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The AHI Machin* Catalogue

Published and designed by Andrew Hill International, Astcote, Towcester NN12 8NW, UK design@andrewx.com 01327 831594

Reference No.

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.

Value

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.

Colour

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).

Phosphor

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-violet light. The most common types of application are bands,  running vertically down the stamp or some form of coating over the whole stamp area.

It is quite easy to detect whether a mint stamp has  bands or not - the phosphor shows as a matt area on the surface when the stamp  is viewed at an angle. Distinguishing between stamps which have either no coating, 'all over' phosphor, phosphor coated paper and the later advanced coated paper is much more difficult and really does require an ultra-violet lamp. Fortunately, most issues will have other more clearly distinguishing features but there are still several values, noticeably the 2p, which can  be found in virtually every conceivable type!

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-looking  colour as a result. I kept examples of these together with their duller  counterparts and it wasn't until some time later that I read about the different types of PCP that were being used on some issues. I have, therefore, included  all instances where I understand that the shiny PCP2 was used as this produces a very clearly identifiable separate stamp. Where only one type of PCP was used I have left the reference as PCP without a number.

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 - but you'll need a lamp to detect some of them!

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-violet lamp all at the same time, detection will be troublesome. Should there be any items for which band width is, indeed, the sole distinction then I suppose I shall have to include them - and will do, when I get round to it.

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.

Printer

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.

Perforation

This is quite a fun, and mercifully clear-cut  section. All you need is a perforation gauge. I do not intend to even try and  detect one type of perforating machine from another and the imperforate sides that I have featured are those that were specifically produced to give booklets straight edges. (These are some of my favourite items and very worthwhile items to collect). If a machine went wrong and sliced across a sheet then that's an  error and, whilst possibly very attractive and eminently collectable as an extra, the results are not featured here.

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.

Type

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-section of 'type'  for some issues is the type of adhesive used. Obviously, this can only be  detected on unused stamps and, whilst few of us will mount our stamps face down,  there is a clearly visible difference between those I have listed. As for some  of the other features described elsewhere, there have been many errors resulting in the wrong type of adhesive being applied and even cases of none being put on  at all! There are also some lovely examples of stamps printed on the gummed side  of the paper! Great fun as some of these may be, I have to exclude them. Basically, if you can't readily see the difference in adhesive then I don't  include it as a separate item.

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-adhesives and Security features which I first tried to include under ;type’ but now have a separate column for.

Group

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!)

Group 1

The first low value  issues, 1971 -1989 (8p)

Group 2

The narrow value issues, 1975 (7p) to 1995  (5p)

Group 3

The elliptical perforations, 1993 (6p) to 1995 (19p)

Group 4

The ‘blue phosphor’ issues, 1995 (10p) to 1996 (63p)

Group 5

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!

Group 6

A few 2000 issues - the JM sheet 2000

Group 7

Those awkward 2003-2005 Byfleet reprints by DLR March 2003 to 2006 (I’m not sure about this!)

Group 8

DLR Dunstable RMS issues from 2005 but, again, I’m not really sure this isn’t the same as EME.

Group 9

Self-adhesives 2006 to date

Group 10

A few 2010 issues from the Machin miniature sheets by Cartor.

Issue

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-established earlier date. Where all I have been able to find has been a  month then because my database program insists on a more accurate date I have guessed at the first of the month. Just don't ask me for a first day cover!

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.

SG / BPB No.

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 - some work still needed there!

Prices

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.

Notes

I have also used the notes column to indicate where an item comes from - booklet names, usually, or reprint where another column is full already. As this serves also my own collection listing I may add notes to indicate items I seem to be missing - so if you have one do let me know!





Terms used in the lists