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This chapter was last modified on [13-12-96 (Fri) at 15:44:30] . Please send all bug reports, additions etc. to the Editor, Gert Bultman.

Section 22.1 Machins

Rolf Nordhagen writes: I endure Machin collecting as one of the specialities which has captured me in stamp collecting. I am keen to help anyone joining the Machinites sufferers and will include some previous mailing I have offered on the list in the hope of finding kindred souls. As you see I had a kick on this in early 93. I havent had much luck yet, the UK guys on the net seems not to be too interested.

What has happened since is that the Myall work (which in my early messages was only available piecemeal), that is the book, may be difficult to get as it sold very well. A new edition is in the making, I believe, but I dont know at what stage. The best source is the Vera Trinder shop mentioned in my second message. The Brian Reeves dealer has moved, but I dont have the new address here. The Connoisseur Catalogue can also be obtained from Trinder.

From March 93: 1: What are Machins ? Indeed the name refers to the artist, who did the design for the Queen Elisabeth 2 definitives which started to be issued in the late 60s, first in "d and /" currencies, the "pre-decimals", from 1971 in the current decimal currency, "decimals". To the joy and despair of stamp collectors these issues vary as to details of the head design, to the position of the value tablet, design of value numerals, use of paper, AND the form and type of the phosphor bands used as overprint, later as various types of phosphorised papers. Mind, these are mostly regular printings, few are errors or misprints, although some are labeled as such. In addition several gum types can be found on mint material. Particularly the many booklets printed by the GPO are a rich field for type variations, and can be identified in various ways. Usually very much sought after are so-called se-tenant pairs, two different values together, as they usually identify the booklet (or strip) source uniquely. As a general example, I have so far found 30+ clearly identifiable types of the 1 p crimson, and have 10+ more to go before being near a complete set.

Literature on the subject has improved very much over the years, particularly by the efforts of D.A.Myall, for many years a chairman of the British Decimal Stamp Collectors Society (or someting similar). He has published a series of writeups on the subject, which can be ordered from him. Another useful catalogue is called the "Connoisseur Catalogue" which can be ordered from the well known London firm Vera Tinder. There are also societies for booklet collection etc.

The big place for this field is of course the UK, where there is a brisk dealer and auction trade, particularly in real misprints and errors, missing phosphors, wrongly cut booklets etc. which abound. Another active field is collecting cylinder blocks, sheet blocks with printing identification etc. For us who live far afield, to engage in these "special specialities" is almost prohibitive, both as to expense and due to late awereness of goodies on the market.

As to the value of the "regular" varieties in used condition, it is not high. Also, this is usually insufficient to give dealers return on identifying, sorting, and offering. There are noted exceptions, as 1/2 p turqoise with one left sideband.

However, I have found collecting used Machin heads and indentifying the accepted regular varieties, by sorting bulk used material and doing some trade, to be most rewarding as philatelic enjoyment.

And I am looking for trading partners! Regards from Rolf Nordhagen

From March 93: 2: In connection with the question "What are Machins" and my previous reply, it occurred to me that potentially interested collectors would like more details on where to get the publications mentioned. Here follows:

The publications by D.G.A.Myall are available from DEEGAM Publications, 2 Elisabeth Avenue, BRIDPORT, Dorset, DT6 5BA. Recently he announced that he is planning a full blown catalogue. See below.

The Connoisseur Catalogue of Machin Stamps, 9th edition 1992, edited by James Negus, (subtitle "Machins made intelligible") is available either from Connoisseur Publications, 27 Maiden Lane, London WC2E 7JS, (which is also the address of the well known dealer Brian Reeve B. Alan Ltd. (94: They have moved, dont know their new address). They additionally sell a complete stamp album for Machin stamps), or from Vera Trinder Ltd., 38 Bedford Street, Strand, WC2E 9EU. United Kingdom (Te. 071 836 2365 or 8332) This firm advertise themselves with carrying probably the worlds largest selection of philatelic literature and having a mail order service to all parts of the world. (When my local dealers are late with new catalogue editions or supplementary sheets, thats where I can get them).

Another source of information is BDSSC, The British Decimal Stamps Study Circle (misnamed in my previous message on the subject). They have a regular newsletter which is useful, and issue a reference catalogue (which to me has been inferior to the Myall publications). Their secretary is (update 1994): J.E.Thompson, Maes Yr Haf, Bobcath, Dyfed SA37 OHR, United Kingdom

Two absolute musts for the Machin collector, UV-lamps, both "normal" wavelength and "high-energy" (US style) and an, at least x 10, magnifier with built in ruler. And the absolute rule, never soak a Machin before ph. bands or paper is identified.

April 93: To the UK Machin-interested: Good news. The super Machin spesialist D.G.A.Myall is now publishing his "The Complete Deegam MACHIN HANDBOOK" and expects the publishing date to be in mid June. It looks grand. He writes in a blurb: A principle aim of the book is the identification of loose Machins (so far as this is practicable). The book is profusely illustrated (!!!!), with many never before published. There are for example four photographs which should make ascertainess of printing direction easier. Every head and value type is illustrated from original photographs. Every value setting is illustrated. Every booklet pane, pre-decimal and decimal is illustrated, with accurate rendition of perforations and phosphor bars. Nothing like this appears elsewhere.

This must be THE definite work on Machins, and an absolute must for any serious effort at collecting these stamps.If you are interested, his adress is: D.G.A.Myall, 2 Elisabeth Avenue, Bridport, Dorset DT6 5BA, UK. If you write, do mention that you read about his work on the Internet!

Sorting Machins:

In my previous essays on Machins, I have forgotten to give the very elementary basic operations for sorting, probably because this is so ingrained that I believe it to be obvious. So here goes:

The primary Machin maneuver is to view the stamp surface at a glancing angle towards a light source. My best results I get from a long armed office lamp with an ordinary hood and a conventional light bulb. This lamp can be moved at a convenient angle and shielded from direct light. The light should be reflected from the stamp surface. Any phosphor bands show up, usually quite clearly, as having different reflectivity from the non-banded surface. Careful though, some of the less reflective papers may obscure bands, particularly a nuisance when hunting for single side bands.

Also non-banded papers show up, and the various earlier papers with bands. The first issues came om OCP, originally coated paper, same as the pre-decimals. The nonbanded surface is almost shiny and the head show up as "photo-negative". The later paper, FCP, Fosphor(?) coated paper, is more "matte". The two papers PCP1, only in a few instances with bands, and PCP2, never banded, is easily distinguished by the very shiny surface of PCP2. The last paper, ACP, Advanced coated paper, can only be distinguished from PCP under the lamp, and rarely as a single stamp. I do them in batches and may just be able to sort. A special paper is PPP (only 1, 2 and 10p), Phosphor Coated Paper, not too common, which is rough, almost abrasive.

After this initial sorting effort, ones can start on head types, value tablet positions, booklet indicators etc. Happy sorting.

Section 22.2 Barcodes on stamps

Michael Rys writes: The Swiss Postal Service will issue the following 2 definitive stamps on 19-Jan-93 (text from the announcement):

New definitive stamps: Lac de Tanay in the Mountain Lakes series, and a single-issue first-class (A-mail) stamp

After the two stamps printed in special colours (red/blue) to make it easier to distinguish between first-class (A) and second-class (B) mail, further steps are now being taken to improve the sorting and handling of the two categories of letter post. This applies particularly to letters deposited in posting boxes.

The most striking aspect of the new first-class stamp is its use of a single bold letter `A'. Besides facilitating hand sorting, this reliefs the customer of the necessity to mark A-mail letters specially. But the truly innovative feature of the new issues is that they are probably the world's first stamps with integrated bar code.

Bar coding is being introduced to further improve the efficiency of mechanized sorting. For the time being the system is limited to the two letter-post values so that experience can be gained in the new technology. The code patterns, consisting of a series of coloured bars and spaces of equal size, are printed on the right-hand edge of the stamp. They can be varied in two element increments from a minimum of 16 to a maximum of 34 elements over a length of 20mm. A single code row thus provides room for ten different values. The code is read by optical sensors.

The stamps were designed by Hermann Schelbert of Olten, with steel engravings by Max Mueller, Bern.

The 60c value showing the Lac de Tanay is part of the Mountain Lakes series commenced last year. The lake is situated in a picturesque Alpine basin at an altitude of 1408 m (4619 ft) and is accessible from Vouvry in the Rhone valley. The 80c single-issue stamp with the plain letter 'A' represents a simple graphic solution.

BTW: The 80c stamp also carries the denomination of 80c on the design (unlike the letter denominations).

According to other PTT sources, only one Postal Office in Zurich is currently equipped with the Japan-made bar code reader which is capable of sorting 26000 letters per hour.

Section 22.3 Holograms on stamps

Section 22.4 Fluorescent dots/bars on stamps

These are always the result of mechanical sorting.

