If you’re wondering what exactly the Machin Definitive stamp is, you’re probably not alone. But it’s actually one of the most iconic and recognisable images of our Queen - namely the portrait that appears on standard postal stamps.
The first ever postage stamp using this particular likeness of the Queen was issued for the first time in 1967, after the Royal Mail launched a competition to find a new image to use on its stamps.
Sculptor Arnold Machin, who had previously worked on images of the monarch for decimal coinage, submitted a range of options to the panel - six portraits and a total of 70 sketches in all. He was then asked to develop his ideas, which he did using a plaster cast.
It was the bas-relief cast he produced that was photographed and used on the new stamps - and that’s still in use today, some 50 years on.
Prior to Machin’s design, a photograph by society photographer Dorothy Wilding was used on our stamps.
As a tribute to this landmark, the Royal Mail has launched a set of six new stamps that show the development of Machin’s design, from its early sketch inspired by the Penny Black, right through to the penultimate iteration, which shows the sculpture with the diadem, but without the corsage.
Next time you’re putting a stamp on mailing bags and getting them ready to send out, take a proper look at that iconic image that’s endured for half a century.
Of course, the Queen isn’t the only image to feature on postage stamps these days. Already this year we’ve seen sets released in tribute to David Bowie, champion race horses and British songbirds.