If you, like me, are a fan of stamps picturing landscapes, then 2016 is shaping up to be a year to remember.
The United States kicked off the year with new Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express stamps issued in January. The $6.45 Priority Mail stamp pictures La Cueva del Indio in Puerto Rico; I recently snagged one from an envelope mailed to my workplace.
The $22.95 Columbia River Gorge Priority Express Mail stamp has a higher face value than any other regular postage stamp the United States has ever issued, and it’s not one you’re likely to see used much. The high value also makes it prohibitively expensive for me to purchase a mint single for my collection right now, much as I would like to do so.
More landscapes are coming our way with a pair of noteworthy new issues in June. First, a set of 16 stamps celebrating the National Park Service’s centennial includes several landscape designs will go on sale during the World Stamp Show in New York City. Just a few days later, an Indiana statehood bicentennial stamp picturing the sun setting over a peaceful corn field will be released.
Finally, if you need even more landscapes to satisfy your hunger, you can expand your collection to include Purgatory Post’s Acadia National Park local post stamp released earlier this year and Philosateleian Post’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park commemorative scheduled to be issued next week!
Philosateleian Post postmark and cancellation changes
As you may have noticed if you’ve received any mail from me this year, some of Philosateleian Post’s postal markings have changed.
First, the familiar five-barred cancel with a “P” in a circle is no more. The rubber handstamp, which I commissioned during my senior year of college, began to show signs of its age when a piece of the circle broke loose, and the rubber eventually crumbled more or less completely. I carved a couple of different cork cancels which I’ve begun using. Long term, I would like to get a couple of pieces of solid cork since it would give a more distinct impression, but first things first.
Second, at some point in December I began using a different format for Philosateleian Post’s date stamp. It now follows a year-month-day order rather than month-day-year; e.g., 16/04/18 instead of 4/18/16. I suppose there are probably historical reasons for the use of month-day-year in the United States, but as a computer tech, year-month-day appeals to me because computer files so named are automatically in the right order when sorted alphabetically. At any rate, if you’ve been trying to figure out the new date format, that’s it in a nutshell.
That something extra is a post card from the 1930s which depicts Mount Le Conte, the third highest peak in the park.
Don notes that my new stamp and the post card have “a very similar view,” and although the scenes may not be identical, I think they do both illustrate what a pretty part of the country that area really is. Thank you, Don, for sharing!
Update (5/8/2016): reader Lew B. writes that this post card is a Curt Teich production, and notes that the code in the lower right corner of the card (9A-H2499) identifies the card as one that was produced in 1939. (“A” codes were used in the 1930s, “B” codes in the 1940s, and so forth.) My thanks to Lew for the additional information!
Antique tabletop perforating machines: are they getting more expensive?
When I began searching for an antique perforator a couple of years ago, I never imagined what an interesting journey it would be. I’ve had the opportunity to purchase two different perforators (and resold one of them), and although I’ve collected stamps for years, it's the technology that made the tiny holes in between stamps that has captured my attention. That’s not to say I’m no longer interested in stamps—I very much am—but I’ve come to more fully appreciate the machinery.
At the time, I had seen listings for or reports of sales of 26 antique perforators over the previous year and a half. 19 of those were full-size treadle-operated models. The average or mean asking price was nearly $700, while the median asking price was approximately $500. The average price of all perforators that I could verify had actually been sold was just under $400.
When I wrote that article, the average sale price for a tabletop perforator was almost $430, slightly above the overall average. With the addition of sales I’ve recorded since then, the average price is now over $500.
Going up, up, up
The last two sales I’ve noted have significantly driven up the average sale price for tabletop perforators, but both were actually resales of machines that had previously changed hands since I began tracking such things. One was a Rosback that sold for $586 last year, then for $843 in March. The other was my own Franklin perforator for which I initially paid $400 in 2014, then sold for $700 last month.
Why the big jumps in price? Are perforators getting more expensive? Maybe, or maybe not. Let me explain.
The cost of doing business
The Rosback that sold on eBay in March actually brought a lot more than I expected. Based on my notes, I figured it would top $500, but I never dreamed it would go for over $800. Even at that price, however, the seller may not have made as much money as you might think.
eBay takes a 10% cut (close to $85 in this case), and PayPal takes approximately another 3% (say $30). Assuming it cost the seller $50 to ship his perforator, that leaves him with a profit of roughly $100. That’s nothing to sneeze at, mind you—I’d be happy to have that $100—but again, the profit margin isn’t as big as it appears at first glance.
My Franklin also sold for significantly more than what I paid for it, but I made even less profit that the seller of the Rosback. I’d spent nearly $150 to put new pins in the machine late last year, and it cost me another $100 or so to ship it to the buyer on the other side of the country. After PayPal took their slice of the pie and I paid for miscellaneous shipping supplies…well, let’s just say that I got out of the perforator what I’d put into it, and that’s about all.
In both cases, we (the Rosback’s seller and I) needed to sell for significantly more than we paid. It’s not that we made much money by selling our perforators for more than we paid for them; we simply had to pass along the costs associated with reselling and shipping the machines just to recover our initial investments.
More expensive? Yes and no
With all of that in mind, I would venture to say tabletop perforators in general are not getting any more expensive. It’s perforators that were purchased, then resold, that are driving up the average price.
There is a lot of demand and competition for these old machines, and I don't think we can rule out the possibility that the average sale price will continue to rise. Considering the small sample size with which we have to work, however, it may be a bit premature to conclude that perforator prices in general are getting higher.
Not everyone has the opportunity to purchase a tool to make real pinhole perforations. I’ve been blessed enough to get the chance to purchase two different machines, and I’m excited to be able to use my vintage Southworth perforator to assist other stamp producers.