Rick den Hertog <> A few days ago I recieved a lot of stamps from somebody. I found some stamps from Great Britian with two small silver coloured dots on them. It looks like the dots have nothing to do with the stamp. My question is: Where do those dots come from and what is the meaning of those dots ??

G.W.Bultman <> To add to the discussion, I read somewhere that the dots were placed at a certain distance from the top of the envelope (about a third of the way down on a standard size envelope), so the placement of the stamps might be of importance here.

David Walker <> It is true that the dots deface the stamps, however on a recent visit to a local ssorting office they were manually adding outbound codes (see previous mail) to the mail without postcodes and therefore you could still get the marks postcode or not !!!

Caroline E. Bryan <ceb@rechenau.unify.Unify.Com> I can only repeat what a British fellow collector told me when I asked him what his postcode (the 6-character code following the city/county) was:

Please do not use a postcode. If a postcode is used, the sorting machines deface (his word) the stamps (not the envelopes) with dots (not stripes or bars).

If my friend has noticed that envelopes with post codes have their stamps defaced with dots and canceled, and that envelopes without post codes only have their stamps canceled and not defaced with dots, then it seems a pretty good bet that the culprit is the sorting machines that handle post codes.

In the USA, the barcode-like bars at the top and bottom edges of the envelope are affixed by the sender. The bars at the top alert the sorting machine to scan for the bars at the bottom. The bars at the bottom contain the full address (not just a postcode or zip code). They are NOT imprinted by the USPS at any time during the process of sending the mail, but are printed on the envelope beforehand by the sender. They enable the sender to use a lower postal rate than the standard first-class charge. They are NOT similar to the dots on the stamps that my British friend complains about.

David Walker <> In the UK as you have correctly surmised the flourescent dots that are on some stamps (and normally all over the cover) relate to our postcode, the UK equivalent of the ZIP code.

It is made up of two parts called the outbound and the inbound parts. These are normally 3 or 4 characters each. The address below includes a code KT16 9HB. This contains an outbound code of KT16 which releates to Kingston district 16, other examples are BS for Bristol, B for Birmingham, CF for Cardiff, M for Manchester etc.

The inbound component is managed by the local sorting office and represents the street within the district, down to a level of about 50 houses, therefore a long street may have several postcodes e.g. odd numbers 1--100, even numbers 1--100, odd numbers 101--200, even numbers 101--200.

The police even recommends the use of the postcode combined with the number of the house to identify property, commonly with a uv marker on a video or computer.

My home address is BS19 4BP / 5, and if you were to mail to

David Walker BS19 4BP /5 UK

the letter will reach me !

Now to the flourescent dots.

At the sorting office where the letter is posted it is passed through a machine which attempts optical character recognition on the postcode. If it succeed then it is passed to the autosorter, failing that the letter is manually postcoded and passed to the autosorter.

This autosorter bags up the mail by the outbound code and this is then sent to that sorting office, who in turn sort it by the inbound code. These are then delivered.

A complete set of postcodes is available electronically from the post office at a cost of about $500 US.

There is normally no great value in collecting postcodes.

Andy Goodall writes: The dots are added to mail to during the automatic sorting process. I believe that the dots represent the postcode, hence an electronic reader at the destination post office can automatically put letters into the correct delivery round.

writes: As you correctly surmise the silver dots are not part of the stamp design but are rather a representation of the postcode which is applied at the sorting office to aid automatic sorting. An operator types the postcode of the letter in question, this is then transferred to the envelope in question and the dots are automatically read by the sorting apparatus are directed to the appropriate mailbag or whatever.

Doubtless someone with more knowledge than me will be able to give you a fuller explanation of this. There is a specialist society in the UK specifically interested in postal mechanisation.

Section 22.5 Airmail & Express stickers

Some members of the STAMPS list are also interested in airmail & other stickers (express, 24-hour service, fragile), as long as they are 'official', i.e. issued by the post office authorities.

Identification service If you have airmail stickers, but do not know which country they originate from, send me <> a full description or a scanned image (gif format) and I might be able to identify it for you.

Section 22.6 The 1993 Elvis stamp

Francesco Cesarini writes: > USPS `take' on the Elvis stamps is reported to be about 25 million$, > almost all pure profit. Smart move.....

Here in Sweden, there are adds from private people selling USPS Elvis sheets for 1000 SKR!!! That is aprox 190 dollars! I hope the idiots do not get a bite from other idiots. I was tempted to give them a call, and tell them a few words...

Norman Hinton <> It's not just folklore: I have seen pictures in stamp magazines of envelopes with the desired RETURN TO SENDER marking. However, no all U.S. Post Offices use the same routing stamps, so some of the Elvis mailes wilo be dismayed to see that their envelopes are stampled "not know at this address", "no such person", "unable to deliver", and so on.

G.W.Bultman" <> According to a Dutch magazine (quoting a Belgian magazine) there are people in the US who deliberately put a wrong address on envelopes franked with an Elvis stamp, to get it returned to them by the USPS with the words "RETURN TO SENDER" on it!

William Krebs WXK03@ALBNYDH2: I just returned from the P.O. after purchasing several sheets. There was plenty of stamps and no line. This was at the Post Office in Rensselaer, New York.

>From (Michael A. Vitale) I made the mistake of going to the post office to get a stamp on that day. Boy, those lines were crowded. Being in Tennessee I was not suprized that the lines never slowed down that day once I found out why so many people were willing to line up outside just to buy a stamp.

Gary Weathersbee <> I went to a small post office in a town of less than 1000 to mail some stamps to The Netherlands on Saturday. (They let me apply my own cancels.) I found that several larger POs in the area had sold out of Elvis within 30 minutes on Friday. During the 15 minutes I was there three people came in to buy full sheets of Elvis stamps. The talk naturally turned to the value of the stamps as collectables. The Postmaster quite candidly told these people that half a billion had already been printed and the stamps were unlikely to ever be worth more than their face value as postage. It didn't deter any of them.

If this issue increases awareness of, and interest in, stamp collecting - I don't see any problem with it.

KEN JOHNSTON <SSVKJ%tjuvm.bitnet@TJUVM.TJU.EDU> I arrived at the post office around 11:45 and about 20 people were already in line. It was wierd because they lined up against a wall like someone told them to stand there. They were also in line at the philatelic window (I go to the Annex post office, which is huge, here in Philly) and no one was using the regular windows. It's usually the other way around.

They were trying to explain the purpose of the philatelic window, to get sheets, plate blocks, special cancels, etc. and most people had no clue what they were talking about. I enlightened those that were interested while others didn't seem to care and just wanted their Elvis stamps.

There was one humorous event. There's a gentlemen who works somewhere near the post office. I see him out walking all the time and he'll stop and tell jokes to people on the street just to make you smile. Anyway, he walked past the line, which was probably 40--50 people by 12:00, singing "Hound Dog". Most thought he was just nuts but he's a rather friendly gentleman.

Anyway...There is an archives area in the post office that just happened to have postcards portraying Elvis with President Nixon. They sold like hot cakes after a postal clerk brought out a hand stamp. No one knew what she was talking about when she informed the line that if they put a stamp on a cover or card that she would handstamp it for them. But once they saw the postcard and how nice it looked with the cancel they went bananas. I would estimate that they sold about 300 postcards in half an hour. They were spread out to dry all over the place.

Section 22.7 Sending mail to less accessible countries

Section 22.8 Perfins by Toke Norby (1996)

This series of articles was posted by Toke Norby (<>, URL:

Section 22.8.1 SPIFS - PERFINS. Foreword and Part 1

(Please note: Copyright 1995 by Toke Norby.  Permission is granted to
all Internet/Usenet users to download this article, Foreword and
Part 1 to Part 7 (which may be extended to Part 8) and to make a copy
for personal use. For all other uses, please contact me - -
as I do not have copyright to the quotations from the publications of
The British Perfin Society, only permission to quote from their


Let me say this at the very beginning: I need YOUR help, please! I plan to make this article about Security Marks, or SPIFS/PERFINS, a Page on the World Wide Web linked to my Homepage, so I need YOUR help with information, criticism and to fill any holes you may find when reading this article. I would appreciated it very much if you would post ANY comments about this article to me personally, to the STAMPS LIST, to rec.collecting.postal-history or to rec.collecting.stamps, as I will post this article to all those philatelic sites.

Some of you already have helped me with information about SPIFS/PERFINS and, of course, I will be pleased to acknowledge anyone who has helped or will help me with the answers to the many questions I will put forward in this article.

Acknowledgements to date:

I would like to thank Mr David Hill, treasurer of

The British Perfin Society, Paardeberg, West End, Marazion, Cornwall, TR17 0EH, England

who has been very, very helpful with literature about Perfins and has permitted me to quote from the Society's publications.

