I have allocated a unique number to each item. This was much more difficult to figure out than it looks! I have got really fed up having to renumber my collection every year when Stanley Gibbons produce a new catalogue and was determined to find a system that might stand the test of time for you. I hope it works. It is simply the face value, expressed as a decimal and then the second and third decimal places indicate the variety. So 1.017 is the 17th variety of a 1p stamp. 10.501 is the first variety of a 10½pstamp.
This is the face value of the stamp. I have not included the p in most decimal issue listings but the £sd listings will include the appropriate symbols.
The series now runs from ½p to 201/2 p in 1/2p steps with just 14½ and 18½ missing. It continues now to 5op with only one gap, 21p. Then it staggers a bit and winds its way up to £5 via strange stations like 97p and £1.90 at the time of writing.
Of course, if it wasn't for the desire of someone somewhere to give us a single stamp for virtually anything, all we really need are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, £1, £2 and £5 to make up all the values without too much trouble with 1st and 2nd thrown in for good measure and convenience. In a way, though, I'm quite glad the mad system persisted although I do wonder how many 49ps will actually be used as intended.
The main small format £p decimal list has 811 items, which quite surprised even me but explains why it took so long to edit recently.
Most of the descriptions of pre 1990 stamps follow the SG lists, and Philatelic Bureau lists afterwards. In some cases I have used an alternative where I think it is a better guide to the colour. In my view this is, after the denomination, the main distinguishing feature of a stamp. It is the marvellous array of colours that makes a collection so attractive, and the way in which the type of colouring, and attempts at allocation of standard colours over the years have had an impact, which can make a collection intriguing.
There are two considerations for colour. The first is the obvious one: when there is a deliberate change of colour for a particular value then that produces a new stamp. The second consideration is the criteria for including a variation in the shade of that colour. Many variations are the result of a different printing process, or a different printer, so those issues will be included for that reason. The only others I have included are those stamps where quite distinct shades exist that can be detected in normal light and which I have found recorded by other reputable dealers (although no single dealer that I have encountered has all of them).
Practically all definitive stamps have for 40 years had some form of phosphor coating applied over their surface. This enables sorting machines to distinguish first class post by detection of the bands' reaction to ultra-
It is quite easy to detect whether a mint stamp has bands or not -
I make no apologies for including variations PCP1 and PCP2 in several issues. This is because I had noticed some extremely shiny items appearing in 1980 with often quite rich-
I am somewhat troubled by having to include the blue phosphor issues that started to appear in 1995. Apart from those with other changes, I would probably have never noticed but the British Philatelic Bureau made a huge marketing effort, launching the issues with mailshots galore as if they were something quite remarkable! Much as though I would love to have had checklists for some other things and never did get them, they even sent out regular updates listing what we should all have and when the next ones would be appearing. It was all quite extraordinary but made a pleasant change from the centre stage being virtually permanently occupied by commemoratives and mugs. Accordingly the blue phosphor issues simply have to be included -
Something I have yet to attend to is the business of bars. Whereas most issues were produced with bands of phosphor running across the whole sheet there have been many occasions when a first class stamp has been printed adjacent to a second class stamp and the process of running a band or two across a whole sheet wouldn't work. This has applied principally in the production of booklets featuring mixed panes of stamps. (This is also where most of the left and right band variations come from.) In order to ensure that the first class two bands didn't overlap onto the second class single band someone had the bright idea of printing phosphor in bars, each bar being somewhat shorter than the height of the stamp to reduce the likelihood of overlap. These are quite easy to spot of nice new clean booklet panes but it can be quite a task to determine whether a band is really a bar on used items and even some single mint stamps. Detection can be further complicated by the fact that not all bands are as clear as we would like them to be and there are inevitably going to be examples where the phosphor drains off at one edge and what should be a band looks like a bar. Luckily for us, practically all instances of bars appear on stamps which feature in the catalogue as a result of other criteria but I am conscious of the fact that there must be a few which exist with identical criteria apart from one variety having bands and another bars and that these must be included. I just have to admit to not having got round to that job to date.
If anyone is desperate to know if they are missing something then I am happy to advise on individual issues in the meantime.
A similar argument applies to my omission of reference to the width of bands or bars. They do come in a range of widths but unless you are disposed to operate a magnifying glass, ruler and ultra-
Incidentally, if there is anyone out there who has completed this bit of research I would be glad to hear from you and will gladly include appreciative comments, links or whatever is reasonably demanded.
