News and press releases

  • Royal Mail Group
    5 June 2017
    Fifty years of an icon: Royal Mail marks the golden anniversary of the Machin Definitive stamp
Royal Mail celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Machin Definitive stamp
A set of stamps will be issued on 5 June 2017, to mark the day the Machin was first issued
The Machin Definitive stamp is the official name for the regular stamps we use
Since it was first issued, the portrait has been reprinted an estimated 220 billion¹ times and is considered to be one of the most reproduced images in the world
The Machin Definitive has been reproduced in more than 130 colours since 1967
The classic image features the iconic profile of The Queen by sculptor Arnold Machin and has been in use on definitive stamps since 1967 
Prior to 1967, an image of The Queen taken by society photographer Dorothy Wilding, was used on stamps
Born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1911, Machin was a renowned sculptor and had a long association with Wedgewood potteries
Machin’s cast was chosen following a decision to refresh the Dorothy Wilding image used from 1952. A number of artists were invited to submit their ideas to Royal Mail and Machin’s was the preferred approach
The new stamps are available from today at www.royalmail.com/machin50 from and 7,000 Post Offices across the UK
  • Royal Mail celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Machin Definitive stamp
  • A set of stamps will be issued on 5 June 2017, to mark the day the Machin was first issued
  • The Machin Definitive stamp is the official name for the regular stamps we use
  • Since it was first issued, the portrait has been reprinted an estimated 220 billion¹ times and is considered to be one of the most reproduced images in the world
  • The Machin Definitive has been reproduced in more than 130 colours since 1967
  • The classic image features the iconic profile of The Queen by sculptor Arnold Machin and has been in use on definitive stamps since 1967 
  • Prior to 1967, an image of The Queen taken by society photographer Dorothy Wilding, was used on stamps
  • Born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1911, Machin was a renowned sculptor and had a long association with Wedgewood potteries
  • Machin’s cast was chosen following a decision to refresh the Dorothy Wilding image used from 1952. A number of artists were invited to submit their ideas to Royal Mail and Machin’s was the preferred approach
  • The new stamps are available from today at www.royalmail.com/machin50 from and 7,000 Post Offices across the UK
 
The new stamps are available from today at www.royalmail.com/machin50 from and 7,000 Post Offices across the UKRoyal Mail celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Machin Definitive stamp
A set of stamps will be issued on 5 June 2017, to mark the day the Machin was first issued
The Machin Definitive stamp is the official name for the regular stamps we use
Since it was first issued, the portrait has been reprinted an estimated 220 billion¹ times and is considered to be one of the most reproduced images in the world
The Machin Definitive has been reproduced in more than 130 colours since 1967
The classic image features the iconic profile of The Queen by sculptor Arnold Machin and has been in use on definitive stamps since 1967 
Prior to 1967, an image of The Queen taken by society photographer Dorothy Wilding, was used on stamps
Born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1911, Machin was a renowned sculptor and had a long association with Wedgewood potteries
Machin’s cast was chosen following a decision to refresh the Dorothy Wilding image used from 1952. A number of artists were invited to submit their ideas to Royal Mail and Machin’s was the preferred approach
The new stamps are available from today at www.royalmail.com/machin50 from and 7,000 Post Offices across the UK
Royal Mail today celebrates the 50th anniversary of the iconic Machin Definitive stamp, first issued on the 5 June 1967, with the launch of six stamps that chart the creation of this classic design.   
 
The Machin Definitive is the official name for the regular stamps we use and is named after the man who created it, Arnold Machin. 
 
Who is Arnold Machin?
Born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1911, Arnold Machin was a renowned artist and sculptor. 
 
Coming from a family of pottery workers, at the age of 14 Machin started working at the Minton China Factory, where he stayed for seven years.  
 
A talented sculptor and modeller, he won scholarships to both the Derby School of Art and Royal College of Art.  
 
Machin also taught in London at the Royal College of Art and was later appointed Master of Sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools. He was elected a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1956 and was appointed an OBE in 1965. He also designed the profile of The Queen that appeared on coinage from 1968 to 1984. 
 
Machin Definitive
Prior to 1967, an image of The Queen taken by society photographer Dorothy Wilding was used on stamps. Following a decision to refresh the Wilding image, a number of artists were invited to submit their ideas to Royal Mail. 
 
All had to submit a portrait ‘rendering’ of The Queen and some sample stamp designs. Machin based his initial ideas on work he had previously done for his portrait of The Queen for the decimal coinage, which was based on photographs taken by Lord Snowdon. 
 
Machin produced six portraits and created a total of nearly 70 sketches, far more than anyone else. Several of these greatly resembled the Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive stamp. Some had elaborate frames, and many gave the appearance of a cameo, reflecting Machin’s previous work for Wedgwood. 
 
Nearly all featured The Queen wearing a tiara, as in the Snowdon photographs and on Machin’s effigy for coins. 
 
Machin was asked to develop his ideas, which as a sculptor he did in the form of a plaster cast.
 
