Machin trials discovered after 20 years

Three complete sheets of trial printings produced in 1997 for a run of one of Britain’s iconic Machin definitive stamps were recently shared with the world.

The timely discovery comes during the 50th anniversary of the introduction of artist Arnold Machin’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II to Britain’s definitive stamps.

According to Linn’s Stamp News, the private owner is represented by Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions, of Danbury, Conn.; however, the private owner “has not put forth plans for sale.”

This discovery set of Machin trial printings will be on display at Spring Stampex 2017 in London, England next week.


The Machin definitives were first printed in lithography in 1980, when the Royal Mail expanded its range of suppliers; however, by the mid-1990s, all standard definitives were printed in gravure.

At the time, The House of Questa, based in south London, didn’t have gravure printing capabilities, so the Royal Mail gave consent to approach Hélio-Courvoisier SA, of Switzerland, to subcontract the gravure printing process.

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


The undenominated trials were undertaken on Oct. 20, 1997, in sheets of 100 with the Courvoisier imprint along the vertical margins. They exist in three colours: deep green (as used for the two-pence), light grey (as then used for the 29-pence), and flame (as used for first-class mail).

Courvoisier was able to utilize its work on the then-current Kenya definitives, so these trials are printed on coated paper without phosphor bands and are perforated 15 x 14 (although the stamp image is slightly smaller than that used on Machin definitives).

According to Linn’s Stamp News, Stanley Gibbons has confirmed these unique stamps will be included in the forthcoming Great Britain Specialized Stamp Catalogue, Volume 4, Part 2 (Queen Elizabeth II Decimal Definitive Issues).

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