Jean and I have just returned from a very pleasent and successful stamp exhibition in Norcross, just outside Atlanta. The exhibition is held in a fully modernized Hilton Hotel, the staff of which go out of their way to look after their guests and visitors. Although it was great to meet many returning friends, it was equally great to meet collectors either new, or returning, to the hobby.
ESPER held a meeting during the show and we were honored to meet up with some of their members at a Hospitality Reception. The Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections mission is to promote stamp collecting among the black community, as well as setting up events related to the African Diaspora. It was good to meet some of their membership & Jean and I hope that we will have an opportunity to meet up with them again.
We are pretty fortunate, in the Central Florida Stamp Club, to have two “maniacs” among our membership – two and a half if you count me as well. I say ‘fortunate’ not directly because of their particular (read ‘peculiar’) collecting passion, but because they both have the desire (not to mention time, patience & knowledge) to take on such a challenging collecting area as the Great Britain definitives. This tells me that we have two very serious philatelists who we can use as “go to guys” not only with regard to Machins but to get advice on many other aspects of the hobby and our own personal collecting interests. This is not to say that CFSC is not blessed with a number of other very knowledgeable collectors who specialize in other areas of this wonderful hobby and who are more than happy to share their knowledge as well.
However my subject for this article is Machins —-or rather a little known piece of Machin history. The story I am about to embark on is about a variety which is not mentioned in any Scott catalogue. More surprisingly it is not listed in Gibbons Great Britain Concise either.
The first Machins were issued back in 1967 . Machin definitive stamps have been in continuous use ever since in various denominations and non- denominations, and with differing colors, gums, inks, papers, perforations, phosphors, printing methods involving at least seven different printing companies, not to mention the postal forgeries produced by persons unknown!
More recently we have seen self-adhesives come onto the scene plus many new security devices that have been introduced and which create further new varieties – yes collecting Machins is not for the faint hearted!
The first Machins were issued during the pre-decimal period when 240 pennies equaled one Pound Sterling. Great Britain changed to decimal currency in March,1971. The Post Office had to issue stamps with new (decimal) values and this is when Machin studies really took off! To date well over 5000 different varieties are out there to be discovered, including many issued in regular or Prestige booklets, coil strips, souvenir and miniture sheets. Then of course there are the errors –oh yes the ERRORS!
Right from the beginning the demand for these definitive stamps for postal use was constant and heavy – more for some values, not so much for others. Harrison’s, the principal printers, had at least three production lines running almost continuously to keep up with demand. New innovations were introduced to increase productivity, including the introduction of new perforating equipment.
Between 1973 and 1982 Harrisons employed Kampf (Germany) perforating technology.
In 1982 Harrisons started to replace Kampf machines with APS produced equipment. APS is an acronym of the name of the Swedish company (Ab Produktion Svenska) that manufactured the perforating equipment and has nothing to do with our national stamp collectors’ organization.
The APS machine did not actually penetrate the stamp paper as we might expect. Instead the process used pins to dimple the paper; the raised dimple would then be ground off to create the hole. It left a hole that appeared a bit ragged and the operation also produced very fine paper dust. You can see the dust on the gum side of the stamp below freshly ground holes in fig 2
THE PLOT THICKENS!
Back in 1984, an APS machine on one of Harrison’s three production lines, malfunctioned and as a result had to be repaired. No one seems to know whether the technician had eaten ‘magic mushrooms’ or was dreaming of a fresh elicit love affair that might be in the offing, but for some reason he (maybe she) made a mistake. In attempting to repair a broken pin, a hole was drilled on either side of it. Somehow, inadvertently, a pin was added into both new holes thus creating a 17 pin compound perforated Machin variety. Why this was done is a complete mystery!
Even for the stamps manufactured on the repaired production line, the variety does not appear on every sheet because only a single perforating (dimpling) drum was ‘repaired’. The error only appears on “dot” cylinder panes between stamp columns 1 and 2 (this is where the extra pin was inserted) and then only once every 26 rows. This means that the position of the error varies up and down from sheet to sheet. Every so often the error occurs in a cylinder block.
In the know collectors hunt for cylinder blocks with this variety and failing that a marginal block of six with the variety is desirable. Obviously there are a lot more opportunities to find regular blocks with the variety than similarly affected cylinder blocks but both add spice to any collection.
The drum was removed from service in 1986. This helps explain why these anomalies are quite scarce.
There is no official reason why some values feature this variety and others don’t. It is likely that as orders came in from the post office, production was allocated to the various manufacturing lines to optimize production change over and set up time. Harrisons would have had an eye on their bottom line and shareholder profit! Thus by happenstance only some values became scheduled to be produced on the affected manufacturing line. It seems that the scarcest cylinder block with the 17 hole variety is the 16p brownish-gray – Sc # MH94, with the 50p bister-brown – Sc# MH159 a close 2nd.
The variety is not all that easy to spot. I find the easiest way is to look for the dot control. If it is a block without a cylinder control mark, it is best to scan down the row of perforations between the first two stamps at the left of the sheet – look for a misalignment of holes in line with the lower left corner of the stamp in column two; this is fairly easy to spot even for these old eyes, when you know what you are looking for. When such a misalignment is found we need to look back up the row of holes immediately above. The holes typically form a shallow arc & the fourth stamp up from the corner is very close to the one above it. I am always interested in hearing of, and acquiring these discoveries. Good hunting!
First we are looking forward to meeting friends old and new in Atlanta on the weekend of January 30 to February 1. We will have many new items for sale including some delightful collections.
The following weekend we will be back in Florida at the Sarasota National Stamp Exhibition – always a GREAT show in a delightful setting.
Then we’re off to Ft. Lauderdale for the ASDA Spring show. The show is at a new location which we’re told is excellent with lots of free parking. We hope to have some Cuba material for this event.
It is planned that these three shows will span three consecutive weekends in 2016 onward. So if you cannot make all three this year, consider a vacation next year to encompass all three shows. We think you will find such a plan really rewarding.
As always we will have many items from Great Britain & Commonwealth as well as our eagerly sought after World Wide Topicals.
Florex starts today – dealers & exhibitors were busy at the Florida Fair Grounds yesterday setting up their various displays. I saw dealers from as far away as California as well as from Canada and the UK – a truely International Show. This annual exhibition is well worth a visit – if you can’t arrange to be there this year, it is not too early to start to plan for next December.
We know of at least one UK based collector who will be there today.
Jean and I will be delighted to welcome you to the show over the next 3 days.
We are excitedly preparing new stock for the upcoming Florex Stamp Exhibition which will be held at the Florida Fair Grounds on December 5th. through 7th. In our opineon, this show, along with the Sarasota National Stamp Exhibition, comprise the finest stamp shows in the US south-east and certainly worth a visit.
We will have new specialist Great Britain, British Empire goodies as well as our array of world wide ‘TOPICAL” issues. Please come by & stay awhile with Jean and me. We look forward to seeing you again. You will find single stamps; covers – stampless to first days; many complete definitive sets; errors, plus our famous “NEAT STUFF”
Remember there is always something new at Collectors Exchange!
We are proud to announce that our John Latter has been appointed United States Director of the CSDA. He follows in the footsteps of Mr. Martin (Marty) Cole, who served in this position for a number of years & has now retired. John’s major tasks are to bring the concerns of US residents (both collectors and dealers) to the notice of the Canadian organization, as well as promote the advantages of US dealers becoming members of CSDA and encouraging them to participate in stamp exhibitions north of the border. You are invited to call 407-620-0908 with any questions or concerns that you might have.