De La Rue decided to discontinue printing of line-engraved postage stamps,
presumably because of reduced demand for them. As a result, the four Machin high values were
reissued on July 1, 2003 using gravure printing. Like the existing £1 value, the background
of new high values are overprinted with Iriodin ink,
giving them a very shiny look that is hard to counterfeit. Unlike their non-phosphor predecessors,
the gravure high values have two vertical phosphor bands on each side, just like the low values. In
the past, high values did not have any phosphor because it was expected that they would be used only
on parcels, which do not pass through the phosphor-sensing automated machinery.
The first three values retained the same colors,
though the shades were changed to match the Matthews standard color palette. The £5 value
was changed to grey blue because the former dark brown color was affected by the Iriodin ink.
These are the first high value Machins to have phosphor bands. Previously, high value Machins
were almost never used on the type of letters that pass through the automated machinery that
senses the phosphor. With ever-increasing postage rates, these stamps may be used be used on letters,
so Royal Mail added the bands. Also, the phosphor bands act as an additional deterrent to
forgery, or at least an aid to identifying forged stamps,
since forgeries (at least in the
past) have never had real phosphor bands.
It turned out that these gravure versions had a very short life. They were withdrawn from
general public sale nine months after they were issued. Most post offices had converted to the use of
computer-printed labels for franking parcels, so there was no longer any need for high value stamps.
They remain on sale in areas where computer printing is not practical, such as post offices set up
for armed forces overseas.
For more information about these gravure stamps, see the news stories announcing
the issue and the