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Machin trials discovered after 20 years


Sheets of three trials of the Machin head, produced in 1997, have just come to light in this the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Arnold Machin’s iconic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.


The Machin definitives were first printed in lithography in 1980 as Royal Mail expanded its range of suppliers. However, by the mid-1990s it had decided that all the standard definitives should be printed in gravure. At the time The House of Questa, based in south London, did not have gravure capability. So authorisation was given by House of Questa for it to approach Helio Courvoisier SA of Switzerland, with the consent of the Royal Mail, probably with a view to subcontracting the gravure printing.


Courvoisier was founded in 1880 and started printing stamps in 1937. It was noted for the high quality of its photogravure work, but sadly it ran into financial difficulties and ceased trading in 2001.


The undenominated trials were undertaken on 20 October 1997 in sheets of 100 with the Courvoisier imprint along the vertical margins. They exist in three colours: deep green (as used for the 2p), light grey (as used at the time for the 29p), and flame (as used for 1st class). Courvoisier was able to utilise its work on the then current Kenya definitives, so these trials are printed on coated paper without phosphor bands, and have perforation 15 x 14 (although the stamp image is slightly smaller than that used on Machin definitives.


In the event no further involvement was made of Courvoisier. Questa, having been acquired by MDC Corporation, moved to premises in Byfleet where it had gravure facilities.


Stanley Gibbons have confirmed that they will be listed in the next Machin Decimal Catalogue.


A set of the 3 Sheets of Trials will be donated to the Postal Museum for their Archives in London at Stampex.


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