Great Britain Machins, by Adminware

Machin Pages:
Machin home page
Intro to this site
Why this site?

Machins 101 PDF
Album pages

Main Lists:
Pre-decimal values
Decimal values

Northern Ireland
Isle of Man

Other lists:
Perf changes
Elliptical perf
High value
Non-value indicators
Service Inscribed

Technical stuff
Postal rates

Head/Symbol types
Bklt Phosphor types
Imperf sides
Back prints


Machin Technical Stuff     (AKA. Machins-101)
(page updated: Apr 7/17)

Sorting single Machins

Perforation gauge
Elliptical perfs
Printing methods
Phosphor tagging

Narrow values
Wales without 'P'
Revised EME image
Security features
Screened values

5p (15k)I am a firm believer in hands-on training. Whether it is to learn a new computer program or Machin stamps, having someone show you the "ins and outs" can make all the difference.

I wish I had someone to show me actual Machin stamps and point out the various varieties!

The discussions found here are based on the methods of self-study of the Machins. They are not a complete study - I will leave that up to the experts. These are written by a novice Machin collector for other novice Machin collectors. As you will see from other philatelic parts of this web site, I enjoy the study and identification of definitives (particularly in my home country of Canada).

How detailed do you get when sorting your Machins? The most detailed (ie. complete, specialized) Machin catalogue on the market today is The Complete Deegam Machin Handbook (simply put, this is a must have book by all Machin collectors). The Deegam book suggests collecting the Machins in 3 levels. I use 4 levels. However, what I include at each level is a bit different - but that is just a personal taste.

Sorting Machins

Here is how I would begin to specialize in Machins (each of the various types of sorting are discussed further down on this page - just follow the links):
Start by doing the easy sorting first - sort your supply of Machins into the basic denomination and colour changes. We have prepared a sorting chart on a stiff board that has a 2"x2" spot for each value/colour. Included in this initial sorting are spots for the elliptical perfs and regional (country) stamps.

There are over 400 varieties at this "level" of collecting. However, they are all easily identifiable and require no special philatelic tools (except your tongs of course).

We store each of the different Machins noted above in size 8 windowed envelopes. These are kept in elongated boxes used by card dealers (the envelopes fit just nicely).

Now it starts to get trickier. There are different approaches to take from here. Do you care about the printing method? phosphor tagging? perforation changes? value size changes? new profile of the Queen? Each of these five are relatively easy to identify. All you need is an ultraviolet light and a magnifying glass.

There are well over 300 more varieties at this "level" of collecting.

Which order should these five be sorted in? Well, it is kind of a personal preference. I find it depends upon the particular stamp you are working with at the moment. Some values are best sorted by perforation before the others; others are best sorted by tagging first. As you study the specialized listings you will find which is best for each stamp.

What about the different head types?; various papers (OCP, FCP, etc.): perforation types (Kampf vs APS)?; "short" phosphor bands?; "screened values"?; back prints; and the "source" of the stamp (sheet vs. coil vs. booklet vs. imperforate sides)? If you have a large quantity of Machins in front of you and you want to split the large numbers into as many smaller piles as possible, then you want to specialize at this level.

There are over 1,400 different varieties listed on this site to identify your single Machins ... and this is only a fraction of the total number of Machin varieties that exist (when you include gum, booklets, and other varieties).

Notice that I have not included complete booklets, coil strips, cylinder blocks, first day covers or perfins in the above discussions. These in themselves are other areas to specialize. They would be included at this level of specialization.

This site, when first developed, was devoted to the study of used Machins. As time has passed, information pertaining to gum found on mint stamps has been added. As well, booklet pane illustrations and booklet covers are starting to appear as part of an upgrade to this site. Personally, I do not collect cylinder blocks or booklet panes - for Machins I prefer working with single stamps.

Perforation Gauge

Technically, a perforation gauge is not required to check the various perforations used on Machins (just count the number of perfs across the stamp). However, having one will certainly speed up the monotonous task.

Perfs (13k)Three different perforations have been used on the small-sized Machins:

  • 15 x 14 (most)
  • 13½ x 14
  • 12 3/4 x 13 (one stamp, done in error)
Some of the Machins have two different perforation varieties. Only the "1st flame" value/colour has all 3.

Click for a list of Machins that come with more than one perforation.

The Pre-decimal Machins, large-sized Machins, and self-adhesive Machins only had one perforation used so you do not need to worry about perforations on these.

[ The above discussion suggests the most common way that perfs are noted in most catalogues and price lists. To be completely accurate, the perf 15 x 14 is actually 14 3/4 x 14; 13½ x 14 is either 13½ x 14 (Questa and Waddington) or 13 3/4 x 14 (Walsall). ]

Elliptical perfs

Elliptical (6k) Machin stamps with elliptical perfs began to appear in 1993. They were instituted as a security feature. Since then, two types of perfs have been identified:

  • narrow at top and bottom, with rounded sides (eR)
  • wide at top and bottom, with almost straight sides (eS)
Identifying these two types of elliptical perforations on single specimens is rather difficult - pairs or greater make the task easier. These stamps are not listed on these web pages.


