me I must make a phone call to find out when they will arrive !

  3. The pane in my booklet has a singe hanger in the perf hole above the elliptical perf, just like the first ones you received.

  4. So both types were distributed to cover producers loose, and both types are in the booklets.

    It seems as if the Type B is more common, though?

  5. Your term "hangers" is more correctly referred to as "ties" in the print industry, i.e they tie one stamp to the next, or, as here, one stamp to its matrix.

    It would have been impossible for dealers, collectors and Royal Mail to service FDCs of this pane without them when attempting to remove the pane from its backing sheet.

    Incidentally, it would not surprise me if Royal Mail used coils of the pane to affix at Tallents House if volumes to service were sufficently large to warrant a special printing, as they do with self-adhesive miniature sheets. It might be worth checking an RM FDC against the pane from the booklet for any signs of a difference.

  6. Glenn,

    Thanks for that clarification, I was sure the print industry would have a different term but I am out of touch.

    It wouldn't surprise me at all to find that the RM FDCs are different and I intended to look at them at the BDC during the week. Sadly I found that they had stuck rigidly to their rule and returned Saturday's unsold stock to Edinburgh rather than keeping Saturday's FDCs on sale for the whole week - I'm sure they would have sold more (as they would have if they had sold serviced covers of the Machin Souvenir Sheet!).

    Don't forget also that there are two RM FDCs: the normal one with half a pane, and the one in the set of 4 which is a whole pane. There could be two sets of coils for these covers!


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