Illustrated Machin Decimal Stamp Booklets. .


Pictorial Booklets of Great Britain. Part 2.

with Walter Owen


Booklet number 2 of the Postal History series was issued on September 30th 1981.

The cover illustrations were of the Downey Head stamps of 1911 and showed the Downey head and the ½d green and the 1d red stamps that were the only two of the series to be put on sale. (Fig 1)

The booklet cost £1.30 and contained a mixed value pane of 10 Machin definitive stamps, 6 at 14½p, two band phosphor (first class) and 4 at 11½p, one phosphor band at left on two stamps and at right on two (second class). (Fig 2)

Inside the front and back cover is a brief history of the Downey head stamps and there is no postal rates information.

Issued with the binding selvedge to the right and to the left, this copy has the selvedge at the left.

The Downey Head 1911

The Downey Heads were the first stamps issued for the reign of King George V.

Two artists were involved, Bertram Mackennal and G. W. Eve. The head was copied from a photo of the King by W and D Downey. A free lance engraver contracted to the Royal Mint, J. A. Harrison, engraved the dies.

The ½d and 1d values of the series to be issued were released on June 22nd 1911 (Coronation Day) They were widely criticised on artistic and other grounds. The head was not suited to the Typographic process and the finished stamp had a blotchy appearance. (Die 1a)

Alterations were made to the die to try to improve the look and this resulted in Die 1b in August 1911. The stamps were still deemed unsatisfactory so Die 2 was produced and the stamps put on sale on January 1st 1912.

Whilst these changes were being made, the remainder of the series of stamps, values from 1½d — 1/- were being worked on but they were abandoned because of a plan to issue "full profile head" stamps.

So only the ½d and 1d Downey Head series were put on sale.

1/2d Green

Die 1. The ornament above the letter 'P' of 'halfpenny' has two thin lines of colour and the beard is undefined.

Die 2. The ornament has one thick line and the beard is well defined.



Die 1 is further defined as follows:-

Die 1a. On the body of the dolphin on the right hand side of the stamp the three upper scales make a triangle. The centre jewel of the cross inside the crown is suggested by a comma.

Die 1b. The three upper scales are incomplete. The centre jewel is suggested by a crescent.

Fig 3 shows Die 1a, Die 1b and Die 2.

1d Red

Dies 1a, 1b. Lion unshaded.

Die 1a. The second line of shading on the ribbon to the right of the crown extends right across the wreath. The line nearest the crown on the right hand ribbon shows as a short line at the bottom of the ribbon.

Die 1b. The second line of shading is broken in the middle. The first line is little more than a dot.

Die 2. Lion shaded.

Fig 4 shows Die 1a, Die 1b and Die 2. The difference between Die 1 and 2 (lion unshaded and shaded) is very marked and easily seen.



The sheets consisted of 240 stamps in two panes of 120. They were printed by Harrison and Sons except for the preliminary printings at Somerset House, distinguishable only by the 'stop' controls. That is, there was a stop between the control letter and the figures.

Fig 5 shows the Somerset House printing with control B.12.

Fig 6 is the Harrison and Sons printing with control B 11.

On the 1/2d value the control was beneath the second stamp and on the penny it was below the 11th stamp.

On control B 12 of both values there are close and wide setting variations. On the 'close' setting the space between the letter 'B' and the serif of the figure '1' is 41/2mm. and on the wide setting it is 6mm.


These stamps were also issued in booklet format as follows:-

August 10 1911

2s0d. Red cover with watermark GvR cypher and letters P. O. under a crown with the stamp contents printed in black. Printed by Harrisons the book contained 3 panes of 6 of the 1d carmine, die 1b and 2 panes of 6 of the 1/2d green, die 1b. Advertisements were included on interleaves, inside the front cover and on the inside and outside of the back cover.

April 12 and July 3rd 1912

With similar stamp content to the previous booklet, printed by Harrisons, watermark crown but with the cover changed to include 'Inland Rates of Postage'.



September 13th 1912

With similar cover to previous booklet but watermark changed to Simple Cypher.

November 20th 1912

Simple Cypher watermark as the last booklet but with cover changed to show Overseas Rates of Postage as well as Inland, similar to Fig 7 but without the number in the top left corner.

Looking at these Machin booklets in a 'Mix and Match' way has made me look more closely at the earlier items illustrated and in preparing these articles I am absorbing more than I realised. Items that have been neglected in a drawer or folder are seeing the light of day. My philatelic horizons are widening all the time. There is always something new in stamp collecting......


British Philatelic Bulletin.

Stanley Gibbons Specialised Stamp catalogue Vol 2.

British Stamp Booklets, Jean Alexander & Leonard F. Newbery

First published in Stamp News, July 2000.
Copyright Ears Leisurewrite.

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