Five different printing companies have been employed to print Machin stamps. By far the most prolific (and the first) is Harrison:

  • Harrison (since the beginning; name changed to De La Rue Sep 8/97)
  • Enschedé
  • Questa (used lithography until Dec 98)
  • Waddington (contract ended in 1986; used lithography)
  • Walsall (used lithography until mid 97)
  • Cartor

Printing Method

Printing (17k)Most of the Machins are printed using photogravure. The second most popular printing method is lithography. This is followed by engraved printing. A special booklet released in 1999 to celebrate the printing of Machins, included NVI Machins printed by the above three methods and typographed and embossed.

Photogravure stamps (two different methods of preparing the plates were employed for Machins: camera and computer) show more tones than those printed by lithography. This is due to the different printing methods. Photogravure plates use recesses of various depths to give different colour tones; lithographed plates don't have recesses and thus, usually result in "flat" looking images.

The easiest place to tell the difference between photogravure and lithographed stamps is in the denomination. Lithographed stamps produce a very clean-edge to the value while photogravure stamps have a "bumpy" edge to the value (it is actually the colour 'cells' from the printing process that "intrude" into the white space). [ click for illustration ]

Phosphor Tagging

The phosphor tagging on some stamps can be spotted by the naked eye, either by a quick glance at the stamp or by tilting the stamp at an angle. However, an ultraviolet light will be required to check the tagging on other stamps.

2-band (11k)Different types of tagging and positioning of phosphor bands occurs on Machin stamps:

  • 2-band "blue". This tag is "phosphorescent" - it will have a slight afterglow when the UV light source is removed. It exists in either 8 or 9.5mm bands centered down the vertical perforations (thus there are 4 or 4.75mm bands on both sides of the stamp).

  • the above 2-band tagging also exists as "JET" phosphor. This phosphor has a slight yellow colour - easily separated from the above tagging. Stamps with JET phosphor include:

  • 2-band (11k)2-band (10k)2-band (12k)1-band "blue". As the 2-band above, but only one band is applied to the stamp. It is placed either at the left (Left band), middle (Centre band), or right (Right band). Some stamps have all three positions available!

  • 1- or 2-band "yellow". This tag is "fluorescent" - it will only glow when the UV light is on. It is very distinctive compared to those above. Three types are known: yellow, green, and yellow-green (the latter is sometimes referred to as "Novaglo").

  • 1- or 2-band "yellow" inset. As the previous tag but the bars do not "touch" the vertical perforation holes - they are inset slightly from the edges of the stamp. This was done to lessen the wear and tear on the perforating pins.

  • all-over, or embedded phosphor (aka. PCP/PCP1). This "tag" is "phosphorescent".

With that said, there are easily identifiable tagging types that exist from booklet stamps. These include short, notched, and inset bands. Click for details and illustrations.

Value size

For cosmetic reasons, around about 1983 the width of the denomination was narrowed to allow the profile of the Queen to show better (some of the values were getting too wide to fit nicely, such as 20½p).

Value (16k)A few Machin values exist with the wide and narrow value types:

These are easily identified.

Without 'P'

Wales Without P (15k)Starting in mid-1997, Regional stamps from Wales began to appear without the designation of 'P' after the value. The list includes:

These are easily identified.

EME (26k) EME Image

In 1997 a new profile of the Queen was used, due to computerization of the printing process.

The new EME (Electro-Mechanically Engraved) image offers better detailing of the Queen.

Once you have reference copies, the differences are quite noticeable.

Quite a few values exist with the "old" and "new" image:

The following values (and many others) exist only with the new EME image:
  • 1st Millennium (white)
  • 1st gold

  • E blue

  • Airmail Europe
  • Airmail Worldwide

  • Security features

    Introduced in 2009, certain high-value and Non-Value Indicated Machin stamps began to include security features. These include "slits" and/or background text. [click for a list of Machins with security features.]

    Four different kinds of slits have now been seen and different letter "coding" in the background text has been introduced.

    Security slit types:

    • 1 - no cuts at top and bottom
    • 2 - cuts at top and bottom are wider than 2a
    • 2a - cuts at top and bottom are narrower than 2
    • 3 - no cut at top; cut at bottom

    Background text letter coding:

    The first group of Machins with security features had background text and slits. subsequent printings included single-letter coding to denote the source of the stamp, and, starting in 2010, a year-indicator was placed just in front of the Queen's image.

    Letter code Source
    B Business sheet
    C Custom (definitive and commemorative pane)
    F booklets of four stamps
    S booklets of six stamps
    T booklets of twelve stamps
    R Rolls of 10,000 stamps
    P Prestige booklet
    M Miniature sheet


    Screened values

    The values of the stamp design that are intended to be completely white in fact show a screen pattern (in the same colour as the stamp). This is due to the carbon tissue being underexposed to the screen during the photogravure process (preparing of the printing "plates") Click for a detailed image of a screened value.

    For reference copies, find any of these stamps (they only come with a screened value):

    Other values that exist with screened values include:

    With the aid of a magnifying glass and a little practise, the screened values (and borders) can be seen relatively easily.

    Disclaimer: We apologize for any errors of information that might be present. Your feedback is appreciated.

    For even more varieties on Machin stamps, check out The Complete Deegam Machin Handbook (simply the best Machin
     handbook available anywhere) by Douglas Myall - click for details.

    Booklet pane numbers used courtesy the Modern British Philatelic Circle
    who publish 'The Bookmark' Catalogue

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