A recording of the design process was filmed by the then General Post Office (GPO) for the film, Picture to Post. The film featured Machin as he worked on creating a profile of The Queen as a bas-relief cast. 
 
The bas-relief cast was then photographed and used as the image that appeared on the new stamp. 
 
Royal Mail’s design classic was first issued at the 4d value on 5 June 1967. 
 
Since it was first issued, the portrait has been reprinted an estimated 220 billion times, in more than 130 different colours, and is considered to be one of the most reproduced images in the world.
 
The colours of the Machin stamps have always been specially selected to show off the sculpture to best effect.
 
The current colours are from the ‘Jubilee Colour Palette’ that was introduced in 2013. 
 
Apart from ‘Royal Mail Red’ (used for First Class stamps), the names of all new colours include a descriptive word from the natural world, e.g. Harvest Gold, Garnet Red, Slate Grey.
 
In the 50 years since the introduction of the Machin design for definitives, a remarkable number of different stamps have been produced. There have been more than 550 basic varieties; the differences being mainly in value, colour, shape, security features, phosphor bands or coating, methods of printing and printers. 
 
Dominic Newton, Arnold Machin’s nephew and Director and Trustee of the Machin Arts Foundation, said: “Arnold Machin regarded his design and sculpture for the definitive issue stamp as his greatest achievement. He saw his task as creating a design with charm and dignity and yet without sentimentality, both a likeness of The Queen and an image of the monarchy. The result was an iconic design that has stood the test of time.”
 
Royal Mail spokesperson Philip Parker said: “We are proud to mark the golden anniversary of the Machin Definitive with new stamps showing the evolution of this design classic.”
 
STAMP-BY-STAMP
The new stamps issued today feature important stages in the evolution of this iconic design:
 
January 1966 – Machin’s preliminary sketch inspired by the Penny Black
 
February 1966 – Work by Machin on the mould devised for the coinage head
 
April/May 1966 – An essay (or proof) of the coinage head with symbols
 
October 1966 – Simplified and cropped coinage head
 
August 1966 – John Hedgecoe’s photograph was then used by Machin to model the diadem worn by The Queen (and which was worn by Queen Victoria on the Penny 
Black).
 
October 1966 –plaster cast with the diadem but without corsage, which was the final design element, as seen on the final image
 
An additional miniature sheet of Machin Definitives is also issued today, featuring the stamp in some of the different formats and colours it has appeared. This sheet includes a new design printed in gold foil at £1, to mark the stamp’s golden anniversary. 
 
Stamps and stamp products are available at www.royalmail.com/machin50 and from Royal Mail Tallents House (tel. 03457 641 641), 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB and 7,000 Post Offices across the UK.
 
¹Source The British Postal Museum 
 
ENDS
 
ISSUED BY Royal Mail Press Office on 5 June 2017 
 
For more information please contact:
Natasha Ayivor
Royal Mail Press Office
100 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0HQ
Tel: 020 7449 8250
Mobile: 07436 280002
 
Notes to Editors
 
About Royal Mail Special Stamps 
For more than 50 years, Royal Mail’s Special Stamp programme has commemorated anniversaries and celebrated events relevant to UK heritage and life. Today, there are an estimated 2.5 million stamp collectors and gift givers in the UK and millions worldwide. Her Majesty The Queen approves all UK stamp designs before they are issued.
 
About Royal Mail plc
Royal Mail plc is the parent company of Royal Mail Group Limited, the leading provider of postal and delivery services in the UK and the UK’s designated universal postal service provider. UK Parcels, International and Letters (“UKPIL”) comprises the company’s UK and international parcels and letters delivery businesses operating under the “Royal Mail” and “Parcelforce Worldwide” brands. Through the Royal Mail Core Network, the company delivers a one-price-goes-anywhere service on a range of parcels and letters products. Royal Mail has the capability to deliver to more than 30 million addresses in the UK, six days a week (excluding UK public holidays). Parcelforce Worldwide operates a separate UK network which collects and delivers express parcels. Royal Mail also owns General Logistics Systems (GLS) which operates one of the largest ground-based, deferred parcel delivery networks in Europe.
 
 
 
Royal Mail today celebrates the 50th anniversary of the iconic Machin Definitive stamp, first issued on the 5 June 1967, with the launch of six stamps that chart the creation of this classic design.   
 
The Machin Definitive is the official name for the regular stamps we use and is named after the man who created it, Arnold Machin. 
 
Who is Arnold Machin?
Born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1911, Arnold Machin was a renowned artist and sculptor. 
 
Coming from a family of pottery workers, at the age of 14 Machin started working at the Minton China Factory, where he stayed for seven years.  
 
A talented sculptor and modeller, he won scholarships to both the Derby School of Art and Royal College of Art.  
 
Machin also taught in London at the Royal College of Art and was later appointed Master of Sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools. He was elected a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1956 and was appointed an OBE in 1965. He also designed the profile of The Queen that appeared on coinage from 1968 to 1984. 
 
Machin Definitive
Prior to 1967, an image of The Queen taken by society photographer Dorothy Wilding was used on stamps. Following a decision to refresh the Wilding image, a number of artists were invited to submit their ideas to Royal Mail. 
 
All had to submit a portrait ‘rendering’ of The Queen and some sample stamp designs. Machin based his initial ideas on work he had previously done for his portrait of The Queen for the decimal coinage, which was based on photographs taken by Lord Snowdon. 
 
Machin produced six portraits and created a total of nearly 70 sketches, far more than anyone else. Several of these greatly resembled the Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive stamp. Some had elaborate frames, and many gave the appearance of a cameo, reflecting Machin’s previous work for Wedgwood. 
 
Nearly all featured The Queen wearing a tiara, as in the Snowdon photographs and on Machin’s effigy for coins. 
 
Machin was asked to develop his ideas, which as a sculptor he did in the form of a plaster cast.
 
A recording of the design process was filmed by the then General Post Office (GPO) for the film, Picture to Post. The film featured Machin as he worked on creating a profile of The Queen as a bas-relief cast. 
 
The bas-relief cast was then photographed and used as the image that appeared on the new stamp. 
 
Royal Mail’s design classic was first issued at the 4d value on 5 June 1967. 
 
 
Since it was first issued, the portrait has been reprinted an estimated 220 billion times, in more than 130 different colours, and is considered to be one of the most reproduced images in the world.
 
The colours of the Machin stamps have always been specially selected to show off the sculpture to best effect.
 
The current colours are from the ‘Jubilee Colour Palette’ that was introduced in 2013. 
 
Apart from ‘Royal Mail Red’ (used for First Class stamps), the names of all new colours include a descriptive word from the natural world, e.g. Harvest Gold, Garnet Red, Slate Grey.
 
In the 50 years since the introduction of the Machin design for definitives, a remarkable number of different stamps have been produced. There have been more than 550 basic varieties; the differences being mainly in value, colour, shape, security features, phosphor bands or coating, methods of printing and printers. 
 
Dominic Newton, Arnold Machin’s nephew and Director and Trustee of the Machin Arts Foundation, said: “Arnold Machin regarded his design and sculpture for the definitive issue stamp as his greatest achievement. He saw his task as creating a design with charm and dignity and yet without sentimentality, both a likeness of The Queen and an image of the monarchy. The result was an iconic design that has stood the test of time.”
 
Royal Mail spokesperson Philip Parker said: “We are proud to mark the golden anniversary of the Machin Definitive with new stamps showing the evolution of this design classic.”
 
STAMP-BY-STAMP
The new stamps issued today feature important stages in the evolution of this iconic design:
 
 
January 1966 – Machin’s preliminary sketch inspired by the Penny Black
 
 
February 1966 – Work by Machin on the mould devised for the coinage head
 
 
April/May 1966 – An essay (or proof) of the coinage head with symbols
 
 
October 1966 – Simplified and cropped coinage head
 
 
August 1966 – John Hedgecoe’s photograph was then used by Machin to model the diadem worn by The Queen (and which was worn by Queen Victoria on the Penny 
Black).
 
 
October 1966 –plaster cast with the diadem but without corsage, which was the final design element, as seen on the final image
 
An additional miniature sheet of Machin Definitives is also issued today, featuring the stamp in some of the different formats and colours it has appeared. This sheet includes a new design printed in gold foil at £1, to mark the stamp’s golden anniversary. 
 
Stamps and stamp products are available at www.royalmail.com/machin50 and from Royal Mail Tallents House (tel. 03457 641 641), 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB and 7,000 Post Offices across the UK.
 
¹Source The British Postal Museum 
 
ENDS
 
ISSUED BY Royal Mail Press Office on 5 June 2017 
 
For more information please contact:
Natasha Ayivor
Royal Mail Press Office
100 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0HQ
Tel: 020 7449 8250
Mobile: 07436 280002
 
Notes to Editors
 
About Royal Mail Special Stamps 
For more than 50 years, Royal Mail’s Special Stamp programme has commemorated anniversaries and celebrated events relevant to UK heritage and life. Today, there are an estimated 2.5 million stamp collectors and gift givers in the UK and millions worldwide. Her Majesty The Queen approves all UK stamp designs before they are issued.
 
About Royal Mail plc
Royal Mail plc is the parent company of Royal Mail Group Limited, the leading provider of postal and delivery services in the UK and the UK’s designated universal postal service provider. UK Parcels, International and Letters (“UKPIL”) comprises the company’s UK and international parcels and letters delivery businesses operating under the “Royal Mail” and “Parcelforce Worldwide” brands. Through the Royal Mail Core Network, the company delivers a one-price-goes-anywhere service on a range of parcels and letters products. Royal Mail has the capability to deliver to more than 30 million addresses in the UK, six days a week (excluding UK public holidays). Parcelforce Worldwide operates a separate UK network which collects and delivers express parcels. Royal Mail also owns General Logistics Systems (GLS) which operates one of the largest ground-based, deferred parcel delivery networks in Europe.