Thursday 7 September 2023

Why the Machin replacement definitives shouldn't be called the "Jennings" definitives.

As regular readers will know the definitive stamps of King Charles III feature a portrait of His Majesty The King created by Martin Jennings for the obverse of the new UK coinage and subsequently adapted for use on stamps.  As such some collectors and writers have referred to them as the 'Jennings definitives'.

The new coin effigy was carefully adjusted and digitally re-lit to make it suitable for use on definitive stamps, with the aim of creating a worthy successor to Arnold Machin’s classic image of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth. As with all new stamps, the image was approved by HM The King.

However, an interesting story crossed my screen last week from a reader who alerted me to a YouTube video by Graham Beck. 

Graham has produced the Exploring Stamps series of 137 videos (so far), and others which have done so much to engage youth collectors especially, but collectors of all age groups worldwide.  These were especially welcome during the Covid pandemic.

Graham approached Martin Jennings for an interview, and the response was interesting to say the least.

Martin Jennings from Exploring Stamps Video.

Apparently Jennings wasn’t happy with the resulting stamp. 

He produced a bas-relief sculpture for the coin, which was its intended purpose (see above)

Royal Mail took that design and did not consult him when they then turned it into the postage stamp, despite his requesting collaboration when he found out that they were using his sculpture. 

Arnold Machin had used a deep relief (see below), a very defined relief sculpture that he then took several photographs of with several different combinations of lighting to create the famous Machin image. This (King Charles) image did not go through that process, and apparently it is a lot more flat than the Machin design, as can be seen by comparing the two pictures here.

(Text edited from video soundtrack with permission.)

Arnold Machin and Queen Elizabeth II deep relief sculpture. © Royal Mail Group.


Life's strange, isn't it?   Royal Mail have been approached for comment.


  1. Royal Mail having an intellectual property court case would top off the year for me!

    1. I suspect the IP belongs to the Royal Mint rather than Jennings but it's still daft of them to not at least consult him.

    2. There is precedent here. "A Timeless Classic" is a great reference book, and mentions the GPO's use of the Gillick portrait of QE2 WITHOUT ASKING THE ROYAL MINT WHO HAD COMMISSIONED THE PORTRAIT. It had already been used by some colonies, but with permission. GPO just steamed ahead without thinking. This happened more than 50 years ago. Slow learners.

  2. Arnold Machin (read in Douglas Muir's A Timeless Classic or in Machin's Memoirs Artist of an Icon) and Edmund Dulac (read Colin White biography) explained why they proposed completely different bas relief sculpture for the stamps of QE2 and KG6, after the coin heads were released. I am no able to understand arts, but if both artists spend so much time on drawing, sclupting, lighting and photographing, there must have been a reason, especially when the GPO's got advisory council on what appeared on stamps. Something that the private Royal Mail may now lack.


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