Thanks are also due to Mr Bob Track, England, who had the task of proof reading this article :-)

Why am I curious about SPIFS/PERFINS?

A few years ago I read an article in the stamp exhibition catalogue for "Arbejdernes Frimaerke Klub" which celebrated their 50-year anniversary with an exhibition, ARNOEPHIL 76, during the 13th-14th March 1976 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The article was "Firmaperforeringer - Perfins" by Harald Suhr-Jensen, who wrote:

"The term originated from the American term 'PERforated INitials', while the term in England is 'SPIFs' (Stamps Perforated with Initials of Firms)".

>From this I realized that I knew very little about Perfins. So, on 27 November 1995, I posted a question about the origin of the term SPIFS on the Usenet group rec.collecting.postal-history. Several fine responses were given to me, including a few with references to some literature, where I could find the answer to some of my questions.

The litterature I have consulted is:

1. The British Perfin Society Bulletin No 274, February 1995.

I also note that there was a posting from 28 March 1995 where "On a foul day, you can complain forever" (Choy Heng-Wah) <> on the STAMPS List <STAMPS@CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU> (This is the old address as the STAMPS list moved on 25 March 1996 to <STAMPS@PSUVM.PSU.EDU>), wrote:

"Peter Giffen of Australia published a monograph 'Perfins of British Malaya' 1989.....

Cited biblio in the monograph:

2. F.H. Vallencey - British Stamps Perforated With Firms' Initials. 1948. 3. John S. Nelson - Handbook of British Perfins. 1967. 4. Charles Jennings - History of British Security Stamps (Overprinted and Underprinted). 1968.

Furthermore, I have also consulted:

5. A History of J. Sloper & Co's Stamp Security Service Through Five Reigns. By Sloper & Co. 1939. 6. Katalog Over Danske Firmaperforeringer. By Dansk Perfin Samlerklub. 1991.

I highly recommend these books to all who are interested in the story of Perfins. The last book listed above is the Danish Catalogue on Danish Perfins. When I refer to one of these books in the text, I use the numerical reference, such as "(2)" which means F.H. Vallancey's book from 1948.

These books represent some of the literature sources I have consulted while working with this article. Therefore this article does not provide a great deal of new information about the origin of Perfins, as most of what you may read here has actually been written before. My first intention is to summarize the information I have gathered about Perfins and post it for you, the readers of rec.collecting.stamps, rec.collecting.postal-history and the STAMPS LIST. I also intend to tell you the story of the Danish Perfin, which probably is unknown to you.

I do not, in general, collect Perfins myself although I do have a few Perfins from my own country, Denmark, as special items in my collection. I was just curious about how the idea of Perfins began and I am now able to give you a retrospective view about them, if you have forgotten what you earlier have read about the subject of Perfins or to enlighten you if you have never read about Perfins before.

Part 1 - Introduction

The Stamp Perforating Machine

In many books about the history of stamps, it is noted that around 1840, the printers, Perkins Bacon & Petch, who did some letter engraving for the world's first stamp, the English One Penny Black, had a small perforating machine used to perforate cheque-book counterfoils. They DID think about perforating panes of stamps horizontally and vertically, as we usually think about perforations today, but they concluded that the stamps were printed too close to each other so as to make the punching of perforations between them impractical.

As you also may know, it was the Irish railway clerk, Henry Archer, who, on 1 October 1847, submitted a proposal about perforating panes of stamps to the English Postmaster General. His proposal was accepted and two different perforating machines were constructed.

Unfortunately the machines did not work properly and new machines were constructed by David Napier & Sons. On 28 January 1854 the first normally-perforated stamp was officially introduced - the English One Penny Red.

Section 22.8.2 The PERFIN Perforating Machine

Quite another story is the use of the perforating machine to avoid fraudulent use of stamps. Most collectors of Perfins are in agreement that it was Mr Joseph Sloper from England who invented the perforating machine that was used for perforating figures or designs into the bodies of postage stamps and other papers of any value. Actually it seems that the first person who THOUGHT about perforating "stamps" to prevent fraud probably was Sir Henry Bessemer.

In the Perfin Society Bulletin No 274, (1) from February 1995, Mr Maurice Harp describes the "real inventor" of the IDEA of the PERFIN perforator as Sir Henry Bessemer. Maurice Harp found, in the library of The Perfin Society, a newspaper cutting from The Sunday Express saying:

"7 January 1945 Ripley (World Copyright) Sir Henry Bessemer, 1813-1898, of Charlton, near Hitchin Herts, whose process for making steel revolutioned the commercial history of the world, invented - when only 20 years old - a machine to perforate stamps, thereby saving the Government UK=A3 100,000 a year from fraud."

and a cutting from The Sunday Express from 14 January 1945:

"Sir Henry Bessemer. Ripley states that Sir Henry Bessemer, born in 1813, at the age of 20 "invented a machine to perforate stamps, thereby saving the Government UK=A3 100,000 a year". As the first postage stamp was not issued until May 6, 1840, and the Governments trial to use perforations did not take place until 1853 (vide Stanley Gibbon's 'Stamps of the British Empire'), how does Ripley account for the Period 1833-1853? A. Cecil Fenn. Endwood Drive Little Aston Park, Sutton Coldfield.

Note: The Dictionary of National Biography states: 'In 1833 frauds on the Government (involving a loss of the revenue of UK=A3 100,000 a year) were perpetrated by the repeated use of stamps affixed to deeds, etc. These frauds Bessemer rendered impossible by the invention of perforated dies, so that a date could be indelibly impressed on every stamp. His gift of this invention to the Government was to have been recognised by a permanent official appointment, but the promise was not kept, although it was recognised years later by the tardy bestowal of a knighthood."

In his article in "The Perfin Bulletin", Maurice Harp explained why we did not get the perforated stamps in 1833:

"Bessemer, in 1832 suggested a possible solution for preventing stamp fraud. As revenue stamps were embossed to show payment of these, Bessemer suggested that the stamps should be perforated instead of being embossed. Bessemer was offered the job of supervising the implementation of his suggestion. Further, Bessemer's fiancee suggested that the embossed stamp should incorporate the date directly with removable date plugs to make forgery even harder. The Board of Stamps who were responsible for revenue production, adopted the idea, but unfortunately they also decided that they did not need Bessemer's assistance and neither Bessemer nor his fiancee received anything for their ideas.

Therefore, instead of Perfins being born on revenue stamps in the 1830's, we had to wait for 35 years for Joseph Sloper to use a similar idea on postage stamps.

Later, the story of him being wronged by the Board of Stamps came to the notice of Disraeli (Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of Britain) and as a result Bessemer received a knighthood as some recompense for the injustice".

As far as I know a "Bessemer Perforator" was never made by him, but in spite of this, IF Bessemer has had the opportunity to work with his idea, he would have been the real inventor of the perforatin g machine (as well as Leonardo da Vinci was the inventor of the helicopter!).

Instead of seeing Mr Henry Bessemer's "perforated stamps" in 1833, we had to wait until Mr Joseph Sloper, who was born in 1813, "reinvented" and patented a perforating machine in 1858 (English Patent No 1985/58 - See (4)). This machine was intended to be used for cheque protection.

Later, in 1868, Sloper got a permission to perforate stamps with initials (but more about that in Part 4 of this article).

Any comments?

To be continued .... --------------------------------------------------------- Toke Norby. URL: Department of Physiology, Ole Worms Alle 160, University of Aarhus, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. ---------------------------------------------------------

Section 22.8.3 'Holy Toledo, Those Stamps have Holes' and What Shall We Call These Holes?

The quoted phrase was posted 3 February 1995 by David T Tilton, <> to the members of the STAMPS list. This phrase caught my eyes and I kept his posting in which David told us about "his first meeting" with "The Holes".

Although David wrote a little about the story of "The Holes", he called them "PERFINS". But when was this term "born"?

As I wrote in Part 1, I had read about the names of "The Holes" for the first time in an article in a Danish stamp exhibition catalogue for ARNOEPHIL 76, where Harald Suhr-Jensen wrote:

"The term originated from the American term "PERforated INitials", while the term in England is "SPIFs" (Stamps Perforated with Initials of Firms)".

The First Name: "SPIFS" In Charles Jennings' book, "The History of British Security Stamps (Overprinted and Underprinted) (4), published by the "Security Endorsement & Perfin Society of Great Britain" we can read that it was Charles Bein, who, in the "West End Philatelist", between July 1944 and February 1947, published a series of articles entitled "SPIFS". Charles Jennings wrote: "This was the first official use of the name 'SPIFS', which Bein coined from the initial letters of the phrase 'Stamps Perforated with Initials of Firms and Societies'."

