Kevin Blackston
PO Box 17544
San Antonio TX 78217-0544
United States of America

Philosateleian Blog

Purgatory Post celebrates 50th anniversary of Earth Day

As we close in on the end of this work week, I have one more philatelic item to share with you. The latest release from New Hampshire’s Purgatory Post, a souvenir sheet commemorating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, was issued on May 4.

Purgatory Post souvenir sheet including four 4-sola Earth Day stamps and two labels
Purgatory Post Earth Day souvenir sheet

As is typically the case with Purgatory Post’s souvenir sheets, this sheet includes four stamps, in this case a 4-sola Earth Day design that I personally like more than the official USPS issue commemorating the same anniversary.

More out of the ordinary is the inclusion of two labels, one of which pictures United States Senator, Wisconsin Governor, and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson (1916–2005), and the second of which pictures Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg. Neither of the labels bears a demonination.

The Minute Man graces high value Postal Savings stamp

When I announced late last month that a set of pages for United States savings stamps was available for The Philosateleian U.S. Stamp Album, I had no such stamps in my own collection. Now, thanks to reader Steve R., I do have one, and it’s a beauty: a $5 United States Postal Savings stamp originally issued in 1941.

United States $5 Minute Man postal savings stamp
$5 Minute Man postal savings stamp

The stamp pictures Daniel Chester French’s The Minute Man, and although it’s not necessarily apparent from the scan above, it’s an impressive piece in terms of size alone. At roughly twice the width and twice the height of a standard United States definitive stamp of the same era, it covers an area roughly equivalent to a block of four definitive stamps!

In Postal and Treasury Savings Stamp Systems: The War Years, Dr. Harry K. Charles Jr. explains that this stamp and its standard definitive sized 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, and $1 siblings could be saved up and redeemed for defense or war savings bonds. A booklet produced specifically for the $5 stamp contained spaces for 15 copies; for that total expense of $75, the buyer could purchase a $100 savings bond redeemable for its full value 10 years after purchase.

Will I ever own a complete collection of postal savings stamps? It doesn’t seem likely, but this is certainly a good place to start! I can’t thank Steve enough for so generously sharing a spare from his own collection with me.

An update for The Philosateleian’s savings stamps pages

It took only a week after I announced the launch of The Philosateleian’s new savings stamps album pages for someone to notice some mistakes.

Longtime user Steve R. reported that the spaces for the $5 Minute Man stamps were far too small, and he was right: the original pages I released had the spaces for those stamps sized the same as the spaces for lower-value Minute Man stamps even though the $5 values are much larger in size. This is hardly the first time Steve has spotted an error in The Philosateleian, and I appreciate him letting me know about it!

Anyway, an update to correct those mistakes is now available on The Philosateleian’s updates & supplements page. If you’ve already downloaded the savings stamps pages, I hope you’ll grab the update as well.

Savings stamps added to The Philosateleian

It has been a while since I added pages for anything other than the most recent United States commemorative and definitive stamps to The Philosateleian U.S. Stamp Album, but I’m pleased to announce a new addition. Volume IX (back of book) now includes pages for Postal Savings, Savings, War Savings, and Treasury Savings stamps produced from 1911–61, and you can download the pages from my individual stamp album pages page.

Savings stamps may seem like an odd choice, but a user of The Philosateleian requested pages for those stamps, and it’s a small enough grouping that I was able to knock out the pages without too much trouble. If you have any of those stamps in your collection, I hope you’ll find the pages to be useful.

I do welcome suggestions for other United States stamp album pages if there’s back of the book material that you collect. I’m not promising I’ll make them—with a job and a family to keep me busy, some things just don’t get done—but I’m open to ideas.

The world’s tiniest perforating machine

In 2016, I wrote about my Southworth tabletop perforator. It is, as far as I know, the largest of the tabletop perforating machines built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, capable of perforating a line of tiny holes approximately 15″ long. Full-size, treadle-operated machines sold during the same period were wider, but the Southworth was the biggest model that didn’t come with its own cast iron legs.

Today, I’m excited to go to the other end of the scale and tell you a little bit about what may be the world’s smallest pinhole perforating machine. To provide a sense of scale, it is shown here sitting on top of my Southworth perforator.

Miniature perforating machine sitting on top of Southworth tabletop perforator
Miniature perforating machine

Granted, I have no proof that this is the world’s smallest perforating machine. Somewhere, perhaps, there might be an even smaller model, but I’ve never seen another one nearly this compact, nor any old advertisements for any perforators quite so diminutive.

Physical attributes

When I spotted the listing for this perforator on eBay back in February, I could tell it was small, but I don’t think I really understood just how tiny the thing is until it arrived in the mail. The base of this nearly palm-sized perforator measures only about 5″ square, and it is capable of punching a line of holes only about 3″ long.

Even more shocking is how light the perforator is. Despite being made of solid metal, the machine weighs in at only two pounds! This is virtually featherweight compared with the larger antique perforators that are around. It is, as far as perforating machines go, basically a travel-size model.

Flaw, or feature?

My miniature perforator does an excellent job of punching perforations in a piece of paper, but there’s one aspect that seems like a bit of a flaw. Unlike larger perforating machines that I’ve seen, this one lacks a stripper bar, the piece of metal that pulls the paper loose from the perforating pins as they rise out of the metal die. As a result, whatever I perforate tends to “stick” to the pins, and working the paper free is a bit of a pain.

I did discover, however, that it is simple enough to tear the paper away from one side of the perforator, leaving a nicely perforated edge on each side. That works well enough, so perhaps it was the designer’s intention.

Hand tearing paper from perforating pins
Removing paper from the tiny perforating machine

Final thoughts

This perforator will by no means replace my Southworth as it’s really too small to be of use in producing sheets of stamps. It is without question the most portable perforator I’ve ever seen, however; it’s light enough and small enough to fit in my backpack, and I plan on keeping it as a demo model that I can carry around to stamp club meetings or shows.

Considering the aforementioned lack of a stripper bar, I’m not entire surely what the original purpose for a machine this small might have been. I can’t rule out the possibility that it was created for the sole purpose of producing fake perforations on genuine postage stamps, but it seems remarkably well made to be a counterfeiter’s one-off production. Perhaps it was intended to do something other than perforate stamps, but I really don’t know.

I also have no information regarding how old the machine is, or even who produced it. The perforator has no such identifying markings; indeed, there are no markings at all except the number “11” punched or hammered into the back of the perforator head. Does that mean that at least 10 more of these tiny perforators were built? Once again, I don’t know, but if you have any information, I would certainly be grateful to hear it.

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