Timeless & Classic: Machin's Icon

2007 was the 40th anniversary of Arnold Machin's timeless stamp portrait of The Queen. In the summer of 2007 we presented a major exhibition at the Royal College of Art (RCA) to celebrate this most remarkable image. A companion display at The Royal Mail Archive continued until Spring 2008.

In 1965 Machin was asked with four other artists to submit 'renderings' of The Queen's head for a new stamp design. Machin beat the competition and produced the final portrait of The Queen – a plaster cast which The Queen approved for the final stamp design. This cast took centre stage in the RCA exhibition.

Timeless & Classic: Elizabeth Queen & Icon ran from 19 July to 15 August 2007 at the Royal College of Art, London, and from 19 January to 23 December 2008 at the Wedgewood Visitor Centre, Stoke-on-Trent. Timeless & Classic charts the development of this incredible British icon. The 'Machin Design' has now been reproduced on stamps over 200 billion times.

Machin online

The online exhibition includes images of some if the items that were shown at the RCA. It charts the journey from Machin's work on decimal coinage through to the final, timeless design.

Appreciation of the Machin design has included:

"Admirable"
- HM The Queen, 1967

"A classical simplicity of design"
- Edward Short, Postmaster General, 1967

"Probably the best definitive range in the world…. The present Machin head is not an illustration of the Queen, but a symbol."
- Barry Robinson, Design Adviser to the Post Office, 1981

"Her Majesty is very content with the Machin effigy."
- Deputy Private Secretary to The Queen, 1981

Image of A Head for Coins

A Head for Coins

In the early 1960s sculptor Arnold Machin worked on effigy of The Queen for the new decimal coinage.


Image of A New Portrait

A New Portrait

In 1965 five artists were invited to submit 'renderings' of The Queen's head and stamp designs.


Image of 'Off with her head!'

'Off with her head!'

In 1965 David Gentleman suggested the removal of The Queen's head from pictorial stamps.


Image of From Coin to Stamp

From Coin to Stamp

How Arnold Machin adapted his effigy of The Queen for coins into a portrait for stamps.


Image of Photographic Alternative

Photographic Alternative

Meanwhile, members of the Stamp Advisory Committee argued for a photographic alternative.


Image of Timeless and Classic

Timeless and Classic

The completion of Machin's portrait, and the first issue of an iconic stamp design.



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