As late as 1944? Was this really the first year where "The Holes" got a specific name? As "The Holes" first saw the light of the day in 1853, it is relevant to see what the files say. Here Hugh Vallancey's books (2) and the Sloper & Co book (5) probably are the most relevant sources we can consult. Vallancey's because of his study of the Sloper files at the Sloper Company and the Sloper & Co book because it was issued by "The Firm" itself.

Vallancey writes in his foreword to the second edition of his book: "The first edition of this booklet was published in 1933 but, mainly owing to the remaining copies having been destroyed by enemy action in May 1941, copies are very seldom to be found and the demand has certainly increased. Mr. Charles Bein coined the abbreviation S.P.I.F.S for these perforated stamps which is now used. ..... 1st June 1948. F.H.V.".

Vallancey also wrote:

".. the S.P.I.F. should be mounted ..." and "... how to collect S.P.I.F.S....".

This is peculiar as he used the last "S" (which should stand for "Societies") to show the plural form of the term. Maybe it was difficult to say "a SPIFS" or "SPIFSes" :-)

Sloper, in their book, do not use any abbreviations but only refer to "a machine for perforating the initials of Commercial Firms", but they also used the term "Perforated Stamps" in the meaning "PERFINs".

Charles Jennings wrote in his book (4): "From time to time the various philatelic journals carried articles on the perforated official stamps but articles on the more despised 'SPIFS' were rare. In 1953 there appeared a short note in 'Stamp Collecting' concerning a 'Perfin Club'. This appears to be the earliest use of this designation which hailed from America and is derived from 'PERforated INitials'."

Charles Jennings continues: "Later in 1953, Charles Bein wrote a letter to 'Stamp Collecting' about 'Crowns' in unofficial punctures. In early 1954 W.G. Stitt-Dibden wrote 'How to Display Punctured Stamps' also in 'Stamp Collecting' and R G Sutton wrote in 'Stamp Magazine', in 1954, an article: 'Holes'."

We can see, then, in the early fifties, collectors had not yet adapted the term PERFIN which is now used in most countries, even non-English speaking countries.

On 3 December Ken Lawrence <> wrote in rec.collecting.postal-history: "Careful stamp scholars usually note that Perfin is the acronym of Perforated Insignia, since initials are not the only permissible symbols...."

Of course this may be correct, although "insignia" normally were used in connection with "marks of honour" (as my dictionary says: mark of the head, especially mark of power or dignity, same as "Rega lia"), but the questions is: is the term PERFIN coined from "PERforated INitials" or "PERforated INsignia"?

And here I need YOUR help! Can anyone tell who it was in America who coined this term "PERFIN" and when it was officially used for the first time? If you have any source that shows the first use of the term PERFIN in USA (Philatelic/Official Literature/Magazine/Vol/No/Date), I would appreciate a reference and a copy of the text where the "inventor" of the term PERFIN explained why he or she us ed this term instead of "SPIFS"!

And have you any (early) reference material showing the phrase "PERforated INsignia"? Please let me know. Any information will be greatly appreciated!

Ken Lawrence <> sent me 5 May 1996 a copy of his splendid article "Perforated Insignia" from July 1995 American Philatelist where he described the very first PERFINs from the United States. I can highly recommend this article and I hope that Ken will post it "here" too! In this article Ken also quote the first order from the U.S. General Postmaster allowing punctured stamps. More about this order in Part 4.

On 7 December 1995 Michael D Dixon <> commented on my "PERFINs/SPIFs - a question" in the newsgroup rec.collecting.postal-history:

"While the acronym SPIFS is not nowadays commonly used for perfins, it is a term one occasionally comes across in the UK. In providing an explanation for the 'term', the Hodder Stamp Dictionary refers to it as a British nickname for perfins!"

A nickname! :-) I wonder: Should not "PERFIN" be the nickname? Perhaps the editor(s) of the Hodder Stamps Dictionary did not know the "true" story of "The Holes".

To be continued ....


By Toke Norby <>

(Copyright 1996 by Toke Norby).

Section 22.8.4 The Authorizations to Perforate Stamps


The very first authorization to perforate stamps with initials was, of course, given in England, but not without any troubles. Bessemer, who developed the IDEA of the "perforated stamp" probably never obtained what we can call an authorization. Instead of seeing Mr Henry Bessemer's "perforated stamps" in 1833, we had to wait until Mr Joseph Sloper, who was born in 1813, "reinvented" and patented a perforating machine in 1858 (English Patent No 1985/58 - See (4)). This machine was intended to be used for cheque protection. By employing a roller with different projecting points it was possible to make different perforations in the cheques.

In 1868 Sloper patented a perforating machine for railway tickets (English Patent No 2741/68) and further, his Patent No 643/69 from 1869 described an advanced machine "for perforating paper, etc. employing a stripper and embodying interchangeable heads, allowing choice of design". That is, for dating railway tickets.

Charles Jennings (4) writes:

"The first idea of using Sloper's invention for postage stamps seems to have originated with firms who were already using his machines for their cheques. Certainly, the first to apply to the Post Of fice for permission to have stamps perforated was Messrs. Copestake, Moore, Crampton and Co., who in a letter of 23 October 1867 asked the GPO a permission to underprint stamps on the back.

At the same time they besought the Postmaster General to get a permission, in addition of the underprint on the back, to perforate stamps with 'S.C.' (Sampson Copestake) with Sloper's perforating machine. Two days later they were given permission to UNDERPRINT in a reply from the GPO, but the request for permission to perforate was not answered."

Because during the next monthes the GPO still refused to give a permission to perforate stamps with initials, Sloper, who had made the "S.C." perforation for Copestake, wrote to the GPO:

"Walbrook House Walbrook 27 Feby 1868

Sir, Pardon me for again intruding on your time in reference to the marking of Postage Stamps, but I learned at my interview with Mr. Parkhurst on the 24 Inst. that I had not obtained your sanction for In itialling Postage Stamps, so fully as I featured myself to have done, and as I reported to the Messrs. Copestakes.

I am anxious not to appear to act without your concurrence, which will be fully justified by the single fact of the assistance it affords in preventing the reissue of stamps when once obliterated - My system renders abortive all attempts at effacing the obliterating stamp with a view to its reissue, as the ink would be rubbed into the perforations.

It is also conceded by the leading Firms, and Public Companies, in London, that it is the only effectual method of protecting them from robbery of stamps by their employees. I shall feel particularly obliged if you would honour me with a reply, however brief at your earliest convenience, in order that I might assure my numerous clients that this system meets with no opposition from the Post Office Authorities. I beg to recommend the enclosed reference to your consideration.

I have the honour to be, Sirs, Your most obedient humble servant. Joseph Sloper"

Charles Jennings (4) wrote:

"The 'enclosed reference' was a cutting from The Manchester Examiner of 21 February 1868 reporting the case of John Howarth, provision dealer, Cross Street, charged with receiving from errand boys and junior clerks in various Manchester offices 7,820 stamps value =A3 35.19.2 in payment for bread and cheese, well knowing the stamps to have been stolen."

"An internal inquiry was put in hand by the Postmaster General's Second Secretary, Mr. Frank Ives Scudamore who, on 11th March recommended to the Duke of Montrose, then the Postmaster General, that ' Mr. Sloper be informed that Your Grace will not object to the adoption of the plan'. The following letter, which represents the authority under which the perforation of postage stamps with initials came to be officially introduced was then addressed to Sloper by the Chief Clerk."

"General Post Office 13th March 1868

MR. SLOPER Sir, The Postmaster General has had under consideration your letter of the 27th ultimo, and His Grace desires me to inform you that, under the circumstances, he will not object to the perforation of postage stamps in the manner described by you, with a view to protect merchants and others, as far as possible, from the theft of the stamps used by them.

I am, Sir, Your obedient servant, R. PARKHURST."

And from Vallencey's (2) booklet:

"The above formed the basis of the official permit by the GPO and the following is an extract from 'General Instructions to Postmasters by the Postmaster General':

March 1st, 1869 POSTAGE STAMPS. In consequence of representations made to the Post Office by various firms that their Postage Stamps are purloined by persons in their employ, the Department has recommended that the Name or Initials of Firms, etc., be perforated through the Stamps, so, that, inasmuch as the Sale of such Stamps would be thereby rendered difficult, the temptation to steal them might be lessened or altogether removed. Postmasters will take care not to purchase any Postage Stamps thus marked which may be offered to them for Sale."

This official permission made it possible for Joseph Sloper to extend the marketing of his perforation machine. (His patent rights from 1858 expired 31 August 1872).

After the expiry of his patent, Sloper still tried still to fight for his monopoly but with no luck. Various firms now manufactured small machines for perforating stamps and other countries produced their own machines. Sloper died 18 June 1890 as a rather poor man, but his firm was continued by his two sons. In the referenced books, you can follow in detail Slopers fight for his patent after it had expired in 1872.

Section 22.8.5 What About PERFINs in Denmark?