What you won't find in my lists are 'missing phosphors'. I accept that they exist and many dealers list them and they do seem to command high prices but they remain accidents in my opinion and, whilst of interest maybe to some, in the same way that printing errors can be collectable, they simply don't meet my criteria for this catalogue. Looking at the number that exist, and the prices demanded, I would feel obliged to include a link to providers of second mortgages if I were ever to change that view.
There have been just six different printing firms involved with decimal Machins. The work of each can be distinguished fairly readily with a good magnifying glass and a bit of practice. Many are quite distinct and have produced a clearly different stamp. Even where great effort has been made to match colours, and the processes used nearly identical, I have felt it right to recognise items produced by different firms.
Recent issues present few variations but the early stamps featured several different types of Queen's head. There are quite a lot of instances where this is the sole distinguishing feature between one stamp and another but it is an important one. I shall include some illustrations in a short while to help with spotting the differences.
Mergers have resulted in changes in printing firms and the current team are De La Rue, Walsall, Enschede and Cartor. I've used fairly obvious abbreviations, the only problem being Waddington and Walsall if there's just a W. I have also used the Printer column to indicate which type of head was used, mainly by Harrison in the earlier days, so the H is often omitted. Q stands for the House of Questa, now part of De La Rue.
This is quite a fun, and mercifully clear-
If you are offered something of this ilk then do be careful as we have all, in our youth, tried trimming off perforations and it isn't that difficult to produce some apparently spectacular items. Check the margins and overall dimensions very carefully and check with me first. Most instances of genuine imperforate varieties are well documented now.
This ubiquitously named section I have used principally to identify the different value tablets used in printing. The obvious examples are the first, wide, values displayed which are easily recognised when viewed next to a similar value in the more recent, narrower, format. There are quite a few more variations, however, and even in the early 70s there were distinct differences in tablets used in attempts to make the face value clear. I have used what I understand to be the generally accepted numbering of these types but will include illustrations soon to help in their identification.
The other feature included as a sub-
More recently I've used the Type column to distinguish the 1997 new printings which created a pretty clear new series and RMS printing which produces a usually much clearer, sharper image. I don't really understand this all yet and am investigating but thought I'd mention why I've added that 'type'. There are also now self-
To make life easier for myself some years ago I decided to divide the massive range of Machins into groups. This was the best way I could devise to figure out when and where to stop one album and start another. Without doing this I would still be forever moving stamps from page to page. No matter how much room one leaves for a value that might appear in future it is either never enough or it is another that develops into a lengthy series quite out of the blue. (We have only recently had a 40p but the strange 39p and 41p values occupy 14 spaces as just singles to date!)
The first low value issues, 1971 -
The narrow value issues, 1975 (7p) to 1995 (5p)
The elliptical perforations, 1993 (6p) to 1995 (19p)
The ‘blue phosphor’ issues, 1995 (10p) to 1996 (63p)
The 1997 type printings, April 1997 to about 2003. I think this is the EME image that experts and general catalogues now refer to, in which case I may merge 7 and 8 with this but when first doing this in 2006 EME wasn’t a term much in use!
A few 2000 issues -
Those awkward 2003-
DLR Dunstable RMS issues from 2005 but, again, I’m not really sure this isn’t the same as EME.
A few 2010 issues from the Machin miniature sheets by Cartor.
Simply the date that I understand a particular stamp was first available to the public. This is nearly always the official issue date as advised by the Post Office but there are a few items where there is a well-
For the reprints in 2003 I have put the date sheets appear to have been printed which must be the earliest appearance but they may have been actually issued somewhat, even considerably, later. For the RMS issues I've used a similar approach.
To help you figure out which are which in your own collection I started noting the Stanley Gibbons catalogue numbers where I could. Sometimes I have put in a booklet pane reference where this is more helpful and more recent issues have the British Philatelic Bureau order reference number instead. I am afraid that I haven't had an opportunity to update all these reference numbers before publishing this. As I’m sure SG have made big changes again since I last checked then please accept my apologies and dig out an old edition.
Things get worse as I notice that BPB seem to allocate the same number to more than one stamp! When the previous one is off the list, that is, or at least I hope so. So, there's some serious renumbering to be done here in due course I suppose. Groan. Haven't looked at an SG catalogue for years. Sorry -
I should by now have deleted the Price columns as they were changing so quickly. Once I have established some sensible correlation to published catalogues then I shall add price indications for the less common items. I am not doing this for commercial interest and am not a dealer. I don’t sell stamps but may be interested in buying. If I do include a price then it will be primarily for interest and to highlight what some interesting items are doing.
I have also used the notes column to indicate where an item comes from -