Blog2023 New IssuesThe History of the Machin, the Legacy of the Barcode

The History of the Machin, the Legacy of the Barcode

The History of the Machin, the Legacy of the Barcode

V-Number Barcoded Machins - Queen Elizabeth II's Final Legacy

Queen Elizabeth II's reign has been one of the most iconic in British history, spanning over six decades. Throughout her reign, she had a significant impact on the country's culture, politics, and economy. One of the most enduring legacies of Queen Elizabeth II's reign has been her presence on postage stamps, particularly the Machin Head design. In 2023, the final stamps featuring the Machin Head design were issued, marking the end of an era.

1967 - Machins Replace Wildings

The Machin Head design was first introduced in 1967, in the Pre-Decimal Machin era. It was created by the artist Arnold Machin, who was commissioned to design a new effigy for coins and to replace the Wilding design on stamps that had been in use since 1952. The Machin Head design was a departure from previous designs, featuring a profile of Queen Elizabeth II rather than a full-face portrait. The design was an instant success and has been in use ever since, making it one of the most iconic stamps in British history.

Wilding Stamp (Top) and Decimal Machin (Below)

1970 - Machins are Decimalised

The Machin design has been featured on many stamps with new and innovative features, adding not only layers of anti-forgery protection, but many intricacies that add to the visual appeal of the stamps. To browse all different series of GB Stamps featuring the Machin Head, click here.

The first decimal Machins were larger than previous definitive stamps. Considered as a high-value definitive, SG829-831b had face values ranging from 10p to £1.00.

SG829-831b, the first decimal Machin series.

In 1971 we saw the first "standard" sized decimal Machins, in the series of X-Values.

It would be some years late, in 1993, that the next innovation in stamp security was introduced to the Machin series. Elliptical Perforations were included on a range of NVIs and the Y-Value series.

SG2124, an iconic Non Value Indicator with Elliptical Perforations.

In 2009 several new updates were made to the Machin Definitives. U-Values are often referred to as "Security Machins" as they have several features that make it difficult to create forgeries, or re-use circulated stamps. Original issues featured U-shaped slits on the face (making it difficult to peel-off unfranked stamps to re-use) and self-adhesive backing (making it impossible to soak them off the envelope to re-use, as self-adhesive stamps dissolve). Later U Value issues feature an iridescent overprint on the face, with a source code and a year code, making forgeries easier to identify.

U3012 with the iridescent overprint clearly visible. Note the 4 U-shaped slits in the bottom corners, and the elliptical perforations on either side.

The Final Hurrah of the Machin Head Design

In 2021 the Royal Mail updated the Machin Definitive format to include a new Barcode, with other security features being carried over from the U-Numbers. The new barcoded stamps are known as V-Numbers. The barcodes have been introduced to facilitate future innovations, such as tracking of letters and sharing personalised messages, which can be accessed by scanning the barcode with a smartphone app. Against a backdrop of declining postal volumes, Royal Mail hopes that adding digital features like these will encourage people to send more letters.

These stamps were largely issued in sheets and booklets of 4 or 8 pieces. Royal Mail issued the first Prestige Booklet containing a barcoded stamp in May 2022, with the release of DY43 Unsung Heroes - Women of WW2.

V4500, the first Barcoded Machin Head

We see the key security feature of U-Numbers continued in V-Numbers, with a security code and year code overprinted onto the stamp, the codes varying depending on which year and media the stamp was printed in (sheet, booklet, business sheet or prestige booklet).

The final stamps issued with the Machin Head design were printed in Prestige Booklets, with the last stamp appearing in DY47 Flying Scotsman, in March 2023.

V4720b (Top, 20p) and V4800a (Below, £2.00), the final 2 issues of the Machin Head design.

These final GB Stamps issued with the Machin Head design mark the end of an era, a momentous occasion in British postal history. The Machin design has been a constant presence in the lives of the British people, a symbol of the country's rich history and enduring traditions, and these final stamps will be a cornerstone in the albumof any collector of GB definitives.

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