In "Tidsskrift for Postvaesen" (The Post Magazine), Vol 7, August 1877, we, for the first time in Denmark, can read about the PERFIN stamps:

"Gjennemhulning af Frimaerker. Efterat man i den engelske Forretningsverden laenge havde gransket over, ved hvilke Kontrolforholdsregler ......."

"Punching of Stamps

"For several years English business people had been thinking of a method to prevent the fraudulent use of stamps by subordinate employees. A Mr Joseph Sloper from London invented a punching machine which marked stamps with the initials of the concerned firms, and with which, without damaging the stamps nor destroying their validity or changing their form, one could punch holes through the postage stamps, thus making it difficult for unauthorized people to use the stamps.

The English Postmaster General permitted the use of such punching machines as long as the postage stamps could be recognized as genuine and not previously used.

In June 1876 the German and the Belgian Postmaster General permitted the use of this stamp punching machine in the mentioned way. From the beginning of this year the French Postmaster General permitted the use in France and the Austrian-Hungarian Postmaster General gave similar permission in this spring.

In Denmark our Postmaster General permitted the use last year (1876) and this year a couple of firms in Copenhagen received permission to use a stamp punching machine. The holes punched show the initials of the firms which can easily be seen and make the postage stamps recognizable from other Postage Stamps".

Danish PERFINs

The first firm mentioned, according to a handwritten note in the Danish Postal Museum in Copenhagen: "Firmaer, der benytter gjennemprikkede Frimaerker" (Firms using punched stamps), was Mr S Friedlander, a paper wholesaler who received a permission to use a perforation mark "S.F." on 6 February 1876 (General Postmaster Circular No 4259).

Although Friedlander had permission in 1876 the earliest recorded stamp with these initials dates from October 1890.

A few days later, on 12 February 1876 permission was given to the wholesaler S Seidelin to use "S.S.". This PERFIN is recorded from January 1877.

The Postal Law From 4 December 1913

As mentioned, the Danish GPO gave the earliest permission to use PERFINs to a few firms in 1876 but no public announcements were made until the above mentioned article in "Tidsskrift for Postvaesen" from 1877.

As late as 4 December 1913 our GPO made a regulation which, in Section 31, Subsection D, stated: "The General Postmaster can permit the use of postage stamps with special perforated marks". Notice that the regulation did not limit these "special marks" to initials as they did at first in England.

In the period 1876 - 1913 the permission to use PERFINs was given administratively and our GPO found no reason to make this known to the public nor did they publish it in their "Official Announcements >From The Danish GPO" (in Denmark called the "OM"). Furthermore, there were no announcements on PERFINs in the many small adjustments to the Danish Postal Laws in the period 1876 - 1913.

>From the files in the Danish Postal Museum we can see that 199 Danish firms, in the period 1876 - 4 December 1913, asked for permission to use PERFINs, but of these 199 firms, 36 are recorded as having used their PERFINs before they actually received permission to do so. During the same period, 102 other firms are recorded using "punched stamps" without any permission.

The use of Danish PERFINs was decontrolled as of 1 August 1917. Not much discussion about PERFINs can be found in the papers from that time, but a change in the previously-mentioned Postal Regulation , Section 3, Subsection D, was made on 25 July 1917, and became valid on 1 August 1917 (Annex to "OM" No 68/1917). This Postal Regulation stated:

"It is allowed to use postage stamp with a perforated mark when this perforation is made in a way so the stamps can be recognized as being genuine and unused".

In the period from 4 December 1913 to 1 August 1917 we find that only 25 firms did ask permission to perforate their stamps with initials. Collectors also have recorded that 35 firms, probably without permission from the GPO, did use stamps with perforated marks in this period. Whoever was to decide whether a perforation mark did or did not fulfil the Regulation from 25 July 1917 was never recorded. However, there has never been any doubt of the validity of the Danish postage stamps perforated with special marks.

Author's Remarks:

The scarcity ratings of some stamps with perforated marks are listed in various catalogues. Collectors should, though, bear in mind that PERFIN perforating machines were manufactured and sold by private firms, which means that it IS possible for private individuals to obtain such perforating machines quite legally. I have, at a flea market here in Denmark, bought a Danish perforating machine which punches the initials "H&I" for Harts & Joens, a firm that was located in Copenhagen. (In old days the Danish letter "I" very often was used as a "J" in abbreviations).

Harts & Joens was permitted to use perforated stamps in December 1908 (Danish GPO Letter No 16450, December 1908).

Section 22.8.6 What About PERFINs in Other Countries?

United States of America In the American Philatelist (Magazine of The American Philatelist Society), July 1995, Ken Lawrence <> (who kindly permitted me to quote from his article) wrote:

"Perforated Insignia On May 4, 1908, Postmaster General George von L. Meyer issued an order that relaxed the rule on defacement of U.S. postage stamps. The new rule read as follows:

"United States postage stamps, to be acceptable for postage, must be absolutely without defacement: Provided, That for the purpose of identification only, and not for advertising, it shall be permissible to puncture or perforate letters, numerals or other marks or devices in United States postage and special-delivery stamps. The punctures or perforations shall not exceed one thirty-second of an inch in diameter, and the whole space occupied by the identifying device shall not exceed one-half inch square. The puncturing or perforating must be done in such manner as to leave the stamp easily recognizable as genuine and not previously used. The use of ink or other coloring matter in connection with such puncturing or perforating is prohibited."

Ken furthermore mention that the earliest recorded U.S. PERFIN, "BFC CO", was found on cover in 1989. The cover was of the B.B. Cummins Company of Chicago and was postmarked on 26 May 1908.

I will take a little side leap here:

I have discussed the phrase "Perforated Insignia" versus "Perforated Initials" with Ken. He use "Perforated Insignia" where I would never use this in connection to PERFINs. Ken informed me:

"American Heritage Dictionary: insignia -- A badge of office, rank, membership, or nationality; emblem; a distinguishing sign. Thus every military unit has its insignia; corporate logotypes are insignia; school symbols are insignia, and so forth".

We, in Denmark, would not use the term "insignia" in connection to PERFINs as the comprehensive Danish Dictionary of The Danish Language says:

"Insigne: "Mark of honour, visible characteristics of a high-ranking person. Nowadays insignia (pl.) is most used in connection to the attributes a high-ranking person (Prince, King, Queen etc.) is w earing on special occasions".

Therefore, Danish Postal Historians only use "insignia" in connection to the "mark of honour etc." (special markings) on old letters from the king, government etc.

The Webster's New Universal Dictionary of The English Language. Unabridged. Webster's Universal Press. New York 1977:

"Latin insigne, pl. insignia, a sign, decoration, badge of honor, neut. of insignis, distinguished by a mark, striking, eminent; _in_, in, and _signum_, a mark, sign.

1. badges, emblems, or other distinguishing marks of office or honor; as, the _insignia_ of an order of knighthood.

2. marks, signs, or visible impressions by which anything is know or distinguished.

I think that this may be an example of the different interpretation of a "term" in different countries. In American English insignia has no such exalted meaning as it has in Danish. Here it just means emblem, Ken told me. As far as I can see both Ken and I are right in our use of "insignia", but we still do not know when and who in America who coined the term "PERFIN"????

Art Mongan <>: "I think I remember the term "PERFIN" from around 1940 but can't find a reference. Some dealer price lists (1942 to 1944 period) included "Perf. Initials" for some high denomination US postage stamps."

And then back to the authorizations to use PERFINs.



The following is written by Hans Karman <> who kindly have informed me about the authorizations in the Australian area.

Hans recommended a book published in Canberra By John Mathews and John Grant, a very comprehensive catalogue of the perfins of Australia, with all known ones illustrated. This book will be mentioned in "Part 7. PERFIN Society's to My Knowledge".

Hans Karman writes:

Colony of Victoria

"The first legislation was in 3 Nov 1883, in the Colony of Victoria, Act 47 VIC No.781 - An Act to consolidate and amend the Law relating to the Post Office and for other purposes. Date of effect 1 Jan 1884. Section 16 reads:

"Any company firm or person with the permission in writing of the Postmaster-General may perforate stamps with such letters figures or design as are prescribed in such writing, and stamps so perforated shall not be considered to be defaced within the meaning of this Act and shall be received in payment of any postage fees or dues and telegraph fees, but no stamps so perforated shall be purchased upon commission or exchanged by any postmaster or officer or servant of the Post Office or accepted for a Savings Bank deposit."

New South Wales (Extract from "Commercial Perfins of Australia", John Grant & John Mathews, Canberra 1992):

Post Office Guide issued in Jan 1891, page 107:

"Arrangements have been made by which firms, &c., may print their names on the back of postage stamps, or perforate their initials in each stamp by means of any machine submitted to and approved of by the Postmaster-General. Postage stamps so marked must not be purchased by any postmaster or other person, as the object of placing a private mark thereon is to prevent stamps from being stolen or sold."

