Stamp Collecting Ideas – Machins

Continuing with my theme of Stamp Collecting Ideas where I talk about ideas for collections that are relatively inexpensive to start with and yet interesting enough to keep you busy hunting for elusive stamps. I talk about Machins.

The Machin (pronounced MAY-chin) series of postage stamps is the main definitive stamp series in the United Kingdom, used since 5 June 1967. The Machin stamps consist simply of the sculpted profile of the Queen and a denomination, and are almost always in a single colour. Since their first issue in 1967, hundreds of different values have been released in many colours resulting in the largest definitive series ever produced.

Machins are named after Arnold Machin, a sculptor who designed the portrait of the Queen used on these Great Britain stamps. Machin passed away March 9, 1999 at the age of 87.

You could look to buying Machin in bulk (kiloware) and spend time in sorting them. The easiest way to get started with Machins is to sort them by value / colour and perforation. There are two basic perforations: Regular and Elliptical perforations.

Machin stamp

There are over 400 different Machins that can be distinguished by denomination and perforation. You can print a basic Machin album and organize your collection easily. One of the best sites for knowing more about Machins is Great Britain Machins run by Robin Harris. You can download basic album for free from this site.

Happy Collecting!!!

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Gutter Pairs

I had written about traffic lights stamps some time back. While I have been collecting those for a while, what’s really fascinated me are gutter pairs. According to Wikipedia:

The philatelic ue of the word gutter is the space left between postage stamps which allows them to be separated or perforated. When stamps are printed on large sheets of paper that will be guillotined into smaller sheets along the gutter it will not exist on the finished sheet of stamps. Some sheets are specifically designed where two panes of stamps are separated by a gutter still in the finished sheet and gutters may, or may not, have some printing in the gutter. Since perforation of a particular width of stamps is normal, the gutter between the stamps is often the same size as the postage stamp.

I have always wanted to have gutter pairs in my collection when I was young. Finally I acquired my first gutter pair only recently when I restarted my hobby.

And more recently acquired gutter pairs of these beautiful 1980 Great Britain commemorative stamps.

Maybe some day I’ll get gutter block also in my collection.

My next goal is to acquire Tête-bêche. More about that when I get those in my collection.

My First Penny Reds

So the Penny Red bug bit me and I outbid others in an eBay auction to acquire my first Penny Reds. I probably ended up paying a little higher than normal price but it didn’t feel so bad since these were the first ones I got for my collection. I now have three imperforated 1849 Penny Reds.

The Penny Red was Great Britain’s longest running stamp, from February 1841 to the end of November 1879. It was used for the standard letter postage rate of 1d and approximately 21 billion were issued.  Until 1854 the 1d red was imperforate.

The Penny Reds are identified by “plates” and their position on the plate. The bottom row has two characters (top rows have these characters reversed in perforated stamps). The character in left corner represents the row of the stamp on the plate and the right corner character represents the column of the stamp on the plate. So in my stamps shown above, the first stamp was on 19th row and 10th column on the plate. Plate numbers on perforated stamps can be identified with the help of a magnifying glass. The plate number is printed in the side bar design of the stamp. See image below for an example of a stamp from plate number 148 (this is not one of my stamps).

Penny Reds can be as interesting to collect as Machins though probably harder to collect since they are not as easily available as machins.

Some useful links for collecting Penny Reds:

My Machin Album

Since my rediscovery of Machins, I have taken on the task of building an album of machins. To start with, I am trying to complete the basic machins first. Since I had quite a few machins, I thought the task would be easy. Not quite. Turns out I have only 113 stamps out of 494 issued, and this doesn’t include variations like phosphor bands etc. So I do have a not so easy task at hand, specially since I have never encountered many of these (e.g. NVI) stamps in India before.

I have printed the basic machin album available free on Great Britain Machins website. My mounts arrived yesterday and I spent my weekend setting up my album. First few pages were easy to fill and then it got harder with high value machins. And my pages are all blank for NVI, double heads and security feature machins.

You can view pages of my album by clicking on the pic below.

My Machin stamp count:

Rediscovering Machins

When I started collecting stamps as a kid, these small stamps from Britain with the head of the queen were common stamps in the collection. While there were many different stamps, at that time these didn’t catch my attention, probably because they were available in abundant supply in my and my friends’ collections. As I restart my hobby, I am rediscovering these common stamps.

Machin (pronounced may-chin) are based on a sculpture by Arnold Machin and were first issued in 1967. I had no idea how about the intricacies of this series and am discovering how big this series is. From 1967 onwards, the machin series has evolved into many variations of denominations, colors, perforations, security features, any more. I found the Great Britain Machin website created and maintained by Robin Harris of great value. For examples, you can view how machins have evolved over time in the simple timeline of machins.

I am sure collecting the series and all its variations can take a lifetime. This seems like a subject that can be simple to start with and yet be of great depth to continue to delve into. So I start my journey of collecting machins with the few stamps that I have. First step is to print the free basic Machin album pages provided on Robin’s website and printing Machin 101 pdf for reference.


I have a few stamps with holes in them. These are Perfins. In philately, a perfin is a stamp that has had initials or a name perforated across it to discourage theft. The name is a contraction of perforated initials or perforated insignia. They are also sometimes called SPIFS (Stamps Perforated with Initials of Firms and Societies). You can read more about these here:

You can read more about HMSO here: