Royal Mail is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the “Queen’s head” design used on all of its regular stamps.
To mark 50 years since the first Machin Definitive stamp was issued in 1967, Royal Mail’s in-house design team has launched a set of six stamps which chart the evolution of its design.
The stamp is named after its creator, the late British artist and sculptor Arnold Machin.
Prior to 1967, an image of The Queen taken by society photographer Dorothy Wilding was used on all stamps.
Bas-relief plaster cast
A competition to refresh the existing design was launched in 1966, and artists were asked to submit a portrait “rendering” of the Queen along with some sample stamp designs.
Machin entered the competition and was asked to develop his idea further. He went on to recreate the Queen’s head in the form of bas-relief plaster cast.
The cast was then photographed and appeared on the new stamp, which was first issued at the value of 4d on 5 June 1967.
Following its initial release, the portrait has been reprinted an estimated 220 billion times and reproduced 550 times, encompassing different variations in colour, shape, security features, coating and printing methods.
Gold foil design
The new stamps feature the key stages of Machin’s design process, spanning from his preliminary sketch from January 1966 which was inspired by the world’s first adhesive postage stamp the Penny Black, right up to the plaster cast of the Queen’s head which was the final design element.
An additional miniature sheet of Machin Definitives has also been issued, featuring the stamp in several of its different formats and colours, along with a new design printed in gold foil to mark the stamp’s golden anniversary.
The stamps are now available from Post Offices across the UK, and the Royal Mail site.