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Arnold Machin

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Arnold Machin

Arnold Machin in later life.
Taurus the Bull, modelled by Arnold Machin in 1945. Produced by Wedgwood, 1950, earthenware and transfer printing. The design includes the signs of the zodiac.
Machin's famous head of Queen Elizabeth II on a British postage stamp of 1969.

Arnold Machin O.B.E., R.A. (; 30 September 1911 – 9 March 1999) was a British artist, sculptor, coin and stamp designer.

Early life

Machin was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1911. He started work at the age of 14 as an apprentice china painter at the Minton Pottery. During the Depression he learnt to sculpt at Stoke-on-Trent's Art School, which was opposite the Minton factory. In 1934 he moved to Derby, where he met his wife Patricia.[1]

After imprisonment in the Second World War as a conscientious objector, he returned to modelling and sculpture, and created many notable ceramics which are now prized collectors' items. In 1947 he was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy,[2] was appointed a Master of Sculpture from 1959 to 1966 and became the longest-serving member of the Academy. He was elected an Academician in 1956 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors. From 1951 he was a tutor at the Royal College of Art.

Stamp and coin designs

In 1964 Machin was chosen to design a new effigy of the Queen for the decimal coinage, which was to be introduced from 1968. This effigy was used for all British coins until 1984. It continued to be used on coins of New Zealand and Australia until 1985 and 1986 respectively, and on coins of Canada until 1989.

In 1966 the Queen approved Machin's similar design for an effigy of her to be used on what come to be known as the "Machin series" of British definitive postage stamps. Machin produced a bas-relief in clay, which when combined with a different coloured background, is reminiscent of the overlaid decoration of potteries such as Wedgwood. The design was first used on the 4d value which was issued in June 1967, and has been used on all British definitive stamps (except more recent regional issues) ever since. It is thought that this design is the most reproduced work of art in history with, to date, approximately 320 billion copies produced.[3]

In 2007 the Machin-designed stamp was still in use at its 40th anniversary and to mark the occasion, the Post Office issued a commemorative stamp featuring a photograph of Arnold Machin. It was also available for sale in a miniature sheet which incorporated another stamp with a reproduction of a Machin series stamp as well as two actual £1 Machins in different colours.


In the 1956, while resident at number 15, The Villas, Stokeville, (an estate of 24 Victorian houses in Stoke-upon-Trent) he received publicity in the national press when he chained himself to an old metal lamp-post in protest at its planned removal.[4] Machin's protest, "against the destruction of all the beautiful things which is going on in this country" did not prevent the lamp-post from being replaced by a concrete one; however, it was given to him for his own garden and his wife Patricia unlocked him. The lamp has since been restored to its original position.[5]


Machin and his wife Patricia had a son, Francis (1949-2007) who was an artist too and an architect. [6] After Francis died, the possessions of Arnold Machin in his house in rural Staffordshire were sold in auction on September and October 2008 by Cuttlestones.[7] The possessions included the fourth of the final plasters known made to create the Machin stamp series, the three others are kept in the Royal Mail archives.[8]


  1. ^ Arnold Machin Chained to The Villas island gas lamp, undated
  2. ^ Royal Academy of Arts Collections
  3. ^ Timesonline
  4. ^ "Arnold Machin chained to lamp (scan of press cutting)". The Sentinel. July 1956. Retrieved 20 June 2008. 
  5. ^ "Did you know - Arnold Machin - the sculptor of the "Queen's Head" was born in Stoke-on-Trent". (Press Cutting: Daily Mail). 12 July 1956. Retrieved 25 June 2010. 
  6. ^ Francis Machin | Times Online Obituary 27 April 2007
  7. ^ Presentation of the sale on Cuttlestones website, retrieved 26 october 2008
  8. ^ Richard Alleyne, "Arnold Machin plaster cast used for image of Queen on stamps is found",, updated 3 September 2008 ; available on the website (last retrieved, 26 October 2008).

External links

  • Arnold Machin in: World of coins
Preceded by
Mary Gillick
Coins of the pound sterling
Obverse sculptor

Succeeded by
Raphael Maklouf
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