"The wording is odd, since it suggests that the actual perforating machines had to be submitted for approval. There is no evidence that applicants did so. However, it would seem that applicants were required to furnish samples of the perforation before final approval was given."


Supplement to the Queensland Gazette of Monday 11 Jan 1892. "Regulations made by the Governor in Council under the provisions of "The Post and Telegraph Act of 1891" (55 Vic No.15), relating to the postal and Money Order Branches of the Department. Also, Departmental Rules, Regulations, and Instructions for the Conduct and Guidance of Postmasters and Others in the Transaction of Postal and Money Order Business. (In lieu of all former Regulations on the same subject, which are Cancelled.)"

Regulations. Postage Stamps. ... 2. Any company, firm, or person, with the permission in writing of the Postmaster-General, may perforate stamps or postcards with letters, figures, or designs approved in such writing, and stamps so perforated shall not be considered to be defaced, and may be used for postage on letters, packets, and newspapers; but the public are cautioned against purchasing perforated stamps."

South Australia The South Australian Gazette of 23 June 1892. His Excellency the Governor in Council has been pleased to approve the following postal rates and regulations, to take effect from this 1st of July, 1892.

III. Postage Stamps and Newspaper Wrappers. .... Arrangements have been made by which firms, &c., may print their names on the back of postage stamps, or perforate their initials on each stamp by means of any machine submitted to and approved of by the Postmaster-General. Postage stamps so marked must not be purchased by any postmaster or other person, as the object of placing a private mark thereon is to prevent stamps being stolen and sold.

Tasmania: (Extract from "Commercial Perfins of Australia", John Grant & John Mathews, Canberra 1992):

"The Tasmania Postal Guide No 20, published July 1900, notes the following arrangements for perfins at page 46:


Authority may be given for the perforation of postage stamps with the initials of firms and others using stamps to a large amount, but the designs must be approved of.

There was no reference to a prohibition on the redemption of perforated stamps at the Post Office, as this was precluded by a separate provision relating to repurchase arrangements.

It is not known whether earlier Postal Guides carried a similar reference, or whether the reference in the Postal Guide was supported by regulation.

Western Australia (Extract from "Commercial Perfins of Australia", John Grant & John Mathews, Canberra 1992):

Section IX/7 of the Postal Guide for Western Australia, issued in November 1900, stated:

"To prevent the purloining of postage stamps by employees of business firms etc., such stamps may be perforated with the initials of the firm, etc., so as to render their improper sale a matter of difficulty. Similar perforation of the stamps on Post Cards will also be allowed; but in either case, permission must first be obtained, in writing, from the PMG."

The Postal Guide made no mention of prohibition on the redemption of punctured stamps at post offices, as the repurchase of all stamps was, at that stage, prohibited in Western Australia.

The Commonwealth of Australia (Extract from "Commercial Perfins of Australia", John Grant & John Mathews, Canberra 1992):

A regulation relating to the repurchase of stamps was gazetted on 5 Jun 1902 and came into effect from 30 Jun 1902:

"Repurchase of Postage Stamps and Postcards. .... Stamps shall be repurchased only when not perforated, soiled, or otherwise damaged."

The Commonwealth Post Office Guide issued in August 1903 states on page 205: "Perforation &c., of postage stamps by business firms, &c. Any person, with the permission in writing of the Deputy Postmaster-General, may perforate postage stamps with such letters, figures, or design as are prescribed in such writing, and stamps so perforated shall not be considered to be defaced and shall be received in payment of any postage fees or dues and telegraph fees, but no stamps so perforated shall be purchased or exchanged by any postmaster or servant of the Department, nor may such stamps be affixed to postal notes for the purpose of remitting token sums in pence."

The 1983 Postal Guide, as amended in Jan 1991, states: "1.25 Perforation of postage stamps .1 Customers may obtain approval to perforate postage stamps with letters, figures or designs. Australia Post does not arrange for stamps to be perforated. .2 An application, accompanied by a sample of the desired perforation, is required. This should be directed to the State Manager in the relevant State capital. .3 As a general guide, the perforations should not interfere with the clarity of the printing which indicates the country of issue and the value of the stamp. .4 A postage stamp perforated in accordance with a permit issued by Australia Post will not be considered to have been cancelled or defaced. A perforated stamp will not be repurchased or exchanged by Australia Post."

I would like to thank Hans for this splendid information and would like to invite YOU to tell us when YOUR country gave the first authorization to use PERFINs.

to be continued ... Part 7. PERFIN Society's to My Knowledge.

(Part 7 will be based on the information from who on rec.collecting.stamps 8 February 1996 Joseph Coulbourne ( posted a list of some of the PERFIN. It is also based on the information YOU kindly have sent to me about PERFIN clubs and their issues :-)

If you have not sent any information yet, I will be pleased if you will take the time to send me a mail with information I can include in the next part! Thank you.

Section 22.8.7 Epilogue - 'The Never Ending Story'

As you can see, I have changed the title of Part 7. Nevertheless, I have listed all PERFIN Societies that I am aware of at the end of this part.

Bob de Violini <> wrote to me:

"I have read now the parts of your perfins history articles. It's very good to get all that sort of thing put together in one place - - - I'm waiting for the "thrilling conclusion" of this exciting mystery story -- Who named these holey stamps PERFINS? What was his/her name? The answer may lie in one of the early issues of the Perfins Club newsletter. The Perfins Club, Inc was established in 1945."

Unfortunately I did not succeed in my attempt to find the person or publication which first coined the term "PERFIN" from "PERForated INitials" or "PERForated INsignia". If I find out, I will tell you!

Furthermore: please be aware of the posting of Bob de Violini on Sunday 12 May 1996 on rec.collecting.postal-history:

"A listing of all the titles in the American Philatelic Research Library that deal with PERFINs is available on the APS Home Page. The URL is:"

In this comprehensive list of PERFIN books you can probably find what you are looking for if you collect PERFINs.

Now that this SPIFS-PERFINs story has come to an end and, I would like to thank the following on-line and off-line friends who have kindly provided information about PERFINs, either directly to me in connection with this series or in earlier postings about PERFINs:

Art Mongan <> Bob de Violini <> Choy Heng-Wah <> David T Tilton <> Greg Ioannou <> Hans Karman <> Joseph Coulbourne <> Ken Lawrence <> Michael Meadowcroft <> Michael D Dixon <> Ray McNaughton <> Rodney Knight <> Steven McLachlan <> Wesley Shellen <>

David Hill The British PERFIN Society Kim Bjarnt The Danish Perfin Society

and last, but absolutely not least, my friend Bob Track <> for his valuable help in proof-reading the articles in this series.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this long story. It is my hope that you have realized that PERFINs are a great and very important part of the Postal History of the world.

Thank you all very much for your patience and support.

Toke Norby


PERFIN Societies Of Which I Have Knowledge

The list of PERFIN societies is based on a prior posting to rec.collecting.stamps. On 8 February 1996 Joseph Coulbourne <> in rec.collecting.stamps posted a list of some of the PERFIN clubs. I have added a few:


The Perfin Club of New Zealand and Australia John Mathews 21 McConnell Cres Kambah, ACT 2092 Australia

Hans Karman <> adds:

John Mathews and John Grant published a very comprehensive catalogue of the PERFINs of Australia about five years ago.

Steven McLachlan <> mentions these points:

Available is "An Exhibition Display of New Zealand Stamps with Perforated Initials" by Robert D Samuel. April 1994. 80 pages spirex bound A4 size reproductions of an exhibit formed by the author which contains all known PERFIN on NZ stamps. It includes the full range of perfined stamps of Great Britain issued for the NZ Embassy. (Limited printing of 100 copies). Price NZ (US, BPS 15) plus postage.

"A New Zealand Perfin Collection", 1993. 75 copies, by David Dell, P.O. Box 40-510, Upper Hutt, NZ. Spirex bound A4. Whilst well done it is not as complete as the Samuel book. Price unknown.


Canadian PERFIN Study Group Steve Koning 29 Balsam Avenue Toronto, ONT Canada M4W 3B5


PERFIN Samlerklubben Kim Bjarnt Skolegade 1 DK-8831 Loegstrup Denmark

Michael Meadowcroft <> has informed me about:


ANCOPER (Association Nationale des Collectionneurs de Timbres Perfores) M Janot 4 Rue des Capucins 92190 Meudon France


M Herbert 90 Avenue de Paris 78000 Versailles France

ANCOPER has published a catalogue "Timbres Perfores, France et Colonies", 2nd ed, 1990.


The Perfin Society Dave Hill - Treasurer Paardeberg, West End Marazion Cornwall TR17 0EH England

The Perfin Society has a list with many books on PERFINs for sale and a comprehensive library.

Greg Ioannou <> adds:

Two major catalogues of British PERFINs:

T A Edwards and B C Lucas, "A Catalogue of Great Britain PERFINs" and Roy Gault (Editor), "The Tomkins Catalogue of Identified G B PERFINs". (Both books use the word PERFIN and not SPIFS). The latter book refers several times to another book: Tony Llewellyn-Jones, "The Perfins of Great Britain".


PERFIN Club Nederland W F Baekers Postbus 3052 5003 DB Tilburg The Netherlands


Ken Lawrence <> mentions (in the American Philatelist, July 1995) a new publication, "Guide to Perfin Exhibiting" by Silvia Gersch and Robert Schwerdt. Further information at:

The Perfins Club c/o Kurt Ottenheimer, 462 West Walnut Long Beach, NY 11561 USA


Silvia Gersch - Secretary 8923 East Palm Ridge Drive Scottsdale, AZ 85260-7535 USA

Bob de Violini <> adds:

"The Perfins Club have produced a cumulative index to the first 453 whole numbers of their magazine and have published a US Perfins catalog along with catalogs of perfins of several other countries".

Catalog Sales Dept Jackie Ryan, 301 S Hine Ave Milwaukee, WI 53188, USA

The Perfins Club Editor: John Lyding <>

Foreign Catalog Editor Floyd Walker <> P O Box 82 Grandview, Missouri USA

Section 22.8.8 Epilogue II or The Man Who Coined The Term PERFIN

When I wrote this heading I thought about the good old film "The Man
who Shot Liberty Valance" but actually this article has no
connection at all to the film, although Lee Marvin's "equalizer" 
could make holes too :-)

Since "Part 7 - Epilogue - The Never Ending Story" of my SPIFS/PERFINs story on the STAMPS List and in the news groups rec.collecting.postal-history and rec.collecting.stamps was posted to you on 19 May 1996, I have been in contact with the former president of "The Perfins Club" in the US, Mr Richard L Mewhinney , who has been so kind by spending a lot of time digging out the information I needed to fill the last holes in my s eries about SPIFS - PERFINs. Also a special thank is due to Mr Michael Baadke, , Senior Editor at Linn's Stamp News, who found the 1943 issues of "Linn's Stamp News" for me. (Believe me or not: Michael told me that one of his cats is named PERFIN because of her talent for perforating Michael's skin when she is annoyed with him :-).

Thanks to Richard I am now able to post you the

"thrilling conclusion of this exciting mystery story -- Who named these holey stamps PERFINS? What was his/her name? The answer may lie in one of the early issues of the Perfins Club newsletter."

as Bob de Violini wrote me in May 1996!

>From Richards's papers (1) we can see the most important part of the PERFIN story relates to the terms used. Let me give you a retrospective view and quote some articles from philatelic magazines and other sources:

A clipping from the "American Boy Magazine", February 1909 (2): "We have noted the issue of stamps privately perforated with initials as a protection against thievery by employes. By a recent order this practice has been authorized and the collecting of these stamps will form an interesting 'side line'. It is, of course, readily appreciated that they have no pecuniary value but the excitement and pleasure of quest will be appreciated. We illustrate a few 'perforations'."

Notice: "no pecuniary value" :-)

Further, the "order" noted above was issued 8 May 1908 by The Postmaster General of the United States (Section 562, Paragraph 5) which was shown in Part 6 of my Perfin story.

The Early 1930's It seems that we can not find anything in the philatelic press until the early 1930's where an undated (But what year and which magazine?)

note said:

"Pin-Perforated U.S. Stamps In answer to the many requests from the readers of my article in this magazine on pin perfs on November 7, I submit the following list of recently identified devices ......... Peter E Hafner"

22 July 1933 In the English magazine "Stamp Collecting" (3), Mr F Hugh Vallancey wrote an article "British Stamps Perforated with Firms' Initials". This article was published serially in the magazine on 22 July, 29 July and 5 August 1933. This article was reprinted as a little pamphlet the same year. At that time, the term "SPIFS" was not yet coined.

November 1933 In the Danish magazine "Nordisk Filatelistisk Tidsskrift" (4), the head clerk in the Danish GPO, Mr Olaf Boegh wrote about "perforated" stamps used by different authorities in Denmark.

13 June 1936 Mr George Harnden, in the American magazine the "Weekly Philatelic Gossip" (5) wrote an article named "Perforated Initials" in which he wrote:

"The name, 'Perforated Initials,' is applied by stamp collectors to stamps through which small holes have been punched for private identification purposes before being postally used. They are generally discarded from specialized and advanced collections as being imperfect. The name, which is prevalent among philatelists, is really a misnomer because numerals, geometrical designs, trade marks, etc., are also perforated in stamps, as well as initials or letters. The proper name, I believe, and the one which I have coined for this little known side-line of philately, is 'Private Identification Markings Applied to Postage Stamps.' For the sake of brevity throughout this article they will be referred to merely as 'Private Markings'."

Of course he had the opportunity to coin the abbreviation "PIMAPS" :-) but as we know he did not.

Harnden also mentioned the first countries to adopt PERFINs: "Foreign governments recognized this bad situation many years ago as evidenced by the dates on which their postal laws were amended to allow the perforation of stamps for identification purposes. England granted permission to perforate stamps in 1868, only 28 years after the issue of her first postage stamp; Belgium, in 1872; Germany, France, Denmark and Switzerland in 1876; Austria-Hungary in 1877; Italy in 1890; Japan in 1902, and the Netherlands in 1903".

December 1943 - The Term PERFIN Was Coined It seems that the year before the term SPIFS was coined in England, the term PERFIN was coined in the US. It was actually coined by the stamp collector Mr Hallock Card, of New York, who was the editor of the "Homestead Hobbyist" (6) in which we can read:

"Join the "Perfins" A society for collectors of perforate initial stamps. Send stamps and

envelopes for membership card. No dues, no other costs. The 'HOBBYIST' will come to you each issue for one year. Your name listed, kinds you collect, number in collection, and if you wish to exchange, keep me informed of changes of address. Any member can secure a list of members by sending a 3c stamp. Address: Homestead Hobbyist, Otselic, N.Y."

In his "A History of The Perfins Club - a Research Project" (7) Richard L Mewhinney wrote:

"The Perfins Club An organization of philatelists, devoted to the collection and study of Perforated Initials and Insignia in postage stamps. Founded 1943".

Notice that Mewhinney also use the term "Insignia" - This is, as far as I know, the earliest known use of this term in connection to PERFINs.

Further, when The Perfins Club was founded it was the first time the term PERFIN was used!!

Mewhinney continues:

"A CLUB Sometime in the early part of 1943, a gentleman by the name of Hallock Card of Otselic, N. Y. noted an advertisement in "LINN'S" about perfins. The advertiser, one Warren Travell. This is our beginning. But for these two men, this work may never have been written, or at least would have been a different story. Mr. Card, a printer, was at this time sending out a monthly advertising pamphlet called the 'HOMESTEAD HOBBYIST' to some 700 subscribers. Mr. Card answered Mr. Travell's advertisement and a correspondence developed. Warren Travell urged Hallock Card to start a club using the 'HOMESTEAD HOBBYIST' as a media of spreading information. Travell had found several mentions of perfins in various periodicals and insisted that many collectors were saving perfins but had no way of contacting each other. Hallock Card did use his little advertising pamphlet to spread the word and an organization was formed and members were accepted into the group. All available information indicates this founding date to be December, 1943. Dues, forms of that period, and letters written by Hallock Card at later dates list this month and year."

In "Linn's Weekly Stamp News" (8) we can see one classified advertisement from Warren Travell that appeared in three consecutive issues of "Linn's Weekly Stamp News". The first appearance was 13 May 1943, followed by 20 May and 27 May, but nothing after that. In each of the issues, the advertisement appeared under the heading "Wanted," and on Page 6 each time. This is the text of the advertisement:

"WANTED, ACCUMULATIONS OF PER- forated initials. State amount and price or swap wants. Warren Travell, San Bernardino, Cal."

Mewhinney continues:

"Official Records 1945 The first official publication of the Perfins Club was the first issue of 'PERFINS' that came out in April, 1945. A membership list at this time shows a total of 28 members. The club had three officers:

#1 Hallock Card was our Editor-Secretary-Treasurer #3 Charles Metzs was named as our first Vice President in June 1945. #4 Warren Travell was our President."

As you see it was Mr Hallock Card who coined the term PERFIN, probably in agreement with Mr Warren Travell.

1944 - The Term SPIFS Was Coined In Charles Jenning's book from 1968, "The History of British Security

Stamps (Overprinted and Underprinted)" (9), we can read that it was Charles Bein, who, in the "West End Philatelist", between July 1944 and February 1947, published a series of articles entitled "SPIFS". Charles Jennings wrote:

"This was the first official use of the name 'SPIFS', which Bein coined from the initial letters of the phrase 'Stamps Perforated with Initials of Firms and Societie's."

1960 In "The American Philatelist", January 1960 (10), Mr Victor J Van Lint wrote:

"Perfins, Spifs or Punchies or why they punched holes in stamps? The oldest known reference to perfins in philatelic literature, as far as is know today, is in 1933. At that time the British writer Hugh Vallancey publishes a little pamphlet with the results of several years of careful study and research in this matter. It was around 1930, also, that the late Warren Travell started his large collection of perfins. He was one of the charter members of the Perfin club in this country, which is the official society of perfin collectors."

I only quoted Mr Van Lint because he used the term "Punchies" which I never had heard before :-)

Epilogue - (Don't ask me: "Is that for sure?" ;-)

Now you have all the information I have found about the perforated stamps. I was happy to dig all this out and I'm happy that I know quite a bit more, thanks to all the kind people who had helped me with the story of SPIFS - PERFINs.

Again, I would like to thank Bob Track for his valuable help in proof

reading the text and our deep discussions about the subject - I guess

that Bob now collects Perfins from Worcester, Mass. - Don't you, Bob? :-)

An abstract of the SPIFS/PERFINs story can be found at:

You should know that there is a list on WWW on books on PERFINs. This list can be found at APRL Titles about PERFINs. (American Philatelist Research Library): Thank you for your attention!

Toke Norby URL:

References: 1. Files of Mr Richard L Mewhinney. 2. "American Boy Magazine", February 1909. 3. "British Stamps Perforated with Firms' Initials" by F Hugh Vallancey. Stamp Collecting, 22 July 1933, pp 425-426. 29 July 1933, pp 445-446. 5 August 1933, pp 469-470 and 478. 4. "Nordisk Filatelistisk Tidsskrift", Vol 12, 15 December 1933, pp 253-254. 5. "Perforated Initials" by George H Harnden, the "Weekly Philatelic Gossip", 13 June, 1946, p 453. 6. Homestead Hobbyist, No 3, February/March 1944. Publisher: Mr Hallock Card. 7. "A History of The Perfins Club - A Research Project" by Richard L Mewhinney. June 1970. 8. "Linn's Weekly Stamp News": 13 May 1943, Vol XVI, No 8, Whole Number 758. 9. "The History of British Security Stamps (Overprinted and Underprinted)" by Charles Jennings. 1968. Published by the Security Endorsement & Perfin Society of Great Britain - for Private Circulation to Members. See also (11) and (12). 10. "The American Philatelist", January 1960, Vol 73, No 4, p 257.

Two other recommendable books: 11. "Handbook of British Perfins" by John S Nelson. 1967. 12. "A History of J Sloper & Co's Stamp Security Service Through Five Reigns" by Sloper & Co. 1939.

Section 22.9 Perfins by David Tilton

DavidTilton writes: Holy Toledo, Those Stamps Have Holes!

First time I saw a perfin, I promptly threw it away. The used stamp had holes punched clean through it and in my mind wasn't fit to collect. "The envelope must have gotten caught in mail sorting equipment," I said to myself, smug with the decision to toss it. Continuing to pick through the box of old stamps, I came across another damaged stamp. Then another. They all had holes! Searching for an answer, I quickly ruled out insects. Though for a fleeting moment an overactive, Calvinesque imagination conjured up a three-horned, stamp-punching Klingon cockroach living at the bottom of the pile. The only problem with that theory was that by holding the stamps up to the light, I could make out letters. And no insect I've ever come across has known the alphabet well enough to punch A-B-C holes in stamps. Rather than discard the next holey stamps I found in the box, I started to put them aside in a glassine envelope until I could learn what they were.


It turned out there was a logical explanation for the pinholes. They are called perforated initials or perfins for short. Although no longer common, punching one's initials in mint stamps was a regular practice decades ago as an anti-theft measure. Offices would buy large amounts of stamps for their mail room and discourage employee pilfering by personalizing the postage. A perforator machine punched holes in the shape of the firm's initials, logo or other identifying mark. The idea was that someone would be less likely to steal a stamp if it could be so easily identified. Surprisingly, punching holes in the stamps did not cancel them or render them valueless. With the advent of metering machines for office mail and the corresponding decline in the use of postage stamps for business purposes, the need for perfins has diminished. In the United States they are virtually unknown except as collectibles on older stamps.

The Perfins Club

The popularity of perfins continues to grow and there is even a national organization called The Perfins Club which publishes "The Perfins Bulletin" 10 times each year. For more information about perfins and how to collect them, write to The Perfins Club, c/o Kurt Ottenheimer, 462 West Walnut, Long Beach, N.Y. 11561. Besure to include a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Until next time, happy collecting.

     David V. Tilton, syndicated columnist, welcomes questions and
comments at Box 3516-Net, North Fort Myers, Fla. 33918, via fax at
(813) 656-5177 or by e-mail (
Copyright 1995 by David V. Tilton.  All Rights Reserved.  Permission is
granted to all Internet host computer operators to copy and store this
column on system for non-commercial purposes, including reading
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For all other uses, please contact copyright owner.

Heinz Flemming writes: Perfin "E" for railway authorities. ( E = Eisenbahn) And there are a lot of post-free stamps with perfins:

      K  (Kriegsbeschaedigten-Ausschuesse)
      B  (Beamtenraete der Oberpost- und Eisenbahndirektionen)
      R  (Vorstand des Rates des Verkehrspersonals in Muenchen)
      LK (Verwaltung der Staatlichen Lastkraftwagenlinien)

Martin Cornes writes: I know S.G. does list some of the "O.S." Official perfins, but as several people have pointed out this is a specialised interest. I have come accross quite a few and have always wondered if there is a specialised catalogue or reference book on the subject. Anyone ?

On a similar note, some british QV stamps has the names of companies or institutions printed on the front or back of the stamp so that they could not be returned for cash at the post office window.

Barry Moss writes: In Canada, the government used to perf stamps with OHMS for use by goverment offices. (On His Majesty's Service). I guess the idea was that it would very obvious to the post office if someone was taking stamps from the office to use on their personal mail. Later on the goverment switched to using an OHMS overprint and eventually changed to using a G (for government) overprint. I'm not aware of any official perfins on US issues.

I've also seen some private company perfins on Canadian and US Stamps. In particular the Canadian National Railway used to perf CNR (on a diaganal line) in their postage.

Michael Rys writes:

>    Perfins  are a  specialised interest  and are  not usually  listed in
> general catalogues.  The exception would be where the perfin replaces an
> overprint, the  only example  of which  I can think  of is  the official
> "O.S."  perfins of  Australia  whic replaced  the  "O.S." overprints  on
> K.G.V.  issues.  Hope that helps.}

There is also an official perfin on Swiss stamps (e.g. the 1930-ies landscape series) which forms a cross and is listed in the Zumstein catalog:

 o o o o o

And the German Police perfins POL in different forms and shapes are listed in the Michel German Specialiced Catalog. And Bavaria has offical perfins as well if I remember correctly.

I also remember a French pre-WWII issue which was listed in my Zumstein Europe catalog with a perfin variety.

There is of course a wide variety of private perfins for almost every country (GB, US, CH, India, Germany etc.).

Gert Bultman writes:

>    Can  somebody tell  me a  little about  the perfins.   Looking at  my
> collections, I found  perfins only on GB and USA  Stamps.

I've seen them on Scandinavian stamps as well.

> ..........................................................Are they some
> sort of a  precancel, a new release,  or there jusk for the  sake of it.

I believe they are a perforation which some companies (used to) put through their stamps in order to make stealing them (by their staff???) more difficult (easy to trace?).

Are now for a fact that some collectors specialize in them.

> Do scott catalog list them, and if so, is their value aprox.  the same?

I have no idea. I know Stanley Gibbons doesn't list them in their catalogue.

Tony Ralli writes:

>    Can  somebody tell  me a  little about  the perfins.   Looking at  my
> collections, I found  perfins only on GB and USA  Stamps.  Are they some
> sort of a  precancel, a new release,  or there jusk for the  sake of it.
> Do scott catalog list them, and if so, is their value aprox.  the same?

Perfins are holes punctured through stamps by government agencies or by individuals or private companies as a security measure against theft. They usually consist of the initials of the Agency or Company, e.g. on stamps of Australia "V.G." was used by the Victorian Government, one of our state governments.

Perfins are a specialised interest and are not usually listed in general catalogues. The exception would be where the perfin replaces an overprint, the only example of which I can think of is the official "O.S." perfins of Australia whic replaced the "O.S." overprints on K.G.V. issues. Hope that helps.

Francesco Cesarini writes: Can somebody tell me a little about the perfins. Looking at my collections, I found perfins only on GB and USA Stamps. Are they some sort of a precancel, a new release, or there just for the sake of it. Do Scott list them, and if so, is their value approx.~the same?

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